We woke up pretty early, packed up the room, and went for a walk into town to try and find coffee and breakfast – After walking to the other end of Charleville, we finally found a bakery that was doing coffee as well as some basic food – like a ham and cheese toastie! The local hardware store had also just opened for the day, so we were able to get more tie down rope on the way back—the most expensive rope I’ve bought in a long time.
The unspoken rule when you’re given a free car for the night is to return it with a full tank of fuel – We tried so hard to put fuel back into that car. It had a full tank when we got it, and after our driving, the most fuel it would take was $2.30 worth. We had to buy some snacks and drinks at the petrol station to make it seem like we weren’t bums, and $2.30 was all we could afford!
We dropped the car off, thanked South West for the loan of it, and got to work prepping the plane, doing the daily checks, lodging a new flight plan, and not much longer we were off to Birdsville.
Like earlier, the autopilot didn’t want to adult, but came good about 10 minutes into the leg.
This time, I did lose reception not long after we got away from Charleville, but I had music already on my phone, and my aviation headset thankfully bluetooths to my phone, so I had tunes to keep me entertained while flying.
As part of any flight adventure, theres a set of checks to do every 30 minutes or so – CLEAROFF (Compass, Logs, Engine temps/pressures, Airspace/Altitude, Radios, Orientation, Fuel remaining/expected, Forced landing locations). I’d been noticing for the last few checks that we seemed to be primarily taking fuel from the left tank and that the right tank was still showing as full.
There are a few reasons why this can happen – some good, some not so good. The most obvious is that the plane isn’t quite straight and level, and that, while fuel was coming from both tanks, the left tank was also cross feeding into the right tank. The worst case, however is that theres an issue and the right tank is blocked.
We were starting to get to a point in the flight where if we were going to have an issue with fuel and I was missing half our capacity due to a blockage, we would only have one airport we could make with the fuel remaining.
We were also about to overfly some pretty desolate areas too, so for the first time in cruise flight in these planes, I changed the fuel feeder from both tanks to just the right one, – And then quietly held my breath for the next few minutes to make sure that the engine wasn’t about to stop and that the tank did start to drain. Given you didn’t hear about an emergency landing, or me going missing, you can safely assume that the plane started to take fuel from the right tank, and I stayed on it until we weren’t far out from Birdsville. I had explained to Drian what was going on, so I wasn’t sitting there fretting on my own – This was definitely one of the bonuses of having someone with me. He wasn’t phazed, though.
For context with where we were, there were plenty of open areas, and a major road that we could have landed on in the event that it didn’t go well – But we were about to diverge away from it, so it made the most sense to do it when we did.
Another hour later, after much debate about which thing on the horizon was actually Birdsvile, we arrived overhead, checked the wind direction, and made an approach into Runway 14. A runway way overqualified to be handling a plane of my size. But firmly on the ground, we taxied over to parking and finally got out of the plane to be able to stretch and move around again. We’d been racing a rex plane that left Charleville about an hour after us, and it ended up landing just after we did.
It was about midday when we arrived, and we were pretty famished. The Birdsville pub is a massive hike from where the plane was parked—a whole 100m – So we did what any right minded individuals would do. We went in and got lunch and a drink. The pub’s got quite a lot of history up on the wall, as well as a few rules – all of which end up in fines payable by way of donations to the Royal Flying Doctors.
One of our car travelling buddies arrived at the same time as us – which was helpful – we were able to get him to help unload the plane with us and carry bags to our accommodations. We had some “lodges” for the two nights we were going to be there. Now, when I say lodge, what I actually mean is a bunch of demountable buildings, about 3mx3m with air conditioning and a bathroom. But it was better and far more comfortable than sleeping in a tent. And I took my pillow first time this time!
We had decided earlier that we would get in the car and go out to the sand dunes for the arvo – and see the sunset on Big Red – The largest of the sand dunes. I’m really glad I made the decision to buy a proper hat before going on the trip and that Drian had a flynet for me. I would never have believed the amount of flies possible to be buzzing around one person, but it was insane. There were so many.
I think in one sitting, while we were waiting for the sun to set, Drian provided 50 flies with an earlier trip to their afterlife, whilst providing some substance for whatever would eat them over night.
We watched a few people attempt the 4×4 tracks of Big Red, all but one getting stuck on their first attempt, some needing to be pulled out. We were fortunate to make it up on the first go – mostly.
We stayed out on the dunes until dark – the only thing missing was that we should have picked up some drinks at the pub before we left. We all took lots of sunset photos out on Big Red – it was very scenic, and the sand really is this fine Red colour – Grumpy Cat looked very happy with the outcome.
On the way back, we decided we’d attempt to fly out to Poepels Point (The corner of Qld, SA and NT) in the morning, also doubling as one of the guys first flight in a GA aircraft. I had to do a few calculations to make sure we could do it, but we could.
As we got closer to town and got reception, we found out that another group of the car party had arrived—about another 5 cars—and they were conveniently waiting at the pub for us. So off to the pub to meet up with them we went. Dinner took about an hour to arrive as the pub was absolutely packed, but after some drinks and dinner, it was definitely time for sleep.