I must admit that Perth had been a real delight to see and will remain as one of my favourite destinations on the tour. The lack of trash or rubbish around the city was very noticeable, giving the illusion that this city is some kind of utopia. The quokkas, the architecture and the weather was difficult to leave although the time had come to push on with the tour by heading further south to the smaller town of Albany 240 miles (390 km) away.
Only a suggestion of sunlight began to tint the sky orange and the few remaining stars were fading into the ever brightening sky as I loaded up the simulator and prepared the aircraft for this leg. After topping up the fuel tanks, and correcting the weight for luggage or supplies, at 05:14 the sun broke the horizon and instantly filled the cockpit with colour. Already the outside air temperature was showing 16c with some very strong winds. As I taxied to runway 21 I fought against the wind and knew that taking off in that direction would not be possible. Considering the wind direction I opted to change to runway 06 and was able to take off very quickly, using the wind to blow my plane west over the city for a final look at the beaches and Freemantle area.
Initially I had a few problems with my transponder whilst trying to establish radio contact with Air Traffic Control although a few moments of concentration allowed me to understand which options to adjust within the Garmin navigation system to get things working correctly again.
By now I was reaching my first waypoint I had planned and continued to follow the coastline around Eagle Bay and the South Western foot of Australia. This was certainly wine growing territory and with the Margaret River and Margaret River State Forest spanning out below I was comfortable correcting myself on what I previously thought was the Margaret River district just East of Perth.
The early morning clouds had now burnt off completely leaving a clear sky once again turning the ocean into a beautiful rich shade of blue. I considered the possibility of sharks in those waters. I was now following the shore East, directly into the glaring sun. It was much easier to look down at the sprawling Blackwood State Forest and further national parks. So much uninhabited land was beautiful to see although there were sporadic reservoirs and dams peppered throughout.
Lake Muir State Forest and Nature Reserve below confirmed I was on track and at 21 minutes out I was given ILS landing information for Runway 14 of Albany Airport. Luckily the wind was not as strong by now and the landing was nice and smooth. The airport was much smaller as expected, with only light aircraft parked up. By 07.32 my Beechcraft Baron was among them.
Albany was one of the first settlements in Western Australia and is actually older than Perth is! Founded on a thriving whaling community Albany has seen many changes throughout its lifetime although despite the onslaught of modern technology, interestingly there are no traffic lights in Albany. Instead traffic is managed via roundabouts.
I had been looking forward to reaching a large city after having spent a long time crossing the vast emptiness of central Australia. I had heard many good things of Perth and was looking forward to investigating this city for myself. With an easy morning start of 08:00am here in the UK, that translated to 16:00 in Australian time, I was feeling relaxed and ready for the flight. I had gotten used to the gorgeous sunshine that seems unbreakable over Western Australia and today was no different as I stepped inside my plane. The airport ground crew were already waiting for me as I turned on the batteries, began to set up my flight plan and called in a request to begin push back. A member of the AI crew dilligently hooked up to the front wheel and pushed my Baron G58 gently out of its parking spot. With the engines running and warming up nicely I taxied to the runway. I could feel the strong crosswinds making it pretty difficult to steer. I wasn’t looking forward to taking off with this strong wind.
Once airborne I was instantly blown off course. Wrestling with the controls, I took a minute to regain my bearings. Using the map I had open beside me I was able to locate highway 49 and worked out which direction to head. As I followed the highway I continued to battle the strong winds while looking out for points of interest along the way. First Marapoi Station passed by, followed by lake Ballard to the West and lake Mermion to the East assuring me I was on track. Menzies town was still to my South when I realised just how many open mines there were in this region. It seems that this part of Australia must be like swiss cheese below the surface!
At this point I was asking myself if I should continue to follow the road, which has so far proved to be a trusty way to navigate across the terrain or should I cut across country in the hope that I might see some more varied landscape. Afterall, the road was now taking me South whilst I knew I needed to be heading West. What I could see of the terrain looked pretty flat from 5,000 ft above. This blanket of bushland gave way to the Ex Credo mountain range at around 16:55 and I caught the first signs of cloud on the horizon to the West, right where I would be flying.
