Saturday, September 30, 2006

Save the environment...

The segway is of course a fantastic invention for Americans who are too fat or lazy to tolerate any form of exercise. For people who are perfectly capable of walking it is an interesting concept (presumably you start off not needing it, but as you eat more fatty food and use the segway instead of walking you will need it more and more). But what if you could have something just as practical that needs no electricity!  Gets loads of attention from your peers, save your shoes.

Bill the Kiwi showed me this and it is priceless....

Dry Glory

This morning about 30mins before dawn the first dry glory came through. The disturbance was obvious in the pre dawn sky and a couple of very weak and patchy roll clouds appeared and then vanished as quickly. The ground was bone dry again today, none of the Hang Glider pilots bothered to fly, the novelty of a pretty sunrise wears off quickly when you factor in the early start required...

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Fading Glory

Today the Glory just crossed the coast but then faded quickly. The ground was dry this morning and there was a strong Easterly that helped break up the cloud.

I only noticed this photo last night, taken from the magnificent Stemme, that's me trying my best to stay in front of the cloud last Saturday. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Yesterday the Glory stopped off the coast. Today it also died out to sea and was much less defined. Today above 200ft there was a howling Easterly,  35knots at height. I had a quick flight just to check that my repairs to the prop brake were OK and they were. The forecast is for a SE change by Friday, this probably means an end to the current run of MGs, although I would not be totally surprised if we still ended up getting something.
BillO and Scotty and too many others for me to name arrived last night and today they were out on the salt flats and aerotowing at dawn.
I am waiting for some mail to arrive and then I will probably head in the general direction of Canungra where the comps start for me, I can't wait!

Monday, September 25, 2006


I can't believe that I am 34 Years old and I only just found this out...


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Rolf is a male given name. It originates in the Germanic name Hrolf, itself a contraction of Hrodwulf, a conjunction of the stem words hrod ("renown") + wulf ("wolf"). The Old Norse cognate is Hrólfr.

Motor Sail Planes

If you want to know what impressed me so much here it is. Sorry about my lousy guess at spelling it in the last post.

The amazing Stemme:

Distant Glory

Today the Motor sail plane guys had to fly 80NM out to sea to intercept the Glory. I would have assumed that the cycle had ended because it was not visible from the coast. They managed to surf the dry (invisible) Glory lift all the way to Mornington Island and then were able to glide back to the coast, quite an amazing soaring flight over water. I always figured that when I got older and fatter and could no longer run it would be a natural progression for me to get into sail planes, (Of course I am not suggesting that everyone who flies gliders is old and fat and incapable of running)  however having been given a few opportunities to fly in these awesome machines by the motor glider boys I have decided at the first opportunity to get myself into the GFA and get qualified. It certainly does not mean any less flying in Hang Gliders, but I can see where the 2 sports converge now and the sheer exhilaration that is thermalling or soaring is the same for me regardless of type.
I have something to aim for now, a Stemmie would be a real weapon and the Swiss flag would be extra special for me ;-)
There is no hardware store in town and I had no luck down at the tip, but the locals are so friendly they are going to let me cannibalise a couple of their bicycles to get the parts I need to fix my prop brake. It really is a friendly little town.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Online Photo Storage

Finally Google have their Picassa based online storage service up and running. I love picassa. It's as good as iPhoto on the Mac Platform and a must have if you choose to use XP. Currently I use Flikr for my online photo storage and I pay them around $25USD per year for virtually unlimited storage (2GB per Month). The interface is not bad but I think the google one is better. Also I find that the picassa client uploads much faster than the Flikr one.
For the same price Google offer only 6GB a year or just 500MB a month. Based on my last few months that would be pretty close for me.

You can find my Online Picassa Photos here:

At the moment I am just testing, but I would be interested to hear what people think.

And at the same time I will keep uploading to Flikr here:  (Notice the new easier URL)

Today the MG was very weak and fizzled over the cemetery. I slept in and watched it roll in at a very tardy 8.30am (hey, it's Sunday and I need a rest) the Motor Glider boys were up at dawn as usual and spotting new and interesting phenomenon as they do each time they go up. The more you study the MG the more questions as opposed to answers that you seem to end up with..

The Glider boys landed their machines out on the salt flats and we had some fun with my remote control sail plane. It was quite amusing to watch incredibly competent glider pilots repeatedly crashing the model. It's nice to know that I am not the only one who can't fly everything the first time I try.

I'm still looking for a spare prop for my Explorer, but at least the pressure is off now that I have had my MG magic. The legendary BillO and others will be here in a couple of days, probably around the same time the sail plane guys leave. Once my new base bar gets here I will be able to fly my C2 again, I am really not that comfortable with using the power harness with it, but perhaps I might be able to persuade someone to give me an aerotow up to the Glory.

