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Old S.A.R. Shunter's Memories

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Nice aircraft hey, but no, we did not go in the Mustang.

Wednesday 5th January 2000.

This was my first flight in a very very small aircraft. I have flown in Tiger Moths, Cessna, Victa AirTourer, and on Regional Airlines, never on a major big airline. It was an early rise at 6:00am and Ian my Pilot had to start up his computer to get the latest AVFAX on the weather conditions for that morning. Ian made a Flight Plan and worked out the distances, time it would take between each waypoint, and how much fuel was needed for the trip with a safety margin.

The weather fax showed cloud cover at 4,000 feet over Adelaide and Gawler to around Tarlee and then it looked like clear skies to the North. Wind was around 15knots South, South East, so we were going to get a push to Jamestown and a slower trip back to Gawler. We were hoping to get off the ground around 7:30am, as we had to have the Jabiru back by 10:00am for someone else to use, but having to spend extra time on the Flight Plan etc, we were a bit behind time.

Click to see the: Flight Plan

So all that done we jumped into the car and drove to the Gawler Aerodrome, taking about 20 minutes. The airfield was totally deserted, with everything locked up, but Ian had keys to get into the office and fill out the necessary forms. I had to sign a form to the effect that IF I got injured or else, I cannot claim against the Adelaide Soaring Club who owned the Jabiru Ultra Light aircraft, which was fair enough. Technically I was not a paying passenger.

Well with all the paper work done, it was now head for the hanger where the Jabiru was hangered. We slid the 4 hanger doors open and while Ian was checking the complete aircraft over for any possible problems, as this is mandatory with all aircraft. It is too late to find this out when you are up at 5.000 feet when something goes amiss........I now had my first good close up look at the Jabiru, and as I stood back to take the above photo of it in the hanger, it suddenly occurred to me, "hell this thing is much smaller than I imagined". Hmmm...... Well I know for a fact that 2 people fly all over the place in these er, er, smallish aircraft, and with a couple of quick swallows and composing of myself, thinking. Yeh!.. okay, of course this will be okay.

By this time all the checks were done and the aircraft, er I mean Jabiru ultra-light was pulled out of the hanger and onto the grass verge. I looked at this small wooden propeller, thinking, hey! this is all that's between the ground and us up there in the sky. Hmm.
I gave Ian a hand to shut the 4 hanger doors and secured them as there was two very expensive looking gliders in the hanger also. 
Ian jumped into, I mean juggled into and squeezed and oozed himself into the pilots seat and started the Jabiru up and taxied over to the refueling point to put the exact amount of Avgas we needed for the flight, plus the safety margin. Ian told me to walk over to fuel bowser, as this saved me getting into and out again while the fuelling was being done. Well more delay, as someone had not set the automatic power timer for the petrol pump to come on early. So Ian had to go back to the main office and reset the electric timer and then the fuel bowser kicked into life. A quick connection of the static electricity wire and the correct amount of fuel in, we wound the Static line and fuel hose up.

Well with all the preliminaries done now, it was now time to hop into my seat, I mean turn around and sit my arse in the seat first, bend my head forward, and for a 58 year old my poor old back and neck does not bend like it use to. So with my arse in first, now my head finally in, it was getting the legs in with a little difficulty, (like a sardine tin) but I finally got myself all well packed in, then noticing that my feet were touching the pedals.  I was explained some certain procedures, like keep feet away from the pedals, and was helped to get strapped in. That all done the door was closed and checked that it was secured properly, although if the door was fall off in flight I doubt very much if it was possible to fall out anyway, even if the Jabiru flew on its side. Hmm... I thought, this is rather small, but again I composed myself by thinking, "well plenty of other people bigger than me fly in these little things quite ok". Ian got in the other side, and we were pushing each other a bit for some elbow room, in other words just getting comfortable like a couple of full grown baby birds in a nest.
Ian put my headset on and then his and turned the radio switch on, then we were able talk to each other through the microphones, as without these headsets and microphones with the engine going you definitely could not talk to each other. Again a few more enlightened instructions from Ian on how to er move around (if that was possible) but after some encouraging enlightenment on how to move around I suddenly found I could breath out again easily. No, not really quite that bad, just joking here, as once we were in and all settled, I was rather quite surprised as to the amount of room there is for two medium sized persons.

So now this was finally it, Ian explained a few things as to what was about to happen, and he said:- "Okay mate let's go to Jamestown"  He clicked a few switches, as he went through the cockpit routine, he yelled out "CLEAR PROP" and hit the start button, and the 4 cylinder Jabiru engine fired into life. We sat there for a short time watching the oil and heat gauges climbing into the required position, before moving off. He put the handbrake on full and opened the throttle up full bore, to run the engine up to test that we had full engine power. As the tacho was reaching the required 3,000 rpm, this little ultra-light felt like it wanted to go square dancing, and for a moment I was a little bit apprehensive about it, for it sort of felt like it wanted to jump up and flip over onto its back, but I was assured this definitely does not happen. Gulp!...........

