Day N+1 - Dubbo YSDU to Camden YSCN via Bathurst YBTH
Woke up in Dubbo, checked out of the motel and naturally walked over to the shopping center to have Donut King for breakfast. I'm actively trying to get sick of these things before we leave Australia in a few days, but it hasn't worked so far. After donuts, we wandered outside and picked up a taxi from the cab rank and got a lift back to Dubbo Regional Airport.
SDN was waiting patiently, and they hadn't changed the airside gate code, so we ambled out onto the tarmac (it is really, really fun to do that, still) and prepped the plane. I did a preflight, and my pax untied us and staged the various iPads and notes and charts in the plane. Everything checked out OK, so I got in, we belted in, and I ran the startup checklist, keeping my fingers crossed that the starter wouldn't give us too much crap.
Nope, fired right up. Hooray!
There were a pair of commuter flights on the apron as we began our taxi. The main runway at Dubbo is 05/23; it's longer and wider and the RPT (Regular Passenger Transport) flights use that. They're mostly using Bombardier Dash-8 Q200/300/400 aircraft, twin engined turboprops that seat perhaps between 45 and 60 pax. There were two at Dubbo that morning, a REX and a Qantas Link. I was taxiing for runway 29 - 11/29 is a shorter, narrower but still sealed-surface runway that crosses 05/23. I was planning on using that because the wind was from 330 at around 11 kts, and I figured why deal with more crosswind than I had to.
As we were taxiing, an aircraft called in on the CTAF from approximately 8 miles out, with the call sign 'Ambulance 2975' which I took to mean one of the Royal Flying Doctors airplanes - they use big Beechcraft King Airs (well, they're big from the seat of a Cessna 182). He called a straight-in approach to 29. Since I needed to turn onto 29 and backtaxi, and since he needed to turn off 29 onto the taxiway I was on (and there wasn't room for both of us) I volunteered to cross 29 and wait on the other side, but he said "No worries, we'll have to turn around past the taxiway anyhow." So I finished my runup (1800 RPM, check right mag drop, check left mag drop, cycle prop once and look for RPM drop, twice and look for manifold pressure rise, third time and look for fuel flow drop, then check vacuum, then drop to idle to check function...) and he came in. It was clear he could have totally made the turnoff, but he idled his way past it and called "SDN, all yours."
"Thank you RFD, yer a gentleman and a scholar. Dubbo Traffic, Sierra Delta November is backtracking on runway 29 for departure Dubbo." Turned onto 29 just as another call came over.
"Dubbo Traffic, Link Two Zero Four One taxiing from the ramp to runway 05 for departure, Dubbo."
I continued to taxi back to the threshold of 29. As I was starting to turn around and line up, we heard "Sierra Delta November, Dubbo Traffic, Link Two Zero Four One is in position runway 05 and holding."
Clicked the mic. "Link Two Zero Four One, Sierra Delta November; we're in position and happy to hold for you guys."
"Thanks SDN. Dubbo Traffic, Link Two Zero Four One is rolling 05, Dubbo."
As we waited and watched Link scream past the intersection, already twenty or so meters in the air, the REX flight called in and announced he was taxiing for runway 23. I shrugged and made my call. "Dubbo Traffic, Sierra Delta November is rolling 29, Dubbo."
"Sierra Delta November, REX - watch for wake turbulence."
"Thanks much REX, got my eye on it." He was right, but I'd waited a good thirty seconds before starting my roll, and wake turbulence vortices sink at around 1000 feet per minute. Since the Qlink flight had only been around seventy feet up when he crossed 29, I wasn't too worried. Sure enough, nothing. REX was just reminding me in case I had plans to turn right to follow the Link flight, but I was making a left turn to depart. As we came around, climbing through 1500 AGL, the Link flight was already past 8000 towards flight levels and heading for Sydney. As we turned back towards the airfield on what would have been a downwind departure, the REX flight announced rolling, so I jogged left, angling to pass over the center of the aerodrome since the REX aircraft was taking off from my left to my right. As we approached the airfield perimeter, passing through 3000 feet, he was visible under our right wing, beginning his climb. All good.
We set course for Bathurst, retracing our steps from those first days of the trip. The weather was gorgeous, so we got to see the beginnings of the wrinkles and ridges of the Great Dividing Range as we headed south southeast. We navigated towards Orange YORG, diverting some fifteen miles prior to a more easterly course into Bathurst, avoiding a couple of the higher peaks and some ridges that would have caused more bumps. Coming into Bathurst, we checked but there didn't appear to be any glider ops in progress. When I announced on the CTAF that I was approaching for a right circuit for 35, there weren't any responses. Came around, still with a 24 knot quartering tailwind on the downwind leg at circuit height, but by the time we were turning final, it had dropped to a 10 knot crosswind from the left. Ah well. Can't have everything. Crabbed on final, managed a quite credible landing with no bounces and taxied back in to the Bathurst Aero Club.
We met up with my pax's father's friend. He gave us keys to their flight instruction company's loaner car and a map to a decent cafe and to his house, and keys to his house, since he had several more students that afternoon. We drove to the cafe (it was in the visitor's information center, and the food was quite nice, actually) - had a sausage and chips sanga (both of us lamented that they weren't Kanga Bangers) and then drove through town and up to the race circuit.