The radio burst into life with a message from another aircraft: “Tex953”. I enjoyed this indication that I was heading towards civilization once again even if I didn’t yet have sight of it. I pointed my plane at lake Giles hoping to see some mountains to the South. From high above I was able to admire the wonderful patterns that the lakes formed as they found their own grooves in the landscape. Mount Manning Range is a large nature reserve containing the Manning, Helena and Aurora peaks. Whilst I thought it was rather generous to describe these large hills and mountains I considered the range of wildlife which would call the range home. So much exploration and discovery to be done!
Back on the purple GPS line of my SatNav I found myself flying over more and more vegitation. A sign that damper weather was able to reach this far inland. This was also evident from the large clouds that I was fast approaching. I was once again fighting the strong winds whilst simultaneously being blown away by the beauty of the very impressive cloud formations. I thought I heard thunder at times although it can be difficult to know over the louder drone of the engines. The Garmin G1000 also has a weather radar which I used to check the weather ahead. – Definitely a storm.
By now I was at 13,000 ft and above most of the thicker cloud although up here my aircraft was quickly gathering ice on its surfaces. This not only makes the plane heavier but also less efficient due to the disrupted airflow. Ensuring that all de-icing options were switched on I tried to clear the windows and get a visual of the ground so I could see where I was. The grey clouds below and around me prevented me from seeing anything so I had to rely entirely on the GPS system to fly.
The hunch I had earlier about thunder was correct when at 17:43 a huge bolt of lighting lit up the clouds all around me, followed by an almighty clap of thunder. I had even wondered if it was my own plane that had been hit. It was time to descend from the 15,000ft I was crusing at as I was close to reaching Perth, so I cut back on the throttle and adjusted the trim to maintain a steady drop through the clouds as well as several more flashes of lighthing and cracks of thunder. The storm was somewhere below me as I continued the descent until I finally came through the cloud layer at only 2,000 ft. The emerging landscape was that of fields and vineyards. Later would I come to learn that this would have been the famous Margaret River wine makers region.
With the clouds now dissapating a little, it looked as though the storm wouldn’t be as bad over Perth itself. I might be able to walk away from todays landing after all. By now it was 18:30 and the sun was setting through what was left of the clouds. The sky was a golden maze of cumulonimbus and anvil headed clouds, spectaculor even for a simulation. I called in my landing request through what was now a large amount of radio traffic and I caught sight of the landing lights at 18:45 with the rest of the city lights blinking into life. The crosswind made for a challenging landing but ultimately I was able to stick the wheels to the ground and bring the plane to a safe stop in a city full of awaiting beauty and discovery.
Wanting to get a rich sense of Perth I allowed myself a couple of weeks to look into what this city had to offer. As stated in almost every blog post, I would love to experience this tour first hand although modern technology certainly enables more than I would have thought possible.
Perth airport has a good selction of images showing the interior and after having had a virtual walk through the terminals I took a virtual drive from the airport all the way to Perth city centre on the bank of the Swan river. With the usual mix of familiar chain shops and restaurants along side new discoveries the route to the city made for a simple but friendly impression. The city centre itself isn’t that large although I was able to find much to offer. The modern glass architecture provides shelter for much older buildings home to boutique book shops, grand old theatres and small markets. I would love to take a look inside many of these places.
Looking for a place to stay, I chose the Pan Pacific Hotel on Hill Street, mostly for the amazing views looking out over the Swan River and Langley River front. The popular Perth Concert Hall was only a block away and I even enjoyed a performance by The Western Australia Symphony Orchestra of Debussy & Mendelssohn. (Click to enjoy the same performance.) Just a short walk further was Elizabeth Quay, a newly built site aimed at giving Perth a new facelift. Bordering the city is King’s Park. Being even larger than New York’s Central park there is plenty of green spaces for soaking up the sun and relaxing.
Scarborough Beach and many others can be found a little further northwest from the city center but appear to be well worth the venture. The miles of white sands suitable for sunbathing, surfing or simply relaxing with a cocktail certainly sounds extremely appealing as lately I am driving to work in the UK, with temperatures around 2 degrees C. Still, I can’t imagine Christmas in the summer though.
