Around Oz in 15 Days
Why would you plan a 13,500kms flight around Australia in an MT 03 gyroplane? Because you can of course!
Seriously, The reason Otmar Birkner, the manufacturer of these amazing gyroplanes and I embarked on a flight of this magnitude was to demonstrate the reliability and safety of the new generation of modern gyros. In general, gyros have a very bad reputation, due a number of reasons but our mission was to prove that the new generation gyro was safe reliable and far removed from the public perception of gyros.
The Auto Gyro MT-03 is a fully factory built and certified aircraft. This makes the plane so fantastic, easy to fly, safe, and reliable.
Otmar came to Australia in October last year (2006) to set up the first 3 machines imported here and while working it was only natural that we got to talking about doing a big trip together here in Australia .
I had already circumnavigated Australia in 6 days in an ultralight aircraft a couple of years back so why not fly around Australia in the gyros. Otmar immediately seized the opportunity and the rest is now history!
The planning took me about 3 months, to get everything organized, like WAC, NTC, VNC, new ERSA, new Airfield guide and new Jeppesen flight star software. To get the route sorted out, I used the Jeppesen software, and the wac’s. The problem was to find airfields with fuel available within the range of the aircraft.
With our long range fuel tank set up we had 135 litres usable on board which gave us about 8 hours endurance. Depending on wind, we could cover anything up to 900 km. The longest leg trough the Great Victoria Desert was about 700 km. but I expected tailwind, so it should be very safe, I thought..
As the idea was to fly the most easterly – northerly – westerly – and southerly points we had to cross 3 desserts, The Tanami, the Great Sandy , and the Great Victorian Deserts. Nobody did this before, so I could not get any info about where to refill, and airports are very rare out there.
We needed CASA approval to fly the gyros over water as we had to fly to Horn Island on Cape York, to Dirk Hartog Island at Shark Bay, and to cross Bass Straight to Tasmania. This took every bit of 3 months and in fact, I got the approvals only 2 days out from departure.
During the planning, Don Mcintyre, one of my trike students became very interested in the trip, and envious. As Don is a sailor, and adventurer and after some discussion he thought about it, and 2 days later he was on board. Through Don’s ocean sailing experience, he was able to organize all the necessary survival equipment, like epirbs, life vests, survival suits for the Bass Strait etc.
Don started his training in my gyro, and very quickly ordered a machine. About 4 weeks before the trip his “red devil” was ready for delivery. He flew as much as he could, to get some hours up, and some experience in different weather conditions. As highly experienced pilots Otmar and I thought that Don may struggle to keep up with us but he did very well.
Last but not least, Mick Riddle, a highly experienced commercial pilot had started his Gyro conversion 2 weeks before we left. He learned very quickly. He was always hinting and pushing to be part of the adventure as well.
I had a spare gyro in my hangar, and quickly organised the engine, and put his gyro together at the last minute. In fact, we finished the build the night before we left. Early the next morning, we tracked the rotor blades with the Vibrex , a tracking/balancing computer so that rotor blades ran perfectly.
So, the four of us where now ready to go on this amazing trip.
At about 0800 local time we took off towards our first turnpoint: Cape Byron , as it’s the most easterly point of Australia . The flight was nothing really special. Don however mentioned the gusty conditions over the great dividing range and probably had to hold his breath a couple of times. The temperature was around 18 degrees and the engine rumbled twice two times, as there was some condensation in the carburetor bowls. When the water drop goes through the engine, it results in rough running for about a second.
We landed in Lismore to fuel up, before we turned around the Cape . I tried to film the 3 wild gyros, flying all over the place…. Formation flying was pretty hard specially for Don, as he was new to the gyro-flying, very little experience, and Mick was not 100 % either. So, I tried to get Otmar in between me, and the Cape . It worked out more or less, and off we went heading north. It was fairly windy, so it was hard to get some smooth shots with my Canon XL 2 video camera.
Landing about 2 hours before sunset in Kingaroy we found out the new fuel bowser wasn’t working, so we had to call out for the refiller. The friendly guy sold us some fuel, and even opened his hangar doors for us, to get the babys in for the night. He gave us a brief weather forecast for the next day, and we expected some showers along the route.
