Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
So in Whyalla, Dr. Scott and I learnt about the finer points of retrieval medicine including: how to package patients, the phonetic alphabet and the possible use of dustbusters for cleaning up stray glass following car crashes. I managed to organise a place to stay that night with some friends Rhys and Kayleigh from college, which included going to the end of the Roopena Cricket Club presentations. Got to meet some of the more colourful characters there, including one bloke who decided that he should be the judge of a future ‘Tit-off’ event….yeah pretty sure I’ll would be away for that. The second day of the retrieval/trauma workshop got us outside in the deceivingly warm Whyalla air (which was relatively iron ore free on that occasion). The organisers had arranged for an old Magna sedan to be brought to the car park ready to be the centrepiece of our mock extraction. The local firies and ambos were there, plus the local copper who wanted to be anywhere else by the looks of things. We were able to talk about the control and command structure at such crash scenes. It was at this time some of the more old fuddy-duddy attendees started banging on about dustbusters, French toast and why the doctor should be in control of the scene. This combined with the jumper over the shoulder look precipitated us younger types into sidestepping away and shrugging towards the emergency services as if to say “we don’t know these guys.”
After a quick lunch and thanks to the MedStar group for coming to teach us about major trauma and scene clearance with handheld vacuums, it was time to head off. Getting to have some hands on time in Scotts bigger plane was fantastic and made me realise how tiny the Jabiru actually was. Piper Aztecs had been called ‘Aztrucks’ back in the day due to their superior load capacity and earning the phrase “if you can get the door closed, it’ll fly.” They have been known to take a while to land though! So the rubber chicken pitot tube cover (below) and others were removed and we taxied out. I got to make the radio calls and steer the beast which all went pretty well apart from informing “Wudinna traffic” of our intentions. Well both towns did start with the same letter….We let the Aztec climb to 3500 feet (heading east the flight level should be an odd-thousand plus 500 feet) and tracked for Port Pirie. Literally only 15-20 mins later we had to start descending and I tried to get the hulking airframe onto the dead or inactive side of the circuit (opposite the downwind leg) to join a crosswind leg. Scott took over on short final and touched down gracefully. Hey, would I write that the landing was anything else? He reads this! Once we had landed, I jumped out and Scott pushed on for Adelaide before making a trip to catch up with another rural GP on KI.
I got back into what seemed a little baby aeroplane and kept on the old faithful of cutting laps around runway 17. In between doing more circuits, I learnt some more about my flying instructor Earl. It turns out that he is well and truly acrophobic. No, that doesn’t mean fear of acrobats, or even acrobatic spiders. It is a fear of heights! As we were looking at the one story airport lounge building, he said that he wouldn’t be caught dead up up there without a harness or guardrails. Funny, don’t see any of those safety devices 1,000 feet in the air. But if you have been flying for that many years then you would feel safe in a small plane…I guess? I had 8.9 hours in my logbook at the end of day 4. Earl hinted that once my landings were more consistent, I would have a shot at flying solo. Something that both excited and gave me a cold sweat at the same time.
Addit: One week later I was writing this and watching footy at Norwood Oval while my bandmate/ex-housemate/geography expert/freelance cinematographer and general man about town, Curtis, filmed. He was giving me crap about my prose and proffered a stylistic suggestion for the next entry: “The sun rose gracefully over the hills as I slipped it into first and twisted the ailerons from side to side.” I think my plane is an automatic unfortunately, but I’ll definitely try and twist those ailerons for you next time!