By far, my favorite destination I discovered whilst learning about Perth is that of Rottness Island. 18 Miles off shore from Perth is home to the adorable Quokkas: The happiest animal on Earth! This island itself has a beautiful cycle track allowing you to explore its gorgeous beaches and rocky bays and with its own airport I was able to have my own day trip out there in a Cessna 172. If only I was able to take a quokka home with me.
I was very impressed with the simulators recreation of Rottness Island. I was even able to spot individual roads known to home many of the quokkas. See the images from my flight in the slideshow below.
Whilst Warburton seemed very remote and somewhat cut off from the rest of the world I enjoyed the sense that the stresses and fast pace of living brought on by modern society was less of an issue here. The outreach programs I learnt of regarding aboriginal youth certainly provided a positive perspective. I am very much in awe at the range of diversity we have across the planet, not only in regards to race and cultures but also to priorities and social behavours.
I was to leave Warburton with the search for gold on my mind as my next stop would be Leonora: home to the worlds deepest trucking gold mine!
Time had sped along and I was later leaving that I would have liked. It was already 17:00 as I headed north along runway 36 of Warburton’s airport to begin the 336 nautical mile flight flight to Leonora, due to take me about 2 hours. The weather was its usual sunshine and clear skies which whilst makes for some easy flying, did renforce just why so much of the Australian landscape is so dry. With Google maps open and the Great Central Road beneath me once again I was soon counting the miles fly by.
As the large sun sunk lower and lower I could see that following the unlit highway would become more difficult. I’m glad for the cockpit instruments showing me my heading. The current version of the Beechcraft Baron plane that I am flying is equipped with a Garmin G1000 navigation suite. Whilst the technology is amazing, it can detract from the challenge somewhat when you can see a live GPS map at all times. Still, I was able to track certain geological features from my windows such as hills, rivers and lakes as I flew, knowing I was on the right course.
The sun disappeared behind the horizon at 17:45 as I flew over Tjukayirla Roadhouse. I only noticed due to the collection of street lights that were clustered here. Looking at the navigation console I also saw a runway. – That was strange as I couldn’t see anything out of my window. On closer inspection I learnt that the runway was actually made from the road itself. A short length of widened road which had been tarmacced and marked with crude white paint. I didn’t stop here but I always love to see strange or different runways such as this.
By now the sky had gotten pretty dark and the stars were visible. Over the past couple of years I have taken an interest in the night’s sky. Teaching myself more of the constellations and the stars within. However, the southern hemisphere was completely unrecognisable to me. The only thing I was sure about was the dusty white streak in the sky confirming we are simply a tiny part of a galaxy. I use the word “dusty” as this is clearly in the forefront of my mind flying over the Australian outback although the word “milky” would be much more fitting. The only light around was the cresent moon reflecting from my wing and the occasional street lamp marking signs of life along the otherwise desolate highway. Real world star gazing out here would be truely breath taking i’m sure.
A quick “touch and go” at Cosmo Newberry (YCOS) added a little more fun before I called in my landing intentions for Leonora ariport at 19:10. Only a few mintues later and my wheels were once again on solid ground and I was being guided to my parking spot by some friendly simulator AI. I wouldn’t be staying here very long so I’d better see what gold I can find quickly!
Laying between Leonora and the Gwalia gold mine, is the now deserted “ghost town” of Gwalia itself. Some of the buildings still remain to be a testiment to what used to be. Despite the many decaying buildings left behind, there is one house highly maintained and is even open as a hotel: Hoover House.
The US President Herbert Hoover once oversaw the mine and had a house built beside the mine in 1898. The 2001 renovations now means it is possible to stay over night in the house and enjoy the manicured, green lawn that backs directly to the huge pit of the mine below.
Gwalia mine itself is still operational and is the worlds deepest, truck operating mine of 1660 metres below the surface, taking 2 hours for the trucks to make the journey back to the surface. Fully loaded with 55 tons of rock and ore, an average yeild may only be about 7 grams. Roughly a teaspoon worth of gold.
