Mission 447 - Redcliffe to Mackay


On Thursday the 11th of August 2005 I flew Mission 447, making it my 15th Angel Flight.

The mission description from Angel Flight was:

A four year old boy has a follow up appointment planned after the removal of a cataract from his right eye in 2003.

Dad would like to be able to return same day if possible. It's been a bit of a financial struggle of late: dad has a new job after being out of work for some time and mum has recently started a new job. They need to minimize the time away from home if at all possible.

Angel Flight pilot John O'Brien had brought Peter and Alister to Redcliffe (just north of Brisbane) in the morning and I was to pick them up from there. So I first had to fly to Redcliffe, pick up my passengers, and then head to Mackay, before returning by myself to Archerfield.


Because the doctor's appointment was in the afternoon and I was to meet them at 6 o'clock for our 3 hour flight, this was definitely going to be a night flight.

A glance at my log book told me that I had not done the requisite 3 take-offs and landing in the prescribed time period, thus precluding me from carrying passengers at night. Since the aim of these Angel Flights is to carry passengers, I decided to do a few night circuits at Archerfield on the Friday before.

On the Thursday I headed out to Archerfield at 4 in the afternoon. After a quick pre-flight, I taxied out to the rarely used runway 22R at Archerfield and achieved something I had always thought impossible: With the threshold of this runway considerably displaced, allowing me to line up some distance before it, the runway sloping downhill and the only myself on board, the aircraft accelerated very quickly and got airborne before the threshold of the runway!

Arriving at Redcliffe some 10 minutes later, with the sun just over the horizon, I found Peter and Alister already waiting for me. They were in high spirits as the doctors assessments had been good news indeed. The eye is doing extremely well.

Redcliffe to Mackay

On being offered the front seat next to me, Alister got quite excited. It took Peter and me some time to calm him sufficiently to allow us to board first (the front passenger, being next to the door, has to get in last). With Peter installed in the rear, I gave them the safety briefing and went to great length to explain to a 4 year old lad how the intercom system works: "I can only hear you if you can hear yourself, you have to talk clearly into the microphone so that the electronics 'cut in'."

Before too long we taxied out to runway 07 and got airborne at 5:50pm, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The sun had just disappeared beyond the horizon, and as we climbed we had a spectacular orange sunset on our left wing. We initially climbed up to 10,000' and settled in.

It was now that Peter and I began to regret the aforementioned instructions on the use of the intercom. Being the young lad that he is, Alister thought it was the funniest thing ever to constantly go "Woooo heee", and "Screeeeettchhh!" and giggle at the sound of his own voice coming over the head sets. Of course it did not let up for the better part of 20 minutes. Finally we unplugged his microphone, only re-connecting him, when he made signs that he wanted to talk to us. Eventually he fell asleep.

Pete and I chatted along as we passed the time. The conditions, initially very smooth, got a bit rough as we flew over Rockhampton and crossed the Tropic of Capricorn. I decided to descend to 8,000' where it was a little smoother and the winds were kinder - we picked up some 10 knots of ground speed.

While descending into Mackay, a Virgin Boeing 737 also arrived and, with it being a bit faster than us, we were sent off in the wrong direction for a few minutes to allow that aircraft to overtake and land in front of us. Lined up on final we had a front-on view of the jet as it back-tracked on the runway towards us and the terminal. Eventually it turned off and we were given clearance to land.

In the tropics

We taxied to the petrol bowser on the old side of the aerodrome, where Pete's wife Jodi was waiting for us. The aerodrome security guard drove up in his vehicle as we shut down and guided us to where they were waiting on the other side of the fence. The family happily embraced and rejoiced in being re-united (Alister's 1 and a half year old brother came tottering as fast as he could to give his dadda a hug)

In the meantime I had more important business to attend to; Having spent 3 hours in the air and another 3 before me, I had wisely kept my body hydrated with plenty of water. This meant that my bladder was bursting. The toilet right by the refueling point were locked and the security guard pointed me in the direction of the old terminal building some 200m away. After jogging there I was to only discover that they too were locked. So without going into too much detail I can report that a small area of terminal grass is going to be doing a lot better than the surrounding stuff.

Alister, Pete and family farewelled me with a big thank you, and I was left to refuel the plane.

Unfortunately I neglected to take the usual 'happy snaps' of Alister and Peter as the camera was in the back of the plane. And when I did retrieve it, it immediately fogged up with the high humidity.

Mackay to Archerfield

My departure out of Mackay was delayed by the arrival of another jet, this time a JetStar Boeing 717. While he back-tracked to go to the terminal I entered the same runway to line up and then blasted off at 21:45.

I climbed to 9,000' and enjoyed a mainly smooth flight, with a bit of rough stuff near Rockhampton again. This time the wind pushed me along a bit so I managed to land at 00:40, being one of two aircraft in the sky that time of the night.

I kept the instrument panel dimmed most of the way an enjoyed the brief glimpses of sky and twinkling lights below.


During this flight, we