Mission 289 - Thargomindah to Toowoomba


It was time again for Rebecca and her twin sons Mitchell and Allister (see Missions 37, 44 and 98) to come to the big smoke for more physiotherapy, medical scans (MRI) and visits for various other specialist.

I found out about this mission while talking to Peter Riachi and was given the choice of conveying Rebecca to Brisbane on Monday the 21st of February or conveying her back to Thargomindah on Sunday the 13th of March. I fortuitously (see Preparations below) selected the Monday flight, this becoming his 9th mission for Angel Flight.

Another Angel Flight pilot, Nev Donald, keen to travel to the western extremes of Queensland had also put up his hand for the flight, but only after it had been allocated to me. Seeing that it is a long flight to undertake alone, and that a third adult would be appreciated to look after one of the boys, he offered his services as a child minder and sounding board to my boring monologues.

Nev's employer, Aviva Australia, were kind enough to pay for the fuel on this trip.

Preparations - A flying circus

The flying banana (FWL) had only just come back from the mechanics with a repaired fuel pump (see Mission 209), and had not been refueled since that date. Since the departure on the Monday morning would be before the re-fuelers were open, I went out to Archerfield in the early afternoon of Sunday to make sure the tanks would be filled.

While I attended to this matter I had a clear view of runways 04L and 04R. 04L was being used for 'circuit' training and got to witness a spectacular demonstration of the laws of physics. Cessna 172 VH-YRQ made several attempts at touch and gos, converting kinetic energy into noise and dust. The change in vertical direction clearly illustrated the 'perfect elastic' collisions of physics text books. At one stage the aircraft even morphed into a lighter than air aircraft, when, according to the pilot in supposed command, it "ballooned".

Also demonstrated at the end of each approach was nature's tendency from order to entropy (aka utter chaos).

Rumour has it that the pilot has a close association with the management of Angel Flight.

Having witnessed this flying circus, I was glad to be flying on a Monday when the aforementioned pilot would be flying his desk arranging missions and checking the spelling of this web site, leaving the skies a lot safer.

Outbound flight

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Nev arrived at my front door at 6:00 in the morning and we drove out to Archerfield airport. Having two pilots work at preparing the plane, the untying, loading and pre-flight were accomplished in short order.

The after-start and run-up checks seemed to indicate that the fuel pump was working as designed.

So without much further ado, armed with a transponder code and under the skeptical and watchful eye of Nev, the aircraft was launched 3 minutes early into the western sky off runway 28R at 6:57am.

Ahead lay 528 nautical miles (950 km), and, if my flight planning was to be given any credence, about 3 hours and 40 minutes of flying.

The usual climbing clearance through Amberly airspace (de-activated this time of the day) was not forthcoming, and we were forced to stay at 4,500' until west of Amberly before we were cleared to 10,000'.

With me allegedly controlling the aircraft, and us having cleared the Toowoomba ranges, the seemingly endless red continent soon spread in all directions around us.

The flying conditions, due to the superior pilotage, were as smooth as a baby's bottom.

Arrival at Thargomindah - A flying circus

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture During the descent into Thargomindah we started to get a few bumps, these being caused by convective turbulence (thermals), for the temperature on the ground was some 35°C (95°F).

A circling approach, passing over Rebecca's house, to let her know that we had arrived, soon had us lined up with runway 13.

As the ground rushed up to meet us I shut my eyes but still managed to manipulate the control wheel in such a fashion that the aircraft did not sustain too much damage as the wheels impacted the tarmac.

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Rebecca had had a few telephone conversations with me prior to the flight during which Rebecca had mentioned that unfortunately the boys would be missing out on the Circus that was coming into town on the Wednesday after the flight.

So I decided to make sure that they would at least see one clown. However the boys and their mate Max (yellow shirt - front of picture), seemed more scared than excited by the man with the funny hair.

While Nev sorted out the re-fuelling of the aircraft, I tended to the loading of the luggage, which, from a perspective of volume, was much less than usual. However, Rebecca must be nominated for a Nobel Prize in Physics, for her suitcase contained some matter that was definitely denser than Plutonium.

I also had to use all of his strength to prise Allister's and Mitchell's toys, which were to entertain them over the coming three weeks in town, out of Max' eager hands.

Thus physically exhausted I was joined by Nev in the air conditioned terminal to refuel our bodies with sandwiches and refreshingly cold orange juice provided by Rebecca.

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Having said their good-byes to their dad Pete and grand-dad Richard, the boys had to pose for another 'happy' snap with Nev and Rebecca before finally boarding the plane.

Thargomindah to Toowoomba

Click for hi-res (1.3 MB) picture With the aircraft loaded close to maximum take-off weight and the runway shimmering before us, I opened the throttle and dared the 285 horses under the cowling to get them airborne before the end of the runway.

We finally managed to stagger into the air and possibly frighten the wits out of half the population of Thargomindah as the wheels scraped across their hot tin roofs.

In the oppressive heat the climb was slow, although the occasional thermal, as well as giving them a bump, would lift them appreciably.

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture The boys, initially a bit jaded and tired, soon fell asleep, a state that would persist for most of the flight.

Rebecca provided more refreshment in the form of chilled grapes as we worked our way eastwards across the sky.

Click for hi-res (130 KB) picture After more than 20 minutes climbing, we eventually reached our cruising altitude of 9,000'.

Unfortunately, the previously clear sky that Nev and I had traversed on our way to Thargomindah now had a smattering of cumulus build-up at, you guessed it, exactly 9,000'. While the boys initially were whooping with excitement as the plane scooted through these clouds, the associated turbulence made for an uncomfortable ride.

After 15 minutes of this, and with no end of the clouds in sight, I decided to descend to 7,000'. However, even this altitude was plagued by mild, but constant, turbulence.

So after some 2 hours and 57 minutes of flight everyone was quite relieved to be getting off the aircraft at Toowoomba airport, where the boy's grandmother Beth was waiting for them.

Toowoomba to Archerfield

Having discharged the passengers, carried the suitcase of unknown material to the car and farewelled Allister, Mitchell and Rebecca, Nev and I stretched our legs, made use of the facilities of the Toowoomba air terminal while we allowed the engine to cool down.

Eventually we climbed back aboard and did the short 25 minute hop to Archerfield at 5,000', where we landed just before 4:00pm.


Nev and I completed Mission 289 having