As I was going backwards into the cloud yesterday and I was desperately trying to start my engine I initially thought that the automatic decompression thingy had failed because it was so hard to pull. After a couple of pulls I remembered the prop brake was still on and I was in such a hurry to release it I pulled the handle off completely, meaning I have no prop brake until I fix it. I think that considering how much more stable a hang glider is with the engine off I was much better off that it didn't start anyway, its not like I would have been able to get out of the cloud once it caught me...

Tomorrow will be another day off for me as there is not much point trying to soar a glory with a windmilling propeller behind you, and I certainly don't want the bloody 2 stroke racket behind me the whole time.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Morning Glory Video Clip

Here I am with the engine still on and in strong lift in front of the cloud. This was the moment when it changed from being a big dark scary thing that was bearing down on me to a soft, fluffy thing that was gently pushing me along in strong lift.

I got about 100 great photos, uploading now, check Flikr later today.....

I think I deserve a beer now.

After landing. The first cloud has passed and the second is coming! Posted by Picasa

Surfing the Glory Part 4 (starts lower down the page)

So I was riding the cloud and having a ball. Abundant gentle lift in front and above the cloud. You can tell how easy it was up to this point because I managed to take 142 photos during the flight and you cannot fly a HG easily one handed in rough air. I was getting further and further from Burketown, but really I didn't care, even if I had to walk back through the bush for a whole day, it would be worth it for this flight. The cloud was starting to become uneven at the leading edge, in places small holes would appear and then fill back in again, probably related to the terrain it was covering I guess. I was still tracking as far left as I could and staying in front of the cloud. As the terrain under me became more and more tree covered I tracked harder and harder left to stay closer to a landing option. It was about at this point that I stopped taking photos as it became obvious I could have the cloud or a safe landing  place, but probably not both. I was tracking left  and about in the middle of the front of the leading edge  when the cloud pounced.  Suddenly It was cold and I knew exactly what that meant. The cloud very slowly and gently enveloped me, I was desperately trying to start my bloody 2 stroke so I could perhaps get out again. I gave up once I was inside the cloud. I knew I was going down fast and just held the bar to my knees and waited. I was only whited out for about 20secs and popped out directly under the cloud. I had just enough time to unzip the harness and get the legs down and as luck would have it I was directly over a gravel road. I could see the second cloud only a minute away so I landed as quickly as I could and had all my weight on the base bar when the gust front hit. I landed on a small gravel road, on a cattle grid with barbed wire fence running down each side, and perfectly too!
Once the gust front from the second and third waves had passed I took off again and flew back to the airport. I had to stay low to get good ground speed, but if I was not 100% comfortable with the Power Harness before, well I certainly am now. I landed where I took off back at the airport and packed up. Wow.
I only used about 10mins of fuel to get into the Glory and was lucky with just a  cross wind on the way home so I was actually able to self retrieve! How cool is this sport!
Warm, Damp and very Gentle. Posted by Picasa

Surfing Glory Part 3 (Go down the page for the first parts)

Even though I was flying as fast as I could to stay out of it and it was obviously a very powerful cloud, it was very smooth. The theory is that when the cloud forms the energy is concentrated according to its height, so the higher clouds that we have had previously move much slower. I was feeling pretty comfortable with my position in front of the cloud, but was really starting to get bothered by the lack of roads or landing options directly beneath me. The way I was looking at things I was not entirely sure how long the cloud would tolerate my presence and if I lost the lift I was in I was going to be on the ground within a minute, possibly landing in a gust front too,so I wanted a nice clear area and preferably a road too.  I decided my priority was staying over a safe landing area, rather than getting maximum distance and so I started tracking left to get closer to the one gravel road that I could see. I was flying the fun at a speed that meant I was slowly losing height and staying in front of the cloud, or I could slow down and go up over the cloud. I decided that going over the top would be a bad thing, I knew that a couple of hang glider pilots have been through the middle of it and survived so I figured this was the least bad option if I could not outrun it forever.
Several times the cloud caught me and then le me go again, the lift does extent into the cloud a fair way, I was accidentally whited out once and then flew back out the front of the cloud and kept going.
Surfing the Cloud! Engine Off and passing Burketown Airport. Posted by Picasa
Intercepting the cloud over the salt flats. Posted by Picasa

Surfing the Glory Part 2 (Go down the page for the start)