Otmar and I sleped on the grass in front of the aero club in our sleeping bags, and Mick and Don went in town, and stayed in a motel. We all had tents, sleeping bags, and thermarest mattress with us, and the plan was to sleep at the airports, occasionally stay in a hotel, to have a shower. Obviously that was not Don or Mick’s intention, as we found out later. Anyway, at least Otmar and I had a nice sleep under the stars in Kingaroy.
Just before sunrise it began to drizzle. We took off, regardless to the light rain. The cloud base was high enough, and the rain very isolated. The 300 k’s to Gladstone went quite quick, with our 10 kt tailwind. About 100 k’s inbound Gladstone we experienced more and more rain, fully overcast, and it was wall to wall grey when we landed.
It was very handy to have all available carnet fuel cards. Mobile , BP, and Shell are the main ones, and a must on a trip like these.
We refueled, had a nice chat to a commercial pilot, and after a muesli bar we lined up on the runway, and made our mandatory take off call.
We had the Rockhampton controlled airspace in front of us, and with the formation of 4 gyros its always a drama to get clearance through controlled airspace, so we had the transponders on 1200 and stayed clear of airspace.
The 650 kilometer leg to Donnington airpark, up at Townsville, led us basically along the coastline, so I thought a coffee break at Shute Harbor would be nice. Otmar, Mick, and Don found this idea quite good, and I went through my ERSA, quite a challenge in a open cockpit, found the runway and circuit directions, and the wrong CTAF frequency. The approach of Shute Harbor is quite unique. The strip lies in a valley, and the high mountains around it create a fair bit of turbulence. After landing we where told about the correct frequency, and nobody knows why its wrong in the ERSA.
After a few photos, and an interview of our tour members and I, we were ready for the special burger.
To fly in the Whitsunday area was one of the highlights. Crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, and the green hinterland is a fantastic mixture in colors.
Ray Smith, the operator and owner of this great set up welcomed us, and he even remembered me when I popped in a couple of years ago in my Fascination.
I called Ray a week before, and told him we would need about 400 to 500 liters of unleaded fuel. He was smiling like always, and organized the truck with the 44 gallon drums on the tray.
Incredible with his 72 years he was pumping the fuel in our tanks. Thanks a lot Ray!
Ray gave us a lift to a service station, 12 k’s down the road, where we had a shower, and some take away food.
We all sleped on the airport, as there was no motel available. The mossies tried to suck us out, but after 8 hours of flight, we where so tired, and I didn’t care about them.
It seemed like the rain liked us, and followed us where ever we went. At dawn we pre flight checked the gyros, strapped all our gear in the machines, and by the time we started the engines, it began to rain.
We enjoyed the light tailwind again, and had to fly around some hills, as the cloud base was not high enough to fly direct line. Thank god, we where in gyros, and not in fixed wing aircrafts. There would have been no way to fly on days like these, low cloud base, showers, rain, and partly poor visibility, just at VMC.
About 10 mins after take off, I saw a hole in the clouds, with the sunrays coming through. I thought that must be the gate to heaven.
Even its annoying to fly through rain, sometimes, the colors in the sky when the sun brakes through, and the cloud formations makes the scenery really beautiful.
Quick fuel stop in Atherton, and off we go towards Coen. It’s only a 460 k’s leg.
The weather seemed to get better, the clouds are clearing, less storms, and the sun is winning. The rivers at the wetlands, in between the coast and the Great Dividing Range look like winding snakes. We know, that’s crocodile country, and a landing into the water would have not been fun. We trust our machines, good to have a Rotax engine in the back, running smooth like a sewing machine.
As we come closer to Cairns , we approached the rainforest, and the table lands west of Cairns .
This was one of my greatest flights ever. These pictures are now burned in my head. To over fly a rainforest is something special, the tall trees, huge ferns, flash green leaves, and plenty of eagles above it. We have to stay low, as we under flying the Cairns airspace. We passed Cairns to the west, and flew in between the two highest mountains of Queensland , Mt Haig, and Kahlpahlim Rock, 4294 ft. We remain clear of controlled airspace under 3500 ft.
Mick was used to life in Cairns , as he was operating a seaplane up here. So he told us a few interesting things about the area on the radio. It was a real sight seeing trip.
At the tablelands we have seen many water falls pouring down everywhere, smokey, misty clouds hanging in the peaks of the mountains. It looked like they had the best wet season ever!
Enough of flying through the lee of the ridges we veered to the right and headed for the beach. Amazing how much turbulence a gyroplane can handle. We had only a 15 kt wind, but we experienced some severe turbulence. Once cleared the hilly country, it got smooth again.