Mount Panorama, I have learned, is an Australian motor racing track which is famous mostly for the Australian Touring Car series and the resultant Ford/Holden rivalry which, having taken on the aspects of a religious war, persists to this day. The track itself is open to the public when not in use - in fact hilariously, it is used as public streets when not in use, so as we pootled around it in a tiny clapped-out Hyundai Getz efficiency hatchback, in addition to the few luxe performance cars that were obviously driving it For The Experience, we also passed not only some roadworks trucks but a couple of city transit buses trundling along their routes.
So we drove this circuit in an underpowered go-cart with a beat up transmission. This actually made it more fun, because it was at least a manual, so we could pretend to be shifting as appropriate for the track positions. Also, it had so little power and there are so many significant hills on the circuit that we had to keep it in second gear much of the time - and the little Hyundai shrieked as the speed hovered around 50 km/hr. So the sound effects were right, at least. The car was so tiny the engine wouldn't compression brake - under gear with no throttle, it would speed up when going downhill.
Stopped at the top of the circuit and took some pictures for the hell of it, then drove back down, wandered around the motor racing museum at the foot of the course (lots of old race cars, some decent videos, a bunch of motorcycles and sidecar setups from the track's two-wheel series). After that we wandered into town, found a Donut King (SHOCKING) and then drove out to our host's house, picking up some wine for dinner.
Turns out our host's partner (hostess) is also a pilot, and she grew up in the same (foreign) city that my pax spent several years of childhood in. She and our host are planning a round-Australia flying trip of their own, so they had many questions about Outback Overflight. Conversation was lively and fun until we all headed off for bed.
The next morning (this morning, as I write this) we got up, packed and headed back to the airport. Our host had gone into town for a business meeting at 6am (his other business) and met us there. He had lined up demo flights for us - his company has a BRM Bristell Light Sport Aircraft that they're quite proud of. This airplane - a Bristell RG, I believe - is offered with an 80 or 100 horsepower Rotax 4-cylinder engine. Our host had phoned them up and said "So we have a six-cylinder Jabiru engine here, can you make one of those go in?" The answer, apparently, was "Sure, if you give us the time and money." The resultant airplane has 125 horsepower. 25 horsepower more doesn't sound like a lot, until you remember that it's a 25% increase over the high-performance model - and that the BRM RG has an empty weight of around 600kg. Myself and the demo pilot probably took it overweight a bit - we didn't fill it with gas.
With the two of us aboard, it fairly leapt off the runway. I've never flown a LSA before, and it's a real difference from a Cessna - it's twitchy, and much more slippery. The RG has a bubble canopy and center sticks, both of which were new to me. I loved it. I let him land it, because I'd let it get a bit fast on approach - unlike the Cessna, it really won't slow down much even with the flaps out, and it touches down at perhaps 35 knots, rather than the 60 I"m used to. Plus it's much lower and smaller.
I want one.
While we were up, though, we'd noticed that the bright blue day was marred as masses of cloud began moving in from the southwest. We had to get over the hills to the southeast to make it back to the Sydney basin to hand in SDN, and the weather forecasters had been saying that bad weather was supposed to move in later in that day and stick around for a few days. So after my pax got his demo ride, we hurriedly jumped into SDN, prepped and took off.
The clouds were down near the hills between us and Sydney, but our host had tipped me that if we flew 7 miles south and turned directly east, there was a valley which traversed the hills which we would probably be able to get through. The valley varied from 3-7 miles or so wide, and the rims were perhaps 4000 feet up. Climbing out to the south, we determined that the cloud deck was probably at around 5500 feet, lightening to the east, so we decided to give it a try. Turning left, we followed the valley for 25 or 30 miles as it curved towards the south. At the curve, we had a tailwind of around 34 knots, but the sky was clearing rapidly; by the time we turned to the south towards the reservoir, we were seeing mostly clear sky. I climbed to 5500, leaving some space for the scattered cloud at that layer, and we rode the bumps south southeast over the reservoir. The ride was very bumpy due to the strong wind passing over the rough terrain.
We came out over the final ridge, though, so I called up Camden Tower and received clearance for a visual approach. Came around, still fighting wind, to set up for 24. Turning final, I had forgotten about the very displaced threshold and the remnants of the headwind I was still coping with, so I had to add a bit of power, but despite a few strong cross gusts made a smooth touchdown and taxied back to Airborne Aviation's hangar.
And with that, Outback Overflight came to an end.
I think I've flown 51 hours here in Australia, counting check rides and the Bristell and the like. Not sure how far - at least 4700 NM, probably more like 5200 on the tour itself. It's been a blast. I've seen a great deal of Australia; a great deal of wildlife, met a number of Australians (and New Zealanders) and found that indeed, they're both laid back and have a great sense of humor, generally very friendly. I quite like this country, and I am immensely glad I've done this trip.
We might fly once more, tomorrow, if the weather is good - I may want to make the Sydney Harbor scenic flight, which everyone says is great. We'll see what the WX looks like.
Thanks for following along, everyone. We head back to the U.S. in a few days, and I will take with me a whole heap of excellent flying experience and memories.