Monday, September 6, 2010

It's back!

Sunrise, again! It's really hard to capture just how red that sun is. And how scenes like this never cease to amaze me.

The 'wet season' is starting to happen again. This period is known as the 'build up.' Lots of humidity, big cumulus clouds, unstable weather with the occaisional storm, and of course rain. Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing really to worry about flying either as the cells and big clouds are usually isolated and its easy to navigate around them.

However, put yourself into a baron, at 5:00am in the morning, on a moonless night, with layer of cloud sitting at 10,000 feet. This makes the darkness feel even darker. One of the aspects of night flying in the Northern Territory, is that it's black and often hundreds of miles between seeing any civilisation on the ground. Couple all this with no weather radar, and i'm flying blind, on instruments. This isn't normally a problem, but i cannot see what's ahead of me, and on this particular night, it happened to be a storm. Not a big one, nor a fully developed monster that the wet season brings. But nonetheless was still an experience.

This baron has a light to show the leading edge, mainly to see if there is ice buildup. You can sort of see the streaks of rain over the leading edge.

So i took off from Darwin, on the Darwin 4 departure. This entails tracking runway heading till 900ft, and then turning to your assigned heading. As i levelled off at 8000ft, i set up the plane for cruise and did the paperwork, then settled in for the 90 minute flight to Kununurra. About 15 minutes into the flight i could see the strobes blinking in the darkness and everytime they blink, it looks like stars/particles around the wing. Now, i felt a little slow for not realising it was rain straight away, but i couldn't see it on the windshield ahead of me, and i couldnt hear it due engine noise/noise cancelling headset.

A photo in the bumps and in cloud!

Anyway i was a little shocked at first, and there appeared to be a lot of rain. (There was not much mentioned on the forecast of rain etc.) As i went a little further i ended up in cloud for a fair while, at which point i turned off the strobes as they are blinding at night in cloud. Soon though there was more flashing all around me, which was when i first got a little worried. When you fly close to a storm you hear the unmistakable streak of static in your headset as the lightning goes off. The bumps got progressively worse and worse at which point i was handflying as servos on the auotpilot don't mix well this amount of turbulence.

Once clear of the weather, looking back towards what i had come through. The main brunt of the storm was about 50nm behind this build up.

Long story short, flew through this for till about 100nm from Kununurra and all of a sudden it was clear! Good times. Interesting to say the least, and a good experience. Strangely enough, everyone in Kununurra and Darwin had seen it on the computer weather radar, and were asking if i flew through that area. Wasn't as bad as it looked on the radar though. And the be honest, the bumps i had to endure during the Alice Springs summer thermals, doing the mailruns low level, were definately worse.. i didn't even hit my head on the roof!

Arrival into Kununurra!

So i returned to Kununurra yet again, and this time had a coffee with the Chief Pilot of my old company there. He was actually the last guy of my season to be hired, but he has done well for himself there and seems to be running a good operation.

Part of the Ord River that runs between Kununurra and Wyndam. I hadn't flown over this area in almost 3 years.

The charter was flying some telecommunication blokes to a place called Forrest River, or Oombulgurri. It used to be a reasonably big/busy community, but as evident when i went there, it's virtually a ghost town, with only 50 people there at maximum anytime. It was actually a lot nicer to visit when it was like this, as for the first time ever that i have visited it, there was no trash all over the streets! I sat in the clinic and spoke to the nurse there for a few hours.

Oombie street scene - Clean and nice.

Overall was a great charter, enjoyed going to some of the old places and definately enjoyed the night flying/experience i had in the morning!

Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks to all who commented last post.


  1. That was a heck of a ride. Thanks for posting, Mike.

  2. Great post Mike. Do you find that flying into large cells becomes a significant danger at night during the wet season, given that you don't have wx radar/stormscope?

    By the way, you should submit your blog to - might get you a few more readers!

  3. Yeh definately flying into storms is a danger at night during the wet season.. all you can do is reduce power/speed back to the turbulence penetration speed and do your best to avoid the areas you can visually see due to the lightning etc.


  4. Good reading out for those storms! Sunrise IS amazing, Helen