Saturday, April 26, 2008

Nav5: seven controller, a few street lamps and a diversion

The first leg of Nav5 took us from Redcliffe to Gold Coast through the Brisbane Class C airspace. I think I talked to more controllers in the first 30 minutes of this flight that in all my flying training to this day.

Redcliffe being a non-towered aerodrome, my only contacts with controllers so far were during navs to Archerfield, Maroochydore and Oakey. On a couple of occasions I also contacted Brisbane Radar to request a radio check early in the morning when no one was answering on the local CTAF frequency.

We requested a code and clearance from Brisbane Radar, who immediately handed us over to Brisbane Approach. We got cleared for the Hornibrook Viaduct, Brisbane Control Tower and Manly boat harbour at 1500ft.

As we approached the tower, the controller gave us a landing clearance for runway 14. Hmmm... that was very nice of him, but we never intended to land at YBBN, and never asked for a clearance... Before I could think of what to say he came back and corrected his mistake. A minute later we overflew the threshold of runway 01 and I could see three Qantas airliners queuing up at the holding point right under us.

Tower handed us over to approach on the other side of Brisbane airport. We overflew the Jacobs Well VOR, jotted down the ATIS for Gold Coast then switched frequencies again a few more times through approach, tower and ground for Gold Coast. In total, I talked to seven different controllers. My radio calls were good, thanks to careful preparation and quite a bit of rehearsal at home beforehand.

We landed at Gold Coast on runway 32, taxied to the GA parking and started up again soon after for Cherrabah. Gold Coast was very busy that morning, we had to wait for a little while at the holding point. Finally the controller gave us an immediate departure and we took off just as a Virgin Blue 737 was coming in to land. As we departed I glanced back at the runway to realise that, instead of the normal Virgin Blue red livery, this aircraft was entirely painted in blue. Sean explained that this was Virgin Blue’s 50th Boeing 737, and that the names of all employees, including his from a past non-flying job with the airline, were printed on the overhead lockers.

According to Wikipedia, Virgin Blue’s name if a play on the predominantly red livery and the Australian slang tradition of calling a red-headed male 'Blue' or 'Bluey'. So I guess this solves the mistery of why Virgin Blue planes are usually painted red.

We climbed to 6500ft to clear the ranges of the Gold Coast hinterland and tracked for Cherrabah. That was quite a long leg, with spectacular views of the mountains. We identified Palen Creek Prison Farm. Sean tried to convince me to stop doing 'track crawling', i.e. spending my time with my nose in the map in order to always know where I was. Our ground speed was higher than planned, so we entered the open country near Killarney earlier than expected. This threw me off for a moment, then we kept flying the heading and, sure enough, we found Cherrabah a few minutes later.

In the morning when I had called the Cherrabah Homestead to request permission to land, the person on the phone had requested that we overfly the runway once before landing “to scare the roos”. We did one 100ft overfly but couldn’t see any kangaroos. Sean talked me through the approach and landing. Quite a challenging approach actually, with hills on all slides and a sloppy runway.

The airfield is one of those places you have to see to believe. Too bad Shane didn’t get to see it on his Nav5 and got diverted to Warwick and its swarms of flies instead! The runway itself is actually quite nice, it was upgraded from a grass strip to a sealed runway a while ago. Cherrabah is not a licensed aerodrome, so I guess they do not have to comply with too many regulations about runway lighting, and obviously they let their creativity go wild with these beautiful solar-powered replicas of classical street lamps in the Australian bush. The terminal building, although empty, is well worth the picture too.

We took off on 28 and did some low-level flying following a road and a river, pretending the cloud ceiling was so low we were following natural features on our way to Warwick. This is what some people call IFR Flying: I Follow the Road. We then tracked north to Toowoomba, and as we were near Allora we diverted direct back to Redcliffe. I requested and obtained a clearance for crossing Amberley airspace and amended our flight plan.

We flew a few miles south of Lake Wivenhoe, crossed the ranges, kept our eyes out for airplanes tracking south for the "TV Towers" entry lane to Archerfield, found Petrie, the nearby paper mill, then approached Redcliffe from the dead side and landed on 07. We had a thorough debrief during which Sean said that the two things I really had to work on were holding an accurate altitude and heading, so I'll have to make this a priority for the next navs. And avoiding track crawling.

Nav5 was my last time flying at the front of the aircraft for a little while. After that I had two weeks of business travel, half a week of jetlag, some busy days catching up on work, and almost a week of vacations. There was a lot of flying of course, but unfortunately only of the kind that involves sitting at the back of an airliner for more than ten hours in an economy seat that makes the cockpit of a 152 feel like luxury.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well written !