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That Albany Trip

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Part 1


This all began a year ago and not quite to plan.


Off to Adelaide for one of my speaking engagements. Just a few hours to the west. Leaving it until Friday for a Saturday gig is hardly great planning. What was I thinking?


The plane was full to the brim with fuel and luggage. Funny thing about slow moving high pressure systems in winter. Fog. I was ready and the airport was closed. The worst fog I have ever seen in Melbourne and it just wasn’t going away.


Midday, still closed. I started to look at last light and flight times. I needed wheels up by 2:30pm. 1pm still fog, I’ve never seen anything like this. 2pm a hint of it lifting, I called the tower and asked if I could have an engine start, the reply was, ‘Well if you think you can remain in VMC…’


2:15pm OK this is eating into my buffer. Last chance and the fog starts to lift, We’re on! Do the checks, “Clear prop”, I yell and hit the button. There was no need to yell, the prop turned like a tired old Faris wheel, the Long EZ gave a couple of coughs and gave up.


Dead battery? I’ve never hand started this lady. Full of fuel asking the old girl to kneel might make her throw up in the back seat, I’d heard stories. Flying is enough of a high without petrol fumes.


Maybe if I pressed the button, but more nicely? She finally just clicked like a dead computer hard drive. It turns out my battery was clairvoyant and mimicking the fun yet to come. OK, admit it, the window had closed and I was sitting in a tub of fibreglass going nowhere. Climb out, grab the bags, get the plane covers from the car and put her to bed. Move on.


Hurry off to the aero club to book the next commercial spam can. Arranged to jump on a nice Virgin Blue flight, which is painted red and the other status I’m not sure about. My eticket wouldn’t print. Do I risk going to an airport without a ticket? After all, the day was going so well. Nope, so I beg the nice people at the club for use of their main computer. That printer is down as well. OK forget it, cancel the ticket. Pack up and race home. Book and print, then in the car for the long drive to the city airport. Its nearly 4pm, the fog is back I would have been in Adelaide now if the plane had started or maybe not. VMC it aint.


I do my Adelaide stuff and return with a few weeks to go before I’m due way out West to Perth on the other side of the country. The weather never broke with a succession of storms and I wimped out and did the disappointing spam can thing again.


Roll on another year.


This time its Adelaide and then Albany, just out of Perth. I’m booked to speak and decide that time will be my friend with lots of planning and many days to spare. I’m really hoping there will be nothing to write about except clear skies and a long flight. How wrong can I be?


The Long started beautifully in the winter sun. I’d flight planned through Class C airspace from the south to the GA airport just out of Adelaide. Still nervous about those controllers, it was time to bite the bullet and get used to them. In ya face!


A fantastic flight over open country. Then a very strange place like the surface of another planet with odd little hills. Lines like Martian canals formed below me as I flew over first the Little desert and then the Big desert, carefully named by imaginative explorers clearly low on water.


Forty miles from my inbound reporting point I started listening in to approach. Some dumb VFR pilot was refused entry, no idea where he was going to go. I was OK because I had a flight plan in the system right? I was on time, they would be expecting me and have my name on one of those little cards in the queue, right?. I couldn’t get the ATIS for my destination yet. Still, as I was now 20 miles out, I called up in my most professional voice and said, “Adelaide radar, Long-EZ JZE request”. See, no demands, just considerate of the busy time they might be having, how polite of me. He gets back to me, I tell him who, where, what, and how about a clearance please.


“Clearance not available. Proceed via Para”. What! Not available and what’s a Para anyway?


I’ve learnt a couple of tricks now with these guys. I quip, “JZE unfamiliar Adelaide, request vectors.” I figure its on tape, he refused entry, if he also refuses to help and I stuff up, we both get into trouble.


“Proceed 020 and stay East of the hills not above 2,500.” I had to think about that. Adelaide is due Northish and the hills are nearly 3000’ . Hang on, East is the right hand side where I see nothing except high ground. Para is one of those reporting points way to the North I’d looked at. All of a sudden its gyrocopter mode. Proceed in the likely direction, avoid anything taller than you are.


