My final test flight to Norfolk Island and back had it all. In fact, I don’t think that a more valuable trip could have occurred even if I could control weather and all the variables. Not only was some more great experience gained with regards to weather systems and flight management, but I was also given some great tips and tricks from the thousands of hours of ferry flying that my mentor Garry Mitchell has accumulated over the years.
Of course with any overseas trip it began by clearing customs, which presented our first obstacle.
Our departure to Norfolk was on Thursday the 30th June, and our arrival back into mainland Australia was on the 1st of July, and of course with my luck there was a regulation change on the 1st of July. Norfolk Island was becoming a part of Australia again. This meant that my flight to the island was an international flight and my return was a domestic flight, I was keeping a foot in each camp.
So after being signed out we made our way off and into the big blue yonder (I think that’s a saying).
As we approached the 80 nautical mile mark in our journey there, we were transferred from the VHF (normal aircraft radios) to the HF radio (long range) system and began our position reporting. While the HF takes a bit of getting used to, once you get the hang of the constant static sound and melody of E.T like sounds, it becomes surprisingly habitual. Not long after mastering the radios, it was time to use my new ferry fuel tanks for the first time and before I knew it my first fuel transfer was underway.
The flight to Norfolk was on a great day with a high pressure system above which gave some beautiful weather with a slight tailwind, and after what felt like quite a short time for the distance we travelled, we began our descent into the picturesque Norfolk Island.
The island itself is quite beautiful, and after clearing customs and tucking the plane into bed for the night we hired a car and went for a drive around the island (which didn’t take very long). A beer and some dinner finished the night before Garry and I headed to bed, feeling content after a great flight and all round good day.
Friday morning had us up early, well before the sun. The day before we had prepared ourselves and bought some bacon, onion and eggs, quickly turning from a pair of ferry pilots into slightly below average Masterchef contestants whipping up a storm of breakfast food. Following a quite successful meal we made our way to the airport where we checked out what weather lay ahead and confirmed the flight plan we had submitted the day before. With everything set to go, and clearing customs (not immigration this time), we started up the Cirrus and went through our pre-flight checks.
When ready for take off we roared down runway 29 and took off over the pristine blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. The weather for the flight home wasn’t quite as perfect as on the way over with a cold front moving across our flight path overnight. We picked our way through some storms and eventually made our way to Coffs Harbour after a few altitude changes due to some icing (I’m expecting to give you some good detail about icing on my trip to Iceland!), which we had expected to encounter after consulting our weather forecast.
This journey was another great learning opportunity and to have the experience of Garry to draw upon was great. I guess you could say I was happy as Garry.