I had set an alarm so that I would wake up early on the morning of 19th September 2020. With the time difference between the UK and Austrialia I could only really fit in flights early in the UK morning before the sun set on the other side of the planet. This had become an increasing challenge the further East I had travelled. 08:00 in the UK meant 16:30 in central Australia.
Using the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 I had to install a 13.4Gb update to the software before I could begin the flight. This took a large chunk of time that I was not expecting to commit but still, it gave me ample opportunity to fully plan the route using SkyVector, create a detailed navigation log and of course, gather drinks and snacks for the journey. I decided I would be following the KataTJuta road (4 Highway) which would take me from the Northern Territory to Western Australia and ultimately finish this leg at Warburton Airport.
It had already gone 18:30 by the time I was able to get into the cockpit of my Beech Baron and I had wanted to fly a lot earlier. I could see a thin slither of moon and the stars were beginning to come out. It would have been far too dark to see much of Australia’s beautiful scenery so I postponed the flight until the following day.
Sunday 20th September – 15:30 Australian time and I was back in the simulator watching a single engine aircraft completing formations around Uluru airport. As I began to taxi out to Runway 31 I got a good look at Uluru itself from the ground. It really does rise incredibly high above anything else in sight. Once again I was blessed with a clear blue sky from which the previously mentioned small Cessna came into land a little too close to my aircraft for comfort. At 16:05, once the runway was clear I was able to take to the sky once more.
I soon levelled off at 3,000 ft and did a fairwell lap of Uluru before taking a closer look at Walpa Gorge, a lesser known rock formation only 25km away. From here it was easy to spot the highway stretching out West to the horizon. This slice through the red sands would be my guide for a lot of this flight, stretching 260 miles. The glaring sun through the front of the cockpit made it tricky to see at times, especially as the road switched from tarmac to dirt and back a few times. At least it appeared to do so from the air.
16:50 and I had reached a stretch of mountains with glinting sunlight coming from the Hill River that passed right through Lasseters cave. I subsequently learnt of the following story.
“Lewis Harold Bell Lasseter sheltered in this cave for approximately 25 days during January 1931. He was stranded without food after his camels bolted at a point 15km East of here. Although weak from starvation he set out about 25th January to walk the 140km to mount Olga, hoping to meet up with his relief party. Carrying 1.7 litres of water and assisted by a friendly aboriginal family he reached Irving Creek in the Pottoyu hills a distance of 55km where he died about 28th January 1931.”
A little further along I saw the Docker River and the small settlement of Kaltukatjara – The last populated area I would see of the Northern Territory as I crossed the border to Western Australia. I took a low pass over the buildings and noticed the rough air rising from the mountains all around. Best to stay at altitude.
I followed the snaking “Tjukaruru Road” through to the far side of the mountains until this changed to “Great Central Road.” To break up the miles I allowed myself a “Touch and go” landing at Warakurna’s Giles Airport which had the feeling of a locally populated truck stop.
The sun was getting lower by now and the glare was making it harder to see clearly so I pushed on the with the last stretch South West along the “Gun Barrel Highway” all the way to Warburton. Coming in to land on runway 18 I turned South and enjoyed the orange tones of the setting sun reflecting off my wing. A beautiful and relaxing end to another leg of this adventure.
Warburton is the biggest Aboriginal community in Western Australia located close to the borders of Western Austrialia, Northern Territory and South Australia having been set up in 1933 by Christian missionaries.
I had spent more time than expected in Alice Springs. Jobs, chores and everyday to day life gets in the way all too often. Still, there are worse place to spend a few months.
Alice Springs isn’t a huge place but certainly has lots to offer. The Mac Donnell Ranges would be an amazing place to hike or even to camp. The scale and natural beauty certainly captures my heart. I enjoyed learning about the history of its telegraph station built to relay messages across the vast continent back in 1871, as well as seeing traditional Aboriginal artworks. It’s very easy to see the inspiration the natural structures and landscapes have had on local art. For me however, it was time to check out the most iconic of Australian natural landmarks, Uluru, or “Ayres Rock.”
