Morning Glory Cloud

Morning Glory Cloud
Morning Glory over Massacre Inlet (photo: Diane Davey)

Friday, November 26, 2010

End of Trip Celebration

As we are getting so close to Christmas, we thought we had left it a bit late to find a venue for the trip end celebration. It was to be a low key dinner with friends from the Stand By You Cancer Foundation and some key supporters who helped make the trip a reality.
It took a few goes but we did end up finding a great spot with less than a week to spare (phew!). I thought it best not to mention that the private room we booked in the japanese restaurant required us to remove our shoes. Some things are best left as surprises ; )
In keeping with the trend, Melbourne weather did not let us down.  The evening forecast included severe weather warnings of thunderstorms, hail and flash flooding. One of the guests even rang a neighbour to put a blanket on his car to avoid hail damage! (the car ended up being fine)
With the small room full of Stand By You founders and contributors, gliding people and family, there was no shortage of things to talk about. Conversations were as varied as people's backgrounds: from cane toads and hailstorms to F-111's , skydiving, New Zealand, Japan and more.
CiCi spoke to us all about the foundation's appreciation for all the generous donations and how the funds raised by the trip were helping people.  Like those who were dealing with cancer treatments this winter (which has been particularly cold) and needing to stay warm.   She mentioned how hard it can be for those who are fighting cancer to find themselves also struggling financially with medical and other expenses, like heating.
She explained how most cancer foundations are focused on the important research required into this terrible illness, which is, of course, very much needed. With her work with cancer sufferers, she found that there was also need to do something for the day to day immediate needs of those affected. That is the focus of Stand By You.
She was also proud to annouce a new partnership with Spa-ing Partner in Queensland. Annie Duffy, who lost her sister to cancer, contacted CiCi about forming a partnership, extending Stand By You into Queensland. More news about the partnership will be available on the SBY website ( as well as on the Spa-ing Partner website( soon.
I'm very grateful to all the people who have donated to the cause - not only the financial contributions, but also those who provided me with support and encouragement to make the trip happen. Your names should all be on the framed certificate CiCi presented to me (pictured below). I'm very lucky to have you as my friends, Thank you!
The question of "what's next" came up a few time last night. I'm afraid I don't have an answer for that one just yet, but I've certainly got a few ideas in early baking stages that will hopefully provide some inspiration along with continued support to  Stand By You.
And I've started looking for a job. More on that one next time...
Next time he's coming with me!

With CiCi and Mike (who must be wondering if I'll ever stop talking)

Geoff and Gayle, FLK's 'parents' with Phil

Shoeless fun

The certificate CiCi presented me with. This thoughtful and personal touch sets SBY apart as a charitable organisation to deal with. Thoughts echoed by new partner Annie Duffy of Spa-ing Partner in QLD.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

All great things must come to an end - and what a great one this was!

What an amazing weekend! It was well worth the wait – even if it was for a whole month! When I signed off the maintenance release to do the test flight on Friday, I noticed that it was a month to the day that I had landed in Tocumwal. After having the 50 hour service, which included the maintenance on magneto, I took it through it’s paces to make sure it was right to go for some of the inhospitable Victorian terrain down to the coast.
It’s funny that out of the whole trip, the hilly, woody  ‘tiger country’ between Kyneton and the coast, was the bit I was least confident flying over (with Bacchus Marsh right in the middle of it, funny enough).  I flew over some rough ground during the trip, but most of it was flat – and there always seemed to be a reasonable spot to land in if I needed to (relatively speaking). This was going to be rough – and hilly, with very few options should something go wrong, not to mention the airspace!  If you’re wondering why my track on the spot tracking is not so direct, it’s because of me avoiding airspace into Melbourne & Avalon and avoiding the roughest terrain.  I wasn’t playing with clouds (much) – really!
I got into Bacchus Marsh  from Tocumwal on Friday. I had planned on taking Phil for a fly in the still evening air and golden light, but Friday peak hour traffic killed that idea. It was going to have to wait for Saturday.  We ended up having dinner in a pub in Bacchus Marsh. The hearty country pub meal (steak, of course) got me back into the mood of the whole trip. One thing I’ve found you can rely on across this great country is a decent steak in a country pub!  Phil and my last meal together at the start of the trip was a steak  in a pub in Cobar, so it really felt right - and tasted great!
I woke up on Saturday morning like a kid at Christmas. It took all I had to contain my excitement of flying down to the coast. I was thrilled that Phil would be coming with me. I think that as he missed out on the coastal flights of the northern end, it was only fair that he would not miss out on the southern coast.
Climbing out of Bacchus Marsh with the help of a good thermal, we were off. The flight down to the coast was nice and smooth, with visibility limited to about 15km with some murk. There was no mistaking the coast when we started getting closer. The water was a deep crystal blue , with  a clear white band of surf marking the coast beyond the low cliff edge. As we got closer to the coast, we could see the remaining  bits of the 12 Apostles and the Great Ocean Road. It was spectacular.
After taking several photographs, we headed back to Bacchus Marsh, secured the plane, caught up with some gliding friends and drove home.
 I woke up early again this morning, knowing that that today, I would be returning the plane to it’s home base at Wahring, marking the official end of the trip. As I took off from Bacchus and headed north, I was reminded of the start of the journey, almost  exactly 2 months ago. It seemed like a lifetime ago. The air was so smooth that I was flying hands off – like the Falke was just happy and knew were to go.  As I flew north, I missed that feeling of heading out into the unknown, going north until I ran out of land to fly over. Hmmm....
 I’m still wondering what you follow something like this up with... but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.  It really was such an amazing trip! Thank you everyone for sharing it with me through this blog! I'll keep you posted on what I come up with - let me know if you have any suggestions ; )
Phil and I headed for the south coast

