For part 1 of this series see: Flying the 580 Pt1: Air Chatman's CIF
The jumpseat on the CV-580 slides out into the walkway directly behind the pilot seats and middle instrument panel. To the left is a load of avionics and to the right what looked like a coatroom and storage for the jumpseat. Quite a few of the avionics boxes still had Era Aviation/Helicopters markings on but there was no trace of the aircraft's SABENA or Frontier heritage.
Now I don't pretend to be a pilot or to know more than the basics of flying so I'll try not to embarrass myself. The following is therefore far from exhaustive, however here are some shots of the cockpit panels with my identification of bits and bobs. Click on each to see full sized photos:
I have to say probably my favourite part of the cockpit is the checklist control. It's not digital and instead is a backlit paper roll turned manually by the side knob:
The Flight Down
On the way down to Whanganui I was flying flight CV0712 scheduled to depart at 12:30. In the pilot seat was Captain Dwayne and his co-pilot was First Officer Anthony. We left the gate broadly on time and the taxi to the runway was easy enough, but then we appeared to have our take-off slot 'stolen' by a bizjet - the Bombardier Global Express-BD-700-1A10 (VH-CCV).
This led to quite a wait for us as several aircraft landed, two of which called priority to get in ahead of us. This was a boon for me especially as one of them was an Emirates Airbus A380 (A6-EDD). Other traffic ahead of us was a FlyMySky Islander and a Mount Cook ATR.
Even though the aircraft was pretty much fully loaded with eager punters desperate to get to Whanganui the take-off run seemed short, which is testimony to the power the Allison's provide.
As you've not doubt surmised Whanganui is a major hub with hundreds of gates, massive traffic flows and tens of thousands of passengers a day. So you might be surprised to hear that we were the only aircraft on the ramp and after the passengers were unloaded the terminal was literally empty. In fact I only met three staff at the airport in its entirety and the baggage carts were human powered. In all seriousness it's a lovely little airport with a tidy friendly little terminal and some decent facilities given its size. The classic old control tower is apparently not used anymore but judging by the signs on it is undergoing charitable renovation for some purpose.
I thought about catching a ride into Whanganui but only one taxi showed up and with only a few hours to pass I decided against it. Instead I walked down to the Whanganui River estuary and passed the time in the deserted terminal. The only traffic I met was very kiwi - several dirt bike riders, some 4x4s going fishing and a tractor.
The return flight was just as busy as the flight down and the terminal filled up with friends and relatives. Some passengers were going on the first leg of trips to Rarotonga by flying up to the big smoke of Auckland. Initially I was going to sit in the cabin but in the end I decided to impose on the flight crew again and chose the jump seat.
The Flight Back
My return flight was CV0713 departing at 16:45. As it is currently Winter in New Zealand that meant it'd be dark by the time we landed in Auckland. For the return flight the pilots swapped duties. Take-off was directly into the setting sun.
The flight back gave me more time to speak with the pilots who seemed less busy and also to become more familiar with the instruments. It was a routine flight although closing Auckland we had to keep an eye out for more traffic. Interestingly we were chasing a Mount Cook ATR some of the way and catching it up, showing the CV-580's speed advantage.
There were four or five aircraft ahead of us and several visible on radar. We slotted in behind an Air Chathams Metro and took our opportunity to land on Auckland's single runway.
We expedited our taxi back to gate 48 and I made my goodbyes before alighting from the aircraft.
So what does the future hold for ZK-CIF and the Air Chathams Convair fleet? Speaking with the pilots it seems the 580s could continue indefinitely as they are not end-rated. I got a photo of CIF's log book which shows she's currently flown 124,443 cycles and 73,937.5 hours.
Sadly I was told there is a CAA NZ change coming into effect by December 31, 2020 which will effectively end the operational life's of the Convairs. This requires them to have new security doors fitted. At present the Convairs have an exemption until this date (see below image) but fitting the necessary security measures is apparently more expensive than the airframe's value.
So the message here is if you want to fly one of these grand old ladies you need to get to it before 2021. Air Chathams will be only too helpful in making it happen for you.
Thanks again to all at Air Chathams who made this adventure a possibility for me.
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: