The second leg of our trip from Sydney to Brisbane took us from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane Archerfield in 2.4 hours. All still without a functioning GPS. This was a bit of an aviation homecoming for me since I learned to fly in Brisbane but moved to Sydney soon after I got my PPL, and this was my first time flying back in a GA aircraft.
We departed Coffs on runway 21 in-between two arrivals: a Virgin Blue 737 and a QantasLink Q400 who was asked to extend his downwind leg to accommodate our departure.
We made a right turn and the photo below, taken on the crosswind leg, illustrates quite well what I described in the previous post: runway 10/28 is difficult to spot when coming from the south, and can momentarily be confused with that oblique taxiway. That's runway 03/21 in the foreground, the photo is looking to the north.
Soon after we left Class D airspace and tracked for Grafton. We could no longer follow the coast since our planned track took us inland in order to avoid Evans Head airspace. Navigation became a little bit harder than keeping Australia on the left as we did on the first leg. We flew IFR (I Follow Roads) to Casino, which we identified by the runway orientation and the horseshoe lagoon, which I had already spotted once from a higher altitude.
From then to the Lismore NDB, then to Byron Bay lighthouse. Byron Bay is not too difficult to find since it is the easternmost point on the Australian continent. Chris identified the lighthouse from as far away as Lismore. The photo below is my smiling self in a left turn over Byron Bay township. Notice the overhead row of switches on the Archer III, which gives it that airliner feel. The switch that's off is the fuel pump.
At Byron Bay we requested flight following because we would be flying over tiger country soon and wanted to make double sure we did not violate any controlled airspace, with Gold Coast CTA steps nearby and later on approaching Archerfield and Brisbane. And also of course ATC provided us with an extra pair of eyes, pointing traffic that we may not be able to see flying west near the end of the day. All good reasons to request flight following. And it's free.
We tracked via Nimbin TV Towers, which offered superb views of Mount Warning. Nimbin is the unofficial weed growing and smoking capital of Australia and is famous for its annual MardiGrass festival. Mount Warning is the first point of Australia to receive sun rays in the morning, even before Byron Bay which is more to the east but at sea level.
We tracked via the Laravale VOR and ATC was very helpful pointing traffic out to us. We called inbound for Archerfield at Park Ridge water tower and followed a Cessna inbound. I ended up too high and too fast for runway 28 and was instructed to join upwind instead of landing.
After a short left-hand circuit on 28L we were cleared to land on 28R. We touched down at the first taxiway and exited at the next one. The landing was slightly left of the centreline. I have since manufactured the following excuse: I did it deliberately so that the picture would look right on the video that Chris was shooting from the right seat.
The ground controller provided us with detailed taxi instructions to a grass area where we could tie the aircraft down for the night. We shut down near the biggest single-engine biplane in the world, the Antonov AN-2.
We refuelled, cancelled SARTIME and took a cab to our hotel. This was a long day with 4.8 hours in the air. A lot of work, but very rewarding work. We managed to increase our store of experience without having to draw from our store of luck.
Dennis, our student pilot passenger got a taste of what a long cross-country flight is like. He assured us that the whole flight decupled his motivation to get his PPL. Very soon, with knowledge fresh in his mind, he will be able to look back at this flight and list the mistakes we made.