The water north of Cairns is not really that flashy, as the strong wind stirred up the sand in the water, and it didn’t looked that fantastic.
We might have been spoiled from the Whitsunday area…
5:55 hours later at 1215 we arrived at Coen. A nice tar sealed runway, and as soon as we landed we realized how much wind we have. You simply can’t feel it in the gyroplane, floating along the coast. And luckily we had this wind as a friend, tailwind!
So far, we poured the most expensive fuel in our tanks, above 2 bucks/liter, had a rest, another muesli bar, and we where ready for Horn Island . We attached our life jackets, and epirb to our flying suits, because we have to cross the water for Horn Island .
The wind didn’t help us a lot, as it was mainly a easterly breeze, flying the 400 k’s up the Cape York . In 3 days from the Skyranch at Manilla to the northerly point of Australia . Wow! Not bad!
Finally we have come to the end of the great diving range, and Don, and Mick where happy to see the end of the turbulence. The middle of the Cape York is pretty flat, with millions of trees, very few airstrips, no roads, tracks, or any sign of human being. The further north we come, it begins to get hilly again, and with descending cloud base it was quite tricky to get through.
As we came closer to the end of the main continent, the clouds eased off a bit, the visibility got better, and we could see Horn Island in the distance. Flying over water is just a mental thing. The engine doesn’t know that you are over water, and they are no more noises…!
In fact, I prefer flying over water, its smooth, no turbulence, and in case of an engine failure, I would rather ditch in the warm water, than crashing in a tree! We have flown about 80 % over area’s you could simply not take off after a forced landing. The other beauty on the gyro is that your touch down speed could be as low as 0 airspeed. That means you can land a gyro everywhere.
After about 1000 k’s for today, flying through rain, and stormy conditions, it’s quite exhausting. The landing at Horn Island required a bit of concentration, as the wind is blowing with about 25 to 30 kt. partly x-wind on the main runway.
We made it, we arrived at our second turn point, Horn Island .
At the airport, we arrange rooms in a resort, and I have planed a rest day here anyway, as I thought it would be nice up here, and Don definitely need a rest day. Otmar is fine, I’m ok, but I always wanted to fly up here, so here we are, and I’m looking forward for a grilled fish for dinner, and a swim in clear, warm water.
We used the rest day for relaxing, we took the ferry to Thursday island, had a swim in the crystal clear water of the Torres straight, great lunch, and a coffee in a bar, and went back to the airport, to refill, pre flight check the planes properly and make them ready for the next big trip. The rain left some marks on the propeller, but it’s still safe to use them. As the rotor blades are extruded aluminium, there is no erosion, or damage whatever. That’s the big bonus compared to fiberglass rotor blades!
We couldn’t find anything wrong on the machines, nothing to fix. That’s why I love this MT-03. Turn the key, and go, every day!
Our airport shuttle is waiting in front of the resort in the dark.
In the bus are people from the town, a teacher, and a few kids. They where coming with us to have a look at our aircraft, and wanted to say goodbye. Very friendly people up there. Thanks for the hospitality.
Our plan was to fly the Cape York down to Burketown.
Weather and wind permitting. The 1050 kilometer could be done within a day.
As we arrived at the airport at 0545 it started to rain again. Great! We had to wait for a half an hour before it cleared again. We got ready, and took off, heading south. Escaping from the island, before the wind picked up again, and more showers developed.
We started with a easterly wind, as expected, but the little hop over the water went quite quick. Crossing the water at 1000 ft, enough time to get organized in case of a engine failure.
I did not know anything about what to expect, but the western side of the Cape York surprised me big time. We had a 800 km beach in front of us. Flying in 300 ft, our min. legal height, we wander along the beach, saw plenty of sharks, sting rays, mantas, even crocodiles getting a feed in the sea. That was a amazing flight. I forgot the wind, as this was not a issue, to busy to watch the wild life, and the pure nature.
Only one lady walked along the beach, straight towards a crock.. Apart from that, just nobody in vicinity.
After about 5 hours flight along the beach, which is not boring at all! we landed at Kowanyama. The people at the airport have never seen gyros before, so they where quite interested in our flying machines.
Finally we’ve got some fuel, stored our life jackets, and the survival equipment back in our gyros, had a rest, and went on towards Burketown.
