Monday, June 11, 2012

No flying but check out the new logo on the plane!

Rain, rain & more rain. Finally, it looked like today would be different. With lots of fog, I was desperately hoping it would lift so I could fly up to Maryborough for the day & catch up with a mate, John, for coffee. Unfortunately, the fog didn't lift from Tooradin until late in the afternoon. So there I was, all fuelled up & no place to go as the fog base was 200 feet. 

However, on a good note, heading out to the plane today gave me the perfect opportunity to affix the On a Wing & a Chair logo. The two support planes will also have these stickers attached. Thanks to Electro Cut Signs for their kind donation.

Dave doing the quality check to ensure no wrinkles in the stickers.
Dave's plane - ready for the solo flight April 29th 2013.

I'm hoping for some clear days next weekend! Can't wait to get flying because I'm getting grumpy without my fix!

Over & out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Meet the OWC Round Australia Flight Team!

Just 341 days until I take off on my solo flight round Australia!

I'm so excited to be able to say that the support team is now confirmed! Six of us managed to meet up in Tooradin last Saturday, where we had a great opportunity to discuss & plan the trip. The flight is planned to depart from Tooradin on 29th April 2013.

Special thanks to the Tooradin District Sports Club for helping us out with a great space to meet including free coffee & tea! 

Who are these crazy characters in our team? Well, I'd like to introduce you to a few:

From left: Michael, Gordon, Bob, Linda, Dave, Louise

Gordon, Bob & Michael, from Griffith NSW, will be piloting their own planes. They each have a tremendous amount of flying experience & have unique skill sets that will be invaluable for the adventure! 

Louise is the Coordinator, liaising with media, base support & generally organising us all. Linda & Lida (not pictured) will be helping Dave out as Carers, each for half the journey. More information about members of the support team will be up on the website soon.

The three aircrafts (2 support & mine) involved in this epic journey will soon be plastered with the On a Wing & a Chair logo thanks to the very generous donation from Electro Cut Signs in Brisbane.

We left the meeting feeling PUMPED! With just 341 days to go, we are all looking forward to the challenges, ticking things off our To Do lists & raising those much needed donations!

However, it's sometimes all too easy to get lost in the day-to-day of what we DO, but it is vital for us all to remember WHY.. WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? 

To raise the public's expectations of what people with disabilities can achieve 
& provide inspiration to all! 

Over & out.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I've had better Easter weekends!

It's been awhile since the Easter long weekend when we went for a flying trip, but as you'll find out in this blog, I've had better ones.

For the Easter weekend, Linda & I flew to Temora for the annual Natfly. We spent Easter Friday checking out aircrafts of all shapes & sizes, salivating over my next dream plane & caught up with friends.

On Friday night, we stayed with good friends Ian & Elaine Willis at their hanger in Cootamundra & had a great night with them, Glen & Wes. Ian put on a great BBQ dinner, finishing it off with his homebrew - Irish mint cream liquor - drink enough & it will make you go blind but it tasted so good! Earlier upon our arrival, as we were taxiing to their hanger, we discovered we had a flat tyre. Thanks to Ian, Glen & Wes for helping to put the spare on as we would probably have been stuck there for awhile. Elaine was wonderful as she kept us all hydrated & fed with nibblies. 

Dave hard at work with a beer as he directs Ian & Glen.

On Easter Saturday, after a great breaky prepared on the barby by Ian, we left Cootamundra. It wasn't until a few days later when we'd returned to Melbourne that we found out that Ian & Elaine had crashed their microlight on Easter Saturday afternoon as they returned to their Cootamundra hanger from a day spent at the Temora Natfly. They were wonderful friends & an inspirational couple. It is such a great loss to us all. We feel privileged to have known them.

From Cootamundra, we headed to Broken Hill for a romantic couple of days. We stopped in at Griffith to visit Gordan & Bob & chat to them about the around Australia trip next year. Both Gordan & Bob will be part of the support crew. It was great to catch up & we’ll be meeting again this month in Melbourne for trip planning.

The stopover in Griffith: Gordan, Bob & Dave.

It was Linda’s first visit to Broken Hill. So much for desert! The land was covered in green with very full Menindee Lakes. It’s easy to see why director George Miller decided is wasn’t possible to shoot the next Mad Max movie there. As he described “The Mad Max landscape looked like Wales”. It was beautiful to see the country so alive!

The beautiful colours of Broken Hill. 
In Broken Hill, one of my favourite spots, I was so excited to have found a new hotel that had a great wheelchair accessible room (not an easy feat) and I gave it the thumbs up (again, not an easy task given my fingers don’t work). The hotel is the Red Earth & conveniently located in town.

Early Easter Sunday, we got the call that our Maltese cross puppy had died. Poor little Max had most likely been bitten by a snake on a friend’s farm where he was staying for the long weekend while we were away. This really hit us and took all the fun & excitement out of the trip. We just wanted to get home. We left Broken Hill on Easter Monday but got held up for an extra night in Swan Hill on our way home due to the terrible flying weather. It was a sad trip home with Linda upset with the loss of Max. He was a great dog who was so courageous, definitely a big dog in a small body. Max will be greatly missed.

Max Jacka

Well, since Easter, more things have happened. We very much missed having a puppy as part of the family. We now have a new little one. Zeus is a male border collie. You’ll see more of him in future blogs!

Over & out.

Dave & Zeus.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Big Summer

Since the last time I wrote a lot has happened!

