ICARUS FLIES ON
From the Sun to South Australia
Byron Bay to Mt. Gambier
- and back in a Drifter
Story and photos by Michael Levy,aka Icarus
Reprinted from Recreational Aviation Australia Magazine

Pg 1 of 2

More adventures in Cloud Nine,
including a video beach buzz in Byron Bay

The kangaroos darted out of the way of my dust cloud, into the protection of the trees skirting the dirt road leading to my hanger at Tyagarah, located just 500 metres from the beach at Byron Bay.  I was keen to get started on an extended cross-country adventure around the East Coast of Australia in my wire-braced 503 Drifter.

Yes, I had done barnstorming once before, flying a Cessna 152 from Las Cruces, New Mexico to New Orleans, Louisiana.  For that trip I had departed on Father's Day with my 21 year old son, Samsunshine, as navigator; stopping at the smallest, remotest airstrips available (try to find a grass strip in the USA!) We had a great time exploring Cajun cuisine, listening to Bourbon Street jazz, and dancing in the mud at the Reggae Sunsplash Concert.  This, however, was going to be a new challenge: an exercise in slow, minimalist, open-cockpit, solo adventuring.  And, oh yes, why would I choose the name of a mythological test pilot who crashed? You'll find the answer (A.) at the end of this article.

FORMING A FLOCK
I departed at 3 PM on November 25, for Wardell, a small airstrip just south of Ballina owned by CFI John Gardon.  The plan was to rendezvous with two other pilots from the Ballina Ultralight Flying Club, Ivan DeJong in his 912 Drifter, and Trevor Gale with a 582, to head south together over the big pond - crossing of the Bass Straight, over some 80 miles of open water, to the island of Tasmania.

I wanted to fly with some experienced pilots, on my first go at extended cross-country sojourning in an ultralight, and share the fun and companionship.  There's a grand feeling of flying in a flock.  It's so beautiful and inspiring to observe the other planes in flight - just floating on air, soaring, dipping and rising gracefully as they sense the air.  It would be fun to chat on the radio and share yarns along the way.

WOMEN AND RACEHORSES
However, I did have some reservations about journeying with men some 30 years my junior.  I too had been young once, and the approaching scenario kept bringing to my mind a popular saying I recalled, "Why can't a woman be more like a man, and a (young) man less like a racehorse?"  It was a discomforting echo.

Nevertheless, we departed after sunrise the next day.  It definitely bolstered my confidence to be riding along with some blokes who had been "out there" before.  I was learning a lot from them.  Trevor kindly helped me to make improvements in securing my gear, removing my backseat joystick to allow space for more cargo, and off we went while the day was still fresh.

BREAKING THROUGH

Touching down at an airstrip north of Coffs Harbour, I refueled by tipping in 2-23 litre jerry cans that had been strapped into the backseat, and we all had a brief stretch and pee break.  We diverted west from there to skirt inland around the Coffs Harbour control zone.  Past Kempsey brought 15-knot headwinds, storm clouds, sprinkles, and occasional squalls.  We decided to climb up to 6500 feet to get above the weather.  I was grateful for the new windscreen extension I had fashioned out of an off-cut of Lexan that kept the wind and rain out of my face. Ivan was leading the climb, with that big 912 engine, and called back to us that he had successfully found a break thru the clouds, so it was clear sailing ahead.

For lunch we landed at Taree Airport, just a stroll to the pub. The blackboard menu featured "gourmet" sandwiches, which as it turned out, meant you got mustard as well as corned beef on your toasted white sandwich bread.  Never mind, I was grateful for a warm dry room and a hot sandwich.

MASTER OF THE UNIVERSE
Turning back over the Pacific Ocean, south of Coffs, brought sunshine and a 500' cruise around the beautiful little coastal town of Diamond Beach.  Now, I really felt like a Master of the Universe.  I was definitely out there, flying through the world, well beyond the familiar zone around my home aerodromes. Heading south, Trevor got us clearance to transit the Williamtown VFR route.  I sure was glad to have someone else doing the radio calls, what with the origami project going on in my open cockpit.