The engine now tested and everything was working ok, and me feeling much better about it now, we taxied out over the verge to the main runway, a call over the radio to warn other aircraft if in the vicinity as to what we were about to do. It was time to now move onto the runway, I was astonished as to how wide the runway was as it is usually use only by gliders mostly.

We sat there a moment and Ian said, "well John this is it and OFF we go" and opened the throttles full bore.
The Jabiru engine roared and I was absolutely stunned, no actually astonished, as to the amount of power this small engine had, as I was pushed hard back into my seat as we stormed off down the runway, and then suddenly, we were off the deck. WOW, FANTASTIC, I thought, as we stated climbing and gently turning towards Roseworthy to 1000 feet. Ian commented he was a bit surprised at the rate of climb we were getting, normally it was not like this. Must have been me full of air.... ( from mouth, not bum ) .....[grin]

Cockpit dash

Well by now we were getting a great view of the Gawler area and the freeway from Adelaide as we passed over it. We were now being bounced around with some quite heavy turbulence, again me having to compose myself with a few deep breaths and I was okay AGAIN. We climbed to 1,500 feet which is all we are allowed in this controlled area, till we get to Roseworthy and it was a very bumpy ride at this altitude. I was hoping the whole trip was not going to be like his, as I think I would have needed the perk bag as breakfast was jumping around a bit. Ian assured me it will be much better once we get some altitude past Roseworthy.

Ian doing the flying
Ian my Pilot in the Jabiru doing the serious business end

After passing Roseworthy we started climbing again at around 500 feet minute to 4,000 feet as that was just below the cloud base, we were not allowed to fly in clouds. Around Tarlee the clouds quickly became very scattered, then suddenly the sky was free of all clouds to the North as far as the eye could see where we were heading. So once the cloud completely cleared we then climbed to 4,500 feet, and it was quite smooth, but for the odd bump now and then. It was very clear skies to the North, North West and North East. To our left (west) in the distance at about where the coastline was, we could see a wall of thick cloud, and far to our right (east) was some small cloud also, so I though I was a very fortunate person today to have such clear skies for this part of the flight, as I use to live and travel around this area up to thirty years ago, before transferring with the railways to Mount Gambier. I was so rapt and feeling great, actually on top of the world you might say. The view was just breathtaking.

At this height as we neared Clare it was starting to get very very cold and my left ankle which I had injured a few weeks previously was getting sore from not being able to move it and the cold was getting into it. There was very little room to move your feet around, so I put my left foot behind my right foot and pulled both feet back towards me to try and keep my ankle a bit warmer if possible. It was at this point when I pulled my feet back that the engine suddenly died to idle. I saw Ian go for the icing mixture switch, and said, "It cannot be icing as that the engine usually starts missing". It was at this point I thought to myself, that's strange how come I'm not really concerned that the engine power had powered off and slowed. I just looked down and I could see the ground below us was of slow undulating ground everywhere. I actually surprised myself as I had thought previously what IF this engine died on us, how would I react to a situation like this, would I begin to panic. But No, I was just the opposite, quite very calm about it all. It must be from my 10 years of speedboat racing days coming into play here. Anyway, Ian did a quick check around, he suddenly dived his hand under the seat and the engine suddenly went to full power again. I said, "What was it." He said, "When you pulled your feet back your foot pushed the throttle closed, as the throttle is just under both our seats. Well I must say that was a relief, and something to keep in mind in any future flights.

When we got to about in line with Clare I turned to him and said, "Boy its getting colder and I'm freezing now, and as I spoke my breath was turning to thick fog it was that cold. I then said, " We are in an ice box now" He said, "Yes it gets like that at times around Clare area". But once we got past Clare towards Andrews, it warmed a little, but still quite cold but was much more bearable. At this point just past Clare we could see Spalding, Jamestown, Caltowie, Gladstone, Crystal Brook, Gulnare, by the White Grain Silos and way in the very distance we reckoned it was the Port Pirie Silos. To our right we could see Mount Bryan and the hills around it and it all looked absolutely marvelous, I never realised how high Mt Bryan area is, I was very awe inspired, and feeling very very glad I did this trip.

 A thought come to me at this point that here I am up here seeing all this grand sight out there, so I then looked down at the earth and saw a tiny dot ( a person) in a paddock and then imagined that was me down there looking up here, and it just made me suddenly fully realise, just how insignificant we all are to the rest of the world, in fact we are absolutely nothing at all, in comparison to the overall big picture, is a pity we could not always be aware of just how small we really all are, as we would not then get so full of our own self importance. This was quite an enlightened moment. 

