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Our Australian Adventures

Flying the West Coast and Kimberleys

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 1 October 2012 | Views [300]

17th Sept to 23rd Sept 2012


Very early on Monday the 17th, we departed out unit for the darkness of hanger D at Jandakot Airport where VH KOG, a C172 N is hangered. At official first light we departed Jandakot for Meekatharra via Armadale. It was a cold and clear morning and all was good. On passing Paynes Find we were sipping our hot coffee when there was a sudden bang followed by a shudder through the control column. “Interesting” I thought…..wonder what that was. Once the heart rate and blood pressure regained normality we discovered that the vacuum pump has let fly and we had no A/H or Turn indicator. Not a problem for us. Very few RA Aus aircraft have this sophisticated equipment on board so we’ll just push on. It may even “recover” once we shut down and start up again who knows? Sadly it was indeed terminal. Our arrival at YMEK coincided with the RPT flight which meant we has serious whining during our refueling, so it was a quick turnaround and off to Newman. Our arrival there was just after the arrival of the RPT jet. Boy, do they take their time back tracking the runway. We could have done 2 circuits, but decided to have an aerial tour of the mine and then came on in to load more fuel in both ourselves and the aircraft. Again we had the continual whining of the jets APU, but at least it was a little further away from us.

So far all had gone exceptionally well timing wise, although the fuel burn was a little more than we had planned. A quick chat to my friendly LAME and we had some new techniques to try. Happily they made a difference on the future legs. Our departure from YNEW was close to 1300hrs and the temperature was close to the 40 degree mark and didn't we feel it. Poor little KOG used a lot of runway with the mixture leaned and eventually lifted off cleanly and then our adventures really began! I have never felt so out of control in an aircraft before. Nothing was making sense! The aircraft attitude was perfect. Full power was being produced and the revs were as per usual. Yet the VSI was all over the place. Fortunately the ups were more than the downs and after a while we had reached 9,500 feet where the bumps were still between 250 & 500 ft on the VSI, so tried 10,000 where it was finally “smooth”….but not very. One thing about being that high was that the maps made perfect sense and were very easy to read. Elena did an excellent job and even managed to keep me on track using the 1 in 60 rule…well sort of anyway. Eventually we approached the coast near Sandfire where we reduced our altitude to enter Broome airspace.  Again we hit the money slot. After giving us clearance to approach and report at 10 miles, there was pandemonium. The RFDS jet had an emergency evacuation and was given priority, the jet was inbound, the helicopters and tourist flights were all inbound. Planes were doing orbits at Cable Beach Club and Gatheame Point and others were told to reduce speed. I was just about to suggest to them that I take the tourist route when they asked where I was. My intentions were conveyed and they seemed ok with it all. After 15 minutes we were at 5 miles having flown around Roebuck Bay and all was quiet. The boys gave me a straight in approach over China Town and a very long and challenging day was behind us.

Our friend picked us up and we had a very enjoyable and restful night with them, before departing for Kununurra via Mitchell Plateau the next morning. Our first stop was Derby to top up the fuel. My radio work was at its very worst that morning, but the nice lady was gentle with me and made it all very easy. We had a very uneventful flight to Derby. After a quick refueling stop we were on our way. First sight apart from everything was Kings Cascades on the Prince Regent River. Bad timing!! The smoke haze was all over the Kimberley’s and we were really starting to miss not having the A/H operational. Also, the water had almost dried up so it was more like Kings Trickle, but still a striking formation. From there we tracked direct to Mitchell Falls where we did a couple of half orbits (does that make one full one?) before deciding to land at the airstrip some 14klms away for lunch. We had planned to stop at Kalumbaru but it would have meant arriving just as their siesta time commenced, so the YMIP terminal seemed like a good place for a picnic. Not long after touching down and starting our picnic, we heard the thumping of helicopter rotor blades and thought it a bit unusual…they don’t need runways! Then we saw a bright orange Bell Longranger flying low and fast along 06. It pulled up and landed fairly close to us and out jumped my son Phil. He had heard the radio calls and come over to say hi. He was supposed to be in Kununurra, but the resident machine had issues that needed the attention of a LAME so he got to bring him out in a serviceable helicopter and take the “sick machine” back. But as he said he’d only fly it if the engineer was in there beside him! They did make it back and were there to meet us at Kununurra.

After our quick helicopter flight and lunch we departed for Kalumbaru. Since leaving Derby, the scenery below us had all been breathtaking and the short flight over kept up the breathlessness. We could write another chapter on our 2 hours at Kalumbaru but all we’ll say now is that Michael looked after us very well. After he exchanged 31 litres of fuel for $155, we were on our way again, this time to Kununurra via King George Falls. Scenery still spectacular, but the falls were dry. It’s still a fantastic part of WA to visit though and rock formations alone are fascinating.

Our trip to Kununurra was uneventful and we landed at a little after 1630 in reducing light where my son was there waiting for us.

We spent the next 2 nights in Kununurra and caught up with the changes in the town as well as showing Phil and Elena the sights as I remembered them 32 years ago.

On Thursday Morning we departed Kununurra at 0730 on Phil’s advice so as to miss the regular tourist flights out over Lake Argyle and the Bungles. They depart at 0630 and 0830. The result was we were the only aircraft in the air over the bungles as the others were all headed back to YPKU for more tourists. Just as well really as the majority of the tourist aircraft are C210’s and Airvans which are a little faster than the little C172. All I can say about his section of the trip is that if you haven’t done it; put it on your bucket list. It is really amazing. From there we proceeded on to Halls Creek to top up and on to Broome for another overnight with our friends. We did point out to them we were just using them up but would return later in the year and make it up to them. The Mango Festival in November is always worth a visit I've found.

On Friday we departed Broome for Hamelin Pool Station via Karratha and Carnarvon. Another long day, but with 2 pilots aboard the workload was ok and the iPad was working very well with the AvPlan app. Everything at my fingertips and easy to bring up when needed. Also, we had a real horizon again so everything was back to normal. As a matter of interest, we counted 40 ore carriers both being loaded and waiting to be loaded at Port Hedland. Almost reminded me of Hong Kong Harbour many years ago!!


We arrived at Hamelin Pool Station at 1545 where we were met at the airstrip and taken to the “shearers quarters” for our 2 day stay. We were there for the wedding of good friends who met at the Busselton Aero Club and both share the passion for flying. We both consider ourselves lucky boys to have wives that share our passion for aviation and love being involved. As Elena only has he RA Aus license at the moment, she was referred to as my auto pilot which we renamed “Elena”.  It is great being able to have a break every now and then and makes the human element of things much easier to manage on the long legs.

The wedding went very well and the few that made it here all had an excellent time. I was very pleased to be flying home the next day. No fuzzy head and 3 hours of flying compared with 11 hours of driving. With the 172 we could carry everything we needed as the RPL only lets me carry one passenger and her name is permanently on the manifest, even though she’s no passenger!!!

Our flight home was a perfect end to an interesting week of flying. 30.3 hours added to the tacho and I’m now starting to feel a little more comfortable behind the controls again. All I need now is to find a nice fast RV that has some luggage room so we can cover the miles at a C210 rate. Perhaps I should investigate building one. Elena is a trained surgeon after all.

Tags: flying c172 kimberleys hamelin pool station


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