It was nice and warm, so we kept going just in shirt, and shorts. What a feeling, after all the rain, cool temperatures, low clouds. Now in perfect meteo conditions, just floating along the never ending beach. We say goodbye to the Gulf of Carpentaria and head for Burketown. Just an hour before sunset the 4 of us landed safely at the airport.
As usual, refilling the gyros, cleaning the rotor blades, propeller, check everything, and walk in town for a dinner. Don reckons he had his best barramundi fillet, I had a big steak, and after 2 beers, Otmar and I walked back to the airport for a nice sleep. No more dramas with rain, as it’s nice and dry here. The mosquitoes where a bit annoying, but after 1050 k’s flying, and a good feed, I’m so tired that I don’t care anymore.
First twilight, and we could here Don, and Mick arriving at the airport.
Living like a bird, wake up at sunrise, fly all day long, and get back to sleep when the sun is down. Birds don’t have a bad life!
Quickly we get organized, getting the sleeping bags, the little (useless) one man tent, and the mattress strapped on the gyro, a muesli bar for breakfast, a drink of water, and we where ready for our longest leg so far, 650 km.
Elliot was the destination, and if we don’t face headwind, we would continue to Halls Creek, just another 630 k’s!
The area over the Barkley tablelands changed dramatically. From flat bush land, to rocky stone formations, dark red soil, flash green trees, with yellow bark, to green grassland. Then it became quite boring, playing yo-yo, up and down, once you fly through a big thermal, boosts you up to 6500 ft, (what a ripper!) freezing cold, minutes later, big sink, and you think you go for a straight landing. Last hour inbound Halls Creek, the landscape changed again, and we went down low, to fly between the hills. The landscape was like a dreamland, made in Hollywood . Soft, round hills, creeks, rivers. Unreal! After landing in Halls Creek, we all had a huge smile in our face, tired, but also overwhelmed by the landscape we just went through. We made over 1200 k’s on that day! My eyes, and Mick complained as well, where stinging, as we went through a bit of smoke, and I guess the rapid change from the coastal moister in the air, to the dry dessert air made them so sore.
Don was happy to get out of his sattle, as his bum got soar. ..and we have not even done 1/3 of our trip…
Standard refueling action, easy with the carnet cards, and than a short walk to the next pub.
As we where sitting down, enjoying a drink, we have just realized that we have crossed the Northern Territory in one flight! From Queensland , straight to W.A! That was the reason why we had to wait for our dinner, as we went through the time zones.
After a great and well deserved steak, Otmar and I went back to the airport, and Don and Mick booked in for a room, as usual!
Everything began normal. We pre flight checked the planes, strapped the equipment in, and started the engines. I was first on the runway, even that was normal. Prerotate the rotors, spin them up to 200, about 3000 on the engine, disengage the prerotator, stick back, and gently add power. By the time the nose wheel gets off the ground we need to apply full throttle. My engine started to hesitate at full throttle, rev up, and down. I had to abort the take off, turned around, and tried again, as there was no wind on the runway. Same story.
We found out that at full throttle the carby bowls went empty. So, lack of fuel! We checked the fuel filter, replaced it, and tried again.
With our 790 km leg, over the most isolated desert in Australia to Telfer, I wanted to have a 100 % working engine. Each of us carried about 5 liters of water, but if you sit in the middle of the dessert, you’ve got a real problem!
Another test run went ok, and we thought we fixed the problem with the fuel filter.
All 4 in the air, on course, not even 10 mins after take off, same story. We had to turn around, back to the airport.
Obviously, we did not fix the problem.
We need a fuel pump!
We made it back to the airport, where we went and had a look what’s available in Halls Creek. We found a Repco, and he had one electrical fuel pump on the shelf. Exactly what I needed!
About 150 bucks later, I’m proud owner of a second fuel pump, with all necessary hose clamps, and connections. The MT-03 is prewired for a second fuel pump, so it’s not a drama to get it installed.
A quick test run, a test flight, and everything went smooth.
I have to admit, it is a strange feeling to head for the dessert, and hoping the fuel pump will work properly.
In the meantime we called Bert Flood, Rotax importer, and organized 2 fuel pumps to Shark Bay . 2 days from Melbourne to the remote west coast. A Challenge!
Toping up our fuel tanks, as one of the 3 useless things for a pilot is fuel in the fuel bowser!
