Wednesday morning came along, and I’d made a few more decisions about the flight.
- I was going to initially go north rather than head straight for Charleville – This was primarily because both Amberley and Oakey military airspaces were expected to be activated, and if I flew 10 minutes north, I could skip the whole interaction with them. They are normally really good at accommodating GA aircraft, but with the proximity to Archerfield, it’s a pretty high-intensity exchange and establishment, and I thought I’d just save the mental energy for the long flight. (And I’ve never had to deal with Oakey before.)
- I had decided not to pack the camping gear, but I would most likely take my pillow and sleeping bag so that I had some creature comforts if I did end up sleeping in a terminal building or something that I wasn’t expecting.
Waking up on the morning a bit early with nervous energy, I quickly had OzRunways spit out the latest forecasts, NOTAMs etc, and printed them all out so I had physical copies, said goodbye to the cats, grabbed Grumpy Cat, and started off towards Archerfield,
I wanted to be off the ground by 8.30, and so I ended up at the plane super early—about 6.30 McDonald’s in hand. While I normally do not eat breakfast, I don’t like flying on an empty stomach.
I gave the windows of the plane a good clean, made sure to load some extra oil into the plane for the long trip, and started packing my gear. Drian (my passenger for the trip) had mentioned he had one “really big” bag, so I held out packing the back seat until after he’d arrived.
Once we got his stuff loaded, we quickly trundled over to the fuel bowsers to fill up, and with one last bathroom break before we got underway.
Archerfield was on the 28’s for runways, so after setup, run-ups, and getting comfortable, we got permission to take off 28R, northern departure. The Archerfield NOTAM’s and ATIS had made mention of smoke to the north from a back-burning activity at Brookfield, and whilst it didn’t look too bad on the ground, once in the air it was actually quite bad.
As we departed Archerfield, the smoke started to thicken a bit around Mt Cootha, and whilst I was confident I was within the relevant VFR conditions, it was getting hard to spot certain things that I normally am used to being able to identify – Normally we remain outside of Brisbane’s airspace, but if it had gotten much worse, I was starting to consider either asking Brisbane Centre for a higher climb, or going back and facing Amberley. But a few minutes later, we were past the worst of it, and with most features in sight, we continued on to Dayboro (our initial outbound point), to then start the long, long LONG track west.
This was, of course, when I went to activate the autopilot to make the long, straight legs easy, and it didn’t want to come on. I played with it for a bit on different settings, but it didn’t want to work, so I left it for a bit to come back to it.
Re-reviewing the flight plan west, I noticed that we were going to just clip Amberley’s airspace as we passed near Toowoomba, so I put us about 5 miles right of track to get past it, and then get back on track.
Just past Oakey the autopilot decided it wanted to be a functional member of society and woke up, and with a bit of testing to ensure it was actually responding appropriately, I set it off on the track required.
Enter 3 hours of general chitchat, listening to music and the radio, maintaining my fuel log and flight checks, and just generally enjoying the view.
Three long hours later, we arrived in Charleville – I was super surprised that for the entire trip, my phone and iPad had continued to have reception along the way, which meant up-to-date weather was available. We planned to come in on runway 30, and after overlying the field, and confirming from the wind sock, – Runway 30 it was. We landed and made our way over to the fuel bowser, where one of the gents from South West Air was already waiting for us, and started preparing everything to fill the plane. This also provided the first opportunity for a bathroom break since we took off!
Even though we weren’t leaving until the next day, I wanted to get all the fuel and prep done so that it was one less thing to think about the next day.
We were lucky enough that the Curtsey car was available, so we did the paperwork to borrow it and then loaded all our stuff into the car. I was pretty happy to find out the car was a manual. I miss driving a manual car, so that was an extra bonus. At the time, I thought it felt a bit weird to take my pillow/sleeping bag, so I left that in the plane. I didn’t know it, but I’d be back for that before the day was done 😀
We had a quick look around the Charleville airport, took some photos, and then started into town.
We got into the small town of Charleville, found where our accommodation was – and since it was too early to check in, we left the car outside, and went for a walk. The town is pretty small – We were in the centre of it about 5 minutes later and found the only place open to get a meal was the local pub. We were both pretty famished, so we grabbed the steak and beverage and finally got to sit down and relax. The food plate was massive – there was so much food on it. We didn’t end up eating any more food that day.
We had a quick walk around town (the town was really, really small) and then went back to check in – I was pretty wrecked at this point, so I wanted a small nap. It was during this time I realised I really did want my pillow, and since we were looking for something to do for the afternoon, and the Royal Flying Doctors have a visitors centre back at the airport, we agreed to go for the tour and for me to get my pillow. I’d also been umming and aaahing about whether I should tie the plane down, or just leave it chocked, and we decided we’d tie it down while there. It was a good decision, as we realised that the ropes in the plane were pretty decrepit, so I added rope to the list of things to get when back in town.
The RFDS Visitors Centre was really nice. – had a lot of interactive exhibits and interesting background on how it was all established. I’m glad we took the time to stop in and see the history of the place.
We had another quick drink at the pub after we got back into town and then went back to the room to settle down. It was State of Origin night, which we had both forgotten initially. I was pretty tired still and ready for bed, but we stayed up to watch it. Drian will tell you that 30 seconds after the game was finished and the TV was turned off, I was dead to the world..
Day 1 down.