Getting Through Lockdown, the New Zealand Way

by Joe Nicholson on Jun 29 2020

Lockdown has affected people differently across the globe. Joe Nicholson, cadet in the Advanced Flying phase at the New Zealand Airline Academy shares his experience of lockdown on ‘the other side of the world’.

When lockdown first started, we were all really uncertain of the situation and how we were all going to cope.

The Cadet Council got together early to talk through some ‘house rules’ for everyone at the accommodation in an effort to keep everyone as safe as possible, such as not using another block’s kitchen, limits on the number of people in the kitchens, laundry rooms, gym and having cleaning equipment to sanitise surfaces after people had used them.

Panic buying at Pak N Save - 2 days before lockdown.
Panic buying at Pak N Save - 2 days before lockdown.

Alongside this L3Harris set up a number of cadets to be the leaders of their blocks, while being a point of contact they would also help keep kitchens clean and replace items that were running low such as sanitiser and washing liquid. I think these initiatives were a really good way to mitigate the risks of the virus and it showed how we could pull together and do our bit.

I remember that the first couple of weeks of Level 4 (NZ’s highest lockdown level) the weather was really sunny and warm and many of us managed to forget that we were in lockdown!! We would spend these days playing poker, working out and having a very ‘occasional’ beer. The weather certainly helped to keep people in an upbeat mood.

My group of friends put together a list of films we all wanted to watch and over the course of the 4 weeks in lockdown we would watch a film from the list most nights.

Looking back, I think that we really appreciated this time to stop, take a breath from our normal lives and focus on our friendships and our own wellbeing. I was amazed at how quickly the time actually passed - it definitely helped that I had nearly 200 other cadets to be able to socialise and hang out with. There were days, especially when the weather turned cold and wet when it was hard to find things to do and it was a little hard to get through these times, but having my friends around really helped.

My block group were in front of the TV when we heard that New Zealand would move to Level 2, meaning that L3Harris could restart flying ops. We were all really pleased to be getting back to what we love but I was also a little nervous to see if my brain was able to go back to flying after a month of inactivity.

We were all given at least one remedial flight to get back into the swing of things, which really helped, and I used this flight to get to know my new primary instructor and have a little bit of fun in the low fly zone.

The mitigations put in place by L3Harris at the training centre were great. I felt safe and it didn’t take long to become the new normal to have to sign in and out of the training centre, carry out a temperature check on entry and sanitise our hands before going to pre-flight.

We had a number of zoom calls, set up by L3Harris, in the week or so preceding the centre reopening, with a few of the instructors. I found these really good to get back in the mindset of flying and it showed a great way for instructors and cadets to interface remotely, hopefully these will continue in the future.

Sarah Lockett organised for the Cambridge Lions club to bring their burger van. A great treat!
Sarah Lockett organised for the Cambridge Lions club to bring their burger van. A great treat!

New Zealand has now declared that it is ‘COVID free’ and we no longer have to adhere to the social distancing and mitigation practices. It feels great!

However, to be honest it is a little weird that we don’t need to keep cleaning everything and being extra cautious in and around the training centre, it really did become the new normal.

I think we are all really impressed at how NZ has dealt with the virus, coming together so that we can get back to a kind of normal as soon as we have.

I’m taking the opportunity to get out and about in town and enjoy the outdoors of New Zealand again. I’m trying not taking our freedom for granted as I realise that I have been lucky compared to other places in the world, especially those at home, back in the UK.

Since being back I think the majority of people would agree that flying ops have gone relatively smoothly, with just the weather being the main factor in us not going flying.

I hope that L3Harris can keep the operations running smoothly, especially when the borders reopen, and keep everyone on schedule.

Special mention should go to Sarah Lockett and Pete Stockwell for keeping us in the loop and going above and beyond to make sure everyone was safe!