Day 16 for Double Trouble in the Outback Air Race 2001

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Mt Isa to Tyabb - The Long Trek Home

This day was planned to be the longest day's flying on the whole trip away. A distance of some 1,100 nm (2,000 km, 1,250 miles) lay between Mount Isa and Tyabb on the Mornington Peninsula near Melbourne.

A forecast obtained in our room before breakfast yielded the expected results: perfect flying conditions, albeit with head winds, all the way ... until we were due to hit Victoria, where low clouds, reduced visibility, intermittent showers and low freezing levels appeared to be the order of the day. So with this in mind we decided to stick to our initial flight plan tracking via Boulia for a landing in Birdsville and then via Moomba to Broken Hill, where we would reassess the weather situation and make a decision about continuing on to Melbourne.

On getting to the breakfast table, we found that Barry and Judy Matulick of the Saratoga Saracens were also heading our way. Originally they had planned to go to the Gold Coast but, upon finding the weather there even worse than that for Melbourne, had decided to head down south as well.
Our departure out of Mount Isa was within a minute and within sight of Barry and Judy. Climbing to 7,000' and 9,000' respectively we kept each other in sight as first one and then the other plane would overtake.

The scenery on the way was, as always, spectacular:

We landed within minutes of each other at Birdsville in south western Queensland, only to find that we were one week early for the famous Birdsville Races. We did enjoy a counter meal at the Birdsville Hotel nonetheless, before continuing our trip to Broken Hill.

Heading further south, we found that the gusting winds we had experienced on the ground in Birdsville had built up to a formidable 45 knots most (of course!) on our nose. With the ground speed reduced to about 130 knots, we nonetheless managed to get to Broken Hill without further ado, despite the low cloud that had started to appear during the last 100 nm or so.

The weather conditions of the ground were now positively miserable with a cold gusting wind, overcast and sporadic rain showers not making Broken Hill a place to endear itself to us!

After refuelling both the planes and ourselves, we got hold of updated forecasts for Melbourne and made the decision to continue on only as far Mildura. Calculating the wind on this last leg for the day, showed that it had picked up to some 60 knots, reducing our ground speed to the low 120s knots.

Arriving in Mildura, the Saratoga Saracens and Double Trouble put the planes to sleep and caught a taxi to town, reminiscent of the race days in the past. After checking into our motel rooms we then sauntered down to the Mildura Working Men's Club for a meal and a nice glass of red.

The morning forecasts for Melbourne were not any better than the previous night's but, having had a good night's rest, we all felt a lot more confident at being able to tackle the conditions. After a leisurely breakfast we then caught a taxi back out the airport where we farewelled the Saratoga Saracens who were headed into Moorabbin Airport about 20 nm from our destination in Tyabb.
We spent a lot of time in the clouds, reduced to following our progress on the flight instruments rather than by looking out of the windows and after a number of stepped descents from Melbourne radar control we were eventually able to break out into visual conditions for the final sector to Tyabb.

Jens had his best landing of the trip touching back down at home base and made up for this, after refuelling the plane, by bogging it in the soft ground outside the hangar - only some 30 feet from the door! Enlisting an unsuspecting spectator, however, had us quickly back on the gravel and inside the hangar in no time.

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