I touched back down in Sydney in late May. This was my first time visiting Australia in the winter and although it was chilly, it was certainly nothing like the winter temperatures we get in the UK. It’s a huge country though and further south, or later in the winter, temperature can drop significantly. I was hoping to be well on my way to warmer climates before then!
The first couple of days were spent preparing Planey for the next legs of the journey. Flying around Australia had been easy and relaxing; crossing the Pacific and dealing with the bureaucracy of the various small islands would not be. Staying with my Aunt Janet during this time was fantastic; as well as getting to spend time together and enjoy classic New Zealand movies like Pork Pie of an evening, it was very relaxing to be staying somewhere familiar with family and be able to fully concentrate on the preparations.
The ferry fuel system had been removed during the annual inspection, and the previous flights around Australia had been done without it. It would most definitely be needed for the Pacific, so it was time to put it back in. The fuel feed from the tank is connected to a “T” connector under the pilot seat, plumbed into the fuel feed from the left wing. To minimise any risks of fuel spillage, as well as because I was keen to get back in the air, I took Planey on a local flight up to Scone to visit the café and aircraft museum there. A thorough pre-flight revealed no major issues, although insects had built a few mud-based nests on the engine which I quickly removed.
It was a smooth flight up to Scone, taking less than 30 minutes. As I arrived a T6 was entering the circuit after taking an enthusiast on an air experience flight. I taxied in behind them and parked up at one side of the apron. Inside the café the lady behind the counter started offering apologies before I’d even opened my mouth; she was a newcomer and hadn’t had any training on how to make coffee yet. Not a problem for me, as I was after something cold! Drink purchased, she directed me round to the museum entrance to go and check out the Hunter Warbirds collection.
The warbirds collection, and associated museum, grew out of the aviation passion of Colin “Col” Pay. Col started a crop spraying business using Tiger Moth aircraft and was a pioneer in the fields of aerial application and aerial firefighting. He developed a passion for warbirds that evolved into both a restoration business, and the fantastic collection which can be seen today. Sadly Col was killed in 2007 at age 75, in a flying accident while testing a potential new innovation in aerial firefighting.
After an enjoyable museum visit I hopped back in Planey and flew a circuitous route back towards Maitland. Along the way I was able to fully drain the left main tank of fuel, leaving me fully prepared for the re-installation of the ferry tank. I taxied back to my temporary hangar and got to work.
The ferry tank went back in very easily. I paid a lot of attention to making sure that there was no sharp edge or point left uncovered; a breach of the tank would be a great shame. A couple of the anchor points could not be easily re-installed without effectively replacing them so I had bought some wire rope and compatible fastenings from Bunnings to effect this. Hunter Aerospace, the maintenance operation on the field, very kindly assisted me with airing up the tires as well as lending me a few tools to finish the creation of the replacement anchor points.
I was expecting at least some fuel spillage when removing the blanking cover to reconnect the fuel line to the aircraft’s fuel system, and had all kinds of rags and even a fire extinguisher standing by, but all were in the end unnecessary. With the tank fully secured I taxied over to the fuel pumps to get some Avgas into it and test the system. After carefully running through the priming procedure I started a test transfer, and all seemed to be in good order!
With the tank installed I put Planey away, and finished off the remainder of the organisation and packing of the aircraft. On the way back to Aunty Janet’s I stopped off at the shops for a few final supplies; lip balm and sea sickness tablets to replace the expired stock from my life jacket, and a packet of “Vegemite brownie mix” to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the delicious condiment. They turned out to taste very much like normal brownies, but slightly worse.
The next day was a short one; a quick drop-off of the HEED3 emergency underwater egress device for service and refill, followed by the train to Sydney airport and a short emergency trip back home. When I made it back to Australia in a few days, early on a Sunday morning, it would be time to set out on the final leg; destination, USA.
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