"Kia ora" and "te na koutou ... te na koutou katoa" ... to our "FS tangata whenua" and NZFF "whanau"
FS may be our common bond here but "aviation" is what ultimately unites us through the many, and obviously varied, influences to which we've each been subjected throughout our lives and that've culminated in such interests, and enthusiasm, coming to pass - and that's also possibly even directed the course of some of our private and professional lives accordingly.
For myself at least, living on Auckland's Te Atatu Peninsula, directly under the circuit/flight path into RNZAF Base Whenuapai (a couple km away), since the very early 1960's, is what exposed me to aviation prior to ever commencing school - it was literally a case of my first hearing a loud noise and then looking "up".
RNZAF B170 Freighters, BAC Strikemasters, C-47s, DH Vampires, EE Canberras, and HP Hastings (this was near the end of NZ's old "buy British" mentality era) were progressively learned to be the primary noisy offenders during this time (so blame them) but B175 Britannias, DC-3s, DC-6s, DC-7s, F-27s, DH Comets, L-188 Electras and Viscounts were also attention-getters too - that contributed equally to the constant daily din until some of fun and entertainment was spoiled when civil operations were moved to the new Auckland International Airport at Mangere during late 1965.
Having gotten my attention at such an early and developmental stage of life aviation quickly became "an interest" which evolved into "a passion" - and one that (despite other interests in life) has never abated. Not everyone whose interests incline toward aviation is destined to work within the industry. However, even those who don't can still find themselves contributing meaningfully to, or otherwise positively benefiting from, the industry in various manners, as has indeed been my own privilege and experience since 1979.
Regular and extensive international travel from the early 1970's, following my first ever flight aboard one of NZTAT's Grumman Widgeon amphibians during the late 1960s, ultimately focused my own aviation enthusiasm primarily on "civil aviation".
First ever flight (1969).
PHOTO: Gladys GOODALL/3rd Level NZ collection
Air New Zealand acquiring DC-8-52s from 1965 (NZ's first civil pure jet international equipment), along with the RNZAF's acquisition of C130-H Hercules' and P3-K Orions (later upgraded to -K2's) during 1966, was "a sensation" at the time which I still vividly recall from my early primary school years. Followed by NZNAC selecting B737-200's (for pure jet NZ domestic services) from 1968; Air New Zealand then acquiring larger, longer-ranging, wide-body DC-10-30s from 1973 (further extending our airlines international route network whilst additionally promoting more direct services), and which also coincided with the RNZAF's acquisition of ex USMC A4-E Skyhawks (followed later by additional ex RAN -F's and all of which were upgraded to -K's by the 1990's) around the same period too - each of these latter evolution's in particular making an even greater impression upon most of NZ's aviation-minded community during these times.
That was my own initiation into the world of aviation - through "pure spectatorship".
By 1979 (and by which time I'd also developed keen parallel interests in both WW1 and WW2 naval history, shipping generally, along with some interest in anthropology of the Polynesian Triangle region of the south west Pacific) civil aviation had, for me, become "an even more intense passion" - to the extent I took up Aviation Photography as a hobby (from March 25th 1979 to be precise - the day QANTAS Airways operated its last ever commercial B707-320C service through Auckland) and to which I've remained committed ever since.
IMAGE: GRAF SPEE Airfix Artwork
IMAGE: TIRPITZ Airfix Artwork
I despise labeling this hobby as "Plane Spotting" though (in so far as my own involvement with it is concerned at least). The branding simply "doesn't sit right" with me given the manner in which I've undertaken what I do is, I feel, founded on a far more serious purpose since my commitment to it has always been "historically intended" rather than solely an interest or pastime - my own mission from the very beginning having been to compile a permanent civil aviation photo archive for future historic reference.
