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
1 of 2
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
IN-FLIGHT ORIGAMI AND YOGA
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.
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
right calf. However, I was unflappable, knowing that on previous
occasions, black vinyl imitation leather had always failed to turn
LAST LIGHT LANDING
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
true to be just "good".
VICTOR ONE GAMBLE
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
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
that I no longer fostered the desire to be a racehorse.
LONG AND LOW AT 90 MILE BEACH
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
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.
on Page 2
CLOUD NINE PASSING
SYDNEY HARBOUR, NOV. 2003
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
APPEARED IN RECREATIONAL
AVIATION AUSTRALIA JULY 2005
I HAVE A BIKE RACK ON MY PLANE
ON DESCENT FOR
ENTRY INTO VICTOR ONE
THE COASTAL VFR CORRIDOR AROUND SYDNEY
VICTOR ONE ENTRY
YOU MUST STAY NOT ABOVE 500' OVER WATER
BEACH IN SOUTHEAST VICTORIA
The Longest Uninterrupted Beach On Planet Earth
DEAD SEALS ON
EASY RIDER ON
HARLEY WITH WINGS
STONEHENGE - YARRAM, VIC
PORT PHILLIP BAY
on Page 2
adventures in Cloud Nine,
including a video beach buzz in Byron Bay
HCR 74 Box 24508
El Prado, NM 87529-9546
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