Way out West
After a month of planning, five Auto-gyro pilots set out on Saturday 1st of June for a three day adventure into South-western Queensland and Western New South Wales.
George Harris, Dean McFarlane, and Mick Post flew their Cavalons, Rick Elliott was in his MTO Sport, and Neil Farr took a Calidus. Took off late morning from the Skyranch for the first leg to Moree. Topped the gyro’s up with fuel and then set off into Queensland and our first overnight stop, Dirranbandi. Booked ourselves into a motel before wandering down the main street where, much to George’s delight, we just happened to find a pub.After a couple of cold ones, it was back to the airstrip to put the gyros to bed, before having a shower, back to the pub for dinner, and off to bed. Next morning we were up early only to find that it was raining and the visibility was terrible.
George had his I-Pad which told us that it should clear mid-morning so we had breakfast and settled in to see what would happen. Sure enough, around 10 am, blue sky appeared, so we uncovered the gyros, packed our gear, fired up the mighty Rotax engines, and set off for what turned out to be a great day. Now we were getting into some real outback country. The number of homesteads became less but the numbers of wild goats, wild pigs, emus [not ostriches Dean], and big red kangaroos grew each mile.
Upon arriving at Cunnamulla, we had a strong cross wind for landing, but each of the boys handled it no worries. We had pre-arranged for fuel and filled the five planes to the max[$2.55/litre] ready for the next leg. After waiting for an RPT to leave, we were off again, tracking South. Once again we had a headwind which had been the story of our trip so far. The country was very flat and covered in low trees and scrub. Not a lot of good landing options so we relied on our machines to keep on singing. Our next overnight stop was to be a little town on the NSW/Qld border called Hungerford, population 13. On arriving we took a few minutes to fly up and down the dingo fence before landing on their strip about 5 Kilometers out of town. These little outback towns have beautiful bitumen strips which would be the envy of many larger towns back East. As we arrived, there was a Police car sitting beside the strip with all its lights flashing. Must be something about gyro pilots! Turns out he was there to give us a lift into town. He is training for his fixed wing licence and was very keen to see our machines. We all piled into the troop carrier and were delivered to the Royal Mail Hotel.
This pub was built around 150 years ago from roofing iron and really is a step back in time. The walls are covered in history and the hospitality was second to none. After seeing how these remote communities live you realise how much we take for granted in our everyday lives. Dinner was fantastic, the beer was cold, and they just happened to have 3 rooms which suited us perfectly.Posty’s snoring almost bought the building down, but somehow it survived. Next morning we were up before the sun, showered, and down to the kitchen to help ourselves to breakfast. Love the way they operate out here. We were waiting for our friendly cop to give us a lift back to the strip, but it turned out he had been called out in the middle of the night to a house fire and was not yet awake. The barmaids’ daughter came to the rescue and took us out to where our gyros were waiting. We took off, did the requested fly-by of the town, and set our heading for Bourke.More of the same on this leg. Miles and miles of low scrub, very few indications of human existence, and lots of pigs and goats. Turns out the farmers out here are making lots of money out of rounding up wild goats for export. Arrived at Bourke where George had arranged a vehicle for us to go into town for lunch. After fueling up ourselves and the gyros, we left George as he had family business to catch up on, and set a heading to track Coonamble. On this leg, we almost had a tail wind. A quick stop in Coonamble for Rick and Neil to put in an extra 20 litres of fuel just to be sure. The MTO Sport and Calidus carry around 30 litres less fuel than the Cavalon so we were stretching it a bit. The last leg saw our first real tail wind for the trip and before we knew it we were safely back at Manilla Skyranch. All agree it was a fantastic trip. The gyros ran perfectly the whole way and needless to say drew a lot of attention wherever we went.Total flying time was 13.3 hours. Big thanks to George for all his research which made the trip go without a hitch.