Leaving Airlie Beach
I was pretty nervous flying out of Shute Harbour Airport after what had happened with me trying to fly in yesterday. Today didn’t look great with weather either. The forecast was for some low cloud & showers up the coast.
All the pilots in the team were pretty nervous about flying in the forecasted weather. We had a meeting & decided we’d head down to the airfield, get the planes ready & get some local advice from pilots who regularly fly in this area. The local pilots were confident so we thought we’d give it a go & see how far up the coast we could make it today.
There’s a solution to every problem, you just have to find it!
One of the problems I had coming in to land yesterday was when some turbulence hit me, my feet moved on the footplate & as I can’t put them back, this affected where my knees were & they got in the way when I was trying to use the control column.
Thanks to help from someone at the airfield, I got some industrial velcro. I attached this to my shoes & the footplate – I don’t know how long this will last – but worth a go, especially helpful for my anxious flight out of Shute Harbour Airport!
The wind at Shute Harbour wasn’t nearly as strong as the day before. I took off, there was a little bit of turbulence but nothing like the day before – thank God I got out of there safe!
After leaving Airlie Beach, the cloud started to clear & allowed me to get up to 3,500 feet where I could just cruise as I followed the coast toward Townsville. The day looked magnificent & I was feeling confident that we would make our scheduled overnight stop of Cooktown.
As we approached Hamilton Island, the cloud got thicker & was building up the further I got to the Island. By this time I was back down to 2,000 feet & I was tracking by the coast to avoid showers.
By this time, I lost communication with one support plane, the Piper Archer (Gordon, Paul & Lida), as they had diverted to Ingham. As I reached Cardwell, I was chatting to Michael in the other support plane, the Piper Lance, & they had about 10 nautical miles to run before making it to our scheduled refuel location for today, Innisfail.
At this time, Michael said there was rain & they would turn around & come back to Ingham. The path ahead was looking very bleak for me so I realised that I couldn’t keep going forward but needed to return to Ingham where we knew there was reasonable weather. As I was tracking back, Michael radioed to let me know that they would land at Dunk Island instead. I continued back to Ingham.
So we ended up with me & one support plane at Ingham (Lida, Gordon & Paul) & the other support plane at Dunk Island (Michael, Bob & Linda). We figured that we would wait for an hour or so & once the weather cleared, we could get going & all meet up again at our original scheduled fuel stop of Innisfail.
… this didn’t happen. As we waited, the weather at Dunk Island got worse so there was no possibility of the Support plane getting out to meet up with us. We got information from a contact in Innisfail that the weather was still rainy & set in for the day – we realised then, with the hours passing, that we had to stay for the night.
We were in contact with the team in Dunk Island, hoping that the weather would clear briefly so they could get out & join us in Ingham, but it never did. Thanks very much to the owner & management of Dunk Island for providing food & accommodation for Michael, Bob & Linda. I contacted our base support (Brian & Roberta) & they organised accommodation at Tropixx Motel & we were very grateful to the management for providing one room free for us.
We had a team meeting this afternoon but due to the weather, its difficult to know if we will be able to fly tomorrow. We will just have to wait & see. The top priority for us tomorrow is that we get the team back together again. Secondly, we will try to head up to Cooktown.
Over & out,