Since its avionics upgrade (with the installation of an Aspen EFD-1000 Primary Flight Display) which was completed in March 2017, the Cessna 172, VH-WMC, is the only training aircraft in Mareeba equipped with touch screen GPS and autopilot; preparing pilots for higher level operations.

Flight instructor, Thomas Beyeler, has been really pleased with the difference the addition this aircraft has made to training the pilots; post PPL, students can be endorsed on the glass cockpit and autopilot, for experience building. Thomas believes it will help to both familiarise pilots with the required scanning pattern and to become aware of a different level of threat and error management. One of the Mareeba engineers, fabricated a cover so that students flying with the new technology are unable to see the standard set of instruments which has been useful as a training tool.

As soon as the aircraft had completed its return to service flight, two pilots began training for their Instrument Rating conversions in it. Ping Domtta from India was the first pilot to use VH-WMC, and along with Mel Laird from New Zealand, they both successfully completed their conversions over the following month. These pilots are now both serving in the remote communities within MAF programmes in South Sudan and Arnhem Land respectively.

More recently, Lukas Schmid, an ab initio student from Switzerland who began his training in Mareeba at the beginning of 2017, has been flying VH-WMC for navigation training and started night flying in the aircraft. Along with Flight Instructor, David Curtis, Lukas carried out his first night flight on August 3rd 2017, just after sunset (see photo). This was the first of five flights where students are introduced to night circuits for the first time, followed by a second flight to cover emergencies and then some solo night circuit practice. Over the subsequent two weeks, there will be two remote navigation flights. When Lukas has been assessed as competent, he will be recommended for a flight test to gain his NVFR qualification (Night Visual Flight Rules).

Instructor David Curtis said, ‘Using VH-WMC with its new upgraded avionics, provided a great opportunity for Lukas to maintain a high level of situational awareness and to become familiar with the same avionics fitout used in operational MAF aircraft. It truly is a pleasure to fly WMC, especially at night.’ Reflecting on his introduction to night flying in this aircraft, Lukas commented that VH-WMC is his favourite aircraft to fly here in Mareeba with the modern avionics and fuel injected system. He said, ‘My first night flight was a new experience and quite different from flying in daylight. At night, I have to rely a lot on the instruments. The modern avionics help to make this as easy as possible … I’m looking forward to doing my first cross-country flight at night next week in VH-WMC. This will be another new experience for me as a pilot.’