Here in Australia we celebrated the Queen’s birthday (we're still part of the colony) with a long weekend (6, 7, 8 June), and after experiencing 4 weeks of terrible weather, it was too good an opportunity to not go flying.
First order of the day, the trek to the airport, we are not as lucky as some, as our local airport is 1.5 hours drive from where we live, but the lure of flying is great enough to overcome that hurdle, so on most weekends my wife and I drive up to one of the most popular wine regions in New South Wales, known as the Hunter Valley.
Our local airport is located in Cessnockand is at the beginning of the wine country, the airportis thriving at the moment, with students from all over the world buying packages to obtain their ATPL. This however does make things interesting as language barriers do cause problems from time to time.
Anyhow, Anne-Maire and I met Kevin and Sue (we try to car pool to save on fuel and general wear and tear on our vehicles) at our designated spot and started our bleary eyed trip to the airport, today’s plan was to have Brunch in Gunnedah which is approximately 150nm to the north west of Cessnock, the forecast was for light winds, and clear skies, so we were all looking forward to the flight.
Arriving at the airport, its hard to keep to a plan as there are always the usual people hanging around wanting to chat, so after exchanging a few pleasantries, we finally managed to tear ourselves away, get our pre-flights done and taxi for fuel.
With fuel onboard and run-up checks complete, I taxied for takeoff, number two to Kevin and Sue in there Jab.
Giving my radio call, entering and rolling runway 35 for Gunnedah...we Lifted off to find that the winds above 1000 feet are far from light, in fact we had between a 25-30knot head wind, that coupled with nearly 4 cups of coffee, had me wanting to land only 20 minutes after getting airborne.
Luckily Scone airport is only 45nm from Cessnock, so I switched to chat and let Kevin and Sue know that Anne-Marie and I were makking a pit stop at Scone, after a few minutes of being chastised for having a weak bladder they agree to land with us.
As we taxi in after landing at Scone we are greeted by the site of a Cessna Bird Dog getting prepped to take a whole bunch of people for joy flights. Anne-Maire found out form the Pilot that they were without a radio, as I make my dash for the toilets....a few minutes later with a smile on my face, I jump back into the Zodiac, give Kevin and Sue a wave and again follow then out for takeoff.
As we climb out on runway 29, the Bird Dog is holding sort...I would have loved to have gone for a fly.
Leaving Scone, we follow the valley to Murrurundi, this is one of two options we have for getting out of the Hunter. The mountains around Murrurundi are about 5000 feet high, with a gap at about 2300 feet, leading into the Central Plains.
In bad weather there is usually cloud on the ground, e.g. the forecast for the 10th June, luckily we flew last weekend;
AMD CRITICAL LOCALITIES:
[HEIGHTS ABOVE MSL]:
MT VICTORIA : 9999 -SHRA BKN CU/SC 5500
TEMPO 0923/1008 4000 SHRA BKN ST 4000
AMD MURRURUNDI [2300FT]: 9999 BKN ST 2300 [CLOUD ON GROUND]
FM100000 9999 BKN CU/SC 5000
For our flight the cloud base is 5500 feet, so there is no option but to fly just below cloud to make our escape to the North West, by the time we get to Murrurundi, the wind has dropped off to 10 knots, so the anticipated rotor and turbulence is very light.
Once we cleared the gap at Murrurundi, it was smooth sailing, with the only turbulence encountered being created by Winter Thermals, and let me tell you there was some good lift, the best I had was 1500 feet per minute going up, the downs where not quite as bad.
We ended up throttling back to a sedate 95 knots to be safe and make the ride less of a roller coaster when the thermals did hit.
The country in this area is mainly used to grow cotton and sorghum, so the checker board patterns created by the local farmers are a splendour to behold.
So that’s exactly what we did, just sat back and enjoyed the view.
30 minutes later it was time to give our 10nm inbound call for Gunnedah, with the GPS still indicating a 10knot head wind it was not hard to decide which runway to use, the NOTAM's advised that the grass cross strip was closed because of the recent rain, so we joined for a full stop on runway 29 (tar all weather strip).
After tying down we where greeted by Bill, one of the local aero club members who after asking what we were up to, offered us a lift into town and provided us with his version of a city tour of Gunnedah.
Country hospitality at its best.
After our 40 minutes around Gunnedah and its local sites, Bill offered to drop us at the best cafe in the town, sadly, the owners had decided to enjoy the holiday too, so second choice, also closed, third choice, also closed, so off to the local serviceman’s club, great food at a very reasonable price.
We bought Bill lunch for being so nice to us; and he was over the moon...
After lunch we parted company and enjoyed a nice 40 minute stroll back to the airport and take more photo's.
Needless to say, once airbourne, the trip back to Cessnock was a lot faster with 10knots up our backsides....
Please enjoy the photo's at the follow link;