Friday, October 30, 2009

Flying post overdue

A couple of weeks ago I took a flight to Taree with a pilot mate named Julien, whose blog you can find here. I'd been wanting to fly along the coast past Taree and back through the VFR lane for quite a while, but didn't want to do it alone, so when Julien posted on his blog that his attempt was thwarted by bad weather, I suggested we fly up together. He was PIC for the first leg, and I would be PIC for the return leg.

The weather in Sydney had been crappy for days leading up to our flight, either heavy rain or high winds, and sometimes both, but the trim Gods smiled on us and we got a window of good weather for about 12 hours on the day of our flight.

I like flying with new people, they usually have tips and tricks to pass on, and interesting tales to tell. Julien was a good choice, he is an accomplished pilot and I could tell he was a thorough planner, very organised, particular about details, all things which in almost any other endeavour would be viewed sceptically, but which are welcome attributes in an aviator. I'd happily fly with this bloke again. Julien is also pedantic about following the rules, which is something I tend to get lazy with.

We left Sydney early enough, but weren't rushed at all. No time was wasted and at no time did I feel we were in a hurry. I sat in the right seat to take these pictures. Although we had agreed on our respective roles I initially found myself handing out unnecessary advice and touching switches without asking. Naughty! In the run up bay I apologised and promised to behave myself like a good co-pilot should.

We rapidly left Sydney behind and headed north to Newcastle, still an important coal port as these waiting ships demonstrate.

There aren't too many tall buildings in Newcastle.

The shipwreck of the Sygna off Stockton Beach, an unmistakable landmark.

Ummm Broughton Island I think. My photo really does not capture its striking grandeur. The best way to see it is to barrel past at 500 feet.

Not much further north of this I saw something I hadn't seen before. A small high wing aircraft was circling low of the water. While I watched a dark whale as big as a bus broached the surface and splashed back into the waves. Sadly it was too distant and fleeting to get a photo, and Julien was on the wrong side of the aeroplane and never saw a thing.

Scenic Taree airport.

We refuelled at Taree, we didn't need to but I wanted to get an accurate idea of our real world fuel consumption. The Chief Pilot at The Manning River Aero Club had the appropriate surname of Sky, and picked it without even opening the tanks. "Forty litres per hour" he said, and he was spot on, we flew for 87 minutes and used 57 litres. 40L/H is an appropriate planning fuel consumption figure for unleaned cruise. Schofields operations manual prohibit leaning the mixture below 5000 feet AMSL. Avgas is cheap when compared to a engine ruined by an overleaned mixture. The Manning River Aero Club is a very nice example of a country flying club, very comfy and homey with a fire that must be inviting during winter.

I enjoyed sitting in the right hand seat, just watching, talking on the radio and concentrating on navigating, but I was also happy enough to be back in seat 0A.

The VFR lane is narrow and follows a railway line up a winding valley which at times is quite tight.

Williamtown military airspace is normally active above it during the week at 1000 feel amsl, and lots of the surrounding terrain is higher than that, so there isn't much space vertically either, and you have to fly low to stay legal.

After the lane it was fairly straight back to Bankstown over familiar terrain. Julien captured the landing, unfortunately a dying camera battery prevented me from doing the same for him. He was complimentary of my landing, which just goes to show how polite he is.


At 8:07 am, Blogger Wilko said...

Landing looked good to me. Best I could tell there were no pieces left on the runway. Nice shots along the shoreline down under. I assume Australia has the same sort of airspace restrictions (i.e. "class 'B'" in the states)around busy spots like Sydney?

At 7:36 pm, Blogger Chris said...

Thank'ee Sir.

No Class B to my knowledge, Sydney Airport and surrounds has a Class C "wedding cake," Williamtown is military airspace but acts much the same as Class C, except it has RAAF controller and is inactive a lot of the time. Any ongoing military operations would be sufficient reason to deny a transit clearance.

I read that Bankstown Aerodrome will be changing to Class D in the near future, which will be a novel experience for me.

At 3:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,

Good to see you blogging, and flying again. Looks like you got a great day for the Taree flight, though the lane sounds & looks like it has some challenges.

I've found it interesting to track my progress against your old 'Learn to Fly' pages. Having just completed my 2nd Area solo I was a bit surprised to read that your school had okay'd PFL's. The most exotic flying I got to do was basic stalls :).


At 8:23 pm, Blogger Julien said...

That trip to Taree was just awesome... Going up the coast and down through "The Worm" inland was a very good idea, nice change of scenery and a different challenge navigation-wise.

On the way up the challenge is to keep the beach on the left-hand side of the airplane. It got a bit harder on the leg Chris flew since we had to follow a rail track that at some point decided to disappear into a tunnel. Good thing Chris didn't pull a stunt at that stage!

That was my first time sharing duties in the cockpit and I have to say that was a very pleasant experience. looking forward to doing it again!

At 4:22 pm, Blogger Chris said...

Thanks Sean - initially it was my intention to write my recollections just to improve my own learning, but when I realised someone else might get something out of them I put them up on the web. I'm glad you found them useful in some small way.

Julien - the train tunnel is definitely the most interesting part of the route, I estimate that to stay below the upper limits you might be 300ft AGL - and legal!

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