A Trip to Birdsville – Day 3

Day 3.

We were all up pretty early again, and being further inland than normal, it was quite dark when we got up. I went for a quick walk of the town to take some photos and get an understanding of what was where, and I ran into a few of the other guys also taking a stroll. We were very lucky that there was a coffee shop next to the accommodation, which was due to open not long after I got there.

The others met us there, also looking for a coffee fix, and we made our way over to the Birdsville Bakery to get breakfast. Another toastie for me, as I didn’t think I could stomach a pie at that time of morning. Once breakfast was consumed, we wandered through the Birdsville Visitors Centre, bought a ton of souvenirs, saw some more of the history of the town, and then decided we’d head on our adventure further west.

The Cesnna 172’s that I fly are advertised as a 4-seater plane, but really they are more like a 2-adult, 2-kids kinda plane. The problem ultimately is that the usable weight of the plane gets exceeded quickly, meaning that for more people to be on the plane, the amount of fuel I can carry is limited. For the trip so far, as we only had two people in the plane, I could carry full fuel and have about 30–40 kg  left over for luggage. But with an extra person, that’s not possible. We could still carry enough fuel to easily make our trip, and have more than enough reserves, but it wasn’t just a “fill it up” activity.

As we started prepping the plane for the flight, doing the daily checks, etc, a gaggle of about 5 other planes started to arrive – all lining up for fuel, which we hadn’t added yet, so we quickly moved the plane into the queue and were number 3. These guys had just flown in from the north to get fuel on their way to Cameron’s Corner (the corner of QLD, NSW and SA).

It was also at this point in time that we realised that the third headset that I had borrowed for the trip was only partially working. He could hear us, but we couldn’t hear him. A tad awkward for someone’s first flight, but we told him to beat us until we responded to him if he needed us.

Once we got fuel on board, we made a quick dash to the runway and took off Runway 32, turning west to head out – The autopilot had decided it was done with responsibility and wanted a nap on this leg and wouldn’t do any work, but it was only a short ride, so I didn’t mind hand flying so much.

It was about a 40 minute trip out there. We passed over Little Red and Big Red, over the flooded deserts, over the dry deserts, and found the most western spot of Queensland and the corner of QLD, SA, and NT. There’s a marker on the point that we were able to see from the air and get some photos of.

We had stayed low on the trip out so we could get some low-level photos, but on the way back we climbed higher and got some good wider shots. The difference between different parts of the desert—the dry and the wet was quite unique.

We made our way back in, landing Runway 32, backtracking to the fuel bowser to fill up again. Given that we would be leaving early the next day, I wanted to fill the plane up again so that I didn’t have to worry about that the next day. Avgas was pretty expensive out there, though—almost a dollar a litre more than Charleville. Nothing like seeing a 474$ price on the bowser for 120 litres when we were finished. 

Birdsville’s airport code is YBDV, and we happened to be parked next to a plane at the airport owned by one of the locals with the call sign VH-BDV, which is pretty unique. Id made a post about this on the local Archerfield Aviators group, and one of the people there piped up that it was her parents plane and that they also have some hats and stuff in the Road House for sale with the airport codes on them. A unique souvenir that probably only makes sense to aviation people, but I have the hat! And a photo of Grumpy Cat, sitting on the tail of YH-BDV, with the YBDV cat, at the YBDV airport.

We had another pub lunch; other than the bakery, there is no other place to get food. We went for a quick drive just north of the town to see some trees that Drian had been mentioning. I’m going to get the details completely wrong, but basically there’s a species of tree (the Waddi Tree) that only grows north of Birdsville; its wood is extremely hard; the wind blowing through it makes a very unique noise; and they haven’t been able to get it to grow anywhere else in the world. So we went and saw the trees and gave Ben’s car a good cleaning at the water station on the way back in.

We decided to have a bit of a break, during which I packed a few things up, and took them out to the plane so I didn’t have to deal with it the next day. During which time, I promptly realised I’d locked the keys to the lodge in the lodge—a smart decision and on point with the theme of me never being able to find the plane keys during the trip. On the walk to the other side of town to get to reception to get the spare set, the final member of the trip—and the one I was originally meant to meet up with—finally wondered into town. 

To be fair, his car had broken down a few days earlier, had to be towed 300 km, been stuck in Alice Springs for multiple days while getting it fixed, and had to drive something like 18 hours out of the last 32 hours to catch up to everyone.

So with everyone finally here, there was only one thing left to do – head back to the pub for celebratory drinks and discussions on the adventures so far. It was at this point that half the group split, as one of the convoys wanted to make an early start home, so they left while the rest of us stayed for dinner and more drinks.

Throughout the trip, I’d been keeping an eye on the planned weather back in Brisbane and along the route home, and it had started to have some not-so-great predictions. Sunday (two days from now) was expected to be very cloudy and rainy back in Brisbane, with it subsequently heading west afterwards—right into us. I’m a VFR, or Visual Flight pilot – That means no flight into clouds – I can go above, below, and around them, but when they are low, it generally means it’s going to be bumpy and turbulent. And that’s not a fun flight, certainly not for a 3.5-hour trip. Flying lower also takes away some of the recovery options if something doesn’t go to plan, so this was all starting to stack up against us.

I was feeling a lot better on the Birdsville 3.5-hour leg than I did on the first day—this was most likely due to a work emergency two days before we left – but I was feeling pretty comfortable that we could do the full trip in one day. However, we’d have to leave early so that we could give ourselves longer rest stops and time to make alternative plans if the weather got bad.

Drian and I talked about the plans for the morning, with the intent being that we would aim to get up early, pack the plane, wait around til 7.30 when we could get coffee and breakfast somewhere, and then make the long journey home. So we said goodbye to the boys, who were talking about a trip out to Big Red in the morning to see the sunrise, and then they too would commence the journey home.

And with that, Day 3 went to bed.

Summary | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4


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