- Pilot: Anatole
- Navigator: Eddie
- Aircraft: Nanchang CJ6
- Worst Decision: Beef Jerky for Breakfast
Recently we had the pleasure of being tasked to deliver a CJ6 Nanchang to its new owner in Far North Queensland! A big high pressure system sitting over eastern Australia meant tailwinds and clear skies all the way to the tropics, so in a hurry to take advantage of this we the afternoon to Wagga Wagga for the night. A more direct route (for the relatively short legged CJ) is Hay, Bourke, Charleville, Barcaldine, Charters Towers, Cairns – but due to our hasty departure we didn’t have time to check the taxi and accommodation situation in Hay and thought there’d be no problems in Australia’s biggest inland city (oops, Henty Field Days?!). Exactly 90 minutes later we were there, tying down the aircraft while answering questions from some curious Rex cadets.
We were back at the airport at 5:30 the next morning with a frozen CJ sitting there in the -1°C pre dawn. Following the prescribed cold weather start saw the engine fire on the second blade (to our surprise) and it quickly settled into a 6 cylinder idle, the other 3 jugs taking their time to light off. With no back up air bottle getting it started first go was crucial to our plans. The CJ is air started, and you can’t crank for too long before the air pressure in the main tank drops to a point where it can’t turn the engine to start.
Oil temps finally in the green from its sub zero start we taxied over and washed the frost off the wings before launching into the still morning air at exactly 6:30am. Ahead of us lay nearly 2,200km of country to cross in a day. The lush green and yellow fields of winter crops stretched out to either horizon, a picturesque start to the day, although also somewhat cold. No cockpit heating and no real canopy seals meant a drafty cabin and two frozen travellers.
Landing at Dubbo 70 minutes later didn’t bring any relief to the cold weather, although the bonus was this cold southerly wind was pushing us over the ground 20 knots faster and would continue to do so all day.
From Dubbo we tracked to Moree, Roma and Emerald for lunch, where the landscape had changed from the temperate greens to the sub tropical greys and browns typical of the end of the dry season. In Emerald Eddie finally took off his beanie, however deciding that he was not sufficiently thawed out from the morning elected to leave his puffer jacket on.
From Emerald we headed to the gold mining town of Charters Towers, where it was almost 30°C. Eddie finally took his puffer jacket off. Some curious and crinkly-brown tyre kickers came and helped us refuel and we set off for the final leg into Cairns. What was meant to be a one hour hop turned into a 90 minute bum-numbing round about as we held south of Cairns waiting for clearance, not unusual at this busy air hub in Far North Queensland. It was here that the radio decided to reveal its intermittent nature however with some one handed flying we managed to get into Cairns without causing too much chaos.
From our departure from Barwon Heads we flew 1400 nautical miles, spent 9 hours aloft and used 540 litres of Avgas, 1 packet of beef jerky, 2 pies and a bottle of water to get to the tropics. A great way to see Australia in a day, rather than up in the stratosphere in those tourist mailing tubes, missing the details, and maybe the point of travel.