I creep out to the East a little more and get ordered back. “Diverted due to terrain”. Maybe I should have asked first. He keeps vectoring me back, hugging the low ground. This was getting to be serious fun if it wasn’t so serious. All I see are hills, trees and the occasional string of washing lines.


Time wise I had to be getting close. The controller is giving me the Cooks tour pointing out landmarks as we go. I’ll be on my own next time with no excuses. Controllers revenge.


Finally he gives me 3000’ after I bleat something about a big hill with instructions for immediate decent when clear. That decent had to be into Parafield, my GAAP destination. I asked him for the ATIS but he just said he’d hand me over. I was sort of interested in runway and wind to get the picture so I sneaked a listen when he was talking to the big guys.


“JZE are you clear to descend?”, all I’m seeing is hillside so I tell him 30 seconds and he leaves me alone. Wow over the top, huge view, city, ocean carb heat, engine idle, and I need to be at 1500’ for an immediate inbound call and look for a runway. I’m two minutes out. Cleared to change I call up the tower, give him the story and add unfamiliar Parafield. Yeah milk it while ya can. They baby me in all the way to the tie down area.


After the Long is secure I call up an old friend and get the run of the place. We chat with some guys with a very strange plane with a huge javelin sticking out the back. I’d seen its sibling way up North. Turns out it’s the same company and the big poles are for sensing minerals in the ground, sort of aerial sniffing and you have to keep your long nose away from the instruments.


So I did coffee in the local flying school met the bosses, chatted with everyone nice friendly bunch and waited for my ride.


Did my talks and returned some days later, fuelled her up and ready for that last important item before every long flight. Well, without my local friend they wouldn’t let me in the airside school buildings. “Go out the gate and about half a mile down the road are facilities.” They yelled through a glass door. Thanks a lot. I returned to the plane filled my flight bottle and emptied it thoughtfully before departure.


The airspace around Parafield going Northwest is about 2 miles wide. 30 seconds too long on takeoff and you are not in the right place. Turn too soon or too late you are in the wrong place, wander a little and someone will notice very quickly.


Funny thing is after takeoff, allowing for all those ‘what if’ safety things and then getting the nose down it turned out that the places on the ground didn’t have nice labels like the ones on the map. I’d spent quite a lot of time planning this. Very disappointing. “JZE turn left, you are approaching a Military control zone”. Opps.


Ok back on the heading, where are all these landmarks. Its like trying to fly up a gooses neck. Can’t go left, can’t go right. Must be OK here. “Aircraft North of Parafield move to the East of the road, you are about to enter a live firing range.” OK that would be the red stuff on the map just to the left of the red stuff on the right. Given I did not wish to become any redder than my face, I felt a new appreciation for my brothers and sisters in the tower.


That was the last time I talked to a controller for the next two weeks. I figured they had had enough of me and to be honest there may have been a mutual feeling. I became the silent listener.


My track took me north to Port Pirie where I jumped the water to Whyalla over Spencer Gulf. Any further north and it’s a large restricted zone, any further South and its more water than I like to cross without a life jacket. From here its nothing but follow the coastline westward, every twist and turn. Low cloud forced me down below 1000’ most of the way. I could see clearly it was better inland, going in a straight line is faster too. That’s not the point. There was an almost unnerving eerie beauty to the twists and turns, strange inlets and odd mountains. Sometimes it was hard to know which way the coast went as huge areas of water opened beneath me revelling long peninsulas with little sign of habitation.


Then over Ceduna and coastal to the Nullarbor Motel at the ‘Head of the Great Australian Bight’, my destination for overnight. The motel is really just a petrol station on the Nullarbor road with a long runway and accommodation. Google earth showed me it was long enough to land and a phone call said the surfaced was fine and they had avgas. Perfect.


I always thought the Nullarbor was a huge stretch of desert with some of the longest straight bits of road in the world. I saw a sea of low vegetation and long beaches from the air. My flight strategy was fly slightly out to sea and look back without having to bank, this way I could watch the beautiful coastline all the way.