This was a highly anticipated flight as it would be the first using the brand new “Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 Software. – I’ll be posting further about this new amazing software and everything it has to offer. Be sure to take a look for a deeper insight.
The route was simple having not spent much time creating a full flight plan to stick to. I was far more excited to get airborne and fly VFR (Visual Flight Rules) against google maps in the new simulator. I ensured that I had the right amount of daylight left so that I could easily see to fly but would also get to see Uluru itself lit by the setting sun.
It was 14:40 by the time I had loaded and configured the sim, the weather and the aircraft. The first thing that struck me was the bright shade of red tones colouring the soil around me. After taking a good look around and spotting a very shiney fuel truck I requested a ‘Push-back’ from the ground team via my radio. With engines running and now facing the right way I began the short taxi down A, B and M taxi routes to runway 12 waiting to bid me fairwell.
The take off was made very peaceful due to a perfectly clear blue sky with no clouds to be seen at all. I spent a short time circling Alice Springs whilst re-familiarizing myself with the cabin of the Beechcraft Baron G58. Choosing a heading of 240 degrees I took a leisurely cruse to Owen Springs Reserve. This was a lovely looking river which cut its way through rocks and geographical ranges until eventually I joined up with HW6 Highway.
I followed the highway west to Hermanberg and saw how the river bed looked much drier here. Such beautiful landscapes were made more impressive by the backdrop of Mount Zeil just out of my starboard windows.
Large rivers such as ‘Finke River’ guided me through ‘Finke Gorge National Park’ which contained many cool and strange looking rock formations. The geology around here must be fascinating. In the middle of all the rocky hills were occasional hints of life. Kings Creek Station was one such place I flew over before the landscape opened up to vast flatlands. I could even make out very distant lakes which I confirmed with Google Maps.
Finally the great red rock of Uluru came into view rising above anything else on the horizon. Flying towards this enormous boulder I simply watched it get ever larger and larger. I was amazed to see how this place could be so much of a tourist destination despite how increadably remote it is. I took time to view the entire of Uluru myself with 2 full laps of the monument before considering my landing. The sun was bright and the clouds were still nowhere to be seen. After touching down on the tarmac I found a perfect place to park and watch the sun set over the course of the following hour. Watching the colours change in both the sky and the tones of Uluru I understood why this was such an impressive and important site.
Another hop over the Australian bush would take me from Tennant Creek to Alice Springs. Hop might be an understatement as I would be covering 250 nautical miles almost due South.
I began by checking the weather forcast online and within SkyForce, the flight simulator weather plug in I use to ensure that I am flying with realistic conditions. The forcast showed a few patches of rain but nothing which would be any cause for concern. I did a brief walk around of the aircraft, double checked I had enough fuel for the flight and started the engines. With nobody manning the radio tower it was a very simple taxi and take off.
I would have been able to follow the Stuart Highway the whole way from Tennant Creek to Alice springs, but for a large portion of the flight I preferred to follow a large winding river.
It looked pretty remote as I passed along mile after mile of open wilderness. There was a distinct lack of any civilization between the two cities. This made me wonder if there was anybody at all who had set up home in any small shacks or cabins which weren’t as visible from the air. If there were a number of people who had decided that a nomadic or isolated life was their ideal way of life, what sort of support would be available to them should they need it. Whilst my mind pondered on such questions I did get to see another aircraft join me in the open sky. It was an Australian “flying Doctor”. It made complete sense to me why the medical industry would need flying doctors to cover such vast areas of land to reach people in need or to deliver supplies to remote communities.
By mid-day I could see the hills that announced the location of Alice Springs rise up in the distance. Looking around in all other directions the landscape looked like a blanket that had been smoothed across a table, all except for one fold cutting its way through. Alice springs is nestled perfectly against this fold and uses a small cut between the ridge line to allow travel North and South.Upon landing I discovered that this geological fold were the MacDonnell Ranges. Multiple breaks within these ridges made for beautiful looking gorges and nature parks. See the videos below.
