The Satisfaction of Building and Flying Your Own Plane

February 17, 2020

When Trevor Parker built his Pazmany PL2 in 1980, he started with a stack of plans – 144 square feet of paper. An engineer by trade, Trevor enjoyed the mechanical challenge of turning raw materials into a working aircraft. Being the manufacturer of a plane gives you the ability to maintain it - a job otherwise left to a licensed aircraft engineer.

Being able to maintain his Pazmany is the reason he prefers home builds to this day. Plus, when labour is free, and all you have to do is buy spare parts, a person can afford to spend thousands of hours flying.

Which is precisely what Trevor has done since 1988.

“Most private pilots would be lucky to do 300 hours in a lifetime, whereas I’ve done 2,500 in it. I just absolutely love flying. I go up Pauanui or Raglan, or down to Gisborne, just for lunch. It’s a cool way to travel.”

When he sees clogged highways below while cruising 130 knots, it reaffirms his love for this mode of transportation. Thirty years on, he still doesn’t tire from it.

Pazmany PL2 Fuel Tank
Trevor's fuel tank, fitted to get him across the ditch.

Building Sport Aircraft

Before Trevor was fixing and flying planes, he was fixing and racing motor cars. In 1980, Trevor took a job fixing the airplane engine of a home build. He found the job ‘easy as anything,’ and he hasn’t looked back since.

When he’s not flying his Pazmany, Trevor is helping others with their experimental home builds. Over the years, Trevor has gone from builder to mentor, and from local inspector to President of the local Sport Aircraft Association.

In this role, Trevor argued for electronic tracking devices. “I was quite annoyed when we had to fit ELT’s [Emergency Locator Transmitters] because of their poor accident record. Like most aircraft accidents with an ELT, like the one in Raglan, they don’t know where the aircraft is. They haven’t got a bloody clue.”

ELTs automatically broadcast aircraft signals when triggered by such things as impact or contact with water. If damaged, however, they may stop working or lose track of location.

Preferring to support the pioneers of any industry, Trevor chose Spidertracks.

Pazmany PL2 at Tauranga Airport
Trevor's Pazmany PL2, about to taxi out from Tauranga Airport.

A Solo Trip Across the Tasman

After three decades of flying around New Zealand, Trevor needed a new challenge. In 2018, he made the decision to fly the Tasman and explore Australia.

The original plan was to clear customs in Kerikeri and fly via Norfolk Island and Lord Howe to Australia - flying into Longreach and making his way to North Queensland and the Northern Territories. However, a tropical cyclone stationed near Cairns took their journey inland and South, eventually arriving at Merimbula, then Port Macquarie to make their return to New Zealand.

Unfinished business led to a return trip in 2019 flying to Kerikeri then Lord Howe and arriving in the Gold Coast. With no tropical cyclone this time, Trevor and his wife were able to fly into interesting towns on their way up to Darwin before returning via Mt Isa to Port Macquarie.

“Both these trips were a fantastic experience with Marilyn enjoying it as much as myself.”

Flying from Kerikeri to Lord Howe first would shorten his trip across the Tasman by 2 hours. However, it’s still a 6.5-hour first leg.

“It’s no worse than being on a commercial jet. You’re just sitting there listening to the hum of the engine and making your way there. You know, and hope it doesn’t stop.”

As a mechanical engineer, Trevor is confident that giving an engine an uninterrupted supply of good, clean fuel will keep it going. But, in the case of the unexpected, it’s good to have something on board keeping tabs on you.

Trevor installed an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADSB) system onboard, which periodically broadcasts an aircraft signal. However, he elected to also install a Spidertacks unit for his trip across the Tasman.

With Spidertracks, there is a recorded history that shows exactly where an aircraft is. Spidertracks can also tell how fast an airplane was going, and at what altitude, which can be pivotal.

“If I come right down close to sea level, and I’m sitting at around 50 knots, you’ll know that I’ll have done a reasonably successful landing on the ocean. There’s a reasonable chance that I’ll be in my life raft, which would be tethered to the aircraft as long as it stays afloat. Eventually, of course, it would sink. But at least I’ll be in a life raft.”

The Possibilities of Flight

From New South Wales to South Australia, and from Perth to Broome, Trevor has flown all over Australia. Flight allows the freedom to visit places like Tibooburra, a town of 400 in the Eastern corner of New South Wales. Trevor’s Pazmany was the first international flight ever to land there.

Trevor trusts that his 30-year-old Pazmany will get him where he’s going, but he’s also aware of the risks of flight. Whether he’s flying solo across the Tasman or around Australia with his wife, Trevor is confident that someone knows where he is, and any potential trouble he might be in, with Spidertracks on board.

Trevor Parker with his Pazmany PL2
Trevor Parker with his Pazmany PL2.

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