IN-FLIGHT ORIGAMI AND YOGA
My long-term interest in Eastern art, science, and philosophy had once again paid off.  At one point, I think I actually was able to make an origami swan out of the aeronautical chart, a feat I had never been able to accomplish on the ground with carefully trimmed paper.  I had been folding maps and placing them securely under the clip on my pilot's kneeboard, a great little investment I had made in cockpit organization.  The tight elastic garter from the kneeboard felt reassuring.  It's not surprising that men get so excited about garters, I reflected, noticing the firm pressure around my thigh.

My yoga practice was coming in handy, as well.  I hadn't, as yet, pulled any muscles, doing the "bending-while-twisting-and-flying" position.  This maneuver was necessary in order to retrieve my water bottle on the floorboard located just in front of me, or any necessary items out of my briefcase, which was toggled securely to the inside of the pod and caressing my right calf.  However, I was unflappable, knowing that on previous occasions, black vinyl imitation leather had always failed to turn me on.

LAST LIGHT LANDING
We rounded Sugarloaf Point; swooping like swallows above deserted sand dunes.  The turquoise hues of the ocean complemented the various shades of creamy white, laced with the beige shadows of the dunes. Clearing Point Stephens Light and Newcastle, it seemed like a dream come true - it was possible I could actually make it to Sydney in my little plane. My fearless leaders opted to stretch a few more miles into our first day's saga - in order to tie down for the night at Warnerville, where we landed at last light.

The boys were eager to make the Bass Straight crossing by day 3, after which the weather forecast predicted the necessary Northerlies would come to an end.  So, as my premonition had warned me, their agenda involved marathon running.  On hindsight (next time), Aeropelican looked like it would have been a better anchorage, near the small town of Swansea.

We made it to a motel in a shared taxi, just after dark, and put in the last order just before the kitchen closed at the local services club for a nice meal of seafood, self-broiled on a stone at the table.  In spite of headwinds all day, we had made 302 nautical miles in 8.5 hours flying time, averaging 35.5 knots ground speed, and been on the go for 15 hours straight.  It appeared that somebody was meant to win the race to the Bass Straight.

OWNING THE OPERA HOUSE

After the alarm went off (too early), we got the taxi driver to stop at Maca's for a traveling breakfast in the back of the cab on the way back to the aerodrome.  Donning the mandatory life jacket and strapping in, I wondered momentarily during my takeoff checks, "what am I getting myself into?"  Winging back to the beach, I came out of a dreamy reverie, as it dawned on me that the silvery glow on the horizon under the cloud ceiling was none other than the skyscrapers of downtown Sydney.

Wow, this is it, the fabled Victor One; 500 feet over water across Sydney Harbour, Bondi Beach, and past Sydney Airport over Botany Bay!  Aviation magic, three rag and bones aircraft sneaking past a metropolis - discovering that, yes, the Harbour Bridge and Opera House were still there, visible just off my wing tip. The remarkable view was different this time; it was all mine! This was too true to be just "good".

VICTOR ONE GAMBLE
Cruising at 55 knots indicated, offshore past the cliffs of Randwick, only perhaps 150-200 feet higher than the nearby terrain.  Habitually, I am looking for a possible emergency landing spot.  The only underdeveloped terrain in sight is a huge cemetery.  Seems like an unlucky choice.  Suddenly it comes home to me what the life jacket is for.  So… apart from the memorable scenery, the thrill of this journey is to completely trust my life to the 50 horses prancing contently behind me. Alternatively, I can hope that my first-ever water landing will go as planned, and I will swim away, as I watch my beloved flying machine sink out of sight beneath the endless waves.  Would the air-sea rescue helicopter pick me up immediately, or would it be the mythical fated ending into the sea, for a pilot named Icarus?