As I climbed up over Burketown it looked as though the cloud was almost stationary. It was only once I got within a few KMs of it, it suddenly seemed to speed up and grow in size. It became this huge, black ominous looking thing and I was level with the bottom of it. I changed course so that I could get more height before it caught me. It was about now that I realised how fast it was travelling over the ground, it was really moving. I rigged so fast today that I did not bother with the Sony Video camera under a wing-tip or any instruments or even any underwear. It was really seat of the pants flying. About 1km away from the cloud I could start to feel gentle lift, as I got closer to the cloud the lift continued to increase until I was flying with the bar to my knees, directly away from it and still going up.
As soon as I realised I did not need it any more I shut down the motor and braked the prop. The fun was just able to stay on the leading edge, I had about a 10kph speed advantage over the cloud. It quickly became obvious that the cloud was taking me into Tiger country and the nearest roads were disappearing off to my left. I started trying hard to work my way along the cloud to the left to keep the  road  in sight. It was interesting flying, the cloud would advance on me as I tracked left and as soon as the first wispy bits of cloud started to form around me I would change course to the same direction as the cloud and slowly get in front of it again.
As you can guess the first time the cloud started to form around me I was really interested to see whether it was going to let me go again.
Climbing over Burketown on my way to intercept the Glory Roll Cloud.
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Surfing on the Glory!

Today was the day. It almost was not though.
I have been getting up whilst it is still dark for too long now. I hate mornings and they physically hurt me, I am not at my best. But despite this I have been getting up and rigging my glider in the dark and damp because I knew it would be worth it eventually.
My back is probably my weakest part and I have been pretty rough on it lately. This morning when my alarm went off at 4.30am I felt lousy. I really did not want to get out of bed. I looked at the radar from Mornington Island and that showed nothing, I looked at the infra-red sat pic and that showed nothing. I went outside and there was some dew, but the humidity was only 85%, 5%  less than yesterday. I decided that my bed was a safe thing, the last few Glories have been very slow moving and have fizzled on the coast, this would probably do the same. I went back to sleep.
Around 6.30am Charles one of the Glider Pilots (he has the zemango (sorry about the spelling)) knocked on my door and said there was a glory
about to cross the coast at 35knots, he asked if I wanted to come and watch it pass over head at the cemetery. Bugger that, I want to fly it, not look at it. I sculled 2 cans of Red Bull and threw on the nearest clothes and raced out to the airport.
I rigged up the damp fun in daylight for a change and took off in Nil wind with the cloud visible perhaps 6 miles away. It was the fasted rig I have ever done, Charles reckoned it was less than 20mins from when he knocked on my door to when they watched me intercept the cloud over the cemetery.

I caught one!

Story and Video coming soon. I need to come down a bit first! Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 22, 2006

Not Today

Last night I had dinner at the pub and several beers as well. It did not make getting up at 5am any easier today. Despite not feeling crash hot (or probably because of it) I actually beat the sailplane guys out the the airport and the fun was almost rigged when they got there. The MG was closer in this morning, but still moving very slowly and it died as it hit the coast. I watched it vanish and then packed everything back up without flying. Some evil spammer somewhere is using my email address as his reply-to address, this morning I have had to delete 600 messages from Mailwasher and the like telling  me I am a naughty spammer and to stop. People are so stupid, if the message is obviously spam with an attached virus, why would you bother to reply and create more spam?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Video from today

I gaffa taped my Sony DVD camera to a wing-tip this morning.

Watch Here:

Todays Glory

Just before it faded at the coast... Posted by Picasa

More Glory

Today it was moving faster and it came in further. Still not far enough for me, but a trike pilot (912) and the usual suspects with their Motor Gliders went out to see & intercept it and had a great time. I did get some photos this time as it was only about 10 miles away from me when it died. Hopefully there is a pattern here and tomorrow will be stronger still and make it over the salt flats where I can safely intercept it..

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

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Questions and Anwsers

I have been asked to explain some details as I assume that people reading this know too much!

 I currently have 2 Hang Glider wings both made by Airborne in Australia, a Fun which is a slow flying wing, easy to T/O and land but very slow flying so you cannot penetrate if there is much headwind. I also have a Climax 2 which represents almost the height of performance from a flex wing glider, the newer flex wings probably perform slightly better but to step up another level you would have to go to a rigid wing. I am at the top of the weight range for both wings, simply more weight means a higher stall speed which means faster T/Os and Landings. Faster is obviously more exciting, this is not necessarily a good thing when the wings stall speed exceeds your ability to run. The Climax is already a little tricky in Nil wind as a glider but with the addition of power it is a real handful. From experience I doubt my ability to run fast enough to T/O successfully in Nil wind.

You can read a great account of the MG here, its well explained and has some good science in it, it is also about someone doing similar things to me..

and here is another account with some great photos...

This is a Trike

If anyone does have any technical questions feel free to drop me a line and ask.

