Tantalising Tumut – Tabaka Trails - Totally Traumatised?
The title says it all from the perspective of Ray and Karen, Richard and Scott on the recent Easter mission – ‘Tyagarah Trikes Tour to Tumut’
Just a short 12 months ago Scott, Karen and I were all trying to find North on a map, adjust for magnetic variation, calculate airspeed component vs ground speed, decipher the lines and colour coding on Visual Terminal Charts, Visual Navigation Charts and WAC all at the same time as we coped with the shady area of landing straight, wing leveled and not on the first floor! How long ago that now seems!! In one of those prophetic Polish moments our trusty leader Richard Tabaka, CFI from Byron Bay Microlights suggested a trip to Tumut for the Easter HGFA towing event and a chance to visit the RAAus fly-in at Temora.
The mission objectives: To Fly Airborne trikes to
•Meet with Peter Wilson at Air Escape flying school to investigate aero towing and endorsement procedures for tugmaster.
•Do some REAL navigation and Cross-Country preparation
•Fly over Mt Kosciusko, Burrinjuck Dam, The Snowy Mountain ‘scheme’ and the beautiful Tumut Valley.
•Attend lectures at the RAAus event at Temora
•Allow Scott to complete his Cross-County Endorsement in his new XT912 ‘blackbird’.
•Meet up with old friends and meet new and engaging companions.
As with any adventure much of the fun is in the pre-trip activities, the camaraderie in the preparatory meetings and the thoughts of pre-emptive anticipation and what might and could happen. These concepts and stories evolve and are usually expanded upon in the retelling – this trip was no different.
Preparation started six weeks before Easter with the acquisition of maps, rereading the GPS manual [and trying to relate this to the reality of position , routes and waypoints] , finding Eastings and Northings and creating routes on maps and in the GPS, using the flight guides and ERSA to find runway directions, radio frequencies, alternate landing fields [thank goodness] , height restrictions and CTA regions... in the time it took for the inexperienced to prepare for the trip we probably could have walked to Tumut! But, the views wouldn’t have been as rewarding so we decided to fly trikes anyway.
With routes established the problem of packing became the new topic of discussion. The old Physics principle of ‘Nature abhors a vacuum’ became our motto. Every nook and cranny [and there are many on a trike] was filled with tent, sleeping bags, mats, tool kits, first aid gear, water and snacks and spare clothes, trike covers - squeezing and poking, packing and repacking but... alas there was one lonely bottle of rum left standing on the hangar floor there to stay to celebrate the return in 7 days time.
The sense of adventure and the anticipation associated with the unknown along with intrepidation and concerns about whether you have the personal skills and knowledge to cope with the elements and the judgement to make sensible decisions when under pressure and faced with new and challenging problems. It was evident that Scott, Karen and I would be relying heavily on the support and knowledge that is freely given by Richard and we would be using his experience to navigate the forecast cloud, headwinds and scattered showers predicted for the leg to Maitland via Kempsey.
The trip to Grafton was uneventful and a chance to bed down the packing and the map knee boards. It was evident that some inventive navigation was going to be needed to get to Kempsey as the clouds were low and likely to be sitting on the ridges behind Coffs Harbour CTR. In reality we flew easily over the E-W ridges only to be faced with a blanket of cloud below 2000’. An invitingly large ‘hole’ with a lovely green bottom beckoned willingly so the three of us slowly descended from 4000’ expecting to see large gaps between the green and the white – what we did find was a valley where clouds were growing out of the ridges like mammoth white trees. Unfortunately the cameras where carefully stuffed into the vacuous holes so the memory of natures beauty will have to suffice. A decision to retrace our steps and accept a possible defeat by nature or a request to transit Coffs CTR was short lived as the Bellingen River Valley presented a clear and safe transit to the coast with a meagre but acceptable 600’ clearance and clear views of the ocean, Urunga, Nambucca and onwards to Kempsey for a friendly and welcoming refuel stop – it is difficult to believe that a Council would contemplate closing such a wonderful utility as Kempsey Airfield – the club and especially our friendly refueler Ray were much appreciated.
Again we were thwarted in our attempt to reach the tracking point for the Maitland corridor with cloud on the ground at the head of all valleys – retreating to the coast once more we found squalls and unstable air so Camden Haven was living up to its name and Bob and his wife were wonderful hosts for our short stop over whilst nature played her testing games. Blue patches beckoned but again the trip was short and an overnight stay at Taree was the only option. At this point we all rejoiced in the fact that we had entered and planned for many alternates and placed all the information in the GPs for just such possible changes to plans.
Day 2 dawned with slight headwinds and some low patchy cloud this making the Maitland corridor valley flight a beautiful yet uneventful affair – only Av gas at Maitland saw some helpful club members point us in the direction of Luskintyre field 3 miles west for a MoGas refuel - what a brilliant concept these Tiger moth pilots have created - the 360 degree runway – a huge manicured grass field that allows almost any approach. Karen has had this idea for some time whilst training - why bother learning the land cross wind – just buy a huge circular paddock!!
