Mission 209 - Roma to Archerfield


On Wednesday the 12th of January 2005 I flew Mission 209, making it my 8th Angel Flight. It is nice to be appreciated and get repeat business. Craig, from Mission 194 needed to come back to Brisbane for further treatment.

I was to pick up Craig, Graham and Leonie at 3pm from Roma and convey them to Archerfield.

Archerfield to Roma (not) - Aerial Discotheque

I carefully pre-flighted his aircraft, counting the wings, tyres and propeller blades. I also strained the fuel to check for contamination and finally, having signed the Maintenance Release, fired up the engine.

Run-up having been completed, I became airborne, right on time at 1pm and started climbing to altitude to the west, tracking through the Amberly airspace, and onto Oakey.

However, on passing 7,000' things started going awry: Instead of having a steady fuel flow indication, the needle of the Fuel Flow Gauge was starting to behave very erratically, its behaviour being mirrored by the Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) gauge and the digital fuel totalise. The needle was dancing around like the output indicator on an amplifier at a discotheque.

The engine sounded OK, but this was probably due to the fact that the Constant Speed Unit (CSU), is designed to keep the RPM of the engine constant, thus disguising any variation in power output of the engine.

But, having three instruments agree, told me that something was wrong with the fuel flow to the engine. I took into consideration, that while Angel Flight should get all the publicity that it can get, it would probably not benefit from the news that one of its flights had terminated in a paddock along the way.

So I decided that discretion is the better part of valour and got vectors from Brisbane Radar to head back to Archerfield and cancel the flight.

Flight cancelled - not

Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture Upon landing and shutting down the engine, I telephoned Peter Riachi, who as well as being the general manager for Angel Flight, was acting as Earth Angel on this mission.

Peter said that he would organise some stand-in and talk to Craig's parents about the current predicament.

Dejectedly I packed up my flying gear and tied up the aeroplane and had just ordered a Taxi to take me home, when Peter rang back to say that Bill Bristow, founder and chairman of Angel Flight, and much maligned in these pages (see Mission 194), would attempt the impossible (fit the wheelchair into a Piper Malibu) and carry Craig and his parents to Archerfield.

Bill further invited me to come along. So I trudged up to Bill's hangar and waited for him to turn up.

Archerfield to Roma - Take 2: Travelling in style

Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture Bill quickly dragged his plane out of the hangar, did a pre-flight, and while we were waiting for the fuel truck to turn, up, gave me an endorsement on how to operate the back door of the aircraft.

The Piper Malibu, is a very nice aeroplane as I soon found out. Not only is the engine turbo charged, giving it 100% power into the flight levels, it is also pressurised, has leather upholstery and is air conditioned. So while I watched Bill do all the work and manipulate the sophisticated avionics, I listened to the muted hum of the engine.

We cruised at 16,000' in excess of 180 kts - figures that I can only dream about.

Due to the refueler being late, our arrival into Roma had been delayed by 15 minutes, so I used the intercom and Bill's mobile phone to call Peter, who in turn kept Craig's parents appraised of the situation.


Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture Our arrival into Roma coincided with that of the daily airliner, so we had to park a little distance from the terminal.

I got to use my newly acquired endorsement and opened the rear door while Bill tidied up the cockpit.

Bill taught me a lesson by making me fit the wheelchair onboard (into the 'golf bag compartment'), a task only accomplished by disassembling it into no fewer than 8 components.

Then it became clear why Bill had invited me along; With the passenger section of the Piper Malibu being well behind the wheels, the aircraft has the unfortunate habit of sitting on its tail, if the passengers and the pilot are all in the back at the same time. This can be prevented by placing a substantial dead-weight in the cockpit, forward of the wheels, until the pilot has come forward.

You've guessed it: Yours truly was the designated dead weight.

Roma to Archerfield - Aerial Discotheque

Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture With everyone sinking into the comfortable leather seats and Bill firing up the engine to turn the propeller and, more importantly, the air conditioning, we soon got under way to Archerfield.

We cruised at 17,000' and, with the wind now at their back had speeds in excess of 200 kts.

Bill then put on the CD player over the intercom, providing nice music, this time without any twitching needles.

Before too long Bill fiddled with the autopilot to get us on a constant rate descent into Archerfield, and then did a greaser of a landing.


Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture We arrived right on time and shut down with Peter already waiting for us behind the fence

I again put my endorsement to use, releasing the rear doors and we all started transferring the luggage to Peter's car.

Here you can see me handing Craig to Graham so that he could carry him to the car, while Leonie acts as the porter for what was once an entire wheelchair.

Thank you

Graham is seen thanking Bill (understandable - for he did all the work), and amazingly also me (who did nothing other than delay the flight)

Blast from the past - The Flying Banana

Click for hi-res (300 KB) picture As Graham had told to me on our previous trip together, he distinctly remembered my plane in its days as The Flying Banana when it was based in Roma about 1970.

So between flights he had gone through his collection of old photographs, found four and presented me with a frame me when we arrived in Roma.

One of these pictures is shown at right.