FRANTIC PIT STOP

Passing Kiama Downs, we got rejected for entry into the Restricted Area around Nowra Military Centre.  We diverted to Wollongong to stop for lunch.  As the young men leisurely ate their lunch, I found a welder to repair my new parking brake, a handbrake off a junked Datsun, on which the weld had broken the previous night.  After wrestling for a half hour with the handbrake repairs, I frantically measured and poured the messy engine oil for my two stroke and mixed it with fuel in the jerry cans, so I would have time to wash my hands and wolf down a sandwich before takeoff.  After I choked down the sandwich, we were off again with better luck, this time cleared through R420C.  This hadn't been exactly what I'd describe as a rest stop - for me.  More accurately, it was a frantic pit stop.  My instinct was being rapidly confirmed… that I no longer fostered the desire to be a racehorse.

LONG AND LOW AT 90 MILE BEACH
Refueling again in Merimbula, we headed on for Cape Howe, the southeastern most point of the continent.  Crossing into Victoria we turned west into the setting sun and gratefully accepted our first tailwind.  The next hour was spectacular low level flying over Ninety Mile Beach, the longest untarnished straight beach in the world, I'm told.  The only sign of life I saw on that coast was a pack of wild dingoes and some dead seal carcasses, if you reckon they still count.  There were gently curving sand dunes to circle over, just like in the opening scene of the film The English Patient.  A gorgeous flight!

That night we tied down at a private grass airstrip just west of Lakes Entrance, and headed into town to procure a motel. Last light landing again.  We got into town so late all the restaurants had closed and we had to settle for a hamburger at the local pizza parlour (they had already run out of pizza dough).

YOU NEVER PROMISED
ME A ROSE GARDEN

By the next morning, I was confident in my decision. I sent the youngfellas on to Tasmania without me, apologizing by saying that I was just slowing them down.  It was time for me to start smelling the roses along the way, and more importantly, stop rushing to get somewhere.  To me, it was definitely the journey that mattered, not the destination.  I was exhausted from the previous 17-hour on-the-go day in which we had traveled another 373 NM (690 km.) traversed in 7.8 engine hours, for an average ground speed of 49 knots.  Besides, I needed to replace my fuel transfer pump that had burnt out on the last leg. I had been burning through fuel excessively at 6000-6200 RPM's, running higher than my normal cruise rate of 5800, to try to keep up with their bigger engines.

Laying over a day in Lakes Entrance turned out to be a real treat.  I got to spend some quality time with Clement Smith, The Flying Surgeon, and owner of the airstrip.  He generously invited me over to his house for lunch, offered me a private room in his new bunkhouse, adorned with wall-to-wall aviation murals by his son, and together we went into town for a five star dinner at The Nautilus Restaurant.  The roses were starting to smell very good.

Continued on Page 2

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CLOUD NINE PASSING SYDNEY HARBOUR, NOV. 2003

"I have often said that the lure of flying is the lure of beauty.
That the reasons flyers fly, whether they know it or not, is the aesthetic appeal of flying."
-  Amelia Earhart


                                 
THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN  RECREATIONAL AVIATION AUSTRALIA  JULY 2005



YES, MARTHA, I HAVE A BIKE RACK ON MY PLANE


SOUTHBOUND FLOCK


APPROACHING SYDNEY




ON DESCENT FOR ENTRY INTO VICTOR ONE
THE COASTAL VFR CORRIDOR AROUND SYDNEY



VICTOR ONE ENTRY - YAHOO!
YOU MUST STAY NOT ABOVE 500' OVER WATER


SYDNEY SOON



NINETY MILE BEACH IN SOUTHEAST VICTORIA
The Longest Uninterrupted Beach On Planet Earth



DEAD SEALS ON THE BEACH


EASY RIDER ON HARLEY WITH WINGS



AERONAUTICAL STONEHENGE - YARRAM, VIC



BARN STORMING IN YARRAM


MELBOURNE SOON


SORRENTO ON PORT PHILLIP BAY

Continued on Page 2

More adventures in Cloud Nine,
including a video beach buzz in Byron Bay

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Michael T. Levy
HCR 74 Box 24508
El Prado, NM 87529-9546

Ph/Fax: (575) 776-2230
Mobile: (575) 613-5007

Office
208 El Salto Road
Arroyo Seco, NM 87514