Delivering the second GR-LSA during the first week in July, 2014, was an extremely enjoyable exercise for pilot Howie Hughes, as the Hughes Engineering Team haven’t undertaken a delivery of this length for some time. Most purchasers simply pick up their aircraft from the factory in Ballina, in Northern New South Wales, and depart from there. Read on as Howie elaborates on the finer details of the journey in the new Australian LightWing GR-LSA.
I departed from the Ballina-Byron Gateway Airport, Australia’s most Easterly airport, in the GR-LSA aircraft at around 11am, with the flight plan prepared on the OzRunways application on my iPad for the first time. Part of the exercise of this flight was to assess the effectiveness of OzRunways, which in turn, proved its worth within ten minutes of the wheels leaving the ground at Ballina.
Taking off on runway 24 and immediately turning right and heading towards the mountain range with the first stop on the flight plan being Dalby. However after a very short time into the flight I rapidly realised it was cold, the day was getting cooler, the wind was getting bumpier and the mountains were looking extremely unfriendly. So with not too much thought I swung the aircraft north and headed up the coast to Caloundra, this being an extremely easy navigational exercise, simply keeping the ocean on the right and avoiding Coolangatta airspace. Greasing past said airspace, then heading over towards the coast up past Bribie Island.
I was in Caloundra with a roaring tailwind of around 20 knots by 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The plan being to then head on to Kingaroy, however, the day had started very early with a few niggly items to be attended to, so I was quite happy to bed the aircraft down in a large, safe, secure hanger and head off to the nearest comfy hotel for a snooze, beautiful Italian meal and off to bed. I found all this on the beach front in Caloundra, ably assisted by a local cabbie.
An early start in the morning found me heading off towards Kingaroy where I’d planned to make a stop, but I headed straight to Roma, once again with a tailwind of around 20 knots so my ground speed was varied between 90 and 100 knots in the GR-LSA. It was during this leg that I found myself very happy to be flying this beautiful aeroplane, which flew like a dream: smooth, directionally stable and an absolute pleasure in the sky.
Flying out over Chinchilla I got a bird’s eye view of what coal seam gas is all about as this place really is a chemical nightmare with gas wells, pipes, dams, and roads crisscrossing what was obviously beautiful farm land. I gained a new appreciation of what the local Bentley blockade and the demonstration’s against coal seam gas were all about. I wasn’t an active participant in the local coal seam gas demonstrations, but, boy, this place sure was a mess of pipes and no longer resembled farmland in any way, shape or form.
On to Roma, ably assisted but the tailwind. The flight that I was making was being followed by a large high pressure system, and as I moved across and through the high pressure system I was in fact following its edge, thus the winds rotating in an anti-clockwise direction, simply stayed behind me.
Lunch at Roma, ‘When in Roma, do as the Romans do’, as they say at the Roma aero club, then, after filling up straight up to the next stop, being Emerald. I’ve been to Emerald before and I was met by my good mate, John Gardon, who runs a small flying school at the Emerald airfield, and again I was able to bed the GR-LSA down in a cosy, safe hangar for the evening and in to yet another comfy motel with a soft bed and a beautiful meal.
The next morning, I was up reasonably early and off due west to Longreach for lunch and a quick look through the Longreach Aviation and Qantas Museum. (I think it’s worth pointing out that I was rather disappointed in looking through the jumbo jet parked on the Longreach airfield. It seemed poorly maintained, it was tatty inside and though they had a number of guests who were all paying sixty dollars a head, they didn’t seem to want to turn the lights on inside the jet! The whole experience being, in my option, certainly not worth recommending, unless they do something about the tour).
After lunch, I was off to Winton. The second last leg of the journey where the airport caretaker, Bill, and his lovely wife, who then also offered me a bed for the night, met me. I politely refused, not wanting to bother them, but after Bill and I searched high and low for a motel, we couldn’t find any, so Bill very kindly put me up for the evening in an extremely warm and comfortable bed, fed me both dinner and breakfast and sent me on my way in the morning with a full tummy and a full aeroplane.
Heading now southwest for the last leg, I was now in the real outback, marvelling now at the beautiful colours of the vegetation and the rocks below. I flew out over Cork Station, and then on to Old Cork Station, out over the Diamantina and felt I was taking a step back into the history books with John Williamson’s voice wafting, Redgum’s song in the back of my brain “…and the rain never falls on the dusty Diamantina, and I won’t be back till the droving’s done…”
Landing at my destination was the end of an extremely enjoyable three-day trip. I was very happy with the performance of the GR-LSA as well as Oz Runways. I found Oz Runways a joy to use, particularly in the outback where it’s possible to enlarge the maps to the highest possible magnifications to pick out the smallest tracks in the outback, which assisted with the extra visual cues needed to ensure you know exactly where you’re going.
All in all, a great fun trip.
A brief overview of the Specifications for the Australian LightWing GR-LSA:
Range: 5 hours/500nm @ 100 knots;
Cruise Speed: 75-85 knots;
Wingspan: 9.1 metres;
Features: VIP Propeller, Complete window doors for maximum visibility, spacious interior, fully welded pilot protection frame, proudly Australian designed and manufactured.
Find out more about the GR-LSA at www.lightwing.com.au
Locate Australian LightWing on Instagram and read some more stories from Howie at australianlightwing.wordpress.com