Sept 2018

Heard over breakfast at Birdsville this year:

"Muslims go to Mecca, Aussies go to Birdsville."

Some might take that as offensive but I thought it was fairly apt......
Both are pilgrimages that require a bit of an ordeal to get there.
Both are required at least once in a lifetime.
That's about where the similarities end.
The Hajj is a serious religious ritual, Birdsville is anything but religious and serious......

I'd been watching the weather forecast on for a week before, and saw a whole series of weather fronts moving through, as is usual for that region this time of year. Strong northerlies, followed by raging south westerlies, with an intense and violent shear line inbetween, so it looked like too much of a battle to go this year......

But still feeling restless and having a look again on the Monday before the event, I could see a window if I left the east coast on Tuesday, arriving Birdsville Wednesday, then have to sit out a northerly on Thursday and a SWesterly on Friday, then would be able to ride a tailwind home on Saturday. That's just how it worked out, making it an easy flight both ways. is an amazingly accurate weather site, and so much easier to visualize and more comprehensive than the BOM aviation site.....

So an hour later I was running around fueling my Savannah and packing up, and departed Kilcoy early next morning with that tingle of excitement that comes when setting out over the horizon on a long cross country flight!

An easy flight out along the Warrego Highway that I have flown so many times before. Fuel from the friendly fella at Charleville then on to Quipie to stay the night. Turns out Quilie now has a brand new Avgas fueling facility with credit card access, so worth patronizing. Quilpie is now a security controlled airfield, so I camped in the bush just outside the gate. Quilpie is an extra nice little town, and everyone was in town for a street party that night. The pub doing a grand business catching road traffic on their way to Birdsville.

Then to Birdsville via Eromanga, over that grand Channel Country, but very dry out there this year. Part of the way followed the highway, and noticed a couple of graders out smoothing corrugations, and most impressed to see a couple of B-double tankers watering down the dust. I don't know if it would be Main Roads or Diamandina Shire funding that, but they sure were trying to make it easier for travelers.

Arrived Birdsville with a 20kt crosswind on 32. That x-wind coming over the terminal buildings was not only strong but turbulent, and dumped me on really hard, but fortunately no damage.  Reading the Air Services Supplement it said runway 03 only opened for emergency, but I should have decided my own emergency and used it, it's the pilot in command to make such decisions.... Tied down securely and settled in to wait out the coming blow.

All Thursday was strong northerly and flying dust. So everyone was hanging out at the pub and washing down the gritty dust..... Drinking slowly cause the beer was $8 can..... Sitting on the curb outside the pub watching the road trippers coming in. Lots of grey nomads with their caravans and campers in tow, 4wds with tall flags and off-road gear showing they had just crossed the Simpson or were planning to go out that way, bikers loaded up with dusty camping gear. Whenever a biker pulled up, old farts would have to go and tell him how much they knew about bikes and the bikes they had ridden, etc, etc..... An aging and battered Moto Guzzie from Western Australia, with a big windscreen and sprung saddle was probably the most comfortable and capable machine for such touring. A fella arrived from Victoria on a 250cc trail bike. I could have gone and told him of my extensive touring on 250's, but instead just let him get to the bar and wash the dust down his throat.....

I've always been impressed by the good humour and jolly friendly attitude by all concerned, considering the amount of drinking going on. The only fights I ever saw were years ago at the payphone booths in the days before mobile coverage, and when they started the crowd immediately shouted the offenders down and pushed them away. No one stupid rotten drunk but that may be partly due to the $8 a can.....

Still blowing hard northerly at bedtime, but in the night the shear line came through and the wind suddenly blasted in from the SW. Really howling and blowing sand, I think the strongest wind I've experienced outside Alaska..... It rapidly accelerated as it tried it's hardest to blow the tent away, then suddenly went calm for a couple of hours until established from the SW.  Checked and found that it not only showed the shear line but had an extra sharp wrinkle in it which gave the extreme wind, predicted to arrive exactly as it happened! How the heck do they do that???

This reminded me of my first visit here in 1995 in the little Beaver ultralight.
Tied down in front of the Birdsville pub 1995.
This photo was tied down on the cables facing the northerly wind. When I came out of Brophy's boxing tent in the evening, the northerly had died and the south westerly was just starting. So I turned the aircraft around and no sooner tied down again when we were hit with a blast of SW wind and flying sand......With no pilot in the seat this aircraft sat tail down like this. That puts the wing at the best angle of attack for max lift. The wind speed was higher than the flying speed of the aircraft, so it was desperately trying to fly. Pulling at the cables and creaking and groaning with the stress. I lifted up the tail, and that put the wing at a slightly negative AofA so it stopped lifting. I was holding the tail up and wondering what to do next when a fella came and offered to help. So he held the tail up while I climbed into the seat and held the stick forward. That held the aircraft pinned to the ground so that he could let go. Then I spent the rest of the night in the seat with the stick tied forward. It was then fairly comfortable, at least more so than having to compete for elbow room in an economy seat in a big jet.......

Then spent all Friday trying to find shelter from the now SW wind. The pub veranda was now exposed but I found shelter in the lee of Fred Brophy's boxing tent.

I'm not the least bit interested in horse racing and haven't ever been to the race course. But I'll fly all the way out there to see Brophy's Boxing Tent in action. Birdsville is where it seems best suited, and I've seen it there four times. This year it was just as good as ever, but can't go on forever, and I hear that he's not allowed to sell the license or even pass it on to family, so see it while you can...... It's the last boxing tent in Australia, only in Queensland. Fred runs a really good show, and is a hard referee. He matches the contenders really well, and makes sure that no one gets badly hurt. Not even feelings get hurt, it's just a sport and all in good hunour. Of course the very experienced professional fighters know all the moves, so it's hard for anyone to get a win, but a young fella from Dubbo won his rounds this year so can go home a hero. Just a tip if you're going to watch - they sell pre-paid tickets with the promise of "premium seats", but only the closest couple of rows are premium, then the rest are blocked by heads out front. So get your pre-paid tickets, but if you don't get into the tent early enough to get one of the front seats then grab a standing position right behind the last row of seats, where you can see over the sitters and no one can stand in front of you.

So, having seen the boxing show, I was the first aircraft to start up Saturday morning and headed east. Straight into the rising sun so landed at the big Roseberth airstrip just 15 nm away, to have breakfast and wait for the sun to get higher. Then a fine smooth flight at 1500ft over that fine desert scenery, until near Charleville when the thermals were getting rough. Fueled up there again, then up to 7500ft and another smooth flight above the thermals and with a 20+kt tailwind, all the way home.
8.3 hrs flight time but a really comfortable flight.

My Savannah is named 'Tailwinds Always', so this time it lived up to the dream, due to those excellent forecasts from


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