A little bit of 'cloud bursting' on the way

The coast! The coast!

Heading for what's left of the 12 Apostles

I can't believe I've flown all this way!

Landing at Bacchus with engine off. Love where the prop stopped.

What a great flight!

Getting ready for the last little bit

Me with the best support crew in the world

I did it! I did it!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Promising Outlook

An article in last week's paper summed up what I had been thinking for a while:

Another wet weekend for Victorians (November 13, 2010)

Victorians are mopping up once again as another weekend storm dumps heavy rain across the state.
It has become a soggy trend in the state's drought-breaking year with Fridays and Saturdays recorded as the two wettest days of the week.
Cricket grounds are soaked, racing events have been delayed or cancelled while even Saturday's Myer Melbourne Christmas Parade had to begin with puddles of water under grey skies.
The Bureau of Meteorology has recorded rainfall on nearly half of all Saturdays in 2010, nearly double the rainfall average.
© 2010 AAP

BUT - it's looking promising for this weekend, FINALLY!

The reason I want to finish the trip on a weekend is so that seeing as I missed out flying with Phil at the top, I want to do the bottom part with him.

So I'm going up to Tocumwal to get the plane from there to Bacchus Marsh today so we can fly down to the south coast tomorrow, then bring the Falke back to it's home base at Wahring on Sunday. Oh, and somehow get my car back from Toc!

Fingers crossed the weather holds up.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Farewell Alf

Some sad news - Phil's father passed away late last week. We were in Perth with family for most of the week. He had been unwell for a while, but nothing really prepares you for losing a loved one.

It's amazing what you learn about people when they pass away - things you wish you'd known before so you could have talked about it. Alf fled Lithuania during the war as it was unsafe there with the Russians invading. As with many people who have lived though such difficult times, he wasn't big on talking about it, but it still would have been nice to try.

I think everyone has a few stories worth telling, maybe we just have to slow down, ask, and take the time to listen.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Weather, technology and Daz the cane toad

Well, the long weekend is over and I'm still waiting for the weather to improve so I can get back in the air and complete the Victorian leg of the trip. I don't want to jinx it but it might be ok on the weekend (woohoo!). My plan is to fly from Tocumwal across to Kyabram (overfly), then down to the coast around Torquay. Then I'll head back to Bacchus Marsh or Bendigo to fuel up and return the Falke to Wahring (assuming the airfield will be dry enough by then). Doing this over the weekend makes the logistics a bit easier because Phil can fly me up there in the Pacer, so it saves driving up there and back (3hrs each way).

Over the weekend, I had a look at the spot tracking page to save the track that I took. I was dissapointed to find that they don't save the data for more than 30 days. Even the data they save appears to be patchy and incomplete, which means that I've lost all the tracks except for a couple of the return legs.  The good news is that it did let me create a route manually so I was able to do that and post the route as a "Recently Popular Adventure" (?) which appears under the live map on the spot site (live tracking link to the right). For some reason, the map appears with South America and Africa when you open it up so you just need to drag it across to Australia. Annoying, I know, but I can't seem to fix it no matter how I try.

They say bad luck comes in threes so my third thing is that I've lost all my contacts (and everything else!) in my phone. Aaaarrrrgh! As I've mentioned before, the only Morning Glory shots I have are the ones taken with my iPhone. The photo quality is terrible (as you can see on the big photo above). The photos look great on the phone but as soon as I download them, they look awful and pixelated. Someone suggested that I try to download them via iTunes as the problem could be a compression issue on transfer. I thought I'd give it a go. When I plugged my phone to my computer, I was forced to update iTunes as well as the iPhone software  Shortly after, the the phone was frozen. I had no choice but to reset everything, loosing all my data in the process. At least I've got low res copies of my photos. C'est la vie. So if you don't hear from me, it's probably because I've lost your details!

