Journaling the Journey

Captain Biff Windsock, journaling the journey

Luskintyre Aerodrome,
Australia at Dawn
New Year's Day 2010

An Ozzie Welcome to a New Year
or . . . The Dawn Patrol

0400 came in darkness to delightful little Luskintyre aerodrome....and pretty darned early.  Good thing I didn't celebrate too much the evening before.  Assembled were five or six Tiger Moths of different colors, a very red Staggerwing and a Cessna 182 as a camera ship from which Motty, local aerial photographer, would record some very nice photos.  I let the Balbo (a group of aircraft all more or less in the same part of sky) of Tiger Moths depart for the beach area of Newcastle, NSW.  Staying out of controlled airspace, I caught up to them, slowed to their speed...about 90 MPH...and would fly formation for a time with each of them.  Every now and then the C-182 would come by and photo the Staggerwing with a Tiger Moth.  Great fun welcoming 2010 to the eastern shores of Australia at dawn.

Returning to the lovely grass runway at Luskintyre, a wonderful breakfast was cooked by some of the local club members for the hungry aviators.  There is something really neat in the aviator gene about getting up very early, flying at first light, flying a good mission, and retuning to base to a hearty breakfast.  Especially when it's cooked by someone else!   A couple of the volunteers enjoyed a Staggerwing ride in the afternoon as a gesture of thanks.
Captain Biff, Around the World in a Staggerwing, New Years Day in Newcastle, Australia
Captain Biff, Around the World in a Staggerwing, New Years Day in Newcastle, Australia
Captain Biff, Around the World in a Staggerwing, New Years Day in Newcastle, Australia

New Years morning "Greeting the New Year" over Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia.

   —Captain Biff Windsock
This type of morning flight was a favorite method of sharing my good fortune with friends back in Reno when I first got the aircraft.  Selecting the date carefully, oh dark thirty takeoff, climb up to the ridgeline of the Sierra Nevada mountains (roughly about 10,000 ft. msl) and fly either south towards Bridgeport, CA and Yosemite Valley or north to the Sierra Buttes.  The careful date choice was important so that the sun was just coming up to the east and the full moon setting in the west.  This made for a most impressionable ride for my guests.  The breakfast afterwards was just the frosting on the cake.  This is just one of the positives of living in sleepy little Reno, Nevada.

Meanwhile, back at Luskintyre......rain.  Then more rain.  Then some wind which helped dry the runway.  Thanks to the hospitality of some of my friends of the LuskinTigers, the Red Rockette was housed in a hangar.  Finally, on 5 Jan, 2010,  the runway was dry enough to allow a departure from Luskintyre.  I wandered over the magnificent beauty of the Blue Mountains to Bathurst, NSW to have tea with old friend Doug Drummond.  His Staggerwing is in a very nice hangar with very adequate facility to serve tea.

Continuing southeastward from Bathurst, the Red Rockette found her way around some BPC (Big Puffy Clouds vs LPC, or Little Puffy Clouds) and over some further magnificent scenery to a beautiful airfield right on the ocean at Moruya.  After a "kangaroo clearing" pass over the runway...don't want to hit one of those things...she landed herself on the grass and found her way to a wonderful reception of local greeters.  She does seem to be quite good at attracting a crowd.  Friends Denis and Jann Pilkington of Tyross Head, NSW, about 20 miles south of the airfield and also on the sea were my local hosts.

Again Aussie hospitality reigned...a beautiful new hangar was at the Red Rockettes disposal.  Good thing...there were a few "blowy" days mixed in with some very nice weather.  A few organizational days, a few days of local touring with Denis and Jann, and a day and evening with old friend Phil Dulhunty and wife Lenore of Sydney.  The Dulhuntys have a beautiful second home property nearby overlooking the sea with several grass runways and a lake for their seaplane.  They graciously hosted a lovely dinner at their golf club overlooking the sea that evening.

The weather improved and the Red Rockette needed some exercise.  Denis and Jann joined me in the exercise program.  Jann had never piloted an aircraft before...she now has about 15 minutes of logable time.  Rumor has it she is still "high".  I understand.

It was time to move on to the next destination...Hobart, Tasmania.  Fueled up at Moruya, said goodby to my friends and headed south.  The RR and I overflew the southeast corner of Australia at Mallacoota.  This was a nostalgic moment for me.  Back in the early '90's in a past life I had flown trips from Auckland, New Zealand to Melbourne, making landfall at Mallacoota.  I had always admired the beaches along the southern coast and wanted to again enjoy the view but this time at a much lower altitude.  And a wonderful view it was.

Turning left, the RR and I began the overwater portion of the journey to Tasmania, the southernmost of the Australian states.  Called the air traffic control center at Melbourne.  They were happy to provide flight following for my crossing of the Bass Strait.  Looking out to the left of the Staggerwing I imagined the sight of the many sails of the recently completed Sydney to Hobart  race.  The weather this day was very pleasant with good visibility.  The racers have, on some occassions, encountered terrible weather with some tragic outcomes.

Flinders Island was soon in sight with the larger island state just beyond to the south.  The symptoms of the severe drought were evident with extremely dry conditioins showing even from my 8500 foot altitude.  I had originally planned to descend to lower altitude and wander down the eastern coastline at lower altitude to enjoy the scenery.  My late start from Moruya prevented that thought as I would soon be delaying the folks who were to host me at Hobart and provide the RR hangar space.  Except for the forested areas, the conditions were still very dry all the way southbound to Hobart, near the bottom of Tasmania.  Working me in with the airline traffic, the tower controller did a great job.  It seemed that I arrived at rush hour but all went smoothly.

As I landed at Hobart I noticed a Piper Chieftain to my right holding for me as I taxied off the runway.  More about that later.