Mission 9309 - Grafton to Archerfield


On Tuesday the 29th of October 2013 I flew Mission 9309, making it my 187th Angel Flight.

The mission descriptions from Angel Flight was:


A toddler requires to attend a medical review as a result of a metabolic condition. The frequent trips to Brisbane are placing great strain on the toddler’s young parents who do not have access to a private vehicle. An Angel Flight (plus the friendly face of an Earth Angel) would be a very welcome alternative to the three and a half hour drive.

There will be one adult and one child.


Pax = 25 + 65 = 80 kg. Baggage = 30kg

Archerfield to Grafton

It was a beautiful day as I headed down south on the one hour flight to Grafton. Having tracked over Casino, Grafton soon hove into view, and I affected a reasonable landing on runway 18.


My Passengers were already eagerly waiting for me. So I quickly loaded them aboard and went through the ritual of pointing out the emergency exits and telling young Noah (4 years of age) that smoking was not permitted and that he must not interfere with the flight controls from the back seat, I set about to crank up old faithful and head back north.

But the engine only cranked over very lazily, before stopping. Attempt to start again were only met with buzzing sounds from the engine compartment. I alit, leaving the passengers in place, and using the big screw driver opened the cowling to have a look-see at the engine and starter arrangement. After checking all the leads and giving the starter a little percussive maintenance, I closed up the cowl again and resumed the pilot's seat.

Again, a few cranks before the buzzing came back. I repeated the procedure a few times, but to no avail, the engine could not be started.

At Grafton there is only a little terminal building used by the Regional turboprop, and not much else. No hangar, no mechanic. So I got on my phone and contacted Angelflight, to see whether through one of their many pilot contacts in the area they could find me a licenced aeroplane mechanic.

No mechanic that could come out that day could be had for love or for money. The closest that I located was a guy based in Ballina (about 2 hours drive away), discussing the situation we agreed that is seemed to be a stuffed starter motor or a failed battery. He would not be able to have a look at it until the middle of next week. So I was stuck, and had to inform my passengers that I was not going to be able to take them to Brisbane that day.

Simon to the rescue

As I was contemplating what to do next, a friend of mine, Simon, rang up to tell me about his woes. I quickly put him in his place informing him that my woes were worse. Stuck 400km from home with the phone battery running down and no chance of getting mobile.

Simon, who lives in Banaglow (about half way between Grafton and Brisbane), did not hesistate, but said that he was on his way to try to help me. He packed some jumper leads and headed South.

About 2½ hours later he turned up. We manoeuverd his car to the side of the aircraft and connected the jumper leads. But no prodding would get even close to getting the engine turining. In the end we gave up. Still not knowing whether it was the battery (seeming unlikely, since the jump start too had failed), we removed it and tied the plane down for the duration.

We headed into Grafton and found an auto-electrician who was able to perform a test on the battery - it checked out perfectly.

So Simon gave me lift back to Bangalow and arranged for me to loan his wife Kathryn's car so I could travel back to Brisbane that day. We called the mechanic at Ballina, who, just happened to also be Simon's mechanic, to discuss the situation. He promised that he'd be able to look at it at the end of the next week, but advised that he would have to first source a spare starter motor.

My mechanic in Brisbane did have a spare starter motor on the shelf, so the following plan was hatched.

This plan was duly put into action, and on Sunday I drove back to Ballina and Bangalow, with Heather in our car following me. Having dropped the car and starter motor off, we headed back home.

At the end of the following week the mechanic finally made it out to the plane, changed the starter motor, and managed to start the engine again.

Archerfield to Grafton

I made arrangement to catch the bus on the following weekend to Grafton (of course the trains were out of action that weekend!), caught a cab from the drop-off to the airport, untied the old bird and, on first attempt got the engine going.

The flight to Archerfield was without any further problems.


I was finally back on the ground in Archerfield about 3 weeks after the intended arrival, having