After all that, I needed a laugh, so I had a look a the Dazza Cane Toad video, which did the trick and brought back a few good memories of the trip. Here it is if you need a bit of a chuckle yourself:

Friday, October 29, 2010

Good to go, except for low

I went back up to Tocumwal on Thursday evening so I could get an early start Friday helping Mike fit the magneto back in FLK and time it. The magneto is the engine bit that makes the spark plugs spark, so it's essential for the engine to fire. It's also important that it is timed properly so that the spark is created at the right time for the engine to run smoothly.  FLKs magneto was behaving badly, so it needed a bit of attention.
Quick magneto story... When I first came to Australia, I was really into skydiving.  I was jumping down at Pakenham and occasionally helped out on the manifest desk on the weekends. Manifest is like the front desk - where jumpers sign up to go up on a load and also pay for their jumps. The planes used to work pretty hard down there and as you'd expect, things occasionally needed some maintenance. Manifest would also keep people informed if there were any delays or issues with loads. Mary Kelly, who used to run the desk had a clever way of handling questions relating to aircraft issues. Regardless of what the problem was (often we wouldn't know yet anyway), Mary would put on a sombre expression and nod knowingly, saying : "magneto..." The person would either return a knowing nod and shrug "hmph..." or just look blankly. Either way, it would immediately stop any further enquiries on the matter, which was the desired effect.  
How clever would I have looked if I'd applied Mary's theory to FLK!  You wonder why I fly planes with no engines.
This weekend is Melbourne Cup Weekend, which means Tuesday is a public holiday and many people usually take the Monday off. It also often means Victoria is likely to be covered in a low pressure system (wind and rain).  Melbourne Cup weekend is the unofficial start of the gliding season. There are club camps and activities all over the place (e.g. lots of Victorians going to fly elsewhere). The Vintage Gliders Australia folks are having gathering at Bacchus Marsh so having missed out on flying into the Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia's fly in last weekend, I was hoping I could fly the Falke into this Vintage Gliding event. Unfortunately, now it's the weather's turn to be uncooperative. I still can't wait to get down there (driving)  to catch up with everyone (better get going!)
So FLK is now ready to finish off the trip (thanks Mike!). Aside from the weather, there are a few logistical challenges to work through but essentially we're right to go. I can't wait to get back into the air!

Must be Melbourne Cup weekend! (image from Weatherzone)
FLK with 'The Catcher' - my time saving low tech invention for accidentally dropped bolts and screws.

Mike hard at work while I warm up in the cockpit. Someone had to take the photo!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Great Way to Pass the Time while waiting for FLK

The weekend just passed was the Antique Aeroplane Association's annual Auster Rally at Kyabram in Victoria. Kyabram is frustratingly close to Tocumwal, where FLK waits for it's repairs. I had hoped to fly into the event in the Falke, but it just wasn't meant to be.

This yearly event run by the AAAA is in honor of the Auster aircraft. Auster's wingspan almost qualifies them as gliders. They've also been used as tugs over the years. They are a bit faster than the Falke (which is not real hard) and they've got stacks of character - as do the majority of Auster 'drivers', which makes for a fantastic weekend.

The AAAA runs a few fly-in events a year. The first one Phil and I attended some 10-15 years ago was at Kyabram. Since then, the events have grown and have generally been held at larger centres. It was really nice to go back to a simple grass paddock and a low key event this time. Phil and I managed to sneak out of Melbourne in the Pacer on Friday afternoon. All up, I believe about 50 aircraft turned up, which is excellent considering the wet weather on Saturday morning.

It was great catching up with all our friends from around the country, telling people all about my big adventure. I think I set a new record for time spent saying goodbye on the Friday night. It must have taken us 2 hours to get out the door after I kept running in to people I hadn't seen in a while on the way out.

The Awards dinner was held on the Saturday night. The tables were decorated with little flying Snoopys and windsocks to add to the atmosphere. After the presentations, an auction was held selling off the flying Snoopys for the Stand by You Cancer Foundation. The Association had included information about my trip and the links to my blog and donation page in their quarterly magazine so many people from the AAAA had already made generous donations (THANK YOU!). They knew I was a bit short of the $5,000 target and wanted to help close the gap. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of the Association members as the donations on the night (on top of those already made!) doubled the 'gap' amount. Thank you so much for your support AAAA!

Arriving on the Saturday afternoon - quite a few planes here already, looking fabulous.

Prime parking spot next to a few Austers

This camera makes the cockpit look so roomy!

Boats zooming around on a full Lake Eppaloch