Towards the RA-Aus Pilot Certificate: @ruralflyingdoc
It had been two whole aviation free weeks since my last flying lessons and not quite at the 10 hour mark. It was the day after our two piece garage blues dubstep rock band Stomp The Orange played at the Ed Castle Hotel as part of a band pub crawl. This had been the brainchild of local Adelaide band The London Road Poets before they did some travelling overseas. To stick with the local music scene for a bit, it was also the debut gig for Yankee Machine. A band made of some great guys who I had met through college (currently helping them recording two songs for a quick demo). The drive up from Adelaide was uneventful and decided to go up through Bute and Port Broughton. Triple J was playing some great Easter Sunday tunes as the sun came out heading up the Copper Coast Hwy. It was also nice to not have much traffic on my side of the road. That was all on the other side, getting an early jump on the Easter traffic jam that always ensnares the Port Wakefield intersection at those times of the year.
Finally made it to Port Pirie airport and saw one of the other local Jabirus (this one a 230) trying a few landings. It seemed to handle the weather nicely. However, when I stepped out of the car, a nice lashing 15-20 knot wind was blowing up. Earl was in the office and came up to say g’day. Without much stuffing around we walked over to Jabba who was sitting patiently with his wheel spats (the little coverings on the wheels) off. The plane was quivering slightly which may have been either the wind it was facing into or the fact that I was about to take the controls for a few landings! So Earl and I danced the plane around the sky and got buffeted here and there for a good hour or two. It certainly made the landings a bit trickier, but I felt that gradually my control and response to the pushes off course became more natural. Before taking off for these circuits, Earl had said that he didn’t want to have to touch any of the controls or say anything while I flew. It would be a good test for me to remember all of the radio calls, checklists and actually landing the damn thing.
I was also getting the hang of bleating out small phrases over the radio to let any other planes in the area know just what I was doing. So the second last turn to landing for the north south runway (usually made just over the rubbish dump off Three Chain Rd) would sound like; “Port Pirie traffic, Jabiru 7265 turning onto base for runway 17 touch and go, Port Pirie” Soon enough, we got sick of bumping around in the wind and decided to call it a day. So we landed and Earl got me to do my first solo…..taxi that is. It was still quite a buzz slowly ‘driving’ Jabba by myself over to the hangar to sleep for the night. Kind of like the first time you get to drive a car when you think “awesome, I get to go anywhere I want….might just drive home I guess.” I parked him in the hangar just in front of a glider that in fact looked as thought it already belonged to me. Ah, if only aircraft ownership was as easy as branding the tail with your initials…
During our obligatory end-of-the-day red cans back at the flying school hut, we heard a radio call for a Bush Caddy flying in. Interestingly, I had seen this Bush Caddy in the hangar and the plane housed the same breed engine as my car, a Subaru! It was being flown by one of the local guys who had gone over to Temora for the annual NatFly conference. He had hopped from Temora to Hay to Mildura to Waikerie then to Pirie. I asked whether the scenery over Hay was as dreary as when you drive it. His face said it all. On the last leg over, he had actually heard a distress call over the VHF that was near Strathalbyn somewhere. Earl thought that it may have been a ‘Death Dart’ or ‘Meat Bomber’. Perhaps the blank stare I gave him requested an explanation about what they were: ultralight and parachute plane respectively! There was so much new lingo to brush up on and going over a few of the old Biggles books may well help in the future.