The Sinus Conquers The Driest Desert On Earth
The June long weekend in Australia is one of the best times to go flying, we are in the middle of winter, the days are generally blue, warm and perfect for flying and this weekend was to be no exception.
The annual Old Station airshow and fly-in is probably the biggest in Queensland and this was our third pilgrimage to the event after last years washout with unseasonable rains. The trip was planned for several weeks with 5 aircraft from our club travelling together in loose formation from Jacobs Well to Raglan just short of Rockhampton on Australia’s east coast. We departed Jacobs Well in perfect flying conditions for the trip North and it wasn’t long before we cleared the busy Brisbane airspace for the trip along the coast, in our fleet were 2 Zephyrs, a Sova and the Foxbat with the Sinus flown by myself and my 14 year old son Matthew.
There are just so many pretty and unspoiled areas in Australia to go flying and the Queensland coast is no exception, several of us were treated to the unforgettable sights of whales heading up the coast from Antarctica to the warmer areas of Harvey Bay where they give birth in our warmer winter waters.
Heading up the east coast of Fraser island before landing at Hervey Bay
Matthew (14 years) and dad posing for the camera.
Landing at Hervey Bay airport the others in our fleet took on fuel but the economy from the Sinus meant we could comfortably make it all the way to Old Station without a top-up and it wasn’t long before we were rolling again for the second leg to Old Station. The group divided into two with the others heading inland to try and cut the corner with our aircraft heading further up the coast to Gladstone before heading inland, we travelled further but still managed to beat them such is the speed from the aircraft, I know I keep saying the same thing over and over but this really has to be the most economical aircraft ever made, the speed and economy under power is legendary with 110 to 115 knots true for just over 10 lph !!
An enjoyable 3 days were spent at Old Station and we demonstrated the Sinus to many interested pilots, as everyone headed off for home we headed west into Australia’s vast interior to extend our adventure and give Matthew a few extra days off school which his teacher really appreciated.
Crossing the Great Divide mountain range it wasn’t long before we hit the dry and flat vastness which is the majority of Australia, the greens faded from memory and were replaced by shades of red and yellow as sand took over from vegetation. Towns became harder to spot and the further west we went the smaller and more remote everything became, we were now in what Australia calls “Designated Remote Wilderness” and we are required to carry extra supplies and a rescue beacon ELT, because if you go down it could be days or at worst weeks before you’re found.
The further West we travelled the smaller and more remote the towns, highlighted in this picture are the landing strips for this town, would you believe they light fires in drums if night landings are ever needed, the desert was at its best following recent rains and water can still be seen in the creeks which flow an ancient path across the desert.
Huge floodplains funnel the rainwater into creeks which seem to disappear in the sands, in the photo above you can see the “Shot Lines” which are straight lines in the desert where geophysical surveyors have long ago explored for minerals and oils beneath the sands.
“All stations Birdsville CTAF Sinus Motorglider 877 joining crosswind overhead” was a welcome call for the end of the day.
Birdsville is really the “dead end on the road to nowhere”, it skirts the Simpson and Sturt Stony Deserts and has a fixed population of less than 100, today Birdsville is famous as being one of Australia’s remotest places with the exception of one day in September each year where the population swells to over 20,000 people for the running of the historic Birdsville horse races. Located beside the Diamantina waterhole Birdsville was named by explorer Charles Sturt because of the prolific bird life in this tiny desert oasis. Today Birdsville is world renowned as a tourist destination for those seeking something a little different and I believe without the constant supply of 4WD tourists the town would certainly close. The two main buildings in Birdsville are the roadhouse and the pub which was built in 1884.
Overhead and joining circuit for Birdsville… the only green grass in hundreds of miles is the new sporting oval which is irrigated with waste water from the sewage plant.
Tied down for the night and ready for a break…. It wasn’t long before the tourists turned up to ask lots of questions about our strange little plane, some even had us posing for photographs with them which really made us feel like modern day adventurers.
Departing Birdsville we followed the famous Birdsville track at 200 feet for the full 480 odd kilometers to Maree, crossing each sand hill was fun, each time we came to a sand hill it was pull back on the stick, up-and-over and down into the next valley….. Good fun. Even though the Birdsville track is now graded and suitable for most vehicles we still only passed 2 4WD’s and one group camped beside the track, this place is still remote.
The Dingo fence runs parallel to the road in this section and is the worlds longest continuous fence at 5,614 kms long, it was originally built to keep Dingoes (Australian wild dogs) from the sheep flocks in the southern parts of Australia, somehow I don’t really think it worked.
The sand dunes run for 1,000’s of kilometers, some are yellow, others red, most are around 200 feet high and stretch for as far as you can see.
Heading south towards Leigh Creek, here the flood plains run into the salt lakes which cover much in inland Australia, we landed on Lake Eyre North but because of the brilliant white from the salt our photos from the cheap digital camera didn’t come out, but the lake can be seen in the distance. This is the lowest part in Australia and is actually below sea level, would you believe I forgot to photograph the altimeter and GPS showing negative feet……
Flat, flat and flat…… The small trees in the photo are only bushes which stand less than 1 meter high, nothing much can survive out here, it is really hard to judge your height as there are no references when flying over the desert.
Towards civilisation and Adelaide, pictured above is the start of the Flinders Ranges, we descended from our 5500 foot cruise to play in the reported wave lift which comes off this ancient area when a westerly wind blows, the range itself is dated at around 600 million years old and although it didn’t provide enough lift to glide it was still fun down low and following the ridge lines.
On the way home and part of central NSW heading from Mildura to Narromine for fuel.
The last two hours and onto our home strip, light cloud laid beneath as we cruised at 10,000 feet looking for any sort of tailwind, unfortunately it wasn’t to be the best we could do was 15 knots on the nose but at least above the cloud it was calm.
The trip statistics….
Distance = 3216 Nm – 5175 kms
Total flying time including local sorties = 35.1 hours
Average speed = 91.6 knots – 170 kmh (Includes some gliding)
Fuel consumed 342 liters = 9.75 lph (Includes some gliding)
Fun value and adventure =110%
That’s it….. Another fun adventure in the Sinus flying outback Australia.
Till next time….. Take Care Michael Coates