The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime.
The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time.
When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday.
“For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big international airport like that — like the airliners,” Lindley said.
His group took off from Bankstown Airport, where many private pilots usually fly from, and flew the about 17km to Sydney Airport. Although the runways were not busy, Lindley and his crew still had to navigate some huge aircraft.
“Lots of the pilots had passenger jets waiting on the side of the runway, which must have been really funny to watch, with these small little planes coming in,” he said. “When I was taxiing, I had a Jetstar Airbus in front of me and an Air China 767 behind us, and we were all waiting for another one of the club’s aircraft to land.”
Lindley — who was flying a Cessna 182 with three passengers on board — had worked with airport staff to make sure the pilots knew what to expect and how to approach an airport of such size.
“Coming in to land at an airport like that? There are lots of optical illusions because it’s such a long runway, and because it’s so wide,” he said.
“The airport is designed to have the pilot sitting 30 feet in the air, so we’re sitting in a little aircraft, and you’re sitting maybe one foot off the ground, none of the signs are aimed at you, so it’s actually incredibly disorientating,” Lindley added.
The main runway stretches for almost 4km — far longer than smaller aircraft need to land.
Australia’s largest airport usually has a packed schedule, making it almost impossible for private pilots and hobbyists to land. Some private planes have landed there in the past, but the airport’s Airfield Operations supervisor Nigel Coghlan said that the pandemic had allowed the runways to be opened up like never before.
“As our airfield is much quieter than usual due to COVID, we’ve been able to review each request and grant access, which for a lot of hobby pilots is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Coghlan said. “We’ve been able to open up conversations with light aircraft pilots because our airspace is much quieter than usual.”
The airport is currently experiencing 60 to 90 plane movements a day, a huge drop from the 800 to 900 that ordinarily use the runways. That “significant drop” has had a huge impact on the aviation industry, Coghlan said.
For Lindley, it was about making the most of a difficult period.
“It was really about turning lemons into lemonade,” he said. “It’s such a horrible situation with COVID, and it’s a really challenging time in aviation, and I just wanted to turn that into something a little bit positive, to keep people flying and keep their dreams alive.”
Pilots had to submit a flight plan and book a landing spot. Coghlan and his team then had to adapt to the smaller aircraft and guide them in unfamiliar territory.
“We’re certainly not used to the smaller aircraft, so they really keep us on our toes when they arrive,” he said. “Being smaller means they’re harder to see than the jets and turboprops, and they don’t make as much noise. It creates a positive challenge for all of us on the airfield.”
For some of the hobbyists, he acknowledged, “we’re literally making their dreams come true.”
South Korean band BTS is facing a barrage of criticism in China after a member made remarks about the Korean War, with several big-name brands, including Samsung, apparently having distanced themselves from the K-pop group amid the uproar. The controversy is the latest example of the political landmines lying in wait for brands in China, the world’s second-largest economy. Kim Nam-joon, known by the initials R.M., upset many Chinese in a speech when the band received an award from a US-based organization for their contribution to South Korea-US relations. R.M. invoked a “history of pain” shared between South Korea and the US, and,
A US$60 double-dose experimental coronavirus vaccine is being made available to some residents in an eastern Chinese city, health officials have said, the first details of a mass rollout for an as yet unproven vaccine. Officials in Jiaxing on Thursday said that residents aged 18 to 59 with “urgent needs” could seek consultations at clinics for a Sinovac Biotech vaccine that authorities have been giving to groups such as medical workers. The statement from Jiaxing’s center for disease control and prevention did not specify what constituted “urgent needs.” Authorities did not say how many people in the city had been given the vaccine,
Often seen grinning at a missile launch or in command of lengthy official meetings, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has offered a glimpse of a different image — emotional and apologetic. At a weekend military parade where he showed off Pyongyang’s latest and largest intercontinental ballistic missiles, Kim’s voice trembled momentarily as he spoke of “tears of gratitude” for his people’s efforts. He repeatedly and effusively thanked the public and military for their loyalty, and for remaining healthy in the face of the global COVID-19 pandemic, which he said had not caused a single case in North Korea. That has come at a
Japan’s new leader aims to beef up security ties when he visits Vietnam and Indonesia next week amid concerns about Beijing’s growing assertiveness, but he is likely to steer clear of the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by his US counterparts. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose resume is scant on diplomatic experience, is following in predecessor Shinzo Abe’s footsteps by making the two Southeast Asian nations the destination for his first overseas trip since taking office in last month. “I think it is important to show ... we put more emphasis and importance on that region and we are interested in the