Rugged, remote, and picturesque parts of the world have always held a special allure for pilots and photographers, so when U.S. citizen and New Zealand resident Jack Schulte offered a chance for AOPA Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and Senior Photographer Mike Fizer to visit, there was no way they were going to say no ( “Epic Flight: New Zealand,” page 50). “Flying the length and breadth of New Zealand with Jack and his wife Marion as hosts was the trip of a lifetime,” Hirschman says. “The natural beauty of the place is surreal, and it’s matched by the warmth, graciousness, and vitality of the people who live and fly there. They’re a spirited, talented, fun-loving, and generous bunch.” Fizer has organized and performed aerial photo shoots in many exotic locations, but none, he says, outshine the places they flew at the bottom of the world. “Before the trip to New Zealand, I assumed that the landscape was going to be beautiful and stunning, but I wasn’t prepared for the real deal. There are sawtooth mountains, miles of rugged coastline, beaches, and glaciers. I was truly amazed by the quality of the light. It was razor crisp and defined the surroundings with an unnatural edge and color,” says Fizer. “Just as unforgettable are the people—the marvelous Kiwis—hospitable and industrious, their homes were opened to us, meals shared, and long days of work accepted with that sunny Kiwi disposition. This trip should be on everyone’s bucket list—as one young local pilot, Sam Bowering, would say, ‘Sweet.’”
Every airplane factory has its own personality, explains Editor in Chief Tom Haines, who has visited virtually every GA manufacturer. “Used to be, anyhow, at Mooney your ears were assaulted by drop hammers—it’s pretty quiet there now. The smell of resin gets your nose at Cirrus. Piper’s Vero Beach, Florida, factory is air conditioned—a real novelty when it opened in the 1960s,” says Haines. “Cessna and Beech are sprawling complexes of buildings. But none compares with the unbelievable size of the widebody Boeing factory near Seattle. Truly, words—and even illustrations—fail to convey the magnitude of the world’s largest building.” But that doesn’t stop him from trying in “Postcards: Northwest Aviation Fest” (page 64), which shares some amazing aviation places to visit for pilots. “For aviation junkies, there are few places like the Seattle region. You’ll definitely find interesting places to visit.”
Shortly before Technical Editor Mike Collins went to Victorville, California, to see the 10 Tanker Air Carrier operation ( “The New Rainmaker,” page 76), a friend showed him a YouTube video of a compact car being crushed by water dropped from the bucket of a giant excavator. Would a DC–10 tanker drop water with that kind of force? “The 10 Tanker folks said they set up a lightweight backyard canopy and a couple of plastic chairs during a test drop. The canopy was undisturbed, although the unoccupied chairs reportedly tipped over,” says Collins—who opted not to photograph a drop from directly below the jet. With the grounding and subsequent listing for auction of Aero Union’s P–3 Orion tankers, significantly reducing the large airtanker fleet available for service, 2012 could be a busy year for 10 Tanker’s modified airliners.