Adventures of Ferrying an Aircraft

Adventures of Ferrying an Aircraft

3.5 days, 1600 Nautical Miles, 22.0 hours of flight, 6 fuel stops

Day 1: Arrived at Perth Airport to a balmy 35 degrees and rising! Straight to York, the last major town before a 700odd km pilgrimage to the mining town of Kalgoorlie. The aircraft was located on White Gums airstrip, a bush flying club where one runway run up and down a scrubby hillside, and the other runway was through a gate, in a paddock full of livestock! After inspecting the aircraft, we started our take off roll down the hill, and soon turned east towards Kalgoorlie. The land was primarily wheatfields, for at least the first few hundred kilometres, until it turned desolate and barren. Thermals were violent, and constant the whole way. Not even cruising at 9500ft could escape them. We landed at Kalgoorlie right on 5pm, just in time for a refuel and off to the backpacker’s hostel.

Day 2: 0400 wake up call at the Kalgoorlie Backpacker’s and straight to the airport for an early departure before the thermals kicked in. We went almost directly east, the only navigatable feature being the Nullabor railway line, which our track paralleled to the North. The odd abandoned mine and ranch station were the only other prominent features that stood out in the big, red wasteland. Forrest was a stretch, the fuel gauges were starting to look almost just as we spotted the big asphalt runways of Forrest. Population: 2. Mark and Sandy, a couple from the Gold Coast who decided to reverse sea-change and take care of the railway town of Forrest. Sandy made us special ham sandwiches and even baked us blueberry muffins for our journey East, to Ceduna. I stapled my card to the wall as was tradition. The winds for our next leg were predicted to be favourable. Once airborne, we found that was not true at all. Varying headwinds up to 58 knots saw us scrambling on the map for fuel stops. Back at Forrest, I remembered Mark telling us the Nullabor Motel stored Mogas for the Eyre Highway, and we would be able to taxi around the front for fuel. Diversion planned, and south we turned. The Nullabor Strip was out the back of the motel, simple dirt and gravel, and one of the runways had a 30 degree turn in the middle of it. Landed and taxiied around to the front, where we had to push the aircraft right up to the bowser to fill it up with Premium 95. This turned a few heads, people in caravans and trucks and cars stopped to take photos and asked plenty of questions on our journey. From the Nullabor we pushed east for Ceduna. This was the first time we had seen the coast since leaving Perth, and I was blown away by how desolate the South Australian coast was. I was expecting it to be much like Victoria, green but drier inland. The Bight was sheer cliff. With sand dunes on some parts of the coast, and straight from sand dunes to desert. No wonder the first explorers didn’t think much of the Western and Southern lands. Ceduna soon appeared on our horizon, where after landing we were picked up by Julia of the Ceduna Motor Inn, who kindly arranged transport from the airport to the motel, and treated us to an excellent dinner consisting of the freshest local whiting.

Day 3: Up at Ceduna at 0700 to get the plane fuelled, but with a new obstacle, CLOUDS! The first we had seen since Melbourne. It wouldn’t stop us though, we were determined to find a hole to punch through and fly above that patchy ceiling. The further east we travelled, the less desolate the place became, and we were welcomed back to agriculture and greenery as we made our way over Whyalla for Port Pirie. Port Pirie we topped up the aircraft and our bellies, while enjoying the nice little clubhouse, complete with lounge, tv, and a pictorial museum on the history of the ex-RAAF base. Just before leaving, a 7 news chopper landed and was grounded due to a mechanical fault, I kindly told the pilot to use the club rooms to rest and relax while he awaited rescue from a flight engineer. After departing Port Pirie, it was again due east, brushing the southern edge of the nullabor for more barren lands, dotted with salt lakes and rabbit-proof fences. The greenery returned as we approached the tri-border area between NSW, Victoria and SA, where the Murray River snaked away. Landed at Mildura, fruit and wine capital of Australia, were we sampled the hospitality of the Workman’s Club bistro.

Day 4: The last stretch. Weather was now becoming a consideration, a change we were still getting used to compared to the constant perfect flying days of WA. This last leg was on familiar ground, but on busier ground, so a good lookout was needed to make sure we got home safe! And this was especially true, as we overflew Mangalore to enter the high traffic zone of the Kilmore gap, Melbourne Centre alerted us to the presence of another (them not flying hemispherical) aircraft tracking directly head on! A rapid dive later and a confirmation from ML centre was all we needed to affirm that we are now back in busy civilisation. After crossing the Kilmore gap, we arrived at Tyabb at 1230, just in time for lunch!

3.5 days, 1600 Nautical Miles, (3000km), 22.0 hours of flight, 6 fuel stops later and this Foxbat ‘s Journey from Perth to Melbourne is complete!

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