Just short of the motel was what turned out to be a bit of a tourist destination, a swamp, curious landscapes and whales. I was yet to see a whale that wasn’t on TV or reverse filleted in a museum. These guys looked like really big fishes from the air. It has to be big if you can see them from a plane.


I watched the whales for a while after doing my radio calls. Turns out there was some other guy ‘in the zone’. Yes in the middle of nowhere I’d found another special bit of airspace. He was doing tourist runs from my destination, it was all good.


Landing at the motel was fun. The runway was excellent. I taxied off the end in-between a few old buildings only to look down and see broken glass and bits of metal next to my tires. The airbrake stayed down, mixture very lean and I took my time. Its sort of fun to drive your plane down a road to the back of a motel. Not a public road, OK, really a taxi way, but fun all the same.


I secured the Long like I was tying up my horse to a hitching post and wandered into the ‘food area’ where I bought a soft drink some mints and had a nice chat with the girl there. Then forked out nearly $11 for the privilege. Now there’s a clue about supply and demand economics.


Next off to the accommodation area where what must have been the twin sister of the girl took care of my requirements. I soon found the pilot of the only other plane, a Cessna 182, who was doing the whale flights. We chatted flying and local conditions for a while and I asked about food in the restaurant. He gave me a funny look, said it was really good and I said, “OK, maybe I’d see you then”.


At dinner, the waitress arrived who looked exactly like the other two girls. I’m starting to think ‘cloning’. That would also explain the prices. She took my order and before long a guy came out with my food wearing a cravat and waiters uniform. He looked exactly like the pilot. Something odd was happening.


I looked outside the window and there was the strangest dingo I have ever seen. It moved like a hyena, short quick little steps on its toes and its tail seemed glued to its back legs. I thought dingos looked like domestic dogs, this was something else. I’m starting to think medical experiments and wonder about the meat I’m eating. Its finish up quickly and pay up to another girl who looks just like the waitress. Then straight to my room and lock the door.


The weather for this trip was always going to be a challenge. Next day had incoming sandstorms and winds over 40 knots on the ground. Check those tie downs and do a bit of study was the plan for the day. I saw three more dingos but they just seemed like regular dogs just looking for food. What was that creature from the night before?


I organized refuelling and asked about the morning tank tests and drains. The guy sort of gave me a funny look and said he’d be happy to do any tests if I’d tell him how. Well the 182 wasn’t having problems, that turned out to be my test kit. Next time I’ll be taking Mr Funnel with me. Oh, and the cost of the fuel was best described as ‘memorable’.


Another night and I payed up to one of the identical girls. The pilot was off doing a passenger run. I never saw the waiter again. Time to get back in the saddle.








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Part 2


With time up my sleeve I had a feeling I should go to Esperance. The plan, stay a few days before my talks in Albany which was only a couple of hundred miles further on. The next few hours were some of the most memorable of my time in the air. I flew over the water at around six hundred feet, just enough to get back if I had to. There were three hundred foot cliffs that stretched as far as you could see into the distance, like someone had made Australia with a giant cookie cutter. These ran on for hours.


Inland it was dead flat all the way to the horizon. Every now and again the coastline would open up into wonderful deserted beaches. Two areas had sand dunes that looked like giant blobs of whipped cream, I just had to play in those for a while. Further on, dotted down the coast were whales with calves quietly doing whatever whales do just off the beaches. This is the Great Australian Bight and not many would have seen it the way I did.


Eighty miles out of Esperance begins the Archipelago of the Recherche. Don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I can tell you of the extraordinary beauty of hundreds of islands. All this culminates at Mt Le Grande which turned out to be in a National Park that I flew all over. Put it on your list.


Landed at Esperance and tied her down on a concrete pad. These had chains imbedded into them with very professional looking ropes attached. Most thoughtful and I made full use even though I couldn’t imagine anything moving a Long-EZ once the nose wheel is retracted.


