Trip to (the edge of) the outback and back

Edge of the outback

Jack, Peter, Ido & Norm. And the Bush Hawk

Now the dust has settled (or rather, the water has dried) a bit after our trip to the outback, here are some links to photos taken and videos made by our incumbent chronicler – Mike Rudd.

Although we never made it to our intended destination, Innamincka and the famous ‘Dig Tree’, we nevertheless enjoyed about 10-12 hours’ flying and saw some memorable sights from the air, as well as on the ground. And enjoyed excellent company, a variety of overnight rooms (from the sparse to the almost opulent), not to mention the occasional glass of electric soup.

There are mutterings about another trip in the spring – maybe September or October – north east to Tumut via Yarrawonga, then south east to Polo Flat via Canberra, flying home along the south coast via Merimbula and Gabo Island. Maybe the weather will be unusually benign along the coast and over the mountains, although judging by our outback experience, we might be ‘enjoying’ country pleasures up in the hills! Perhaps I’ll fly the new Aeroprakt A32 on that trip, although I really enjoyed taking the 74 year-old Interstate Cadet to Broken Hill; somehow those old slow-revving engines are very soothing.

Here are the links:

Photos: To the edge of the outback & back 2015
Trip video part 1: Trip to the outback & back, Part 1
Trip video part 2: Broken Hill & back Part 2
Another video: Interstate Cadet – short flight at Mungo Lodge

Outback trip to Innamincka – day 1

Early morning Mungo Lodge

Early morning Mungo Lodge

Writing this on Monday evening, I can say there’s nothing so depressing as an airfield in the rain when you’re a VFR pilot. Here we are at Broken Hill after two glorious days’ weather getting here but Monday dawned a bit rainy and our next destination, Tibooburra – with cloud down to the ground.

The six of us set out from Tyabb on Saturday morning in the Bush Hawk, a Brumby, a Foxbat and me in the Interstate Cadet. There was a slight northerly, i.e. a headwind, but otherwise the weather couldn’t have been better. Smooth as a mill pond (whatever that is) all the way to Swan Hill, our first fuel stop.

On the way, I was reminded to try the air at different heights – a 10 knot headwind at 2,500 feet turned into a 10 knot tail wind at 4,500 feet. So theCadet didn’t get left too far behind.

Mungo Lodge cabin

Mungo Lodge cabin

After a brief bite to eat at Swan Hill we pressed on to Mungo Lodge, a wonderful place to stay in the middle of nowhere. The evening was still and the silence almost deafening after the constant drone of the engine. We passed over some amazing country – photos will be posted on Flickr when I get back – and landed around 4 pm in the afternoon. The Mungo airstrips are dirt/gravel but very well maintained with no bumps or other problems.

The Lodge was fully occupied that night so we did well to book in advance. One visitor couple were cycling from Perth to Melbourne and had decided to detour via Mungo rather than go via Adelaide. Food was excellent – I had shepherd’s pie and salad. But the wifi was down and there is absolutely no mobile phone coverage there. So calling home was done on the Lodge reception phone.

After dinner we went out and looked up at that night sky which, everyone who’s been out back will tell you, is breathtaking. In town you can’t really see the milky way but here it was in all its splendour.

We stayed in the cabins round the perimeter, very clean and comfortable. Heating was effective – it was only 5 celsius overnight. Then up early for our next leg to Broken Hill, where, as of Monday night, we still are…

170s in the Wrangells

wrangellsHere’s another one for all you aspiring and actual bush pilots – a video about flying and camping in outback Alaska, courtesy of Backcountry Pilot (as usual, click on the picture for the video link). Well, I say ‘camping’ but these flyers stay in ‘public use cabins’ provided and maintained by the Alaska Parks Service. Now that’s my kind of tent! Although there’s more than one mention of mosquitos…I didn’t think those little ******s could survive in such a cold climate but they obviously do.

Bush flying is one of those activities to which quite a lot of pilots aspire. It encapsulates all those ‘freedom’ and ‘adventure’ urges which drive some people. And looking at this short video, I can see how the bug (and maybe the mosquito) can bite you. Crystal clear air, remote airstrips, carry everything with you, enjoy a campfire with friends and share stories of grizzly bears and derring-do.

It’s interesting to see them using the venerable old Cessna 170 – albeit with ‘big engines’ and fat tyres. I particularly like the weathered old blue one, which must have seen a lot of action over the years.

We’re planning our own ‘bush’ flying adventure, with a trip, hopefully, to Innamincka in north east South Australia via Mungo Lodge, Broken Hill and Tibooburra. With a side trip to the Dig Tree of Burke and Wills fame – or is that infamy? That’s if the weather is OK – a big ask at this time of year. Planned departure from Tyabb is Saturday 13 June, returning a week later.

Expected aircraft group includes the Bush Hawk, a Brumby high-wing, a couple of Foxbats and the Interstate Cadet (I don’t have a demo Foxbat at the moment). Flying time total is around 15 hours for the Cadet – probably a bit less for the others. It will be interesting to see if the 74 years-old Cadet can keep up with them. If I can get an internet connection, I’ll post some information and photos of the expedition. If not, then a full report on return…watch this space!