Its hot and humid and the sunset was very pretty, everything is damp, its going to be a big one tomorrow, I can't wait. I have a tank of Avgas ready to go and the fun is rigged up and staked down at the airport, its only going to take me 10 mins to get airborne in the morning. I will be ready.

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Glory Days

Have started!

This morning we had our first MG, unfortunately it vanished about 20 miles off the coast, but the Motor Sailplane guys picked it up on the other side of Sweers Island and were on to the tertiary wave by 8.30am.

My alarm went off at 5am this morning and as usual I went outside to check the wind speed and direction and the dew. For the first time there was a little dew on the car windows, also there was almost no wind, and the little bit was coming from the correct direction. I raced out to the airfield and set-up the fun & power harness. I took off just after the Motor Sailplane guys and just at first light. From the moment I got in the air I started noticing strange things, my climb rate would drop to nothing for a minute and then it would shoot up to 400ft/min and it kept doing this all the way up to 6000ft where I ran out of fuel. Also my ground speed was alternating between +20kph and -20kph with the decrease in ground speed co-inciding with the extra lift. My average climb rate just kept getting better as I got higher which made me think either I was running a bit lean or there was some strange wave phenomena in the area.
This morning after I rigged and did my pre-flight I realised that I only had half a tank of fuel and no more close by, I had my Sony Camera, but not the battery. That was the first time I realised the chances of getting a MG today were much higher than I initially thought.
It took me 38mins to climb to 6000ft and run out of fuel, I then enjoyed 20mins of peace and quiet floating around trying to stay in the lifting air.
I got some great sunrise shots, the MG is in the background but it was still 40+ miles away so you can't see it with this pretty low quality camera...
MG's always come in groups so it looks good for tomorrow now, just a little more moisture and it should make it inland so I can catch a ride.
Yippee, things are getting interesting here now!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Useless Wind

From the South all day. Too strong and thermic to be able to play with my remote control sailplane or my hang glider and power harness. What to do in Burketown?
I drove out to lawn hill yesterday, its a couple of hours to get there on gravel, and an hour and a half to get back once you have an idea what is around the next corner. I'm sure its a fascinating place for someone who studies fossils, but I prefer to read concise accounts of how hot and dusty it was where they found the fossils, rather than find out first hand.

I am hoping the winds might drop off this evening, the first day I get with light winds higher up I am looking forwards to seeing how high I can get on one tank of fuel, obviously i want a day when I am not getting blown downwind by a 35knot breeze like the last time I flew. These strong southerlies do not bode well for a Glory any day soon, however I am the first to admit I don't understand it enough to be really surprised if one does come through on a day I didn't think it would.

Jamie tells me that Billo and the other HG/Trike pilots are heading up later this week, they should be able to bring the new basebar and upright for the C2 as well. I really need another prop for an explorer power harness, not mine as it happens, but if I had been less fortunate I could easily be needing one at the moment. The only place I have been able to source the prop from so far is Bolly here in Australia. Since the people that made the Explorer and also the hub for the centre of the prop have gone out of business it is up to Bolly to make the hubs now. I appreciate that it takes time to make these things from scratch and there are always delays, but it's been two weeks away since late July now. I am a reasonably patient person, but I feel bad for Matty who has not been able to fly his power harness without a prop during this time. Perhaps I am being unfair, but because I have been getting the same 2 weeks ETA from Bolly for 8 weeks now I am losing faith that it is actually under way and likely to arrive soon. My biggest fear is that I am unfortunate enough to do a prop whilst I wait for the Glory and then have none when it comes through, heck even a cheap $80 mexican wooden prop will do as a spare. So I am looking for alternative prop suppliers, if anyone knows of one or has a spare explorer prop they want to sell, let me know.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Just Morning

Every morning the guys with the Motor Sailplanes have been up and ready to T/O at first light. I have felt a little ashamed every morning as I watch them leave, even though if I thought there was even a small chance of a Glory I would be out there too.

To be honest conditions have been very stable since I have been here, every morning looks the same, as do the general patterns in the day and night. I may not know what it looks like the night before a Glory, but I have a 100% record for calling the days when nothing comes through.
So anyway, this morning I decided to get up and put in the effort. The Sailplane guys were surprised to see me at the airfield in the dark and even more surprised when I started rigging the fun in the dark. "You're not actually going to commit aviation this morning?" was the typical comment.
As the sun came up over the horizon I took off with a small crown of spectators watching and climbed up to 300ft and watched my groundspeed decay. By the time I was around 1000ft I was getting blown backwards, there was about 25knots of wind up there and I could choose to come down and go forwards or go up and go backwards or remain roughly stationary in space.
I grew tired of looking down at the same spot after 15mins and landed. It really is all about going down wind in the fun!
I proved that I can at least function at that time of the morning and I need about 30mins from parking the car to T/O. I figure I then need 10 mins to get high enough to be able to catch the wave as it comes through. I am feeling quite comfortable about doing this with the fun. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Awesome Day

