Last night, when I looked at the forecast, I was very confident that we’d be getting back to Tooradin today. I think the entire team were of the mindset that today would be the last day of the On a Wing & a Chair Around Australia Flight.
It’s a long flight from Aldinga (SA) to Tooradin (VIC) following the coastline, with a refuel stop at Portland – around 5 hours flying time. I was up at 4 am & we got down to the airfield just after 7 am. I could see a little fog in the hills but it didn’t look too bad & the cloud was quite high & our southern track didn’t seem too bad either.
I took off just after 8 am & flew south, following the coast. At about 7 miles out from Aldinga Airfield, I could see this large bank of fog rolling in, & looking passed this, I could see another bank of fog in the direction I was heading. To my left, over the mountains, was also low cloud & fog. There was no where to go & the only option was to head back to Aldinga. I radioed to the Piper Archer & Piper Lance Support Planes & we all did the same.
When I got on the ground, I thought the fog & cloud might clear in an hour or so, still giving us enough time to get home to Tooradin. By 10.30 am, it was clear that the fog was getting worse & we knew that to get back to Tooradin would be an impossibility.
We changed our goal for the day to getting to Portland or Warrnambool instead. However, as we continued to wait, conditions slightly improved & then got worse. After looking at the TAFs (terminal area forecasts), Portland was now forecast for moderate rain & cloud down to 800 feet & Warrnambool was in drizzle.
This decided our fate for the day. We’d run out of time, run out of luck & run out of options. We were going no where. We managed to organise the same accommodation as last night in McLaren Vale (not far from Aldinga Airfield).
We’ve been on this trip now for 36 days & we’ve been delayed 5 days more than our original estimate. Being delayed in Port Lincoln & now here, means we’ve traveled little distance over the last few days, on our way to our final destination. This feels so disappointing.
Flying a plane isn’t like jumping in a car & going for a drive. Flying in small planes is highly dependent on weather conditions. This means you have to decide each day, if conditions are doable or not. When you have great weather, & things are going your way, decisions are easy, but when the weather is changeable, you never know for certain if the choice you make is right – until you’re up there right in the thick of it!
Making these decisions daily over such a long period of time, wears you down & I’m left feeling mentally drained. It will be great to get home & have a break.
On our return today to Aldinga, after the fog had sealed our fate, the Aldinga Aero Club was there to help us again. We greatly appreciate their support, & especially to Evan John, Phil John, David Ellis & also Neil & Linda Geddes for donating another night of accommodation.
Now that I’m back in my accommodation, I’m feeling really tired & might have a little snooze & relax with Linda.
Hopefully, we will have better luck tomorrow.
Over & out,