Bay of Plenty Branch AGM

1 February 2019
Unlike lastyear, the AGM was held in fine and warm weather and we were fortunate to again be able to hold the meeting at the Tauranga Gliding Club Rooms, thanks to Adrian Cable,the President.For the 20 members and guests who attended, the AGM after the arrival of Simon Grant who had flown Falco 3000 ZK-XLB directly from his work assignment for Farmers Air in Gisborne.

As previously, the AGM was dealt with expeditiously confirming the current committee and retaining the subs at $40. The BBQ went well with special thanks from the Chairman to the many willing hands who prepared the food and help clean up afterwards.

The visit by the Falco 3000 was a welcome extra feature which had been arranged with Andy Stevenson MNZM, who was awarded the EA Gibson Award at the 2018 NZ Division Awards Dinner last October. Andy founded Farmers Air Ltd which he has since sold to Andrew Hogarth, the CEO and Chief Pilot.

Some may have recalled Andrew’s firebombing display at TCAS 2018.

We were fortunate to have Farmers Air support for the flying visit to Tauranga of the Falco 3000ZK-XLB, arriving at 1800hoursbefore taxiing to the Gliding Club.

XLB is painted in white livery with blue markings, including the ‘Falco’ motif depicting the head of NZ Falcon -karearea-(Falco novaeseelandiae) on the fuselage behind the cockpit. First impressions of the aircraft up close is one of a much bigger aircraft than its predecessors (the Cresco and Fletcher) even though they all share the same wing.

The PA750XL utility type has proven to be a popular air craft,for skydiving and other utility roles,with more than 220 built to date. It was Andy Stevenson and Andrew Hogarth who decided the larger capacity of the 750XL would make a good ag aircraft type to replace the fleet of aging PAC Crescos they were operating at the time.

Flight Structures Ltd was tasked with the role of the re-design and conversion documentation. Aeromotive removed the redundant gear and fittings from the Falco prototype. Among other things, the design involved replacing the scoop intake with a streamline engine cowl and air intake similar to the PT6 Cresco. This required some hi-tech specialist manufacturing of the new structural components. The conversion reconfigured the original XL750 for the ag role with a payload of 3000kg or 3tonne.

Simon introduced the aircraft by highlighting the much larger fuselage of the Falco. This accommodates the 3000 litre hopper and provides much more cockpit space which is fitted with two high spec seats. The carbon fibre hopper fills the entire front fuselage behind the cockpit and forms part of the aircraft structure. In the walk around, the rear cabin was accessed by two hinged side doors. The new electric powered hydraulic system components are located in the front of the rear cabin (beside the hopper) along with a small passenger seat leaving plenty of space for other cargo. He also spoke about the hydraulically powered controls including flaps, hopper door and hopper box controls to reduce pilot work load and provide the means to control the fertiliser flow rate.

After climbing the step onto the wing, a quick look into the cockpit revealed it contained a combination of analogue and digital instruments and other displays. An angled and hooded video monitoris mounted in the centre of the instrument panel. Carefully positioned external video cameras show the pilot the hopper lid and gate box without the need to move his head.As well as a GPS-based system to track the tracks flown, a pistol grip control handle located between the cockpit seats is used to pre-set the discharge rate of the hopper box. A button on the same control handle opens the control gate on the hopper box to the pre-set level.

After the Falco 3000 walkaround tour, Simon joined Branch members in the clubrooms for the BBQ which had been cooked earlier by our gastronomic BBQ chefs Mike and Wally and kept warm in the oven. After a vote of thanks for his talk, Simon re-positioned XLB to the Aero Cluband John Meredith was fortunate to get a ride in the Falco across the airfield.

The Chairman also noted Farmers Airhas a new Falco3000 Serial 222 being built by Pacific Aerospace. With CAA approval, it will be delivered as a Falco 3000 to avoid the need for conversion. It is due to be delivered in the next month.

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