One of the Motor Glider guys here is called Richard  and is from Perth. Today he very kindly took me up in a glider that used to belong to him but now belongs to another nice chap called Charles. Richard was very patient as I blundered about the sky. I did manage a few good climbs and actually felt like I was doing a half reasonable job of staying in the last thermal.
 It is so very different from thermalling in a Hang Glider, but the same basic rules apply and there is the same magic to be found in finding lift and staying aloft with the help of rising air alone. Now that the C2 is U/S it does make the decision to fly the fun an easier one to make, to be honest after some thought I have decided to just enjoy the C2 as a pure glider, the power harness is a great way to get into the air, but even with the motor off the extra weight and drag penalty is too much for the little C2. Even though I am getting pretty comfortable with the Power Harness I would still rather pay for an Aerotow so that I can really enjoy my lovely Aeros harness and C2's performance once I am up there...
No sign of a Glory, I only know what it looks like here when you are not going to get one and we have had plenty of that with no change forecast..

Saturday, September 16, 2006


Today was really thermic. I should have not flown the C2, even the fun would have been a handfull.

I setup around lunchtime when the Motor Sailplane boys took off, watching them getting vaccumed up to 7000ft directly over the strip made me want some of the action.
As it turned out it took me 3 hours to rig the glider and power harness combo, it took so long because it was so thermic, even after hammering pegs into the ground and tieing the c2 down at each corner I still had to keep dropping everything and running for the nose wires each time a cycle came through. If the monster dusties were not warning enough I should have heeded the constant winds changes, from 15knots ESE to 15knots WNW depending on exactly where the thermal was relative to you. I was so aware of this as an issue that I put up about 20 wind streamers so I could watch the cycles come through and time my take-offs and landings.
The first couple of T/Os and Landings were pretty uneventfull, base bar style, a walk, trot, jog and then "Run Forrest Run" with full power leaving the ground with as much speed as possible.
Landings were base bar all the way and run faster.
My third T/O was completely nil wind, in between cycles. I even had a streamer on the nose wires and It was lifeless when I started my run, I was not even close to full power and just getting to the running as fast as possible stage when the right wing just dropped. I throttled off completely and managed to kind of keep the non flying wings levelish, but the nose dropped and the power harness pushed me through the A frame and an upright that was in the way. Mostly I was pissed off to be at the bottom of the heap of glider and harness and apart from re-openeing an old wound from Exmouth I did little damage. In trying to stop the wind from blowing away my C2 I too hurridly lay it flat and in the process destroyed one end of the base bar when I really only needed a new upright, Doh again.
It was pretty horrible in the air. After my first T/O which was into a cycle and an easy T/O into a nice breeze I found myself stuck in the sink at 100ft and with the bar to my knees to stay in control, it was the longest climb to 1500ft I have ever had and that was with the engine on and me trying to stay in lifting air. To say I got my arse kicked would be a huge understatement, it was scary up there. Landings were actually the easy part, with the prop braked and on the base bar. Posted by Picasa

More pain for the car..

A very nice gentleman accidentaly reversed his trailer into the Outback. Fortunately the rear window did not shatter, that would have been a problem. I told my insurers and will get it repaired, one day in the distant future when I have time. Posted by Picasa

Awning all

Whilst I was redecorating the interior of my caravan with a sledge hammer, during the delicate process of removing the floor, I found an awning for the caravan. Yesterday out of a mixture of boredom and curiosity I erected it.
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Thursday, September 14, 2006

How big is Burketown?

Not very huh! Posted by Picasa
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First fly in Burketown

Mostly just T/O and Landing practice. Did 6 circuits from where I took off on the salt flats and then had 3 40min flights until I ran out of fuel on the last one. It was the same fuel that has been cooking in the back of my car since Exmouth and you could feel that it was about 500RPM down on fresh fuel. I think I can scam some Avgas here, that should be much more interesting. It was quite thermic, the best climb rate I could sustain for a couple of minutes was 1800ft/min up, that was with the engine on because I did not want to upset the gliders balance by throttling off in such a fine climb. Worst sink was only 800ft down, but I experienced it right to the ground on a couple of the landings. Today I did all my T/O and landings on the base bar, my T/O technique has evolved to a low power run whilst I pick up speed and then full power as you T/O it feels much, much nicer than trying to get onto the uprights and there really is no point being on the uprights anyway now that I have got over the urge to flare and I run all the landings out. I actually discovered that with just a light breeze and holding onto the base bar alone it is easy to taxi as the glider carries the weight of the harness and you just have to steer. I think some roller-skates could be quite amusing if I can find some and a suitable flat surface to T/O from.
I'm feeling very confident with the fun and power combo now, It's time to grow up and master the Climax with power.
My caravan is ready to roll again, about 30 welds, 4 new leaf springs and countless rivets, screws and quantities of liquid nails and silicone later. I'm pretty confident it will last for a while. Its only now for the very first time since I have owned it that the door opens and closes easily, I suspect it was already quite damaged when I bought it. The motor glider boys are in town and have been getting up at 4am every morning chasing Glory, every morning I look at the Mornington radar and the grass and if there are no straight lines of clouds and no dew outside I just go back to sleep. I am not going to chase the Glory, it is going to come to me ;-)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Monday, September 11, 2006

