Home at last – after flying across Australia from Broome to Adelaide.
We got up on the morning of our last flying day in Cable Beach Resort and slept in until 7am this morning, after a trip spent mostly waking at 5am local time (including losing 1-2 hours in timezone shift) each day. Luxury!
We had breakfast at the resort restaurant overlooking the beach (that was very tough), and then headed to the airport.
Today we also had a tail-wind forecast, for the very first time in the entire journey :)
At Broome airport, we prepared the aircraft for departure under a clear blue sky with a clear weather forecast all the way home.
I got us up and out of Broome and established on track, and then Pete decided that I needed some more of a challenge, and turned down the main flight management system / GPS display screen, leaving me with paper maps, my flight plan, and a pencil and said ‘take us home’ :)
So I spent most of the flight scratching things on flight plans, measuring things on the map and tuning in and using the (very few!) available radio navigational aids on the way home.
VORs (directional radio navigational aids) are great – and made radio navigation in this ‘conventional’ manner pretty easy on most of this trip across other countries… but far less of them exist in Australia.
Indeed, there was one VOR in Broome and then not another one I could use until Ardrossan, so it became a matter of figuring out and monitoring intercepts onto NDB’s (another, simpler, form of radio navigational beacon) as we passed near enough to one of those, here and there, to do so.
Otherwise the flight was spent “dead-reckoning” a lot of the way over the desert, updating estimates of speed and position whenever a radio aid made it possible to do so.
In a fast plane, driving it with a pencil and paper definitely keeps you busy – even on a clear blue sky day travelling (in principle) mostly in a straight line at constant speed.
Challenges to that ‘straight line’ and ‘constant speed’ included flying into and then out of a 100+ knot jetstream mid flight, which changed our heading and (even more so) our groundspeed to quite impressive extent as time passed, forcing further furious work with the pencil and paper to figure out the changes that had occurred since the last naviational fix, and the consequences for heading, groundspeed and hence waypoint arrival time to report back to air traffic control over the course of the trip.
I really enjoyed doing that, and all in all I had a great flight back, ending in a visual approach back home into Runway 23 at Adelaide International Airport (YPAD), the new home for my plane. I even had a friend who turned up at the airport and took some photos from the ground as we came in to land (thanks Michael!).
When we landed, the guys at the hangar brought out the shiny new toy, an ‘iTowbot’.
This is high tech, electric radio controlled aircraft moving unit. Using its handheld radio control unit, we steering the plane into the hangar to join its stablemate (FMM, the aircraft I did my initial training in).
We then spent a happy period of time pulling 11 days worth of accumulated ‘stuff’ out of the aircraft before my family arrived and started happily crawled all over the plane, figuring out which seats they were going to sit in on our first family trip (which is clearly going to be soon – much enthusiasm for that was displayed :) ).
Meantime – we made it, and made it in style. Over nine flights for a total of 49.1 hours in the cockpit, we have taken this new Pilatus PC-12NG from its factory in Stans, Switzerland to Adelaide, Australia, a journey of a bit over 10,000 nautical miles.
On the way, I have visited literally a new country every flying day, and flew over many more. These are all places that (except for Switzerland) I had never been before.
I have soaked up these new experiences and hugely enjoyed them, over an intense journey of discovery. Travelling at this smaller geographic scale (relative to a large passenger jet) allowed us to see how the cultures and environments of these countries progressively blend into each other as one travels between them.
Clearly it was, in every sense, a ‘flying visit’, and I will surely be back to explore some of these places in greater depth in the future.
This sophisticated, high performance, brand spanking new aircraft has shown the quality and experience of its builders by performing this initial mission flawlessly.
Oh, and the chocolate made it in good condition too – even the cartons left in the aircraft were pretty good (verified via taste-testing a selected sample). Amazing, but true!
I tried to bring a sense of the journey into these words and with the photos I have taken all day (endlessly snapping hundreds of shots on my iPhone 4S to yield the subset posted each day). This has improved my own focus on really trying to be in every place we visited, albeit briefly, to look into whatever nooks and crannies I could find in each place before we headed away to the next one.
These ferry flights were framed to me as being the trip of a lifetime. They absolutely are. My head is full of the sights, sounds, smells, and senses of many countries. Different temperatures, cultures, languages, food, and experience.
They say that travel broadens the mind, and this has been an example of doing that in spades. My mind has been broadened, and blown, by the diversity experienced in this small window into our huge, complicated, and interesting planet.
In addition I’ve now clocked up a total of nearly 70 hours in PC-12′s already, and I am really, really, really enjoying flying in them. The plane is everything I had hoped and believed it would be.
I have plenty of video footage of departures and landings that I’ll edit into releasable shape in the next little while, for those who (like me!) enjoy that sort of thing (the stills from the cockpit that I’ve posted here and there are taken from that video footage).
Thanks to everyone who has followed along on this journey. My core motivation was to give my own family a linkage to what I was doing, so intensively, from so far away. I’m really happy that so many of my friends have told me that they have enjoyed following along vicariously too. Its been important to document each day while ‘in the moment’, and I hope that has come across in the journey as well.