Tumut via Bathurst was the decision and some high flying to mitigate the dangers of ‘tiger country’ over the ranges saw us safely flying the Tumut valley , a picture postcard, finale to a two day 12 hour flight.
The next four days were filled with brilliant and spectacular scenic tours along picture perfect valleys of poplars and streams, dams dappled with water craft and campers [ and power lines from the snowy power stations], towering clouds over the mighty Mt Kosciusko and friendly conversations with the hangliding, paragliding and flying communities that converged on Tumut over the Easter weekend. Not once have we met a person at an airfield that you couldn’t take home to meet mum!! Such is the camaraderie and friendly atmosphere that seems to exude from the airfields we have visited.
Plan the flight and fly the plan!! Well almost !! Scott’s trip to Katoomba on the return journey to the Gold Coast was to be his XC practical exam – and what an exercise it turned out to be! Armed with maps, new compass and GPs that was kindly wrapped in security paper by RT, Scott ventured off to Katoomba. Unfortunately, for some alcohol associated reason, Scott had missed the thermaling lecture the previous morning so ‘cloud suck(2)’ and ‘over the falls(3)’ were all new experiences in this two hour cross country endeavour – add to this the need to assess conditions and ultimately land at an airfield on the edge of a precipice that you have only read about in ERSA. WELL DONE Scott! A well deserved endorsement completed in new and ‘exciting’ conditions.
One of the incredible things about trikes is the 360 degree views that abound from the cockpit – and what better way to see the ‘Three Sisters’ and Wentworth falls at Katoomba. There were longing ground based eyes straining to see the magnificence of the Blue mountains whilst Karen and I floated and rolled in the late afternoon ‘evening velvet’ air over the magnificent and awe inspiring sandstone pillars and gorges.
Sadly Karen was needed at work [the only way to pay for the anti gravity pleasures of Triking] and departed for Sydney by train for the quicker but decidedly less insightful flight to the Gold Coast. Scott, Richard and I were left on a precipice watching clouds waft over the ends of Katoomba Airfield for three hours until a short widow of opportunity allowed for a rapid departure for lower ground and Sydney to the East. Is WOW an allowable descriptor? Penrith lakes, Easter Creek Raceway , Pennant Hills and visions of trikes over-flying Northern Sydney with the CBD, Harbour and ‘Heads’ in the background. Ok, WOW is not in the dictionary but it is the only descriptor to use in this case. North along famous beaches and headlands to the warm hospitality of Len at Somersby Airfield for a refuel and a welcome, cloudless sky, coffee - could we possibly hope for a tailwind?? Well you can hope all you like but the reality is that headwinds prevailed for almost the entire trip South and then again North homeward – it makes you appreciate the better speed of the Streak 3 wing and the undying thrust of the 912Rotax – money well spent we all decided – all except Scott who flys the new SST wing... he can tell the tails of the SST!! Fast and furious I hear you say Scot?!
Onwards to terrorise the Airborne factory and ensure the ‘boys’ aren’t asleep under a wing then to the rocky caves and spectacular shoreline of the Gosford coast – then... Willie(1)... ahhhhhh no permission and a wall of water in the West saw a dash to Maitland for a secure tie-down and a warm hotel bed while the watering skies brought thoughts of two or three days locked in a hotel room with two other blokes who were also out of clean undies and socks. Looking down forlornly on three blokes ‘window shopping’ for 5 hours at Officeworks and Harvey Norman caused the weather gods tears to dry and the cloud to lift in time for an all out dash North and a timely notification from a particularly chirpy CFI – ‘there is a 10kt tail wind at 7,500 over tiger country’. Say no more !! Landing at Ballina 30 minutes before civil twilight saw the end of a well planned and even better modified trip into an exquisite list of ‘highs’.
Why fly trikes they say – you have not lived flying until you can touch the clouds, felt the air and experienced its temperamental behaviours. Richard Tabaka – Thank you for your patience, your counsel and your friendship! To any reader of this dribble - if you want an experience of a lifetime and more Wow’s per day than many people experience in their whole life – come for a tour in trikes!!!
(1) Willie is the fond name given to the Williamstown Control Tower in requesting permission to transit coastal in the Newcastle area
(2) Cloud suck is the self generating lift associated with the condensation from water vapour into water droplets with the subsequent emission of heat which then generates lift at the ase of the cloud.
(3) A hang gliding term for the sensation experienced when flying from thermal lift into thermal descent – usually air moving up at 1000’ per minute to air that is descending at 1000’ per minute thus causing the nose of the ‘kite’ to act as thought you are ‘going over the falls’