Repairs underway

The car got a service and about on time too. I removed the caravan floor and some of the interior, it is easy to see the damage now. I am getting it welded tomorrow and then I can put the floor back in again.There is a warm change coming this week, could have the first MG soon. There were really weird patterns in the sky, cirrus I think being whipped around by high speed winds, there was even a line stretching from horizon to horizon at one point. The MG is the result of the shock wave created when the 2 sea breezes meet, or so I read today.  has some good information.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

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I arrived earlier this afternoon (Sunday). I got bored with the beaten track and so I took a shortcut through Hells Gate. Quite aptly named as it turns out, what I was expecting to be a gravel road turned into an interesting 4wd track complete with half a dozen river crossings. I can now call the previous owner of the caravan an idiot with good reason. He added a split system A/C unit and mounted the external half on a carrier he welded onto the back of the van. It had the effect (other than cooling the van when running of course) of adding more weight to the very rear of the caravan, I suspect this is why it is so exciting to tow. He welded 2 bits of box tubing onto a couple of the exiting floor supports running down the length of the caravan, he should have welded it to the actual chassis or something structural. The flexing of the A/C unit on the back basically broke the caravans back just over the axle. I noticed this in the middle of nowhere and had no choice but to continue to Burketown at a reduced pace. The caravan will need some welding and strengthening and some floor repair work before I can leave here. I also need a new leaf spring. The biggest pain is that everything is full of red dust, the only things not covered are the contents of the unopened cans that I have, although to be honest I won't be sure until I have opened them. I asked where the nearest hardware store was and was told Mt Isa, that's a 900Km round trip. I guess I will be visiting the local dump and looking to borrow an arc welder from someone local then....
I've been told that there are other flying people arriving tomorrow and that there won't be a MG for a few days.
I'm uploading pics to Flikr now....

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Last Day in Darwin

It almost was my last day here too. I spent the day doing all the stuff that I won't be able to do once I leave here. This afternoon I exited a shop and turned right to walk to my car and then on impulse walked into the shop on my left instead. As I opened the shop door there was a massive crunch behind me, an MR2 had driven straight off the HWY and into a huge steel power pole on the pavement. The power pole won, of the 2 occupants in the car the male was apparently deceased and the female was being removed with the jaws of life by the fire brigade when I left. It was about 12 feet behind me and exactly where I would have been if I had stayed with my original plan to walk back to the car, scary. It was a completely straight stretch of road with no other traffic involved, the speed limit there was 80kph. I dunno whether the speed limits are higher than their equivalent in WA or whether the drivers are just more aggressive or they do less enforcing of speed limits around here, but generally people do drive faster and there are more highly visible hoons who choose to completely ignore the speed limits or road traffic laws...
Tomorrow morning I head off in the general direction of N QLD. The first flyable location I find is where I plan to stop and fly.
Darwin is an interesting city, but even at this time of the year the humidity makes it unpleasant between 11am-5pm, it lovely the rest of the time. It makes me realise how much better I can put up with a dry heat, I hardly sweat at all in WA, here I am constantly soaked. I'm looking forward to hitting the road and not knowing where I will be this time tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Travel Plans

It's about 1500km from here to Burketown where I am hoping to fly the Morning Glory, that's marked as Stop 1 on the map below. Then it's another 2000+kms to canungra where the comps start (marked as End). I'm planning to leave Darwin in a couple of days and head towards Burketown. It would be 3 solid days of driving if I don't stop for anything, but I will probably do a little sight seeing, hopefully from the air. I am planning to be in Burketown for the last 2 weeks of September before moving on again.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Morning Glory

In case you have been wondering about my brazen references to the morning glory, here is an excellent clip from the guys who were there last year that should put your mind at peace.

I need to give the car an oil change and also replace the brake pads before I leave town, so that is my task for tomorrow. If the wind drops off as forecast I will get my evening fly tomorrow, from a nice grass strip I found just outside the class c airspace around the airport. Provided I stay below the class E airspace above me I don't need a radio.

