Day One. Bundaberg to Emerald.
D-Day. Departure Day. It is 5am and all is quiet outside.
I hurry to look out the window of my hotel room to see that the
At Bundaberg Airport there is an air of excitement. As preparations for the arrival of dignitaries are attended to at the passenger terminal, I complete the loading of the aircraft outside of the hangar. Even with the mass of equipment I have on board, the load does not even reach the bottom sills of the windows and the aircraft remains well below its maximum take-off weight. All that remains is to refuel ’73-81’ and get on my way.
It is an hour prior to my planned 10am departure as I taxi the Jabiru to the
The Mayor hands me a parcel of ‘letters of welcome’ from Bundaberg to hand to the Mayors of other Australian townships along the way. It is a significant gesture and reminds me of the far reach of this flight. The act also serves to nicely round off formalities and cue me to wave farewell and climb aboard the Jabiru.
Aware that everyone is waiting for that ‘last goodbye’ moment, I start 73-81 and taxied her away from the tarmac area to the engine run-up bay. Here I thoroughly check that everything is in order and brief myself for the departure to Emerald one last time. The load behind me is lashed down and I am strapped in. I feel in my pocket for Bert Hinkler’s autograph. It is safe and secure.
On my way around Australia.
The breeze is light and the sky is beautifully blue as I line the Jabiru up on Bundaberg’s Runway 14. I smoothly ease the throttle forward and the engine smoothly responds. The wheels begin to turn with increasing pace as the acceleration forces me back into my seat and the blades of grass outside begin to blend into a blur of green. The engine instruments tell me that all in order and the airspeed indicator tells me that it is time to fly. 73-81 is already starting to raise her nose as I gently pull back on the control column in my right hand. The vibration and the noise of the ground’s finite runway succumb to the speed and smoothness of the limitless sky. I am on my way.
Out to my
Bert fills in as the cameraman.
I level off at 2,500 feet and set the engine RPMs to 2850. From the
The planning and preparation
Setting course. 7,500 miles to go.
I had only planned a relatively small day of flying, anticipating delays out of Bundaberg that never eventuated. The media was on time, the weather played the game and the dignitaries were waiting for me. As a consequence, it was now only a couple of hours flying to Emerald to refuel and another couple onto Longreach where I would stay the night.
Gradually the ranges and their eucalypts give way to the inland and mile upon mile of
As I position to land the only other chatter on the radio is a lone King Air, a Flying Doctor inbound to Emerald. How appropriate I muse, that the first aircraft I hear is one of the very aircraft that I am flying to support. Those green pastures grow closer as doe the black tar and before long the Jabiru’s wheels are once again reunited with the planet and on their way to the fuel bowser.
First stop. Emerald, Queensland.
As I climb up to refuel the Jabiru’s wings I chat with a young charter pilot who is whittling away the hours while his passengers are in town conducting their business. We share a joke and a little bit of pilot brotherhood as the cool AVGAS pours into the tanks. I couldn’t help but reflect how many hours I had spent wandering around airports, stretched out on terminal benches or peering through the cracks in hangar doors. It is part of a pilot’s journey and for
Refreshed and re-supplied I start the Jabiru and ready myself for another take-off. However, another Flying Doctor is on the move. I park the brakes and sit back, letting the RFDS aircraft go by and depart first as undoubtedly his commitments are more pressing than mine. As he taxied past my little Jabiru he must have caught a glimpse of the RFDS crest on the nose of my
As the King Air rapidly disappears from sight, I enter the runway and track back to the white stripes at the threshold before turning around to depart. All clear, I release the brakes and open the throttle, sending 73-81 rolling down the pavement. Lifting off, we are on our way again. Another short hop, but this one will take me to the home of one of Australian aviation’s founding fathers.