Saturday, September 27, 2008

Nav7: Things get windy in Goondiwindi

I landed at Goondiwindi at the conclusion of the second leg of Nav7 with an empty water bottle and a correlatively full bladder. Note to self: get smarter with water intake on long legs. After shutting down the engine and securing the airplane my first objective was to locate a bathroom. Any bathroom for that matter.

From a distance I thought the building in the picture below was someone's house. I was ready to knock on the door and beg for the use of those kind people's lieux d'aisance when I realised this was actually the terminal building.

The building was empty but I could still access the facilities. There was a small waiting room with retro-styled lounge chairs, a few leaflets for local businesses and attractions, and a Bible. A sign on the bathroom door was advertising local joy flights conducted by Sudholz Air Charters, a charter company based in Goondiwindi which operates a Piper Saratoga and a Cessna Crusader.

The McIntyre Aero Club is housed in the same building and a plaque reminds visitors that it is Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen who officially opened the club house in 1991, just like he did with the Barambah District Aero Club in Wondai which I visited on Nav1 and again on Nav4.

Interestingly, at least to spelling sticklers like me, his last name is spelled Peterson here, and not Petersen as it should be. I wonder if Sir Joh noticed the typo when he unveiled the plaque in 1991. My guess is that he didn't: this was the year the former Queensland Premier faced a criminal trial for perjury in relation to a large corruption scandal known as the Fitzgerald Enquiry so it's fair to assume he had more pressing worries on his mind.

There wasn't anyone around at the aero club, but they must be a nice bunch of people, given that they organise breakfast fly-ins to coincide with the Gourmet in Gundy wine, food and art festival. And of course they have a brick barbecue on the front lawn.

I had my sandwich on the nicely flowered front deck before proceeding to the back of the building.

All three motels in town offer a courtesy pick-up service from the airport. I hope they also give free rides back to the airport in the morning.

And if you're not heading for a local motel you have a choice of two local cab companies. The Gundy Cab Co. uses a six-digit phone number that takes us back to the previous century. Someone wrote "put correct phone number here" on the other sign advertising the Cotton Country Cabs, but I don't think this would be enough: the business is actually up for sale.

The tour of the aerodrome wouldn't be complete without mentioning the weather station.

The circular device in the foreground is the evaporimeter. Wind speeds and direction are measured at the top of the pole on the right, while the white box on the left measures all other parameters such as temperature, humidity and dewpoint temperature.

I walked back to the apron to check out the only two other planes parked there: a Cessna Crusader and a Cessna 182. So with our C172 that was a bit of a Cessna family reunion.

The Crusader is a six-seat twin-engined airplane with counterrotating propellers, i.e. one propeller turns clockwise while the other turns anticlockwise. This makes the mechanical design and maintenance of the airplane harder, but on the other hand avoids having one engine labeled as the critical engine, thereby improving handling in case of failure of the critical engine.

I went back to VH-SPP to prepare everything for the next leg. The wind had picked up since I landed and turned very gusty. I was surprised because gusty winds were forecasted for aerodromes further north such as Oakey (15 knots gusting at 25) and Toowoomba (16 knots gusting 26), but not for Goondiwindi where the forecast was 14 knots with no gusts.

On the synoptic below Goondiwindi is near the top of the black arrow that says 35 knots, right in-between the cold front and the trough on the east coast of Australia. For those readers more familiar with how things work in the Northern Hemisphere, keep in mind that in the Southern Hemisphere winds rotate clockwise around a low and anti-clockwise around a high.

The wind was actually so gusty I could feel the plane rock from side to side. I was getting worried that I would not be able to take-off safely. The good thing though was that the wind was less than 30 degrees off the runway direction, so I knew I could handle the crosswind component, it's the gusts in the headwind component I was worried about: what if I rotated in a gust, lifted off and then got robbed of 10 or 15 knots of headwind? This would bring me very close to stalling speed. 

I taxied to the run-up bay, did my pre-take off checks, entered the runway and backtracked. From where I was I could see the windsock quite well. The plane was still rocking a bit from side to side with the gusts. I put ailerons into the wind, full power and kept some forward pressure on the yoke to make sure the airplane would not take-off prematurely. At 65 knots airspeed I started rotating and the airplane lifted off quickly and nicely into the blue sky for the last leg of the trip.

And apologies for the corny title. I couldn't resist.


Anonymous said...

An informative and interesting post, as always. Thanks


Julien said...

Actually, I have a few more stories coming, it just takes time to write them up and life is keeping me quite busy these days. Thanks for reading Jarrad.