Over the past 41 years I've not only observed, but also recorded, countless comings and goings of both domestic and international air traffic in NZ, and at various locations within Australia and the Pacific, the UK, USA and in Colombia too. This all being composed of airlines in and out of business, introducing or withdrawing services through both positive and negative market influences; airline/operator liveries evolving as psychedelic and imaginative new corporate identities are created with which to keep pace with artistic flairs of the times, and in order to aesthetically project their brands into the market or imposed by mergers, or even featuring hybrid markings in celebration of significant operational milestones and other promotions; aircraft fleets expanding or being replaced over time, as airlines/operators re-equip with more modern higher-performance technology, to promote strategic and logistical capabilities in order to ensure competitivity in the face of their opposition and/or establish market niches; freight, tourist, and VIP specific charters oiling the wheels of commerce and industry, promoting NZ as a world class holiday destination for foreigners, facilitating international conferencing orienting NZ's diplomatic/international relations with the rest of the world, along with occasional visits by the rich and famous. The classic and the new along with the big and the small too. In no specific order - it's all relevant. Little's ever escaped my photographic attention subject to anticipation and receiving precise advance notification of various aviation related events/movements - "zen ov course I do also haff vays of making people talk too and vich has usually alvays paid dividends".
See my aviation photo presentation ("AKL/NZAA THROUGH THE 1980's AND 90's") at the conclusion of this autobiography.
I quickly learned, and from a very early stage, that civil aviation isn't just a business, but rather, it's a fascinating and constantly evolving industry of technological and social change and progress - even a life style for some -the history of which has sometimes been neglected in NZ until years following events having passed save for whatever (often little though) might have been officially noted, and then recorded photographically, as such events unfolded.
I never intended, nor planned, things to develop the way they did for myself though, but, through haunting Auckland International Airport "so frequently", and preserving on film the endless passing parade of both scheduled and non-scheduled domestic and international aircraft movements, knowledge of my activities soon grew, and began to be encouraged by the industry too, to some extent, resulting in trust relationships being developed and then further cultivated over time.
During the early 1980's what had started out being my "purely voluntary", but at the same "historically oriented", aviation photography commitment of purely amateur status was brought to positive attention of both airport authorities and airlines alike (this was also the period during which Auckland International Airport was evolving into a corporate company and suddenly undergoing great redevelopment and expansion - in order to cope with the projected huge influx of visiting international airlines following introduction of the NZ Governments Open Skies policy). This resulted in my eventually being seconded to undertake commissioned photographic work on a semi-professional basis for both and rare privileges being extended to me - which I've maintained over these past 41 years despite security impositions of 9/11, and my often lengthy absences from NZ due to family commitments in Colombia during the past 21 years.
Other opportunities began to arise too - all seemingly extending from my aviation photography and through word of mouth influence/s.
By the mid 1980´s, and throughout the 1990´s too, I was undertaking on-call photographic work on behalf of 2 Pacific islands consulates; a local international travel wholesaler; a Pacific islands based tourism and promotion agency; a major foreign owned sea freight agency; a number of domestic and international airlines; as well as various private, social, political, and cultural events within NZ's Pacific islands communities too - whilst also continuing to undertake photographic work for various on-airport departments, as well as providing aircraft imagery and air traffic reports in support of local aviation related news media, regional periodicals, numerous other independently and collaboratively authored publications, and corporate advertising requirements too - in fact it all started to become just a wee bit too successful at times through it beginning to intrude somewhat into my own privacy and consequently leaving me with very little time to myself.
Extensive official and personal travel within the Pacific throughout the 1980's and 90's.
I regard my having been commissioned to undertake "surveillance work" on Auckland International Airport throughout duration of the 1997 CHOGM and 1998 APEC assemblies as being the pinnacle of my aviation photographic career (both hosted at Auckland - the latter event placing me in the presence of both "Slick Willie"/Bill CLINTON and "The Puppet Master"/Vladimir PUTIN), but, given the historic importance (I believe) of much of what my photography has managed to record over the past 41 years it's difficult to appraise what outweighs what in terms of significance - again it's all "relevant" if not of equal "historic value".
In the meantime I'd also discovered FS during the very early 1990's - firstly in the form of Thalion Software's Amiga and IBM based A320 Airbus program (one of the very first serious stand-alone simulations aimed at those desiring purpose-intended airline type virtual flying), followed by Sub Logic's more advanced and similarly intended PC based A320; B737; B747; B767; and SH360 featured Flight Assignment ATP program. Both of these simulations were composed of panels that bore little (if any) resemblance to those for the actual aircraft types they were intended to represent, mere caricatures of 3D models almost devoid of any external texturing, synthetic sound, and each supported by flat world/wire graphics type scenery environments.
Thalion Software's A320 Airbus panel (1990).
