Mission 77 - Toowoomba to Mungindi


On Friday the 19th of March 2004 I flew Mission 77, making it my 3rd Angel Flight.

This mission was a follow-up to Angel Flight 62, which had also transported the same patient, Violet, from Mungindi in Northern New South Wales to Toowoomba (just west of Brisbane) and back again.

Violet is a 69 year old lung cancer sufferer who needs to have regular blood transfusions and chemotherapy to help her battle her cancer.

The day before Angel Flight John O'Brien had flown Violet to Toowoomba by in his Piper Archer. She was to see her doctors that day, and, pending their assessment, undergo further therapy. I was to fly Violet and her daughter Lyn, who acted as Violet's chaperone, back home to Mungindi.

First leg - positioning to Toowoomba

Toowoomba sits on the ranges about 58 nautical miles to the West of Archerfield. I had an uneventful 30 minutes flight through the Amberly military control zone on the way to Toowoomba, landing about half an hour before Violet and Lyn were due to arrive.

Violet, quite exhausted from one blood transfusion on the Thursday, and two transfusion and one session of chemotherapy literally minutes beforehand, soon arrived in the care of Earth Angel Jack Lynch.

Jack and I loaded the plane while Violet and Lyn had a breather at the Toowoomba air terminal.

Loading Violet on board was a little more challenging than getting my previous patients on board. These, being just one year old each, could both be carried on the hip and plonked down on someone's lap. Violet was not going to let Jens carry her and, under her own steam, slowly inched her way to the cabin door and into her seat in the middle row.

Once settled in, I gave a quick safety brief and fired up the engine for the next leg.

Second leg - Toowoomba to Mungindi

Take-off from Toowoomba saw us heading off to the West toward Mungindi via Goondiwindi. They climbed to 10,000 feet in mostly smooth conditions, only a few minor bumps being encountered on the way up through some light scattered cumulus clouds.

Violet and Lyn, obviously still exhausted, were soon dozing off.

Air traffic control asked us to track directly to Mungindi, saving about 3 minutes of flying on a 1 hour and 12 minute flight.

Since Mungindi is not serviced by any ground aids, I had to rely on his Mk I eye-balls and a World Aeronautical Chart (1:1,000,000 scale) for navigation.

The latter clearly marked Mungindi on the Barwon River. Looking for this proved do be quite difficult; Due to the recent rain and flooding, every creek in a 200 mile radius was swollen to the size of a river! Also the fat pink line delineating Queensland from New South Wales - very clear on the map - was very difficult to discern on the ground.

Had it not been for the GPS that served as a trusty back-up, I would have probably had a little difficulty finding the place.

As it was, when it came time to spot the runway, I could not find it at first - until I waggled the wings - because the strip was right under the plane.

A quick circle down and landing followed by a taxi to the "Air Ambulance Shelter", which is basically a 3m x 4m tin roof, had Violet and Lyn disembarking and being received by family members. They were obviously still tired, but glad to not have to spend several hours on the road.

Third leg - Mungindi to Archerfield

I tried a start of the hot engine to affect a quick get-away - to no avail. The engine required its traditional 30 minute cool down, before it fired up.

Once airborne I climbed to 9,000 feet, where he was initially just skimming the top of some scattered strata cumulus clouds, giving a tremendous sensation of speed. This, coupled with occasional glimpses of the ground below, and the sun setting behind gave the flight a magical feel. The cloud soon build up a little more and Jens climbed a further 1,000 feet to remain above them.

Air Traffic Control guided me safely down toward Archerfield, where I touched down in the dark after a further 1 hour and 45 minutes of flying.


Sadly an email with the following information arrived from NSW Health on the 24th of May 2004:
Sadly, Violet passed away on Friday. Funeral to be held on Wednesday. Thought that you may let those who helped Violet know.

Once again, many thanks to Angel Flight and all those associated.

Violet was very grateful to all of you and often commented on 'what lovely people you all are'. Your assistance made her treatment more bearable and also helped turn a difficult time into a more manageable time for Violet and her family.

I thank all of you.

Regards, Kerrie.