Mission 411 - Bundaberg to Archerfield


On Thursday the 28th of July 2005 I flew Mission 411, making it my 14th Angel Flight.

The mission description from Angel Flight was:

Paige, a six year old girl with Smith-Magenis Syndrome, has doctors appointments and various examinations under anaesthetic planned for her when she visits Brisbane.

Developmental delay and problems associated with this syndrome make road and rail travel very difficult.

Driving from Bundaberg to Brisbane would normally take about 5 hours.

Paige was accompanied by her mum, Georgina.

When I received the final mission briefing details a few days before the trip, I noticed they were prepared by a new name at Angel Flight, Kevin Zahner. He had been working with Angel Flight for only two weeks and had not actually flown on a mission before. Seeing that I had a spare seat, I invited him along so that he could see what happens at the coal face on an Angel Flight.

Maidens, maidens everywhere

This flight was the first Angel Flight for Paige, Georgina, Kevin and Earth Angels Jo and Ian Brewster, making it a five fold maiden flight.

When I flew my maiden mission to Thargomindah a little less than 2 years ago, the term Maiden was most inappropriate, for we had 4 blokes on board on only one sheila. This time the stats were a little better - two blokes and two sheilas on the plane, and one bloke and one sheila on the ground, giving us 50/50, instead of 20/80.

Getting ready

I met Kevin at the aerodrome just before 8 o'clock in the morning and took him through the ritual of arousing and readying our steed for this mission: Removing the cover, untying the ropes, counting the wings, draining the fuel etc.

He helped me plug in the head-sets, stow our bags and before too long we were ready for our flight up North.

Outbound flight

The weather was calm with just a smattering of cumulus cloud about.

Having wrenched the plane off the ground just after 8:30, we turned North, overflew Indooroopilly bridge, before being given a clearance to enter controlled airspace en-route over Maroochydore, Harvey Bay and then Bundaberg.

Cruising at 10,000' we passed Fraser Island, reputed to be the the largest sand island in the world, and home to a large native population of dingoes.

Before you knew it, we were on final descent into Bundaberg and touched down at 9:45.

Loading the passengers

As we taxied toward the terminal building we realised that this was a much bigger affair than we had anticipated and that we might have to spend some time locating our passengers.

I had to park the plane some distance from the terminal building, as the regional airliner was in the process of getting ready for departure.

We walked through the General Aviation gate to the terminal. Kevin soon found Paige, Georgina as well as her sister, who was dropping them off, and gave Paige her Angel Bear.

Going back through the General Aviation gate onto the tarmac, however, proved a little more difficult than anticipated; It is guarded by a numeric combination lock, the code for which can be gleaned from pilot en-route information publications. I punched the code in several times, but, to no avail, the gate refused to open. I wound up going back to the terminal building and collaring one of the airline employees, who told me the new code which the council had recently programmed into the lock.

Paige's wheelchair, which also contains her booster seat, was soon stowed on the aircraft and Paige installed in her seat. Georgina and Paige said good-bye to their sister and aunt, and listened intently as I gave them the safety briefing.

Inbound flight

The flight back, accomplished at 9,000' again was a very smooth affair (for which I am prepared to take all of the credit). Georgina enjoyed the views, while Paige got in some shut-eye. We chatted away and ate our sandwiches as Fraser Island slipped past our left wing and we approached Brisbane.

As we got closer we were being radar vectored toward a visual arrival at Archerfield. At one stage a Virgin Boeing 737 passed just in front and below us, giving my passengers a new perspective of an airborne jet.

Before too long we were passing Mt Coot-tha, and tracked toward the field. The circuit was busy, so we all kept out eyes peeled for other traffic. I noticed a high wing aircraft turning downwind as we were approaching a parallel position. In order to remain clear, I kept the speed up a little, causing a little confusion: Because of the higher speed, the air traffic controller told the other aircraft that he was being passed by a light twin, (meaning two engined aircraft). With the Bonanza having only one engine the other pilot was a little confounded, and I marveled at the controller's eyesight and situational awareness:

With the situation quickly sorted out, we landed and taxied to the terminal building.

The best-laid plans of mice and men ...

With my parking spot being a fair distance from the nearest boundary fence on the airfield, I decided to pull up right outside the terminal building instead. I figured, that despite having been told to meet us at my aircraft parking spot, Ian and Jo would appreciate not having to carry the bags half way across the airfield.

But they proved to be far more resourceful than anticipated and thwarted my efforts; They had arranged to drive their car right up to my parking spot and were already waiting there for us. Just as I had shut down my engine, I got a radio call from one of the aerodrome operators telling me that he was bringing them over to me at the terminal building. A mere minute later their car rolled up right next to our plane.

We quickly transferred the wheelchair, bags and booster seat to the car and, after posing for a few happy snaps (3 cameras), Jo and Ian had them on their way to their accommodation.

You can see, left to right, Ian, Paige, yours truly, Georgina and Jo. Kevin is not seen holding the camera.


During this flight, we