Alice Spring looked like a small oasis in a wide landscape of desolation. Although I equally wanted to see what could be found away from the consentrated population centers. The airport I was landing at was just on the outskirts of the main hub and as I approached my radio kicked into life again. Finally other air traffic sharing a frequency. Cessna 177s, Boeing 7 something somethings and a lone LearJet were all coming and going. It was nice to be in civilization again, if only briefly.
I have enjoyed learning a lot about a small community around Katherine and was interested to see what other communities held as I continued to explore Australia. This leg of the tour was to be an extremely straight forward flight of 322.7nm directly from Tindal Airport, Katherine to Tennant Creek, without any detours or waypoints. The only landmark that I knew to look out for along the way would be a large lake I would pass directly over.
I opened the flight simulator at 15.05 and took my time to check the aircraft, the controls, the weights and fuels as it had been a while since I had last flew. I did all of this whilst the engines were running and slowing warming. After topping up the fuel tanks I taxied to Runway 32 via taxiways D A B which were very easy to find on the simple airfield. With a short check in with the tower I received my take off clearance and took to the sky.
The clear blue sky was inviting and as I gently climbed the vast green landscape grew in all directions. I turned to a heading of 158 which I would be holding the entire flight and watched the small rivers wind themselves through the trees and brush below. Travelling at 160 kts my GPS suggested a flight time of 1 hour 45 minutes which was a lot quicker than the information provided by SkyVector, an online flight planning tool.
Having left Katherine behind me I soon found I had issues with my radio. Whilst I was still able to communicate in the simulator, I didn’t have any voice audio so decided to cancel flight tracking with the ATC and only contact Tennant airfield once i wanted to land. This made for a very quiet flight.
A number of dust patches passed by below which broke up the the green landscape and provided the more familiar red “brush” I had been expecting to see over Australia from the air. A closer inspection showed many animal tracks although I wasn’t lucky enough to seen any living creatures from my plane. Following my journey on a map I realised that I was flying over Sturt Plateau.
This pattern of greenery and red brush was only interrupted by the lake I had been expecting. “Lake Woods Conservation Covenant.” The lake was much larger than the smaller bodies of water which peppered the terrain and it was nice to get a glint of mid afternoon sunlight off the still waters of the lake and sporadic highlights from the many surrounding rivers feeding it. It was 16:30 when I flew over.
On the far side of Lake Woods some cloud was gathering straight ahead and I knew I would be flying into them. With this in mind I dropped from 10,000 ft to 3,500 ft and watched the clouds quickly form into an impressive wall. I had just thought to myself that this was the sign of a storm front when a single burst of lightening illuminated my cockpit. I listened for the thunder but didn’t hear any over the drone of the engines. It was sod’s law it was going to be stormy over Tennant Creek whilst the rest of the flight had been so clear.
Being low I was easily able to spot Tennant Creek and it’s airfield well in advance. I took a single lap of the town and announced my landing intentions for runway 29 to the unmanned radio channel. The light touchdown was surprisingly smooth considering the gathering storm happening around me although at least it had not began to rain. I parked between 2 Beechcraft KingAir with Australian livery and watched the clouds darken before ending the simulator.
I had really enjoyed my first taste of Australia. Quite literally in fact as I was able to find a relatively local Australian themed resturant which sold Kangaroo steak. I found the meat to be pretty tough although I don’t know if that was the Kangaroo or the chef’s ability leaving something to be desired. Still, it was an experience entirely driven from this tour. Maybe I’ll find some other Australian food as I continue through the country.
After being away from the Around The World tour for so long, it was finally time to get back into the swing of things again and plan the next leg. I used SkyVector to look at the route. This is an online map showing airways, airports and other aviation navigation details. Simply enter the departing and arriving airports along with any other waypoints and the site generates a full “NavLog” for the journey. This navlog advised of a distance of 153.4 nauticle miles which would take roughly 1 hour 39 minutes. I was also able to look at the details of the Katherine YPTN Airport. This is actually a military airfield but it was good to know the runway lengths and directions as well as the radio frequencies. I wondered how acurate the flight sim would be when it came to details such as this.
