This is a collection of my blog entries and experiences with flying, and learning to fly. Something I had been wanting to do for quite a while.
You can find all the pictures I've taken here, and read below for my experience.
Specifically, I have a page for my Trips to Oshkosh, the mecca for pilots
Coober Pedy was literally founded after early settlers randomly found opals, and the rest is history: many people moved it like a gold rush, although opals are not that easy to find (mostly random) and in the end aren't worth that much compared to the time and energy people put into finding them. Sadly many people lost their life's time and savings looking for them, and very few ended up ahead.
On the flight to and from Coober Pedy, we got to see the very many holes that were dug out to look for opals. From the gound it almost looks like the ground got shot by many big bullets and then finished off by bombs :)
It's only looking closer in the places that you see more:
Going for landing, and found a nice little dragon on the taxiway:
After going to our hotel with rooms dug in the hill, which is how people live to stay cool in the otherwise hot sun:
gets 100% dark with no windows
the clay gets a varnish on top so that it doesn't fall on you
We went to see the hotel museum and nearby mining museum:
Australia had a big island sea with prehistoric sea creatures
Lots of displays on how mining is done:
The museums also showed multiple rooms cut into the hills how people lived/live. As a bonus, when you dig to add one room to your house, you might just find opals at the same time:
You could also tour some caves:
you can see the tunnel boring machine
Many stores selling opals in all different ways:
Visiting the town had a few left over props from multiple movies that were shot there:
From Pitch Black with Vin Diesel (a good SciFi movie actually)
not a movie prop, but super cool to see a DS so far from home
They also have landscape that looks close enough to Mars for Mars movies to have been shot there:
They also have a kangaroo sanctuary where they raise little joeys adpoted from killed moms:
We had a morning tour that took us to a mining area:
most holes are left unattended and are easy to fall into
Nearby was breakaways, a former inland sea:
A few shots of breakaways from the sky:
Nearby was the dingo fence, it kept Jennifer safe from being eaten :)
Last part of our tour was a church built into the side of a hill, very interesting:
We then went on our own to see another mine, and house built into a hill:
More housing quarters:
A fair amount of aborigines live there:
Coober Pedy is definitely a cool place to visit, and learning about a different kind of mining that isn't really practiced anywhere else.
We left Birdsville early in the morning in pretty hellish winds and headed for Lake Eyre which was half dry but still interesting to fly over. One plane in our group flew low enough that they were able to spot wild camels in the sand dunes. Sadly we were a bit too high to see them, and probably didn't look carefully enough:
I first flew over big red, where we had gone for sunset the previous evening
by then I had a nice tailwind and was doing 159kts on a 125kt plane
when flying down lake eyre, I clocked a peak 169kt in level flight at 2500ft. Not bad for a 172 :)
finally arrived at William Creek
William Creek, population 12, doubled in size when we arrived for lunch :)
special planes with magnetic detection probes to do land surveying for minerals
most people arrive to William Creek the hard way, through harduous 4WD tracks
After lunch and a refuelling, we went to Coober Pedy via the very pretty Painted Hills:
one of our pilots did some low level flying
We then landed at Coober Pedy, which we visited in details the next day.
Day 4 started to get more remote. and turning into the true outback by the time we arrived to Birdville.
The first flight, we did some makeshift formation flying. That was definitely challenging and kept me on my toes, and I flew nowhere close to others compared to what the 2 best pilots, did:
morning pre-flight briefing
cute pink plane
I was so happy to have a G1000 to show me where other planes, were.
'traffic alert, traffic alert!' :)
well done, guys
We then resumed our regular flight to Windorah, our lunch stop:
there were watering holes for cattle
Windorah had a small airliner from Regional Express (REX) that links the small australian towns that are a bit too far to reasonably drive in between:
we had to hold our planes when it left to make sure we didn't get blown over
We then resumed our flight to Birdsville, the gateway to the outback:
arriving at Birdsville
the hotel was walking distance from the airport gate
We then got a tour of town and to the Big Red, a nice sand dune. Birdsville has a big horse race once a year, which draws crowds from all over Australia, and requires days of driving for many, on outback tracks, kind of a rite of passage, apparently a bit burning man like in some ways:
I think I found some bilby holes
And that was it for Birdsville, we had dinner in their restaurant, and slept on location too, dodging the super annoying and plentiful flies that seemed to be everywhere.
