National Film Unit, 1951
A night landing at Paraparaumu.
The end of a routine trip by a Douglas airline carrying passengers or freight on a scheduled night flight on New Zealand's internal airlines.
Recently installed radio aids have made night flying practical and the increase in air traffic has made it essential. In a year, nearly eight million pounds of freight and mail and a quarter of a million passengers, are carried by day and night with a regularity factor of over 98 percent.
Night flying means flying by instruments and as part of their regular training all pilots do instrument practice in a linked trainer.
Nearly 30 of our pilots are already mileage millionaires but they all do at least two hours training a month under artificial blind flying conditions.
Actual flight conditions are accurately reproduced by the link and the pilots get practice in flying along radio beams which they follow by a signal in their headphones.
A radio compass helps them fix their position by bearings from radio beacons.
The beam system covers most of the main air routes in New Zealand from three range stations at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch; and there are over 20 radio beacons from which a pilot can get his bearings.
In addition, any broadcast station in the country can be used as a radio beacon.
For example, a pilot flying from Christchurch to Wellington flies along the beam from Harewood.
By tuning his radio compass to Kaikoura radio beacon, he gets a bearing from Kaikoura.
When the compass shows the correct bearing it's time to alter course.
And by tuning the compass to a Wellington beacon, the pilot can also use it to keep him heading for Wellington.
The radio beams and beacons will bring a plane right to the airfield.
But if there's a layer of cloud below and the pilot can't see the field, he can find his way down by instruments.
A radio beacon tells him when he's directly over the field and a predetermined radio path clear of all obstacles takes him down through the cloud and then back again towards the beacon.
When he breaks cloud the airfield is in sight and he lands in the normal way.
The weather is the most important single factor in flying and all pilots call at the Met Office before making a flight.
- Then southeast 20 knots
...nearly clear skies all the way.
- What about Paraparaumu this evening?
- Two to three eighths...
...cloud base four thousand five hundred feet;
... and the wind is south ten knots.
- Sounds like a good trip. - Yes.
- Thank you.
When the pilot knows the weather conditions along the route he makes out a detailed flight plan which he submits to Flying Control for approval and the clearance to take off.
- Plan for flight 106. I've lodged for 6000 feet.
- Right, I'll give it to the Centre. Will you wait for your clearance?
- Thank you.
This flight's from Christchurch to Paraparaumu and the plans pass to the Christchurch Air Traffic Control centre where it's plotted on an air traffic computer to see there is no risk of collision with aircraft already in the air.
To avoid any risk of collision aircraft on the same route fly on different levels at least a thousand feet apart.
When the flight plan just submitted is plotted the computer shows the aircraft climbing to six thousand feet, the height the pilot requested.
The computer also shows any other traffic already in the air.
And if they would pass dangerously close at any time, the proposed flight plan would be changed to keep them safely apart; in this case by keeping one aircraft down to 4000 feet until the other is well passed.
The pilot gets a clearance to take off when the flight plan has been checked and where necessary, amended by air traffic control.
- Thank you.
- Four thousand feet? I asked for six.
- There is a southbound aircraft at five thousand feet
...you can't climb to six until he has passed.
- Okay, thank you.
- Calling all passengers for Wellington and Auckland
...on flight 106.
Would you please board the Douglas airliner
- Your airliner is under the command of Captain LJ...
The flight has been planned and checked down to the last detail.
But even after takeoff, it'll be plotted and checked again through reporting points all along the route. Nothing is left to chance.
- AOD, airborne 1632
- Airborne at 3-2
As soon as the flight starts, it's plotted on the computer in the Christchurch Control Centre,
...future positions and times worked out,
...and all information passed to Wellington,
who take over control halfway at Kaikoura.
- Wellington? Christchurch here.
- Wellington here. Go ahead Christchurch.
- Handover, AOD
Here to Paraparaumu airborne at 1632
ETA, Kaikoura 1704, 4000 feet,
cleared to Paraparaumu beacon,
expects climb to 6000 feet after Kaikoura.
- Thank you.
- Handover from Christchurch.
4000 feet up off the coast of Canterbury,
...AOD heads north with a full load of freight, mail and passengers,
and all the comfort of a fireside chair. The pilot and co-pilot are constantly checking engine and flight instruments as they fly along the beam from Christchurch.
In the pilot's headphones the beam signal shows they're right on course.
The automatic pilot is flying the plane needing only an occasional adjustment to keep her perfectly on course. There's Kaikoura Peninsula jutting out from the coast in the setting sun.
When the radio compass shows the correct bearing from Kaikoura radio beacon, it's time to call up for a clearance into the Wellington control area, and report the aircraft's position to Wellington.
Roger, AOD, 1704, Kaikoura 4000 feet climbing to 6000 feet.
ETA Wellington South, 1724. Roger.
The position's plotted, checked with other traffic, and the clearance prepared for the next reporting point.
- Clear AOD to descend to 4000 feet at Wellington South. - Roger.
- Rongotai? Wellington here.
...ATC clears AOD immediately after passing
Wellington South, descend to 4000 feet.
In darkness now and at 6000 feet, AOD nears Wellington South reporting point.
The air is calmer at night
and no one need miss their beauty sleep.
Flying on instruments there's no difference between day and night and the routine of reporting to ground and getting clearances goes on just the same.
[indistinct dialogue] - 1738, thank you
Below are the lights of Wellington.
A city at night is a sight worth seeing and on a clear night the cabin lights are put out to give the passengers a better view.
On to the radio range station near Paraparaumu.
As the plane flies through the beacon a telltale light flashes on the instrument panel and the radio compass swings from pointing ahead to pointing astern the plane's position is pinpointed without a shadow of doubt and the co-pilot calls Paraparaumu tower for landing instructions.
AOD, roger, Wellington reporting point at 3-7,
4000 feet contact.
You're cleared to continue your descent, Victor Foxtrot.
Join the traffic circuit right hand runway: 1-6.
Altimeter setting: 1-0-2-2 millibars.
The surface wind is swinging from 1-3-0
to 1-6-0 magnetic, 6 to 9 knots. Over.
- [indistinct speech]...Roger. Out
And there below are the runway lights of the airfield.
- [indistinct communication from pilot]...landing instructions. Over.
- AOD set to land. Out.
Another routine flight ends on schedule from takeoff to touchdown. Aircraft are in contact with ground control stations plotting every part of the trip.
Radio beams and beacons provide a safe highway and make regular night flying possible, while the efficiency of the pilots and aircraft make it safe and pleasant.
Night flying in New Zealand is now an established part of our regular air services.
- Re-use information