The Great Sandy Desert surprised me. I expected sand, sand, sand, but it was green, and beautiful. The most beautiful desert I have ever seen!
Our 5 kt tailwind in the beginning turned in a 5 kt headwind at the end. But with 8 hours, plus reserve fuel on board, it was not a problem at all. Due to the late take off, we could fly only the one leg.
The biggest surprise on this trip was Telfer. We landed at the private airstrip of the second biggest goldmine in the world. We had radio contact with incoming traffic, a 4 engine jet aircraft, on 20 miles final. They fly the workers in and out, plenty of traffic. Not really expected, here in the middle of nowhere. We came out of the dessert, and landed here in the oasis. Huge swimming pool, palm trees, and plenty of cabins. About 1500 beds. Keith, the manager of the Mine gave us a warm welcome, and offered us a bed, eat, and drink as much as we liked. We made jokes, about staying here for a couple of days. That was paradise! Thanks big time Keith!
Just before sunrise we lined up on the runway, ready for another big day. Destination: Canarvon, via Paraburdoo.
We took off over the huge mining hole of Telfer, and enjoyed the sunrise over the desert in about 1000 ft. what an amazing scenery! Too hard to describe.
Our luck with tailwind is ancient history, and we’re facing headwind all day long. But dingoes, emus, plenty of creamy colored kanguruhs, make it worth while to be here, and how lucky we are, to see this part of Australia from a perspective, probably nobody has ever seen before. In a fixed wing, I would fly in 10,000 ft, and not a foot lower, a small helicopter does not have the endurance, and certainly, I wouldn’t like to sit in a trike and get bounced around in more or less severe turbulence! We have the best aircraft for this trip, to see, enjoy and feel these great landscapes!
The area, the Great Sandy Desert got dryer as we went west. The 500 mm of rain a couple of weeks before, at Telfer did not water this ground. The dessert is full of wildlife, like wild horses, dingoes, emus, kanguruhs, and birds, like eagles. The biggest fun was “surfing’ the sand dunes, following the up and downs of the dunes. Quite funny, they appear suddenly, and stopped after about 60 km again. Like somebody just put them there..
The closer we came to Canarvon, the more headwind we had to face. The last hour was just fighting the elements, only one thing in mind: arrive! After 8 hours in the cockpit we where looking for the planed rest day at Shark Bay .
Don has blisters on his bum, and is looking desperately to get some more foam in between the seat, and his bum.
Not only the bum’s get soar, flying for over 8 hours in a cockpit, over partly boaring country is a big mind-thing as well. You have plenty of time to think about your life, make plans for the future, try not to fall asleep, and certainly, you can’t walk the isle up and down to move your legs…
A walk in town after landing is always nice. Along the harbor, and I can smell the grilled fish for miles. Don organized some foam, Mick was happy to get one as well, and I shared one with Otmar. Cut in half was just the right size. Don wanted to cut the leg over water, and fly down south, instead of going the direct way over water to the island. I have convinced him, as it was not 100 miles as Don thought, just about 40 miles over water. The detour would have made another 400 km. Far too long. And we had permission from CASA, radio contact with Melbourne Centre, had all our survival gear, and the machines where running fine as usual. So, no problem!
The west coast is another windy place! Not just the north of Australia , no, here it’s the same thing. We took off just before 0700, after sunrise.
The wind was not really a big help, as we started with a south easterly with about 20 kt. The time over water, a two to three meter sea below us took not as long as we expected. Arriving north of Dirk Hartog Island , the flying straight south was great. The sun shining on the east side of the sandstone cliffs displayed its most beautiful side.
Another half an hour, and we approached west point. We can’t go any further west!
I tried to film the gang, and we turned east for Shark Bay .
After a 3 hour flight, seeing lots of water, empty beaches, turkey’s water, and coral riffs we landed at Shark Bay airport. That’s it for today, and the next day will be another rest day.
Don is smiling, his extra foam works perfect, like a dream, he said.
Some photos in front of the terminal, and filming the boys, paid our A$ 22 landing fees, before we pushed the gyros to the parking area.
Tie down is not necessary, as it would need a major storm to blow the machines over.
A man walked towards us, a little parcel in his hand. The fuel pumps from Rotax. Great, big thanks to Bert Flood. In 2 days from Melbourne to shark bay. I call this customer service! Thanks a lot!
We need the 1.5 rest days to recharge our batteries. Once we are airborne again, there is no rest day planned, until we are safe and sound back home.
