This blog is in date order from the bottom of page!
What a great trip, now the World is out of COVID and travels are not an issue. It was with great pleasure I accepted the kind invitation to fly Avalon 23 for Awesome Aviation in the company’s Extra NG. This is the most comfortable performance aerobatic aircraft even made ! With a good turn of speed also. Just one area of slight discomfort for me due to a ski injury is that your legs are in “tunnels” so to speak preventing any other position. Everything else is very ergonomic.
I note Extra has increase the cabin vent size and quality of the mechanism on this model, probable because the fuselage is almost fully sealed and does not exhibit that cold draft down your neck of every other a/c they have built.
Landing speed on the NG is slightly faster than the other Extra however it tracks dead straight with no tendency to wander at all. My assumption is the angle of the tail wheel yoke assists greatly.
Australia, well what can I say, everything is different in the countryside as compared to UK and Europe. West side where I trained and started the long transit to Avalon. Large fields that didn’t seam to have boundaries, then comes a forested area petering out to wheat growing area prior to coming across massive holes of open cast mining for gold. All around the holes is the spoil, the biggest one is at Kalgoorlie which I estimate is over 1000 ft deep. The whole town is built by the proceeds of gold.
After Kalgoorlie it turns to the red desert of the Nullarbor a Dutch word meaning “no trees” and it’s exactly that, just scrub bushes and red soil. This goes on and on with the occasional cattle watering hole. Thinking about it I didn’t see any ranches.
Then comes big wheat growing areas in the Ceduna area, a bit more “outback” area with salt flats and small tree forests, then more wheat and your at Avalon 1640 nm later.
Wild life, as few birds are familiar like sea gulls and gannets ! and house Martin swallow types. Everything else is new to the European, pelicans and parrots types easily seen. Something else ‘we don’t see are kangaroos and Quokka. This creature looks like a cross between a rat and a kangaroo is has no fear of man at all.
Up early again. Ceduna, Forrest, Kalgoorlie and finally Jandakot with 7 hours flown puts us at the home base of Awesome Aviation, Jandakot, Perth.
The Nullarbor desert is just red and devoid of trees, hence its name. Both the Ceduna area and the Perth area agriculture and wheat growing is prevalent. The bits in between look like a cattle trails leading to watering holes. The scale of the country is indescribable other than the whole of Europe would fit inside its boarders.
My route was 3037 km Perth to Avalon and back making 6074 km transit flights, quite a bit of countryside seen ! By way of example the straight line distance between London and Moscow is 2501 km
Last display is flown at midday, again to a sell out crowd of 80,000. We have negotiated a departure slot time mid afternoon just ahead of a scheduled airline. All goes to plan. Again we have to avoid rains which hit Avalon at the end of the show. 1 fuel stop and 3 hours flying puts us at Whyalla.
A sell out crowd of 80,000. This is limited by the number of toilets available and not the venue size. I’m flying early in the day now so briefing at 08:30…. Grrr, still at least as soon as I’ve flown we get off site for an afternoon R&R near the coast.
Friday 3rd. The first public day. My slot time is 20:02 just after sunset however this is delayed by a scheduled JetStar arriving a bit late and then taking a slow taxi back the full length of the 3048 meters runway. I finally take-off at the sweet spot of 15 mins after sunset where the colours are vivid.
I’m frequently asked what’s it like flying in the low light? Yes it is harder especially when doing the tumbling figures being able to pick out headings however with a practiced sequence and the predictability of the extra NG it’s not a problem.
Thursday 2nd March
Getting into the grove now. 08:45 from the accommodation. Fight the traffic and then the crowds to get to some obscure place in the field. Briefing is now down to 15 mins. Plus another 10 mins with the pyro guys as this is a live “practice” for the public days.
I’m flying the pyro slalom first flown at Avalon in 2015, an act the Global Stars team now flies in China, Bahrain and the UK.
All goes very well with the roman candles I estimate firing to well over 150 ft.
The show is 3 days of trade show and 3 days of public show. Briefing is 10:00 daily. The CASA ruling is no attendance at briefing = no fly. You can’t send someone in your place. This means a long day in some cases if flying at the end of the day. 16:30 is my slot time. Dave rotates slots throughout the week to give everyone “prime time” exposure.
