Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The long way back home

On the second day of our two-day trip to Brisbane we started with a clockwise flight around Brisbane and a VFR transit of both Brisbane and Gold Coast control zones before heading back to Sydney inland via Armidale.

We took off at Archerfield on 28R and tracked northbound via the Indooroopilly Bridge, which only comes into view when one is nearly overhead it. Not too good for a tracking point, especially considering that the Centenary Bridge downstream becomes visible a lot earlier, and is an inbound reporting point. Confusing the two may have consequences.

The locals know to aim for the southern tip of Mount Coot-Tha first when flying northbound out of Archerfield and also know to stick to the hill side in order to avoid violating the nearby Brisbane CTA. From then we aimed for Lake Samson, then Deception Bay via Beachmere.

Making a radio call on 118.8 at Beachmere at 1500ft brought back lots of memories of learning to fly at Redcliffe Aero Club. Back then, flying from Redcliffe to the training area at Bribie Island felt like a cross-country flight.

Near Redcliffe we got a clearance through Brisbane CTR via Sandgate Pier, Brisbane control tower and Manly Boat Harbour at 1500ft. Flying over a large airport is always a treat. A couple of airliners took off under us on runway 19, such as this Virgin Blue 737 in the photo above.

We left the CTR and tracked to Gold Coast via Jacobs Well VOR. After that we used the VFR lane across Gold Coast CTR southbound, with Chris flying and myself navigating. I had never flow it before, and I'm not sure I'd like to do it for the first time on my own. There are plenty of navigation fixes to visually identify and things happen rather fast. The lane offers great views of the Gold Coast cluster of high-rise buildings as well as the Gold Coast hinterland.

After Stotts Island we tracked for Lismore, climbing carefully under the Gold Coast CTA steps. Clouds prevented us from climbing as high as we wanted to, and the controller cancelled flight following since he could no longer see us on his scope as we crossed the ranges.

From Lismore we navigated by dead reckoning to Tenterfield. Or at least we tried to. At some point we found ourselves not entirely sure of our position. Although the GPS had no moving map, it could still give us latitude and longitude though. I was nearly finished fixing our position on the paper map when the kind controller asked us if we were still going to Tenterfield as planned, because we were tracking west and Tenterfield was 12 miles to the south. We took the hint and followed the valley south.

Lenticular clouds were forming over the ranges, the result of wind blowing sufficiently hard across the ranges and creating mountain waves. Better stay above them. The few little puffs in the foreground are regular cumulus, the lenticular clouds are right behind and below the wingtip.

From there we tracked for Glenn Innes in the New England Highlands, the largest elevated area of land in Australia. Flying over it, it is easy to forget that the vast expanse of land below sits well above 3000ft. Glen Innes airport above was used as a base for firefighting operations last December during bushfires in the Northern Tablelands area.

The little black dots on the photo above are cows on their way to or from the watering holes. This scene reminded me of a very funny encounter Sylvia once had with cows near a VOR in the UK.

Approaching Armidale we joined the circuit downwind for 05 and Chris landed us there after 3.2 hours, which concluded the longest leg of the whole trip. The temperature on the ground was rather chilly. It reminded me of spending Easter week-end in a cottage in nearby Walcha last year. Great area, lovely people but rather cold.

We stretched our legs, had a bit to eat and visited the bathrooms in the terminal. Passengers were waiting for a QantasLink flight to Sydney. Would we make it out of Armidale before the Dash-8 arrived? After? More details in the next episode.

The local refueler topped up our tanks with fresh AVGAS. With the mixture on full rich, the fuel consumption in the Archer is about 42 litres an hour. Even though we leaned the mixture to rich-of-peak in cruise, I would be surprised if we burned less than one hundred litres on that 3.2 hour leg. There's no fuel flow meter or totaliser on the Archer.

Since we hired the airplane "wet", i.e. with fuel included, I had to surrender the fuel receipts to the club in order to get a refund, and forgot to write down how much we burned. Which is probably just as good, I would hate to know what the carbon footprint of that week-end was. Being environment-conscious and everything though, we walked to the pub and back in Brisbane on Saturday night. This must compensate for the carbon (and the lead) oxides released in the atmosphere in some way.

We swapped seats for the final leg back to Sydney. This time I was in the left seat and Chris in the right seat. It's true that sharing flying duties means one gets double the experience for the same amount of money, but the flip side of the coin is that one also gets double as tired. But I'm not complaining.


Chris said...

I still cringe watching that touchdown. Nice circuit, though :)

Julien said...

It would look like an OK landing if it wasn't for the cowling bobbing up and down after touchdown :-) The circuit was good, I agree.