SAI KUNG BUZZ has checked out the Hong Kong Aviation Club’s brand-new aerobatic light aircraft, a Zlin 242L. It is an impressive piece of flying kit, so robust, it is agricultural, like a tractor. But, in Hong Kong, the model has a tragic history.
Buzz team member Roger Medcalf, who has a private pilot’s licence, flew the aircraft under the supervision of senior instructor Hogan Loh. Roger tells the story: We took off from Sek Kong on a gorgeous flying day, tracked at 1500 ft through Kadoorie Gap, over Tolo Harbour, around Ma On Shan and over the waters of Sai Kung.
A 360-degree orbit over the sea allowed photo-taking of the town from 1200 ft. Then we headed the aircraft past the University of Science and Technology, around the Clearwater Bay Golf Club and into the harbour at 1500 ft.
Through the blue harbour, Kowloon on the right, the Island on the left. “Wow, what a beautiful flying day!” This from Hogan, who does the flight several times a day on weekends if the weather permits.
At 1500 ft the Zlin sailed past the top of the International Commerce Centre. Nearing Green Island, Hogan banked the aircraft into a 180-degree turn back through the harbour as I snapped photos of the astonishing view of one of the world’s great cities. Air traffic control ordered us to descend to 1000 ft for traffic separation as we flew back towards the East.
Once past Clearwater Bay Golf Club and into Port Shelter, the Zlin climbed to 2000 ft and whizzed over High Island reservoir. Approaching Tai Long Wan, beaches and surf sparkling in the sun, I suggested we zoom low along the sea shore. Hogan informed Information (we were no longer in controlled air space). I pushed the nose down and the Zlin raced along the sea shore at about 700 ft. We stayed over the sea for safety reasons. Many people were on the beach.
Around Sharp Peak we climbed up to 2000 ft and began doing air field approach checks while tracking back to Kadoorie Gap and Sek Kong.
I fancied I would be able to do the landing after a three-year flying gap (it’s an expensive game), but it wasn’t to be. I flew a 2000 ft pattern over the Sek Kong airfield, then descended into the circuit at 800ft along the downwind leg. Slowing the Zlin to about 90 knots I took one stage of flap. “No, too early, ” said Hogan, shoving the flap level down. My imagined brilliant flying plan started to go out the window. Around base leg and banking onto final approach, airspeed back to 70 knots, I was still flying the aircraft. As we approached the runway, the Zlin was sinking quickly towards the trees. Hogan insisted on taking control of the throttle and applied power. He landed the aircraft smoothly. Hogan was right to take control. Rusty after a long lay-off, I was behind the aircraft.
It was a great experience. The slogan about light aircraft flying: “Best fun you can have with your clothes on”.
Anyone can fly with Hong Kong Aviation Club
If you want to experience this kind of flying, you can. Call 2711 5555 and ask for May or Cale. Say you would like to do a trial introductory flight. They will give you a booking with an instructor. It won’t be cheap: an hour in the two-seater Zlin will cost $3000, in a four-seat Cessna 172 it will be about $2700.
Becoming a student pilot at the Aviation Club can set you on the path to commercial flying with the airlines. First, you qualify for a private pilot’s licence flying with a club instructor and pass about eight exams. Then you can go on to attain a commercial pilot’s rating and instructor’s rating, climbing the ladder towards an aviation career.
TRAGIC HISTORY OF ZLIN 242L IN HONG KONG
A club instructor and Civil Aviation officer, MT Cheuk, was killed in the HKAC’s first Zlin 242L. It is a tragic story that bears retelling for those who missed it. MT’s accident occurred two years ago next month.
A few weeks before MT had been failed by an examiner doing his instructor’s rating renewal. A fellow instructor told BUZZ he thought the examiner had been unfair. MT was clearly under pressure, perhaps a bit disturbed.
Over Plover Cove where aerobatics is permitted, MT decided to practise spinning. He was due to have another go at passing his instructor’s renewal the following day.
Spinning involves bringing the Zlin’s nose up while pulling the power back, until it stalls. A kick of the rudder and it will start spinning one way or the other. Now the stalled aircraft is rotating rapidly and losing height fast, heading for the sea. If you are in an aircraft that is spinning, the earth is whirling below and you feel like you are in a washing machine. If you don’t make the right moves with the joystick and the rudder in the right order, the aircraft may never recover.
Before MT put the aircraft into a spin, he had asked permission from ATC to climb to greater height for safety reasons. More time to recover, arrest the Zlin’s spinning and regain control. ATC said, no. Jets were descending above to Chek Lap Kok.
So MT put the plane into a spin at a height lower than he had wanted. The Zlin has short wings and a heavy 300 hp engine. When spinning it loses height rapidly. MT did not recover in time. The Zlin plunged into the waters of Plover Cove.
MT’s tragedy was the only death in an HKAC aircraft in living memory.