Sunday, June 13, 2010

Day 1 done and dusted. Atherton to Laura....


Here we are at Laura International Airport! Passed through security about an hour ago, now waiting for our transfer to the Laura Hilton!
How did Day 1 pan out I hear you ask? A 4am wake-up. Breakfast. Pack the car. Get out the door. Drive to Atherton airstrip and the hanger.
Apologies to Jack and Jen for the early start to your day. Into the hanger at 5.45am, a quick cuppa, pack the stuff into the trike and wheel her out the door for a thorough pre-flight inspection. Tracey put on half the clothes needed to keep a small army in winter dress for 12 months, then had trouble getting into the trike.
Lift off at 6.48, a circuit over the strip, then set our track for 335 degrees. The air was smooth and there was no sign of the forecast 20KT tail wind. This made our waypoints a bit further away time wise.
 Well, that didn’t  last for long! We flew straight into the resident rotor at Mt Molloy…..mmmmmm….a very uncomfortable, bumpy and just a bit nerve wracking few minutes!  We climbed quite a bit higher and cruised the rest of the way in smooth air to Laura.
Just before we turned at Lakeland to head to Laura, Teddy called us on the radio with a weather report for Lakeland Downs….15KT cross wind.
We flew towards Laura with anticipation of meeting the forecast 20KTS lurking below us. Where we were flying at around 6400FT we had zero wind. As we descended we kept waiting for it and waiting for it……and BAM there is was! At 2000FT and the last 10 minutes flight time!
So, the landing at Laura International, once cleared by Air Traffic Control at Laura (the teacher’s 2 year watching from the ground!) was tempestuous…to say the least! As my friend  Liesel famously quotes we were tossed around like “ G-string in a washing machine!”. As we were about 50 feet off the ground clearing the boundary fence, the wind sock spun 90 degrees. It was clearly not safe to land in the cross wind and Bob did a go around using  every one of the 80 horse power at his disposal! We climbed back to 1000 feet to have another go.
If anything, the second downwind was even worse than the first! The trike stalled at least twice, losing all airspeed, then just as suddenly regaining it, diving and bucking, twisting and turning, both of us hanging out the side trying to bring it back where it needed to be, turn onto final again and the windsock seemed to have settled down a little. Over the fence again, the windsock did the same trick, causing us to again weave and swerve  all over the sky. We managed to just scrap in, missing the gables and put it on the ground before the worst of the cross wind hit us. As we rolled out, relieved to have pulled that landing out of our hat, we discovered a gigantic ditch across the verge. A quick swerve to the left and all good. Phew!

After clearing security (the same young bloke that did the traffic control, bought over by his Mum for a look) we tied the trike down using all the ropes we had at our disposal. The trike is now secure as it can be, and we are relaxing in the salubrious surrounds of the frequent flyers club at Laura. Harold the shop keeper came over to say g’day (leaving the shop to run itself in his absence).  (Can’t imagine that happening in the big smoke!)
It is lovely to have strangers come over and say g’day, just to say g’day. It is refreshing to land somewhere you have never been before and have a welcoming committee come over to see you’re OK and if there is anything they can do to help. We were offered a lift into town, but needed to stay and tie the trike down. It is only a short walk anyway, and will do us good.  
We are going to take up the invitation to visit the cultural centre later today, looking forward to visiting there and maybe seeing some rock art, if we can arrange it. Laura is renowned for some of the finest rock art in the country, and who better to see it with than the locals?
Today’s statistics:
Fuel used: 30 litres
Flying time: 2.7 hours
Distance covered: 136 NM
Current temperature: 27C,  and sunny. Love winter up here!

Trace and Bob


  1. You had me on the edge of my seat! Looking forward to read the next chapter. Safe travels.

  2. Wow,
    Seat of the pants stuff for your first day. What adventures will the rest of the trip bring us?
    Stay safe.