The weather will become a issue, as we travel south east, and this time a year, that’s not promising.
I organized a lift to the airport. The owner of the resort was kind enough to get us out there at 0600. The local taxi won’t start before 0800, and that was far too late for us.
The driveway to the airport was locked, so we had to jump the fence, and walk the 2 k’s to the strip.
Great morning exercise gets the blood circulation going!
The sun was up when we got airborne and we had to face headwind again. We tried a few different heights; sometimes it was better up high, than down low. The wind got variable later on, so we had to plan on 5 kt headwind. Always better to stay at the safe side.
A quick topping up the fuel tanks at a road house, about 130 k’s south west of shark bay. There is a airstrip just across the road. Easy to land at the strip, taxi to the gate, and push the light gyros, empty weight about 245 kg, to the fuel station. I prefer regular unleaded fuel, as avgas has lots of lead, and the engine doesn’t like the lead at all. We fill the tanks right up, drinking a ice chocolate, push back the planes to the airstrip, close the gate, and ready to go again. Laverton is the goal for today. 940 km.
We overflew the Mines at Mekatharra before the landing. Otmar arrived as first, like most of the times, I was second, Don third, and Mick brought up the rear. I rang the refueller, then I saw Mick pulled over at the taxi way, stopped the engine, got out of his gyro, and walked around it. So, I wandered over, and asked him what the problem was. Flat tyre. Bloody cat heads…
We pushed the gyro of the taxi way, organized a jack, and a compressor, and changed the tube. I could not find any spikes in the tyre, but obviously there was one left from the airstrip near to Shark Bay . At the bowser, the tyre went down again. But before we lose half the day, we pumped Mick’s tire up, and he took of straight away. Landing at 0 airspeed is a real advantage of a gyroplane. So, no worry’s, keep on going.
Landing at Laverton about 1 hour before sunset. I tried to get some fuel organized, but the man from the council mentioned that there is no fuel available anymore, and he was not really helpful to get some organized. Mick’s flat tyre needed to get fixed as well. With the tyre, and the tube in hands we walked into town. The pub is normally the best place to get onto people we need. Fixing the tube, and getting fuel. The lady behind the bar was dressed in a red corset, and a sort of a slip. Mining town… I didn’t really expect this. But the steak was awesome, and Mick thought he has the problem sorted. Next morning (Sunday!) at 0700 a bloke is going to fix his tyre, and gets us some fuel organized.
Otmar and I went back to the airport, as usual, and Don and Mick booked in the pub, as usual.
Otmar and I have plenty of time at the airport to go through all options. The problem is that we might not get fuel here, and we have our longest leg in front of us. 700 k’s to Eucla, straight through the Nullarbor Plains of the Great Victorian Desert .
One option was to fly down to Kalgoorlie , but it’s not really on our track, as it brings us back east. We still had enough fuel for the 300 km. The other option was to get some fuel here somehow. There is always a way, if you try hard enough.
When Don and Mick turned up at the airport, Don reckoned he will fly to Kalgoorlie , or sit here another day, and wait for tailwind.
Don didn’t look like he wanted to fly that day at all. That was not only my impression, Otmar, and Mick had the same feeling. But we started together, so we should try to stay and finish together.
Without a huge discussion, we changed planes, and flew to Kalgoorlie , over the salt lakes, fantastic colors; they changed rapidly from red, brown, white, and yellow. The detour was almost worth while to do it!
On the way, I made a radio broadcast, that we will refill in Kalgoorlie , and go ahead as far as we could. No rest. Don’s response was a laugh over the radio.
We would run out of daylight, before we would run out of fuel, and as we came closer to the main highway, with plenty of little airstrips, it would have not been any danger.
We started the engines, taxied to the runway. A fairly long taxi way. As we lifted off, Don was still at the bowser, no engine running, but he was in the gyro. I tried to contact him on the radio, no response. Mick didn’t know whether to take off with us, or wait for Don. Mick and Don stayed together most of the time. Mick decided to go ahead, as he needed to go home, as well as Otmar.
Mick said, he had contact to Don, and he is coming. Good, no technical problem, so we can go ahead. Later at night, I called Tina, as Dons phone was not switched on, due to battery problems, to find out what the problem was. A problem with the route in his gps. Mick was flying with us since day one without a gps. Don decided to stay, and work out his GPS. I guess Don didn’t want to push his Red Devil as hard as we did. A more relaxed flight, not always close to VNE suited Don much better. Fair enough. Otmars return flight to Germany came closer, and we had to go as fast as possible to make it back in time.