IMAGE: Thalion Software
Sub Logic's Flight Assignment ATP's panels (1995).
IMAGE: Sub Logic Software
Still, most of us thought this was "GREAT" simply because it was "the norm" if not quite advanced way back then, but, immeasurably aided by technological advancement of the computer gaming industry how everything's changed/progressed since with today's customized panels/gauges/modules, advanced FDE's, authentic and hi-fidelity real world audio, hi-resolution graphics, and mesh terrain scenery developed from real world geographic resources which are usually accurate to within meters.
Then during 1997 came MS's FS98 and which for many, like me, saw virtual flight really begin to take-off (pun unintended) through it enabling development of all sorts of 3D model, adventure, audio, panel, scenery, and texture related add-on's aimed at enhancing the basic program - finally we had a home PC based simulator that seemed to promote almost endless expansion not to mention increased hours of enjoyment for everyone too.
Extensively represented among my own FS resources during the FS98 era were the like of add-on aircraft collections by The VIP Group (one of the very first commercial developers of customized panels/gauges/modules, sounds, and textures for FS - the proprietor of which I was privileged to spend a week with in Canada during late 2000), along with panel, scenery and adventure expansions by Abacus, Aerosoft, Aeti, Apollo, Data Becker, Fly Logic, Lago, Pilots, Up Front Simulations, Technic Direct, and Wilco - each of whom were regarded as being among the very best commercial producers of FS software during this particular period when the freeware market never existed like is the case today.
VIP Classic Wings B757 panel (1998).
IMAGE: VIP Classic Wings Software
Most of us probably thought we were in virtual aviation paradise using these products and with the advent of FS98, but, few of us probably had any idea how things were about to evolve, or how quickly FS was going to further advance/improve with the evolution of both FS2000 and FS2002, followed almost as promptly by the "far superior" FS2004 and FSX in particular - the latter 2 products still remaining (for the time being) preferred platforms among many of the worlds FS enthusiasts today.
During 2000 I discovered a then newly formed FS freeware group known as The Historic Jetliners Group (HJG) which specialized in representing B367-80, B707/B720/C-135 (series), CV-880, CV-990, and DC-8 simulations. These each being the aircraft which fired-up my civil aviation interests and that had fascinated me most ever since the 1960's - I was therefore drawn to HJG like metal to a magnet.
HJG's original virtual (and reworked) flight line since 2000.
Upon connecting with this group I quickly cultivated a very fruitful working relationship with one of its co-founders - the late Michael VERLIN - and which was further cemented through my civil aviation knowledge, extensive accumulated historical resource, technical access to aircraft, and our meeting "in person" within the USA on a number of occasions during my regular family related travels between NZ and Colombia. I consequently became Michael's research assistant, and as such an ancillary HJG team member for starters, but, little did I realize at that time HJG was about to play a much more major role in my own FS activities - especially when, during 2006, I ended up representing it in an completely unanticipated "co-management" capacity and which I continue to undertake for the foreseeable future.
As the result of a European business collapse during 2005, and the consequential loss of a server, HJG was, by early 2006, about to disappear into the same abyss which has claimed any number of other fine FS freeware development groups both previously and since. During this crisis a few team members believed sufficiently in the groups purpose and future to not allow such to befall HJG, so, negotiations commenced with SIMVIATION.COM (whom was already hosting David Maltby Flight Sim - the UK and CBFS support based BAC One-Eleven, Comet, Trident, and VC-10 specialist) in regard to the possibility of their hosting HJG too, but, under the direction and management of its own administration team. Simviation's Pete DALY therefore became HJG's salvation - and HJG a subsidiary of Simviation ever since - and which is what's allowed HJG to not only continue to exist, but since 2006, to also be able to further improve its original simulations (and their supporting customized panels/gauges, and audio for FS2004 and FSX), then add other simulations such as the B717-200, B727, B737, BAe 146/ARJ (series), DC-9, DC-10, L-1011 TriStar, MD-80/-90, and Mercure 100 whilst also greatly expanding its texture offerings too - as well as later throwing rescue lines to the like of external projects such as AFG's Caravelle and FS France Team's Concorde simulations following demise of these groups who's work HJG's since hosted, and assumed responsibility for, whilst also applying improvements to.