Our 3rd day in Australia/Toowoomba, was the day we'd head out. I was understandably a bit nervous about navigating on my own in a totally different ATC system that quite frankly didn't have much in common at all with the US system I learned in, but in the end it wasn't so bad, thanks to the training we had gotten the previous days.
Two legs of just under 2H, the first one took us to Surat, a small deserted airport with no facilities:
natural gas pipelines
seems that our planes were all equipped with ADS-B, so I was able to see other planes from our group
Our 2nd leg had a bit of convective weather, including this big rain cloud that shook the hell out of us when we had almost cleared the side of it
Jennifer and I first flew to Brisbane via Seoul, though 2 nice business flights we got from Korean Air via miles. It was not the quickest way there (12h + 9h), but it avoided the hellhole that is Sydney airport and its joke connection (or lack thereof from International to Domestic, and we got much nicer seats and amenities from Korean Air. The seats were got were actually first class like, only the food was ok not fantastic, however it didn't matter.
We started by checking out the Amex lounge in SFO that Jennifer got access to (sadly on the wrong side of security for us, so we had to go through security twice):
she liked the wine sampler/dispenser
made it to Incheon/Seoul, and connected to Brisbane
very nice seats
and we arrived in Brisbane around 06:00 to meet Clare from Safariint and the start of our tour. Since I had a bit of time, I did a quick walk around the south bank of brisbane:
this guy was doing a photo shoot :)
We then took a bus to Toowoomba, about 2h inland from Brisbane, and got some briefings on how to fly in Australia, as well as check rides from the club that was going to rent us planes for the next 21 days. I'll sheepishly admit that I kind of sucked during that check ride given how little sleep I had gotten, but I guess whatever I had left was enough to pass:
On day #2, I was up before sunrise, fog to the ground, and then we got some very loud birds that all went off at the same time exactly at sunrise, despite the heavy fog:
more planning with Oz charts
this was the C172 I was going to use for the next 3 weeks, with a slightly faster engine and a G1000
I had done the old traditional training in a pressure chamber at Beale AFB 7 years prior. It was worthwhile, but quite frankly it was a pain for the average pilot to go there and spend close to a full day for the training where the relevant part is really only 20 or 30mn.
When I found out that the FAA came up with a new training where instead of needing a bulky pressure chamber, they could just setup a tent, remove oxygen and pump in nitrogen instead until oxygen percentage was down to 8% or so, I found the idea very cool. It gives your lungs the same partial pressure of O2 than at 25,000ft or so, but without worrying about reduced pressure of air, and getting the bends.
So, I went to do it again, and the effects of O2 deprivation were similar for me: I don't feel happy like some do (which is bad, that's how you die), I start feeling not good while otherwise remaining functional. My brain slows down, but I can still do one task at a time if I really focus on it, and this second time, I didn't turn quite white like the first time, but I got very hot and sweaty. I was literally wet under my clothes and my body continued that reaction for another 5mn or so after I was back to normal air.
I tried my best to write down my O2 saturation during the exercise. It never dropped into the 60's which is where some people got, but I still was quite impaired in the 70's and couldn't have stayed at that saturation for much longer.
What's interesting is how my heart rate went up to compensate for the low oxygen, and then it seems to have given up. Not good...
I have a coworker who took a couple of pictures for me, and this time I filmed the event so that I could later see the time distortion (what feels like 1mn to you because you've slowed down, is actually 5mn of real time):
an instructor was giving us commands
I looked focussed on whatever I was doing, and not too white this time :)
And here is a short video of the session showing how we deteriorated over those few minutes:
ILike many other people, Jennifer and I went to Madras to go see the total solar eclipse, but thankfully we didn't have to drive. It was a slightly less than 4H flight thanks to a tailwind (I was afraid it would be more in a slow C172, the best plane I could get for that day since most planes were of course booked for that time.
