New Zealand is breathtaking. Most people see this fabled land second hand, in movies like Lord of the Rings or The Last Samurai.
There are flyable Spitfires in New Zealand.
New Zealand is stunning from any altitude, from the window of a Boeing 777, the cockpit of a De Havilland Beaver, or an AS350 helicopter. It’s almost a mythical landscape.
New Zealand has a strong aviation heritage. The country perches on the edge of the South Pacific, close to Antarctica. Airplanes are vital here. Helipads, grass airstrips and proud aircraft museums dot the countryside.
In Christchurch I once gave a talk under an A-4K Skyhawk jet at the RNZAF museum. They also had a Spitfire.
Auckland has the Museum of Transport and Technology. Their Avro Lancaster is an airplane that made The Dambusters famous. The Auckland War Museum has another Spitfire, a German V1 flying bomb and a Japanese Mitsubishi Zero.
I took Carlo to New Zealand last month. Carlo lucked through visa, document and scheduling hurdles right into a new Airbus A380 to Auckland.
Carlo will always be lucky. He is a teacher. Teachers are angels assigned to earth. I always stick close to Carlo.
We all need luck. There are things in life you just cannot work hard enough for.
When we arrived, Auckland was buffeted by thunderstorms, gusts to 120 kph, lightning strikes. I walked with Carlo on the waterfront, waving him around like a magic wand. The weather began to clear.
At the cruise liner pier there was a Perry-class guided missile frigate. I built a scale model of this 20 years ago. Our walk was turning curiouser and curiouser.
The Lancaster bomber dwarfed Carlo. Those Rolls-Royce Merlin engines were legendary. A Lancaster could carry to Berlin a load bigger than that of three American B-17 Flying Fortress.
The De Havilland Mosquito light bomber could carry a 4,000 ‘Cookie’ bomb to distant targets. Merlin engines again. Frederick Forsythe’s Shepherd.
Carlo said I spent a quarter of an hour photographing the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of the Spitfire at the War Museum. I was being a nerdy engineer.
That Merlin and the Spitfire’s wing are the Holy Grail of aircraft engineering.
In a dogfight, you must get behind your enemy. Then he can’t shoot back. The Spitfire’s elliptical wing could turn a full circle faster than the German Bf-109 or the American P-51 Mustang.
Eight guns, four inside each wing, gave the Spitfire massed firepower. The Bf-109 could fit only one gun inside each wing, the P-51 just two or three.
Wings are choices. Long wings fit more guns but roll slower into turns. Short wings snap into turns but have less lift and internal space. Thin wings are faster, thick wings stronger. Narrow wings have less drag but also less lift.
You now know more than the average pilot. Pilots don’t read aerodynamic theory. That’s because engineers use long words like spanwise flow, mean chord length, aspect ratio, or lift coefficient to describe what they want. Pilots use words like sleep, food, money, and sex to describe what they want.
Bet you were wondering what this article’s title was about.
Carlo and I had to get to Ardmore airfield. A taxi would cost 250 Kiwi dollars. A rental car was cheaper, but I’m too old to learn right-hand drive.
Then we made a wrong turn on Queen Street during our walk. We bumped into an old friend on the sidewalk. He insisted on driving us to and from Ardmore. He could visit his Dad there anyway.
Posted from Chicago, Illinois
05 December, 2015
The Spitfire at Ardmore
More Kiwi airplane museum tales
How bad was the weather when we arrived?