Ian took a reading and worked out our ground speed since we left Gawler and it was 107knots because we had a tail wind. Normally the Jabiru I think does about 94 knots. So we were doing well. Suddenly we were coming up to Jamestown, my wife's home town and mine for seven years with the South Australian Railways from April 1963 to May 1970. It was while here I met my wife Dianne, and we were married in Jamestown 11th May 1968 , then later shifting to Mount Gambier in 30th May 1970. It certainly was a very strange feeling, as from up here 4,500 feet it was like a sort of coming back to Jamestown for the first time again. We have been back to Jamestown heaps of times, but this was for some reason was very special moment to me seeing the town from the air. Gave me that same exact feeling as when I first came and laid eyes on Jamestown, like I had just found home. But the silly part is, I would not like to live back their now in the later years.

Jamestown looking near north east. 

Here we were travelling up the Spalding road on left. 
One can see the main road heading out of Jamestown to Orroroo or Peterborough. 
Also you can see where the Standard Gauge railway vears away left towards Peterborough alongside the Orroroo highway.

Jamestown looking South towards Adelaide.

Looking South towards Adelaide. Where Silos are was the old narrow gauge railway station and yard, now all gone.

Perhaps because I'm seeing Jamestown for the first time from the air. I kept saying, "This is incredible, I never thought I would see the day that I would see Jamestown from the air", again I was feeling very fortunate to be doing this. Another special moment in life's journey. We did several circles around the town as I was clicking shots off of places that had meaning to me, and of Dianne's Uncle's homes from the air. I surprised them later by sending a photo of their homes from the air.

I felt I could have just circled around Jamestown for an hour or so, just taking it all in, it was so fantastic, but it was now time to head back to Gawler, as time was pressing us. So it was goodbye to the old Jamestown as we headed off South towards Gawler and started climbing at 500 feet a minute till we reached 5,500 feet and at this height it was super smooth. The only thing I could feel was the slight vibration of the engine, it was like sitting in a lounge chair at home with a wide screen TV and at 5,500 feet we could see even further, it was fantastic. This time I could now get a good view to west as we past Spalding, Clare Valley to the right some distance away. Clare in the Winter is always a damp cold with low cloud, so now I understand why they call it the Clare Valley as from the air that whole area from Clare down to around just past Auburn is really a green valley and has the most greenery (many trees and grapevines) and outside the Clare Valley is quite dry looking and mainly treeless as far as the eye could see. As we went past Mintaro on our left Ian calculated our speed and we were doing about 87knots, on account of the head wind now. Overall we were exactly on the Flight Plan's times, a credit to Ian's calculations. 

Auburn at 5.500ft
Auburn from above the cloud at 5,500 feet looking West, South West.

Approaching Auburn on my right we started to encounter odd scattered cloud, flying visual we cannot fly above or through the clouds, so some quick shots of Auburn as we passed as I use to live there (good times too) from when I was 10 years old, till I was 14 in the mid 1950's and then left primary school (never went on to high school) and went to Adelaide in a boarding house (4 a week) and started my working life as a carpenter and joiner (3-17s-6d) My father was the Station Master at Auburn at the time and he made up the rent shortfall till I turned 15. I then received a raise to 4-5s-0d) I was now finally self sufficient with wow 5 bob (shillings) or (50 cents) in my pocket. Bit different now-a-day hey! but then, it was much different times back then.

Nearing Tarlee we were now getting close to a the solid cloud layer again, so it was time to descend below it to 3,500 feet for a little way. We were now passing Tarlee at 3,500 feet and it was time to descend to 1,500 feet as I said in beginning that is the maximum height for that area into the Gawler airfield. It was again a very bumpy ride, we past Templers, past the east side of Roseworthy, as the West side is the Air Force Area (a no go area for light aircraft) A slight correction, then we headed for the Gawler strip.

Putting down on 13 Gawler

We did a circuit of the Gawler field and came in for a touch and go landing on runway 13, just for fun and powered on again and then did another circuit and came in for another perfect landing at 10:10am, ending a very nice and enjoyable two hour round trip.

We taxied back towards the hanger, where two elderly gentleman were waiting to refuel the Jabiru for their flight to Truro. They pointed to the refuelling point so we taxied over to the fuel bowser. I extracted myself out of the seat ending a great and exciting trip I will certainly never forget, it was just great. I would recommend it to anyone, and if you ever get the chance to fly in a Jabiru Ultra-Light, then go for it, it is a great and worthwhile experience. Our flight was two hours ten minutes in duration and well worth every second of it and I would have to honestly say it is a far better experience than flying in a normal light aircraft. Perhaps a bit more bumpier when there is turbulence around, but it is still worth it.......

John & Jabiru at Gawler
Ian my pilot took the above photo of me, (John) touching the wingtip after our trip.
The chap in red is refueling the Jabiru for their trip to Truro. Note the static wire attached near the nose wheel.

Hope you enjoyed the flight, I did.  Oh! one last important thing. 
This still did not beat driving the "Beyer Garratts" as that was THE most fantastic experience.

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