Darwin is very alive, everything moves and eats or gets eaten. You get ?flocks? of sea eagles, perhaps 30 together ridge soaring or in the same thermal, then just for fun one will attack another and a game begins. They regularly barrel roll and loop and fall with their talons locked together in some kind of game.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Spitfire Dreaming...

Today started off relatively cool in temperature. I thought about flying from where I parked the caravan last night, but it would really have meant taking off from the road. This morning conditions were perfect with a light cool easterly blowing and about 6 octas of cloud cover keeping the sun at bay. I almost did, but the thought of a road train coming over the nearest crest just as I swung my legs out of the harness bothered me. If I at least had someone around to film my stupidity that would be a bonus, but no one wants to die in vain ;-)
Speaking of death, I heard in a pub tonight that Steve Erwin is no longer with us, apparently after spending his whole life baiting any dangerous living thing to try and kill him and being repeatedly saved by his deep understanding for animals (and bloody quick reflexes) he died whilst swimming after an allergic reaction to a sting ray gave him a heart attack. Now come on, if you really believe that someone is pulling the strings, you must also believe they think stuff like this is funny.

So anyway I kept driving, Bungles everywhere and other regular hills. I swear the wedgies are over a meter and a half tall when they stand at the side of the road. Forget huskies and snow, why hasn't someone figured out a way to pull a hang glider with large birds of prey. Mush Mush ha ha.

I repeatedly passed small helicopters at roadhouses and the like, but no large cleared areas that I could use to fly from.

A couple of hundred KMs out of Darwin I saw a sign indicating an abandoned WW2 airfield coming up on the left. It also said "Unserviced & Unmaintained Road" , being quick on the brakes and in the mood for a challenge I took the small gravel road. It got narrower which was not good, but then became mostly bitumen and potholes which was just fine. After a few KMs and just as I was starting to think about looking for a place to turn around I glimpsed a clearing through the scrub.

And Oh my God what a clearing, 5143 by 100 feet and black gravelled. There was no sign of any aviation activity, no refuelling drums or tyre marks or anything. The sign said it has remained unused since abandoned in 1940something.

It was just before 12 when I arrived, it was 36'C and really really really thermic. Every 10 mins a freight train comes rushing through sweeping thousands of leaves up into the air. The prevailing wind was a light left to right across the strip, but mostly it was causing the thermals to drift from left to right down the runway.
Not Dusties in the NT, but perhaps Leavies. Whatever you want to call them they still howl through and make you run for your glider when you hear them coming.

So I was assessing the situation, on the plus side I had a huge length of runway to take-off and land on, the negative there was that it was not into wind. It was really thermic, but then it is only winter/spring here and I love an angry 10,000ft day in WA so why not the NT? I figured that I fly at the height of summer in more southern latitudes so surely the northern latitudes could not be any worse? Then of course there is the last resort of rational thinking, suppose I lived right here, I would have to fly and get used to it. Then there was the lack of CDMA coverage, distance from the nearest main road, or any people at all. I guess if I really believed that I was not capable of doing this and surviving I would not be doing this, I like a bit of adventure but I am not suicidal.

So with all this in mind I set up the fun and the power harness. Twice I had to drop everything and run for the fun when the wind went tail as a cycle came through, just like anywhere else when its thermic. I got myself all set-up and put my sony camera on the centre of the runway to record my take-off and hopefully my landing.

I will upload the video to youtube shortly, if I can figure out how to edit this post I will also put the relevant photos in here as well, but failing that they will all be on Flikr soon.

As I already knew, it is hard to take-off and land in a crosswind, its easy to stay straight when you have speed but near trim the fun wants to turn left, no biggie though.
I took off in as close to Nil as I could get just after a cycle came through, initially I climbed well to about 75ft and then I hit big sink and just kept ploughing along in big sink with a zero rate of climb. As I watched the end of the runway coming up I really wanted more height before being forced to turn downwind to stay within glide of the strip. Just seconds before I was forced to turn anyway I hit something and it was all I could do to keep the nose down and stop the high wing from lifting any higher. As luck would have it I was in a huge thermal, wow if only you could climb at 1800ft/min without help from a thermal. Around 2000ft I shut down the motor and braked the prop and just enjoyed thermalling the fun. I was wondering how long it would take me to get to cloudbase when I looked down and saw that I had drifted a long way from the strip and I was getting blown down wind fast. This was the single most scary moment today, about 20 secs later I was calm again as the motor started on the first pull. Full power got me back over the airstrip at about 6000ft. Then it was time to shut off the motor and have some fun, a few gentle wingovers between thermals and some sightseeing. Sadly my canon camera did not record the first part of my flight, I was recording clips and photos like crazy until I noticed it just had card error on the screen. Autopilot on and I took the time to remove and re-insert the card and then it worked as well as it usually does.
I had initially wanted to make the most of the huge runway by leaving the prop braked and doing a low level high speed pass over the waiting sony. However when I got to that magic spot where it was time to pull the bar in and dive I found another powerful thermal right under me, I did some S turns to stay in position, neither gaining height or moving forward. It was rougher close to the ground and I was starting to come close to not enjoying this part, so I unbraked the prop and held the bar back as close to my feet as I could. I love the sound of the prop free wheeling behind you, I also love the immense drag it creates that enables you to just fall out of the sky on demand, it really is like having flaps or spoilers or a drogue shoot.
Anyway the landing was perfect, I was going to go over the camera with the prop braked horizontally originally but the spinning prop and a little help from the crosswind meant I veered left slightly.
In the end I flat packed the fun, it just seemed to get more and more thermic with faster and more vicious Leafies coming though. At one point one popped out of the trees upwind about 50M away and coming right for me, I just had time to unclip the nose wires and luff lines and dive onto the top of the sail, this was the last time today that my heart was racing, but as usual I got away with it.