We made it almost to Eucla, but due to early sunrise, and flying against the sun we landed on an airstrip, about 100 k’s short.
It was windy, and quite cool, but I had my best sleep on this trip.
Mick couldn’t sleep well and was up early. He woke us up, and we had plenty of time for a muesli bar. The steak from yesterday was swapped for a bacon and eggs breaky at Mundrabilla Roadhouse, a few k’s west of Eucla.
Landing at the airstrip, taxi to the gate, push the gyros over the cattle grid, which is quite easy with the big tyres, push it across the road, into the fuel station. Refuel, and order brekky. I tried another time to get onto Don, no luck, his mobile was switched off, and I couldn’t get Margie.
We kept on going to Ceduna. Half an hour after take off, it started to rain. As we were pushing the gyros really hard, between 75 and 80 kt indicated just to get a 60 kt groundspeed, it killed our propellers. The rain couldn’t stop us from doing some filming over the Great Australian Bight . The cliff is so huge! Fantastic, and to hard to describe if you fly low over the top, and jumping off the cliff. I did this for about an hour, on top, and down the cliff. Unreal. What a playground!
On a little shortcut over a lagoon, a big white shark floated under the water surface. Not the place for an engine failure.
It’s alright to fly through a bit of rain; the pilot is well protected from wind and rain, but after 4 hours flying through heavy rain. That’s too much. My 10 year old flying suit was not really waterproof. I was wet, and cold. I needed a hotel today!
We fixed the propeller leading edges in our little chalet. Araldite does a fantastic job to fix the leading edge.
The weather forecast for the southern part was shocking. I skipped the plan to wait here for Don, due to the weather forecast, and Don seemed to be happy on his own, with plenty of x-country experience now. The rain cleared, just a few clouds on the horizon, the usual headwind, and off we go towards Broken Hill. Away from the rain.
Jumping over the hills, and a quick fuel stop at Port Augusta. Then it was pretty boring country all the way to Broken Hill. It gets dryer and dryer, but at the time of arrival at Broken Hill, a few raindrops fallen. It never rains here. It looks like we’re attracting rain!
We got a lift in town from a fellow gyro pilot who was in fact an instructor.
A nice, last dinner together at the restaurant on top of the mine, with a brilliant view over the town.
Flying today is just to make kilometers. Semi dessert around Wilcannia is as interesting as a TV without reception. The goal is the Skyranch. One more fuel stop in Cobar, and the last 4 hours went like an old chewing gum.
We formed a formation, like an arrow when we arrived at the Skyranch. About 30 people turned up to welcome us, local media, Cheryl, the former Mayor of Manilla, friends, students, neighbors, and important people like Vic and Tom from the Royal Hotel, and Godfrey who organized the Paragliding World Champs this year.
After 12,000 kilometers in 13 flying days, we where pretty much buggered, and exhausted. The champagne tasted really good, and Vicky served us cheese and crackers.
We had a fantastic trip, a once in the lifetime experience. Thanks to Otmar, Mick and Don for accompanying me on this journey.
Life is too short to do boring things, and I hope with this trip we have demonstrated that you can fly x-country in a gyroplane. It needs a bit of planning, get your gear organized, and stop talking. Make it happen.
Congratulations to Don Mcintyre, he finished the 4 points. Don decided not to cross Bass Strait on his own. Too much risk for very little additional reward.
Don is now the first person who flew a Gyroplane around Australia .
Special thanks to:
Tina ewig, my wife, for her endless support
Margie McIntyre, for our weather report, SAR times, organization, and internet updates.
Telfer Goldmining for they’re warm welcome, and for the use of they’re fantastic facilitys.
details of the flight:
Total Flight Distance: 12,000 km
Average speed: 70 kt.
Total Flight time, : 99 hours
Shortest leg: 280 km
Longest leg: 700 km
Manufacturer: Auto-Gyro Europe
Importer: Willi Ewig, Manilla SkyRanch, firstname.lastname@example.org , www.skyranch.com.au
Rotax 912S, 100 hp.
3-blade fixede pitch propeller
Max take off weight : 450 kg
Max cruise: 80 kt.
Endurance: 8:00 at 65% powersetting (4700 rpm)