One of the delights I have in travelling alone is to arrive somewhere with no plans and a credit card. Just see what happens next. The airport lounge was empty but open airside. There were tourism broachers and local info. After a while I decided to stay five days and ended up hiring a car. Everything is easy after that. A few hours later I had a great room overlooking the sea, wireless broadband, a new car and lots to explore.


You never know what you might find in a small coastal town. Well I found Skylab! Really big pieces of it were sitting in the local museum after it had made its way back to earth in 1979. Circuit boards, water heaters all sorts of things. I thought space stuff would look different somehow but it had regular screws and fittings. Another day was spent visiting some of the places I’d flown over on the way in. Very old rocks and formations that tell there own stories. Things look very different depending on your point of view.


Then it was Sunday and really blowing a gale after a fair bit of overnight wind. I just had the feeling I should go and check the plane. On the way I spontaneously started using one of the exercises used in my talks. They help create a deeper prospective in life and promote the overview. I was feeling quite calm as I parked the car. The wind sock looked like a stiff piece of wood nailed at right angles to a pole. As I got nearer the plane, it didn’t seem quite where I’d left it.


Only two tie downs were left, the third one had broken at a knot and just sat there like a dead snake on the tarmac. My little girl had been flung around so that her lower wing tip and the canard were seriously scraped right down to the foam core. The left wheel pant contour filler which had always had a large crack now had an opening that could fit two credit cards. An omen perhaps?


I checked myself over, no regrets, no ‘what ifs’, no blame game, not even a raised heart beat. I just looked at the damage and wondered if I was going to be able to fly on or if this was it. Seems the talking stuff I do was working. After a few photos, a really good look and a think, I tied her down again, this time with extra ropes.


Back in the room and straight to the canard forum for advice. Here was a great knowledge pool I could tap into created by a band of unseen and mostly unmet friends. While alone on my journey, I was very grateful for those who took the time to offer advice and assistance. This generosity is truly appreciated.


It looked like I was dealing with non-structural issues and now had a repair plan a little different to my initial thoughts. My mind wander over the many posts I’d read and the hours spent going over the plans at home trying to understand how anyone could build these things. I could see that if the wheel pants were secure I should be fine. The rest was superficial.


The next day a trip to “Bunnings Aerospace” (local hardware) for some tape and glue got things back in order. My tire pressures hadn’t changed and I ran lines of glue over the cracks, checked angles, inspected bolts and did quite a few taxi runs. Everything felt good and my glue was undisturbed with heavy braking. The tape was holding well and as it was the same colour as the plane, it didn’t even look too bad. Game on.


The last leg was to Albany, another beautiful coastal town and the site of the last commercial whaling operation in Australia. More extraordinary coastal flying, more whales, more islands, more mountains, more beaches more of the most incredible blue water I have ever seen. I was well rewarded for taking the time on this trip. A headwind all the way and I went the longest route you could. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.


Wonderful people in Albany. I did my talks and had a good time. I took my host for a ride in the Long and she loved it. In fact I was probably turning the plane a bit too much so we could see down below. If you passenger says they are fine but goes a bit quiet it turns out they are having a great time so don’t want you to land and are feeling quite sick all at the same time.


Pity my notebook computer has a poor battery, pity it has a short lead, pity I can be clumsy. Pity about tripping over the chord, pity about the fall to the ground and a real pity about the, “click of death”, the hardware equivalent of BSOD (blue screen of death) it was an echo from a year earlier when the engine wouldn’t start.


In the end, my credit card got thinner, I enjoy the wonders of Vista on my new machine and use an 8 gig USB chip for backing up backups. A lot of the trip photos were gone, a much better write up than this one of course and I got to test out the effectiveness of my special exercises again.


The day before I left while preparing the plane, four air force PC9/A’s landed just as I was getting ready to refuel. A couple of them did the super low circuit thing and it looked great. I think anything with an ejection seat has to be very cool even if they are only trainers before you get into the jets.