REX SkyForce is an addon piece of software which provides ennhancments across the board for the simulator. Most notibly weather. The clouds, sky colours, lighting, weather effects are all tweekable although it is the real time live weather updates that are imported to the sim which is my favorite part. If there is a thunderstorm over Darwin when I am due to take off in real life, there will be a thunderstorm in the simulator too. Wind direction, temperature, air pressure is all loaded in and effects the performance of the aircraft accordingly. It truly adds to the immersiveness and adds that extra element of planning. – http://rexsimulations.com/skyforce.html
Here in the UK we are entering the autumn months and the weather has noticable taken a turn. On the other side of the world the weather was improving and I was pleased to see that Darwin had clear skies with a light wind of 11 nmph heading South East. This would give me a helping hand as I would be travelling the same direction. That will cut some time off the flight.
07:00 local time (Local for Darwin) and I was once again back in the Carenado Beechcraft Baron 58, making adjustments to the familiar cockpit. Barometric pressure – 29.94 Check. Heading bug correctly aligned – Check. GPS and Radio systems all correctly configured and tuned – Check. Along with the full pre-flight check lists completed.
The tower provided my route along the taxiways to Runway 29 so I knew I would be taking off to the West. Precicely due west would be 27 for the 270 degrees on the compass. North would be 00 or 36, East 09, South 18 etc etc. As I crossed the runway as part of the taxi route I noticed that the wind sock was pretty much dead. Not a lot of breeze to disturb it at ground level despite the advised 11 nmph wind advised. By 07:16 I was ready to leave the City of Darwin, climb into the sky once again and take on the rest of this adventure.
The city passed by below as I climbed a little. I wanted to see what I could of Darwin before continuing. The city appeared to be very lush and green although this soon gave way to expanses of brushland and forest. I was suprised to see the low sun glistening from the large number of rivers snaking their way through the terrain as well.
By 07:38 light clouds were appearing ahead although I knew they would not be a concern. The ground stretched out below and I considered it to be very flat until I dropped lower for a closer look at some of the rivers. On closer inspection the terrain was full of rolling hills. Not very high but very condensed. I found a main road and followed this over the hills and wasn;t too worried about following the purple GPS route line perfectly as I knew I would make decent time due to the tail wind anyway.
The rivers widened as I got closer to Katherine and I saw a large area of drier, dusty ground. I was later to learn that this was Nitmiluk National Park. A large nature reserve with spectacular river canyons cutting through rock. I would certainly look more into this when I had landed.
Katherine is situated on the Katherine river whilst the Tindal Military field YPTN is located outside, a little SE from the main population. I made my way in for a left downwind circuit of the runway lining up with runway 32 at 08:22 and my wheels touching down smoothly only 6 minutes later. I took a wrong turn during the taxi route to general aviation parking. I will have to do more research on each airport and see if I can find the taxiway labels as well. I was parked up by 08:35 and immediately took to Google and Youtube to find out more about this rather remote looking place.
I was amazed by Nitmiluk Nation Park. It’s Croc filled rivers, large red rock cliffs and spectacular waterfalls would certainly be something to enjoy first hand. I was impressed to learn about the Jawoyn Aboriginal rock artwork.
“Nitmiluk is the Jawoyn name for Katherine Gorge. It is pronounced Nit-me-look, and literally means Cicada Place. The name was given by Nabilil, important figure of the Creation Time. As he travelled through the country he came to the Gorge where he hears the song of the Cicada, “Nit, Nit, Nit!” The Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park and Jawoyn Association logo is a painting by a deceased traditional owner of Nitmiluk. It depicts Bolung (the rainbow serpent), Nitmi (the cicada), mussels, fish and rocks. By tradition, Bolung still inhabits the deep pools of the second Gorge at Nitmiluk and care must be taken not to disturb him.”
The Katherine Hot springs also seemed to be a popular destination. Looking at the clear waters and idyllic scenery, I can see why.