Dave Walton is air boss (FDD in UK speak) gives the briefing, very concise and completed in 20 mins. Helped greatly by the fact that a detailed briefing was emailed out some days prior. My slot time is at 17:35 closing the show. Social media had alerted everyone to the ‘frisbee” manoeuvre, as far as I’m aware only one other pilot in the World flies this figure, Rob Holland the 4 minute freestyle world champion. Luckily, I nailed it spot on with the eagle eyes of assembled pilots watching. 🙂
27th Feb, we catch the tail end of the rains so with a bit of zig zagging around to find a hole to let down in to meet our slot time of 11:25 we arrive. Get the aircraft undercover, pick up the hire car and learn that the show briefing is 12 o’clock on Tuesday.
26th Feb. just a short day with night stop at Horesham letting the rain pass Avalon. All airports with the exception of Forrest its DIY fuel serving using a total card so very often you don’t see anyone.
An early start to get well into the 1640 nm route across Australia to Avalon. We have allowed 3 days for the trip because of “weather” forecast on route. Dividing the route into sectors of 300 – 350 nm is comfortable. Cruise alt is 9500ft where the temps are 12’c. A true air speed of 175 kts is typical.
Firstly Kalgoorlie, then Forrest, then a fast refuelling in Ceduna for fuel and onwards for a night stop at Streaky bay. A pleasant location and a time zone change of +2.5 hours
Kalgoorlie area is a gold mining area with massive holes dug in the ground. Heaps of spoil cover a huge area.
Forrest is the only sizeable airport in the Nullarbor. 2 runways, 2 persons and a dog. The owners typically employ a couple for 12 months periods to manage the site. The successful applicant has to be a jack of all trades. fixing generators, water pumps, managing the 4 transit accommodation houses. fueling of aircraft, runway inspection and the list goes on. Chris and Wendy are a most helpful and pleasant couple and show an interest in maintaining the nature balance in the area.
Food is dropped off by the train that passes through twice a week. Just a few days before our visit the temperatures were 45’c. Luckily we experienced just 25’c 🙂 —–
20th to 24th Feb, I fly twice a day learning the aircrafts abilities and building a sequence. A new manoeuvre I have been studying video and practicing only succeeding 1 in 3 attempts is the “inverted frisbee” Much to my delight I am able to do this figure after 3 attempts in the NG. I’ve not seen any video of it being flown other than that of Rob Holland from the USA, a true master of the skies. With more practice by the end of the week I’m nailing it every time 🙂
19th Feb, I have a check flight with an instructor, Simon Saddick from Jandakot to Murry Field our training base for the week. When flying away from the UK I try and fly in the UK time zone to be alert as possible. Flight check done and signed off so now I’m legal for solo flight.
The first “exploratory” flight of what the Extra NG and see what it can do. Initially I start with the classic tumbles I’m very familiar with.
Not many place can you see kangaroos grazing at the side of the runway.
17th and 18th Feb, are R&R days to alleviate the jet lag, +8 hours Perth West side and +11 hrs East side of Australia. Its said that for every hour of time shift a day is required to recuperate…… Beach time and generally relaxing is the order of the day.
16thFeb, arrival Perth in clear blue skies. And 25’c. Dieter meets me at the airport. A perfect start.
I must say the direct flight even though its long is certainly the best way to do the travel to Australia. No disturbance mid way to be routed around a duty free shop in Dubai, Qatar, Singapore etc. Just say to yourself this will be a long flight, plan your film watching, book reading and meals with occasional walks to the rally for a snack or drink. Sleep the rest of the time 🙂
Arrival at LHR is some of the crap UK weather for the flight at 11:50 direct to Perth with Qantas approx. 17 hrs arriving the following day. Bag drop, check in goes smoothly then you wait for gate news. First the 1 hrs delay, then a bit more and off you go to be told the flight is cancelled and a hotel provided. Some people make a mad scramble to book other flights etc.
I have to take the hotel option for a flight the following day 14:45 after the scheduled 11:50 departing after the storms had passed.
The problem was a fuel pressure transducer at fault and non being in Europe one had to be flown in from USA arriving at 13:00 to be fitted for a 14:45 flight.
Arrival to Perth was +25 and superb clear skies with a westerly breeze.