The sound of my alarm clock in the early hours was most unwelcome, but necessary, as I would need to get moving before it got too hot. At 1am the temperature was in the high 20s but usually dipped by a few degrees between 2 and 4am, so that would be the best time to depart. Dale drove me to the Airfield and helped me check over the Ag Waggon by parking in front of the aircraft so I could do my walkaround in the headlights. The fuel had been loaded as I had requested. I would be within weight limits but I was grateful for over 5200 feet of runway, as I would probably need most of it.
I waved to Dale and started the engine. With the minimal equipment on the C188, I had to use the sound of the engine to set the mixture to get the best possible performance out of the engine.
The sun was due up any minute so I taxied to the end of runway 15 and taking a deep breath, pushed the throttle up. As I reached my minimum take off speed, I was almost half way down the runway, but forced myself to resist the impulse to pull hard on the stick till the tires eventually left the ground. I took advantage of the ground effect to build up more speed before allowing the aircraft to climb slowly. It seemed to take an age to get to altitude and even then it was still above zero degrees. The temperature is definitely the enemy to pilots out here in the Outback.
Staying on my 150 degree heading watching the sunrise, I was expecting a North Easterly wind according to the forecast, but with my ‘basic’ navigational equipment and the lack of beacons in this neck of the woods, I’d anticipated being blown a little off course. The extra fuel in the Hopper had been worth the extra weight and longer take off roll.
As with my leg from Broome Hill to Balgo, there really wasn’t a lot to see apart from the endless undulating sea of scorched red desert, punctuated by small communities, and lakes, the biggest being Lake MacKay, which meant I was about half way through my journey.
As I got closer to my destination, I picked up the ‘highway’ 4 which would take me all the way in, and meant I didn’t need to follow the whiskey compass so rigidly. Fuel was getting low but I couldn’t resist taking a slight detour to the ‘Olgas’ which is a group of 36 domed rocks just North West of Uluru.
Flying past the Kata Tjuta ‘Olgas’ mountains
The huge monolith which was ‘Ayers Rock’ was visible as I turned South East. The last time I had seen this sacred Aboriginal site was back in my late teens, when I had no inkling that I would ever get to experience it from the air.
Flying past Ayres Rock
I dialled into the YAYE ATIS on 126.55 to check which runway was in use and the barometric pressure. Runway 13 was indicated and the QNH was 1013. The temperature was getting hotter as I descended, and flew the downwind. I hoped that my parking spot would be close to a nice air-conditioned pilots lounge!
Flying downwind for a landing on runway 13
On Final for Runway 13
Taxi to parking
Once parked up, I shut down the aircraft as quickly as possible before the heat finally finished me off. I had landed with almost dry tanks which wasn’t a surprise given the headwinds I had encountered en-route. I wouldn’t need to load much fuel for my last leg up to Alice Springs, but I would handle that tomorrow; I had to get the baton safely to Beejay and then I could relax for the evening.
The Sheraton Yulara was now the ‘Sails in the Desert’, and although the 5* rating and rather over the top price tag was still evident, the hotel had been given a bit of a face-lift since I was last there but at least they hadn’t skimped on the massive outside swimming pool, which I couldn’t wait to dive into.
I put my phone on charge and picked up the hotel wifi signal. An email from Beejay, saying he would meet me at the ‘Field of Light’ later that night. According to Google® the exhibition of Tili Wiru Tjuta Nyakutjaku which translates as ‘looking at lots of beautiful lights’ was so popular, it had been extended for another year until early 2018. Good ol’ Beejay.. making sure to experience the culture and atmosphere before his flight for the Hangar.
Slipping into my slinky cocktail dress, I took the baton from my room safe and put it in my handbag. Beejay had booked a table for us at a restaurant where we could see the exhibition, and on arrival, I was directed to his table. After the usual greetings and update on how my trip had been, darkness began to fall and Ayres Rock was thrown into silhouette. The Field of Light, illuminated by over 50,000 frosted glass spheres atop slender stems swayed gently in the hot evening air.
The Field of Light exhibition
It was a breath-taking sight, and one that I could have enjoyed for hours, but having polished off our lobster dinner, I was shattered, and Beejay needed to be up early for his leg. As we walked back into the cool hotel lobby, I handed over the baton, gave him a hug and then walked to the lift. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a figure sat in the bar who looked completely out of place, but strangely familiar. He glanced at me, and then, appearing to not recognise me, returned to his newspaper. I was immediately alert. Where had I seen him before? Was I being followed? Had I not ditched the horrible brunette wig, would he have been on my heels? I pulled out my mobile and quickly sent an email to Beejay. I only hoped that my suspicions were unfounded, but when you’ve been in my line of work for so long, you tend to rely on your instincts…
Created with FSX, Triple Head 2 Go for the widescreen shots
Alabeo C188 AgTruck/AgWagon
FSDG - Ayres Rock scenery
Apologies for the tardiness in posting. The USB that had all my work on went south and i have just had to re-type from scratch. Not sure it was as good as the first time i wrote it