My avgas bowser was right next to the A1 fuel where they ended up. These eight guys get out in their flight suits and military badges and I watch them carefully as my little EZ sat there on her nose. Not one of them looked at me or the EZ, not even once, not even a glance. I was invisible. It would take years of practice to be so good at not looking at a little plane right next to your own. These guys were just too cool for words.


I had to pick my days for the return. It is winter after all, the weather had closed in and I could just see a two day forecasted window in between at least a week of storms and rain. Even then it was going to be tight. A different mission on the way back. Go fast and straight.


Wheels up just after the sun the next morning. It looked like I have a 15 knot tailwind although this dropped off later. At last the GPS numbers were respectable. I’m now on a mission for an extra 20 knots still air cruise speed, I like those numbers.


Just on six hours for the first leg to Ceduna of 867 nautical miles. I got to fill my bottle a couple of times and the spill rate has come down since the last trip. Quick refuel for the plane and I’m airborne. Still fantastic flying. Straight to Whyalla this time rather than coastal. Over desolate country with light showers of rain, flying over rainbows too. Its quite something when they form below you. Of course it also means precipitation, the enemy of the wooden propeller.


I’ve got my eye on the time now and trying to see how far I’ll make it before last light. I’ve crossed so much land going East that the local clock has advanced an hour and a half, what looks like 4pm is really 5:30. It was later than you’d think especially as it started raining a bit more seriously than forecast. Sort of brings on an earlier darkness too. I plan a diversion from Renmark to the closer Waikerie and feel pretty happy when I see a big black strip waiting for me.


By the time I’m tied down, wet and soggy, my torch and I wanter over to the only light on the airfield. There’s a guy in a hanger putting three jet engines on his glider. Seems like I’d come to the right place for a chat and a lift into town.


Next day back at the field I get a fascinating story and a tour. He is also building a Glasair and has 3000 hours in the wings. Beautiful workmanship. I’m then introduced to the local guru who is just off to the World Gliding Championships as the technical person for keeping the gliders flying right. I used to have a self launcher and he recognized my old rego, this all led to an in depth lecture on drag reduction as he inspected my Long which has plenty of room for improvement.


It was as much about testing procedures, building an enquiring mind, learning to think clearly and just wonder why and what might happen if you do something. It was very much like I do in my workshops talks, all coming back from an unexpected angle. It was a real treat.


It’s less than three hours flying from home. I get a call from the former owner of my EZ who tells me the weather is really good in Melbourne. Time to launch. In less than an hour I’m down low and looking for horizon under clouds as I dodge and fly through showers. Not ideal. While I wanted to make it back with only one fuel stop, its one thing I don’t want to have to worry about. I’d already found myself backtracking and sidestepping for an hour ensuring I didn’t get caught out. I make it to Stawell less than 150 miles from home and put a little bit of comfort margin in both tanks.


I don’t like to close the butterfly and slow down in rain due to concerns about icing, I know my prop won’t thank me in the morning. Its definitely going to need a little paint later. Soon I’m through the worst of it, the weather is fine over Melbourne and I’m going to make it home. A few words to Moorabbin tower and its back into the world of traffic and controllers. My tie down spot is waiting for me on the grass and one slightly battered Long-EZ and grateful pilot are home.


Total time logged was 29.3 hours with 26.5 flight hours at flight speed. A hardly impressive 129 knots average for the 3,433 nautical miles which was quite a long way rubber necking out the window. Once the plane is healed, maybe its time for a look at that east coast of Australia.








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It sounds like you had a great adventure.


You do have a nice writing style, super photos too!


Thanks for sharing it with us.

I live in my own little world! but its OK, they know me here!

Chris Van Hoof, Johannesburg, South Africa operate from FASY (Baragwanath)

Cozy Mk IV, ZU-CZZ, IO-360 (200hp) 70x80 prop

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Daveb, nice report. It's good to see your EZ is getting some use and you are getting some good excuses to use it. I am a long way from this so I am in envy.


I trained in Parafield and flew there after I got my PPL when I lived in Adelaide and I know it's entry corridors are quite thin, northwest and east. I think it was good to train from there as it gave me great exposure to using CTA and using a very busy airfield. At times I was in the circuit with 6 other aircraft of differing performance but all singles.