I had planned to take off before 07:00, but my fuel order the previous day, was not filled, and I was forced to wait until the competing fuel company opened up and could fuel us up. We eventually took off a bit after 07:20. Better than nothing.
plane was pretty packed with 2 bikes and all our hiking and camping stuff
Jennifer soon resumed her copilot duties :)
I flew by Mt Shasta on the way up:
Sadly California had multiple fires, which made visibility often bad, especially by noon or so. On the way up, it wasn't too bad though and we got to see Crater Lake which was totally smoked in later on, on most days. We had actually planned to go to crater lake, but I cancelled that part of our trip once I saw how bad the visibility was on most days:
I think that's the hike down to the ferry that goes around the lake
We eventually got to Madras, which had nice scenery:
After watching the eclipse, we flew to Klamath Falls, with its big lakes:
once on the ground, we drove to that bridge to see the lake from both sides, you can see the falls aren't that big afterall :)
big runway, hard to miss (I was asked to land long)
there is an air force training base onsite
We first landed in Klamath Falls to see Lava Beds National Park, and then on the way back, we had a look at the town.
We were supposed to fly out the day after, but when we arrived, there was a line of thunderstorms around the airport and another one around Lassen where we were going, so I opted for us to stay the night in Klamath and fly down to Lassen early the next morning just after sunrise:
got lots of pictures from Lassen on the way
and finally landed at Chester/Rogers airport, from where we had a rental car waiting, and we drove back up (1h) to Lassen
After a full day in Lassen, we flew back at sunset (20:00) and got home in Palo Alto just before 22:00, tired, but happy from all the nice sightseeing.
After a longish flight from Palo Alto in a slow C172, we arrived at Madras Airport, smack in the middle of the path of totality for the eclipse, the first total eclipse in the US since the 1970's. Needless to say that everything on the path of the eclipse, was packed, and so was the airport, as well as camping sites nearby.
Solartown, north of the airport
the rest of the year, Madras has a small racetrack and drag racing strip
when we landed on sunday morning, a few planes were there already, but many more arrived
I was able to negotiate a parking spot closer to the exit for the next morning, and we setup our camp
some amount of vendors at the airport
We then took our foldable bikes and biked to Solarfest, a few miles south:
Madras was ready for visitors
and their money :)
we met Arturo at Solarfest
Nasa had a display room, but hard to get into due to crowds
Nasa gave talks
lots of vendors
I then went to Solartown to meet Arturo and Louis at their RV:
It was then time to get back to the airport for sunset pictures:
We then tried to sleep in our tent, and I very much appreciated the jet that landed at 05:02 and stayed idling close to our tent for a good 5mn :)
people getting ready early
I packed up our camp and turned the plane around in the direction of 'get the f out of here' :)
I was one plane away from the last taxiway to the runway
Tim, one of my many coworkers who went to the event
In case the sun disappearance brought a big flood, some were ready :)
And then, it started:
this lucky guy landed 1mn before the runway closed
that little sun left, is still very bright
without a filter, it was still super bright
almost there, but still way too bright to look with naked eyes
the corona of hot plasma around the sun, only visible during an eclipse
mercury became visible
So, it's hard to explain, but it does get quite dark, and cold. The cold was really noticeable, which is surprising how quickly it changed in just a portion of a minute:
and then, after barely 2mn, it was over
Just to give a feel for what it looked like, here are 4mn starting just before totality:
Those 2mn were as cool as they went by quickly. As soon as totality was over, we rushed to the plane, and went in line for the runway, got the first spot and I was the first person to take off when the runway re-opened. While waiting over 30mn, I took a few more pictures from inside the plane before finally being able to take off:
in the 40mn I waited before taking off, the roads were filled up already
jets were the only ones allowed to take off for about 1h after I left
a long road home
And one last shot of the partial eclipse still going on while we were flying to Klammath Falls:
We had a great time, definitely an at least once in a lifetime experience.
Usually I would only feature an airplane museum in the flying section, but the London Science Museum's section of airplanes is big enough that it deserves its own mention.
There was a good history of early planes:
a good reminder that the first aircraft that was heavier than air was French, even if it didn't fly far
very bird-like aircraft
of course the wright brothers are mentioned, along with their patents and thirst for money that caused the US to slip back decades while France quickly took over the world of flying machines
one impressive thing on the wright brothers' airplane was the engine: light and efficient
lots of early french planes
While most people know about the French Mongolfier brothers and their hot air balloon, few know about all the dirigeables that many countries experimented with, including England:
The section on VTOL aircraft was very nice. I didn't know about the pre-harrier prototypes:
VTOL thrust vectoring prototype
Short SC-1, first UK VTOL aircraft
Other random planes:
first german jet aircraft
early airplane with inefficient propeller
So again, while it was not an aviation museum, it sure had a worthwhile collection to check out.