I also found a great Aboriginal Art center along Gorge Road leading north from Katherine which featured some amazing traditional arts and didgeridoos for sale. I would love to have been able to get one of these as a souvenir. Check out their site: https://topdidj.com/
“So here I go, I’m still scratching around in the same old hole
My body feels young but my mind is very old
So what do you say?
You can’t give me the dreams that are mine anyway
Half the world away, half the world away
Half the world away
I’ve been lost, I’ve been found but I don’t feel down.”
– Oasis 1994
I finally made it!
I made it to Australia.
All the way from Edinburgh UK.
In a tiny, twin propeller, piston engined, Beechcraft Baron 58.
– I have travelled 66,000 km / 41,000 miles.
– Been airbourne for 8 days (combined) flight time.
– Logged 95 flights.
– Suffered 2 close calls. (Running out of fuel over Socotra Island and reaching the limits of altitude whilst viewing Mt Everest.)
– Visited 46 different countries…
… and I can’t wait for more.
What an adventure it has been. Stay with me for the ride as I continue with another 150+ flights as I route my way over Austrailia, New Zealand, The Pacific Islands, Hawaii, North and South America, The Antartic, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Europe and the UK as I finally return to Edinburgh where I started this journey.
So, it’s been a fair while since I actually completed this flight. A couple of years in fact. I am disappointed in myself for leaving it such a long time before updating this blog although even after such a long time, because of the notes I made when flying, I am still able to remember the details of the journey. Unfortunately however the screen grabs taken along the way have been lost.
It was to be a rather straight forward hop of 453 nautical miles over the Timor Sea to reach the central, northern point of Australia home to Darwin. At 13:42 I had just finished eating some lunch in preparation for the estimated 2 hour, 23 minute flight ahead. The temperature was a warm 26 degrees on the apron of El Tari International Airport (WATT) as I completed my usual checks of the Baron 58 although the overcast sky was less welcoming.
Tuning the first radio frequency to 118.3 (El Tari Tower) I requested my taxi clearance and was guided to Runway 7 to take off to the East. Taking off to the east is always preferable as it saves a little time not having to turn back on myself to continue the very Easterly tour. A landing CRJ700 gave me a short hold at the entrance to the runway but I was soon rolling East with my wheels leaving the ground at 13:55 and entering rather thick fog right up to 1500 feet. Although I couldn’t see the ground below I used my GPS to tell me when I began to fly over the coastline and out to sea.
At 14:08 I banked to starboard turning South East and began a slow climb to 12,000 feet. This was primarily to get better fuel economy from the aircraft due to the thinner atmosphere and less need for such a rich mixture of air and fuel.
Changing the radio over to Brisane center the overcast clouds which were now below me began to thin out and eventually disappeared leaving a wide open sky and a long stretch of sea ahead. Without much more to see or do until I reached the Australian shore I turned on the auto pilot and read up about the city I was about to visit.
I disabled the auto pilot as soon as I could see the shade of the water change from a deep blue to lighter shades as I got closer to land until finally the sea turned to estuaries and bays, and then on to rivers. This was the big moment I had been waiting for since leaving Edinburgh in the UK. To finally make it to the far side of the world! Even in a simulator, flying the correct distances in real time, with real world weather updates and realistic fuel consumption, I believe that this was a grand achievement.
With buildings present on both sides of the bay I was initially unsure as to where I would be landing. Of course the GPS flight plan showed me the way easily enough. It also appeared that I had a police helicopter escort as I made my way towards the city. I took some time to enjoy Darwin from the air as the now orange sun hung low in the sky creating a beautiful sunset behind me. The Orbx terrain that I have been using had now also changed to represent the Oceania part of the globe. The fresh new textures were a welcome change which only re-iterated the fact that I had reached a new portion of the tour.
By 17:00 I could see that there wasn’t much daylight left so tuned to Darwin Airport (YPDN) and called in my landing intentions for Runway Right 29. Australian liveries peppered the gates and parking areas of the airport as the now purple sky glinted reflections off of their surfaces. I watched a Virgin Australia 737 take off as I parked up close to the fuel pumps and smiled to myself knowing that where ever that massive aircraft was flying to, it wouldn’t be as far as I had travelled.