I am in a caravan park in Darwin now, typing this.

I am reminded of the view from up high, trees, mountains, valleys, creeks, crocodile country. It was scary enough for me and I fly slow and can land in really small spaces if I have to, what must it have been like for the poor bomber pilots flying underpowered heaps during the second world war? No wonder there was such a high death by accident rate, you just could not be expected to survive a crash if you could not make the runway for any reason.

I'd love to be able to say that a Spitfire was the last thing to crash land at the strip and that I found it and I have the propeller and one of the wheels in my caravan as a souvenir, it would be a damn lie of course.

There are about 30 of these airfields scattered all over the area, I wonder how many I will be able to fly from?

Here is that video:


Is where I am at the moment, I should be in Darwin soon unless I find something to slow me down. There would have been some magnificent flying around the Bungle Bungles, but it was so hot and thermic and  the road was the only take-off and landing option and there was no mobile coverage for hundreds of KMs. Once I have built up more of a relationship of trust with my Power Harness I will be back. It does feel like I am heading towards civilisation again now and I am sure I will be able to find somewhere to fly from soon. Today there is high cloud that is keeping us at a cool 25'C at 9.30am, this time yesterday it was already 30'C.
Around here I guess perhaps they call  Tiger Country Croc Country instead, once more thing to land well clear of I guess!

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bye Bye Broome

If I had a VHF radio and was more confident with my radio calls I could fly around here, I am definitely coming back when I do have a VHF radio as I would love to see Broome from the air. For now though I have a long way to travel and only a short time to get there, so I must keep moving.
I am really hanging out for a fly. Yesterday afternoon the direction was perfect for cable beach, just the strength was lacking. At the moment here it is rough easterlies in the morning dropping off to a light westerly change mid afternoon, sadly not enough for dune gooning. There are some big cliffs north of here and they would be flyable, but I am not comfortable with flying a new site in marginal conditions, by myself and so far from anyone. Last night I met one of my clients from Perth in the queue for the burger van at 11.20pm, it's such a small world. I am getting ready to hit the road in a couple of hours, I'm not sure where I will be this evening..

Friday, September 01, 2006


I figured I should talk to a local airspace expert before trying to fly anything, I am sure that I could just slip under the radar, but small country towns being what they are and with CASA being famous for not having a sense of humour when it comes to airspace violations (wow is this the longest sentence ever or what!) I contacted the local Trike CFI and within minutes he was at my camp-site on his Harley. He tells everyone what a piece of shit the Harley is, I can only assume that he'd never owned one before, or spoken to anyone that had owned one, but that's beside the point. Charles is English, he spent 10 years driving around the world on a motorbike before he settled here. He hates flying, but loves teaching and so has found a way to marry the two here. It looks like an awesome lifestyle, tropical all year round and so much flying. Strange because his real passion is sailing not flying and given the choice he would rather be travelling anyway.

So it turns out there is 30NM of restricted airspace around the airport, I cannot enter this area without a VHF radio and I don't have one. However it starts at 500ft so if I fly below that I am clear of all other traffic and so should be fine. If the wind drops off to nothing again tomorrow afternoon I might have a look at Broome from the air...

If we get Easterlies again I will have a go at some of the E facing dunes around here. Its too early for the sea breeze, later in the year it would be possible to fly Cable Beach, that would be awesome..

I'm giving up with the gas fridge in the caravan it is too temperamental, I think now that I should have gone with another deep cycle battery and solar panel and a 12v fridge. The Car's CV's are all fine, the new noise is from the gearbox, it just gets lost in the rest of the racket from the gearbox when you speed up though.