A fortuitous circumstance which arose and actually aided the new HJG's post 2006 recovery, stability, and subsequent success was MS's decision to cease producing new versions of FS for many years following FSX - after the failure of its MS Flight program. For the very first time in MS's FS development history it wasn't necessary to recompile 3D models, FDE, panels/gauges/modules, sounds, and textures (at least not to the same extent, or as regularly, as had previously been the case) beyond the dictates of their already established, and by then well understood, FS2004 and FSX programs - which were not only popular but relatively similar too (this advantage is what really enabled HJG to begin expanding its virtual flight line despite never having originally intended doing so). Had things evolved to the contrary then HJG could never have lasted for the duration it has - this year (2021) celebrating 21 years of service to the FS community despite being unable to evolve its current flight line to MSFS and other more recent FS platform compatibility. There's a number of "legal/proprietary" as well as "technical" considerations that limit the practicality of what HJG can straightforwardly achieve in regard to further upgrading of products it currently offers - but - that's "THE REALITY".
HJG's original mission was to try'n preserve memory of the classic 1st generation civil jets "through FS", then since 2006, to simply ensure these simulations remained "FREELY" available to all whom might desire to partake of them, improve whatever it has capacity to be able to successfully enhance/further advance in accordance with the limited resources at its disposal, and to also later expand it's virtual flight line too (per negotiation with external FS authors), but, "only for as long as end user interest can be justifiably sustained" in relation to compatibility of these established simulations with the 2 principle MS produced FS platforms preceding its new MSFS" program - but once again - that's the way it "IS".
Running any FS freeware group (like HJG) isn't a particularly easy or even pleasant task sometimes. In fact it's had its moments. In all honestly had some of us anticipated, beforehand, precisely what we'd be letting ourselves in for then we might well have entertained 2nd thoughts in regard to bothering salvaging HJG in the first instance (unfortunately not all community members are respectful of the efforts of volunteer FS freeware developers - and believe you me - reasoning with both the frailties and inconsistencies of human nature can, occasionally, pose as much "fun" as FS itself). Despite the odd incident that does, albeit rarely though, arise and as challenging as some of these situations have been to deal with, it's also been a mostly "REWARDING" experience in hindsight - especially given the satisfaction some team members feel when folk are observed to be using, and still enjoying, "the fruits of HJG's labor" even during this advent of newer FS platforms such as MSFS, P3D, and X-Plane. This does tend to make the struggles, and frustrations, encountered along the way seem worth having been endured - despite whatever HJG may be unable to deliver. HJG (or any other FS freeware group for that matter) can't satisfy everyone - of course - and it does appreciate that.
At the end of the day FS is, and should always be, about people enjoying aviation and flying "as a hobby", but even so, and despite the fact most professional flight instructors agree that students entering real-world aviation training from lengthy periods of FS influence need being "worked a lot harder with" (in order to eliminate their accumulated bad habits), I do often wonder just how many individuals FS, and the like of HJG (and other FS groups/authors too) might have been responsible for actually encouraging into pursuing professional flying careers over the past 30 or more years. The world needs pilots - of course - and all contenders for these jobs do need to be gotten "interested" first and foremost - with training, the selection and qualification processes, and the rest, each then following accordingly.
As I mentioned near start of this presentation - I never intended, nor even imagined, my own aviation inclinations would evolve the way they have. Leading me from mere aviation enthusiasm, to amateur then semi-professional/freelance aviation photography and journalism status (both of which I still undertake today), to FS hobbyist and eventually "co-management" of a relatively popular aviation based freeware hobby group. I guess this's just one (only) example of how aviation can influence, and ultimately direct, the path of one's life through being "constantly full of surprises", in both virtual and real-world senses, and particularly through being the "fascinating and constantly evolving business/industry of technological and social change and progress - even life style for some - that it "TRULY IS".
"Nga mihi a nui mo to hiahia" .... "kia kaha .... kia kaha koutou katoa"
Mark R CRANSTON aka "AEROFOTO"
Historic Jetliners Group
Auckland, New Zealand & Bogota DC, Republica de Colombia
ALL PHOTOS AND FS IMAGERY FEATURED WITHIN THIS PRESENTATION ARE BY "MARK R.CRANSTON" .... EXCEPT WHERE INDIVIDUALLY CREDITED.
"AKL/NZAA THROUGH THE 1980's AND 90's"