Over Lake Eyre and back
Australia Queensland Massie
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We were meant to leave with 7 other aircraft on Saturday morning 17th March 2012 from Warwick but a technical hitch with our aircraft registration saw us delayed until Monday Morning.
On the trip was:
Kelvin & Denise Hutchison, Jabiru J-230D, 24-7388,
Graham & Liz Hawthorne, Jabiru J230, 24-4903,
Tony Hinchley & Tom Strickland, Jabiru J230D, 24 7353,
John & Gwen Tyburczy, Jabiru J230, 24-5013,
Owen Bartrop, Paradise P1, 24-7378,
Bruce Fanning & Joy Eastwell, Cessna C172, VH-IBF,
Graham Mansey, Cavalier 102.5, VH SLZ,
And us Doug & Robyn McCullough, Tecnam Sierra, 24-4651,
Left on Monday morning and had our first night at White Cliffs.
This first leg we travelled 137nm (Nautical Miles) to Moree and refuelled. The second leg 208nm to Bourke via Walget and refuelled. The third leg 157nm to White Cliffs. We were lucky enough to have a tail wind of approximately 15kts most of the time which helped enormously to shorten our time in the air. We spent our night in an underground motel. Our first impressions of the this accommodation is that it does not need to be air-conditioned as it is a constant 22° summer and winter, it is sound proof and pitch black, great for a good night's sleep.
Tuesday night was at Arkaroola. After refuelling at White flew 195nm west again with the aid of a tail wind direct to Arkaroola covering the distance in just under 2 hours. After the big day yesterday we were glad to get the rest of the day off. Here we met and caught up with the group. Robyn and I enjoyed what Arkaroola had to offer and were only sad that we couldn't have been there for the two days that the group were there for.
Wednesday night was at Coober Pedy. Wednesday morning all 8 aircraft departed
Arkaroola on different tracks to William Creek. We, Graham & Liz, Doug
& Robyn tried to find Marree Man but couldn't and then flew onto William
Creek to refuel. What can I tell you about William Creek? First of all we had a
20kt wind blowing at right angles to the runway that made landing very
interesting to say the least but made it safely. I commented to the group that
I thought that my landing was pretty ugly only to receive a comment back
"Well you are here aren't you" which left me reassured that
it couldn't been too bad.
In the photo to the right you can see half way up the right hand edge, the wind sock is horizontal and you can also see the heading of the aircraft in relation to the strip direction. While I was refueling Robyn was off to the PUB (about a 400 - 500m walk) for a drink and ordered the a hamburger and chips that I couldn't jump over for lunch. I only ate the contents and the chips and left the bread roll. It was huge and I was worried about the plane getting off the ground.
After lunch we took off for Coober Pedy arriving at approximately 1400. We had originally planned Way Points to fly around R283 (Woomera restricted area) that is between William Creek and Coober Pedy but during lunch a commercial pilot landed with a group from Wilpena Pound and he told us that in the 8 months that he had been flying around there R283 had never been active so we would be able to fly direct to Coober Pedy.
After landing we fuelled up ready for the next day and by then the motel bus had arrived to take us to town. Again we stayed in an underground motel which was great. Had a tour of an underground mine that was converted into an Opal Shop conducting tours. That afternoon we arranged a quick bus tour of the town conducted by Jimmy the Greek as he is very commonly known. Well Jimmy has been a resident of Coober Pedy for 30 - 40 years (I forget how years exactly but a long time) Jimmy took us to a few remarkable places such as the Catacomb Church that had been dug out of the side of the hill (Underground), a Golf Club where the area around the pins are not grass but made of black Stones that you have to rake after completing your putting. The area between holes is just dirt that crosses the road in several places where there are signs erected that cars are to give way to the golfers.
Thursday night was at Innamincka. Thursday morning, up bright and early as we had another big day. We flew back to William Creek to refuel. We then flew across the middle of Lake Eyre onto Lake Warrawarrinna where the Cooper Creek runs into it from the east and onto Lake Eyre from the West. This is where the Birdsville Track crosses the Cooper Creek. In the dry, vehicles can cross to the west of this lake but it is too wide in the wet so the Birdsville Track tracks to the east of this lake to where a punt (one vehicle at a time) is taken across the Cooper Creek. The Ettadunna Airfield was clearly visible to the south. On Google Earth is shows this airfield as being dry and dusty but on our trip is looked green and lush. Within Lake Eyre there were large lakes that gave off different colours, some were pink, some green, it was an awesome sight. After overflying the Lake we headed for the Dig Tree overflying Moomba and Innamincka arriving approximately 1300 for lunch where we met Bomber Johnstone the local who looks after the Dig Tree and services the airfield. He gave a very interesting account of the area. After completing our stay, it was a short 15 mins hop to Innamincka township where we stayed the night. Of all of the meals we had during this trip. I would think most of the group would agree with me that this was the best. A $25 per head buffet that included one inch steaks and one inch lamb chops with all of the gravy and vegetables. We had to rescue one member who will remain nameless who thought the hot rice pudding desert was cheese cauliflower and started stacking it onto his steak. Anyway we all had a great night.
Friday night was at Charleville, Friday morning we all took off for the short 98nm hop to Noccundra. With such a short hop we all arrived nearly simultaneously and had to sort ourselves out on landing which happened eventually. The exit from the runway to the hotel (Here you can park your plane in front of the Hotel) was not clearly marked and one member unfortunately hit a small drainage ditch that resulted in a prop strike damaging the tips of the three propeller blades. Only being new to flying I learn things every day, the experienced guys borrowed a hack saw, measured carefully from the spinner and then proceeded to cut off the damaged tips of the three propellers. They told me that as long as the propellers were balanced the plane should fly ok. We all then took photos of the planes outside of the Noccundra Pub, had a cup of tea, and prepared to leave. Given the pilots experience (WWII RAAF Test Pilot) whose propeller is damaged we had no concerns for his safety, only the ability of the plane to continue. We all waited until he took off and saw him overfly the hotel where he waggles his wings to indicated that all was good. Once in the air he told us that he had no vibration and had only lost about 3kts of speed. He told us that he would meet us at our next destination of Thargomindah which we did. Some went into the Thargomindah township for a look around while Robyn and I chose to remain at the airfield having a bite to eat. It was here that we bid farewell to Owen who was off to see his mate in Walgett and the rest of us were off to Charleville.
All arrived safely for our last night together. After dining together we visited the Comos Centre where we were lucky enough to have a cloudless sky to be treated to a heavenly experience exploring the wonders of the universe through telescopes that allowed us to see the rings around Saturn. It was awesome.
Saturday night was home. 0900 Saturday morning all took off for Roma to refuel with the exception of Tony & Tom who bid farewell to fly to their home base at Palmers Island. After landing at Roma a number of guys who fly the State Emergency Helicopter based there came over to have a look at our planes. We explained that they are Ultralights and the helicopter pilot said, "They look like real planes".
At Roma we all bid farewell as we headed to our home destinations, some to Warwick, Caloundra and for us, Caboolture arriving at 1236.
Robyn & I agreed that while it was exhausting it was also fantastic, sharing the camaraderie, sights and experiences.
Doug & Robyn McCullough with their plane parked in front of the Noccundra Hotel. Yes, that is the main road in front of the plane.
Needless to say, the company of the other aviators made the trip exceptional.