I've been in Australia now for four-plus days. We're still in Campbelltown NSW, a suburb of Sydney, near the Camden Aerodrome (which is our departure point). Today we went out to the airfield and - bucket list item checked - I got to fly in another country for the first time. I didn't fly VH-SDN, the plane we're taking - for this trip, we just did a quick hop from Camden to Bankstown, so I could purchase charts and nav publications required for the trip. Flew with Chris, from Airborne, in VH-SRE - another 182, slightly older, with steam gauges rather than the G1000 system.
Chris and I went over Australian operations for an hour or so. I signed up for the Airservices Australia NAIPS system, to allow me to get weather and file ICAO flight plans and SARTIME from the web. We'll only need to file ICAO (lots of detail) if we're flying into controlled airspace - especially if we're landing at a Class C airport, which we will at least once on the tour (Tindal, an RAAF base/civil field - possibly others). SARTIME is Search And Rescue Time - basically, you file a general flight plan and a time at which, if you haven't closed your SARTIME via radio or telephone, Airservices starts trying to find you. They'll start out by calling your phone number. If that doesn't work, they'll check with facilities along your route of flight. If no good, they'll spin up a search and rescue operation - and if it's a false alarm, that's Bad(tm). Chris pointed out that one issue with SARTIME in the Outback is that in many places you won't even get VHF radio comms below perhaps 10000 feet, and in some places you won't get it at all. This means that if you file a SARTIME for a flight into those areas, you need to take into account that you'll have to find a landline phone on the ground to cancel your SARTIME, so best to plan accordingly!
Paperwork update. I have my Certificate of Validation in hand (hooray!) so I can legally operate aircraft here in Australia. What I do not have, however, is my ASIC card (Aviation Security Identification Card). When I did my application, CASA told me that as soon as I entered the country and passed through immigration, their computers would check to find me and when they found my record they'd continue to process the ASIC. That gave me a week to get the ASIC after arrival - tight but not impossible. However, when I called them on Friday, they told me that sometimes Immigration takes up to two weeks to get back to them to confirm the check! That means it's highly unlikely that I'll actually have the ASIC in time before I leave for the tour - and if it's not there when I leave, it's not going to catch up to us. I will be taking a copy of my ASIC application, as well as a copy of the receipt I received from CASA telling me that they have charged me for processing the ASIC. That, plus a passport and my CoV, will be what I have.
I've gotten conflicting stories about whether I really need the ASIC. CASA has told me on the one hand that yes I absolutely need it to operate at "Security Controlled Airports.' However, other CASA personnel have told me that as a foreign aircrew, my Certificate of Validation and passport should suffice. Still other folks have told me that as long as I stick with the tour company pilots (who have ASICs) they can escort me on and off the airfield, no worries.
I have no idea what the actual answer is. The tour company pilots have warned me that Australian airport security has gone really over the top, way worse than in the U.S., and that I should do my utmost to get the ASIC and be prepared for problems if I don't have it. I'm not sure what else I can do - so I guess we'll see what happens.
We departed Camden (YSCN) late in the day - around 3pm. On takeoff, we departed on the downwind, and Chris navigated for me since he is so familiar with the area. After leaving the Camden area, we headed roughly east northeast, aiming for a tall radio tower named 2RN. When we reached 2RN, we called Bankstown tower and were cleared to approach on a crosswind for 29R. For the first time in my experience, I landed at an airport with three parallel runways - Bankstown has 29L/C/R. We followed another Cessna in, turning downwind behind them at 1500 feet (Bankstown procedures dictate a 1500 foot approach for RWY 29). We stayed in tight - there is military reserved airspace north of the field, and we were in a right-hand pattern for 29.
On final, I juggled a bit of crosswind; we touched down slightly off-line, but it was a credible landing. We parked and headed over to Concept Aviation to buy charts.
The next issue arose at that point. Apparently, the WAC (Wide Area Charts) are presently being updated, and as a result, Concept (and most other resellers) had stopped restocking them. They had half the WAC charts I needed, and all other pubs except for an ERC (En Route Chart - Low). I bought what they had and we headed back. When we departed, it was getting a bit windy - 20 kts, but right down the runway. On climb-out it was a bit bumpy, but no real problems. We stayed at 1500 feet and headed back to Camden. We approached on a 'local' entry point - one used by those familiar with the airport - and found ourselves on a straight-in approach as cleared by the tower. The approach was a bit low - Camden is 481 feet up, and we had only been at 1500 - so I dragged a bit of power, as I hadn't noticed the displaced threshold until final. Touched down very smoothly, though - felt good! Barely a squeak!
So on to more prep tasks. I've ordered the remaining charts from Airservices Australia- they claim overnight delivery. We'll see. We leave for the tour on Thursday morning, so hopefully that lets them ship Tuesday and still have them arrive in time! Update: Looks like the tour company has a spare set of charts they can loan me, they'll bring them along in case my order doesn't arrive!
Whew. Getting excited! This is really happening! It was good to fly today, even if only for an hour - remind myself that hey, it's flying just like at home. The procedures will be a bit different, but most of the tour will be in the outback, where that's not really relevant - and we'll be with local pilots for two weeks, so I can get briefed on the next day's flying at each stop. I'm sure I'll screw up something or perhaps a few somethings as far as procedures go - I've been advised to be sure to tell controllers 'Unfamiliar, foreign pilot' so they can make allowances.
I've purchased a big red 'P' sign. For those who aren't Australian, this is a bit of a joke- when you first get your driver's license, here, you have to place one of these signs on your car so that other drivers know you are a 'Provisional' license holder. I figure I'll mount it in the window of VH-SDN, and maybe a couple people will get the joke. :-)