What the controller probably meant by Para was the South Para Reservoir (13nm@55* from Parafield). If you tracked to that from Murray Bridge (which is the designated VFR track from the east) you have OCTA up to 4500'. At South Para you can drop down to 2500', head for the Sub Station and give your inbound call overhead the Sub at 1500'. You should be able to pickup the ATIS on either 120.9 COM or the ADF when overhead the Reservoir (which gives you 7nm to get the COM ready). 99% of the time you'll use 03R/21L from that point (which will contain all single engine circuit training). If it is 21L you will probably get a straight in approach. If you try to go OCTA any further south you will find seperation between terra firma and CTA VERY limited. Probably a little further north than you planned but it could have been done entirely OCTA (until you hit the GAAP zone of course).


Leaving Parafield to the east is not much fun. If you go OCTA and leave the GAAP zone at the required 1500' at the Dam Wall, the houses are only about 700' below you and you have nowhere to go if the engine calls it a day. Even if you plan CTA, they will expect you to contact AD Approach overhead the dam wall at 1500'. Better plan is to go CTA over Adelaide city (although not always available). Better view and you can climb to your assigned altitude straight away.


I have entered and exited Parafield from both reporting points, in both CTA and OCTA. It's pretty good once you have done it a few times as the landmarks are very clear once you have seen them a couple of times. I have never flown in any other capital city and am a little uneasy about doing so. Local knowledge is a great thing ins't it?


This information is probably no use to you now but there it is.


In my experience the Adelaide and Parafield controllers are very good. They are used to dealing with students as MANY train there, so you dont have to be 100% on the ball. Not that I suggest you go in with no thought at all.


I think it would be a good idea to have a database of pilots/locations in tight CTA areas all around the country so we can chat to them to get pointers on the best approach/departure. I'd be happy to converse with anyone going into Adelaide (although I no longer live there). I know the VTC really tells you all you need to know, but like I said local knowledge is much better. The charts around Adelaide dont give you a very good idea of the terrain problems to the east.


Anyhow, enough of my jabbering. Keep the stories coming.

Adrian Smart

Cozy IV #1453

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Marvellous report Dave, sorry the AD guys didn't look after you!

Mark Spedding - Spodman
Darraweit Guim - Australia
Cozy IV #1331 -  Chapter 09

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I think it time we give Dave his own Topics to post his stories under.


We'll title it

"The JZE Chronicles" or

"Gyro Dave & his flying Machine" or

"Long Distance in a Long EZ"

"Down Under in a Backwards plane"

somebody stop me.


Dave, seriously, you could right a book with these stories. Somebody did the same thing with a round the world trip in a Starship. The only difference is your flights are REAL!!!

Drew Chaplin (aka the Foam Whisperer)


www.Cozy1200.com - I'm a builder now! :cool:


Brace for impact...

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Your story about the Nullabour Roadhouse bought back a few memories.

I have probably spent 60 to 80 nights at the Nullabour Roadhouse.

We used to use it as a base for tuna spotting (early 80's) and on some nights there would be 8 aircraft there, 337's and Shrike Commanders. Had some very good fun at that place. Back then we used the bitumen between the roadhaouse and the old roadhouse (staff quarters) as the landing strip and didnt use the dirt ones that much. Even had to cut down the fence to get access to the main highway and take off on that after a night of too much rain, motor bike coming one way so took off in the opposite direction. Wiatreses much better back then by then sound of it to.


The beach at the Head of the Bight (your picture) had at least 50 sharks on it one day. Must have been mating or something. Every beach between the Head of the Bight and Pt Lincoln had sharks on it that day, must have seen at least 400. Only saw it once in 3 years of tuna spotting.


By the way I crossed the Gulf in the exact same spot as you (Pt Pire to Whyalla) about 3 months ago on my way to Wudinna which is 60nm east of Ceduna, grew up there.


And hey the RAAF guys will want a ride in it one day when the novelty wears off the PC 9's.

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