I've been beamed around the world by the Federal Police, the planning for the trip is really starting to shape up, and I asked a lovely lady to marry me.

But let's start from the beginning...

After the Birdsville trip, in November 2011 the newly formed Disabled Pilots Association of Australia held their second fly-in up at Griffith, New South Wales. We visited an airshow in Temora. It was great experience flying in with so much air traffic. It was 38 degrees in the shade and the spray bottle couldn't keep up! Lucky the flying club had aircon! The way back got a little bumpy, but I only hit my head on the roof twice...
Dave & Dave sneeking a photo with a Spitfire at the Temora Air Show

In December I was invited to Canberra to help launch the Australian Federal Police's Disability Action Plan. It was a great privilege to present to senior managers as well as being live streamed to AFP officers around the world. The launch was held during the week of International Day for People With Disability.

Presenting to the Australian Federal Police at their headquarters in Canberra
I also presented at the Sandringham and Dromana Rotary Club meetings. I really enjoy giving these talks. It's nice to give something back to those that dedicate their spare time to helping their local communities.

The project planning has been steaming ahead. Two pilots have volunteered to accompany me on the trip around Australia, flying their own planes, paying their own way and carrying my personal carer and trip coordinator. Gordon has paraplegia and flys a Piper Archer and Bob flys a Lance. This is a tremendous gift to On a Wing & a Chair and will mean that, although we still need some donations, we no longer need a major coporate sponsor.

I've revised and finalised the itinerary, reducing the trip from seven to four and half weeks. And we've produced an information pack for potential volunteers and supporters to donate accommodation, transport and various equipment.

The Round Australia Trip stopovers - let me know if you can help out with accommodation or transport!
Summertime also means lots of flying trips (when the weather holds out!) My girlfriend, Linda and I flew to Echuca, Warrnambool and Bright. And on the weekend just gone, we flew to Bendigo for the day. We lazed in the shade of the trees in Rosalind Park and I asked her to marry me. Funnily enough, she said yes!
Lovely Linda agreed to marry me

Over and Out!

Thursday, November 3, 2011


The forecast on Wednesday night said patchy cloud with a clearing shower or two in the morning.  I was hoping this was one time they would get the forecast right as I had an important appointment to get to on Thursday afternoon.

As I stuck my head out of the motel room door it just didn't look promising! (My heart samk!!) I thought the weather Gods might helpout just this once, so Lida and I headed down to the airfield, get the aircraft ready for a quick depeature when a break in the weather came, if at all.

Well the Gods this time must of been listening, just as we were driving to the airfield small patches of blue started appearing  Its funny how a small patch of blue can make you feel so much better!!

The cloud base was lifting a little but it was hard to see if we could still get through without  running into a hill or two.  I was freezing by this time, and just wanted to get going, atleast get the heater on even if we had to land again and wait.

As we lifted off and banked to the left towards the direction of Geelong it was such a beautiful sight to see a clear parth ahead with the sun breaking through in spots.  Must of been the weather Gods shining their light, or just the sun!  Either way I was glad to  be heading home with blue shy in the distance.

The last six days were a great adventure with really great people and some very memorable moments.  Things don't always go to plan, but everyone got home safely which is the most important thing.

I'm planning my next adventure to the Kimberley next year.  Any takers?

Over & Out

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Day 4 & 5, French Oasis in the middle of know where!

It was great to lose the strong winds that we had experienced the previous days . Leaving  Hawker with the sunny blue sky and calm air was really enjoyable and relaxing, the plane practically flew it self. Without all the up and down flying Louise maneged to hold her breakfast down.  Wentworth was our next refueling stop and to have lunch.  Unfortunately Pauly had to get back to Melbourne, so both Louise and Pauly departed for Bacchus Marsh leaving Lida and myself to go to our final overnight stop at Mungo Lodge, Mungo National Park in New South Wales.

Mungo Lodge below with Lake Mungo in the background.  It hasn't had water for thousands of years.

It was such a surprise to find 5 star accommodation in the middle of know where.  It is a French oasis!  Jacque  the manager is French with his wife who is the chef and makes one of the best French Creme' Breulei's I've ever tasted. 

The best experience was just meeting the other guests that were so friendly, in the dinning room we chatted across tables talking about each others travelling experiences. A great couple I met was Ray and his wife Pam.  As soon as we had landed Ray came down to offer assistance with tying the plane down and help carting our bags to our room.  Ray is also recreational pilot who flies a Savanah aircraft and we talk for hours about flying and our next adventures.

It would of been great to spent another night so we could see more of the fascinating Mungo area.  We headed off this morning with clear blue skies but not far past Swan Hill the cloud started appearing, an ominous sign of what was to come.  The cloud got thicker and the distance between the ground and the cloud  got narrower by the mile.  As we were approaching Marybourough the showers began to appear and it was matter of zigzagging around them to get some clear air.  Approaching Ballarat the cloud was down very low limiting our options.  As I could not see a clear path ahead I decided to land at Ballarat and wait for the showers to pass.  It was very good decision as the weather didn't abate and looking at the weather radar at the Ballarat Aero Club it confirmed my decision.

Showers towards Ballarat

Graeme the Chief Flying Instructor was very kind and hospitable to help us to arrange accommodation to stay overnight and drove us to our motel.

Hopefully the weather will clear tomorrow and allow us to complete the final leg.

Over & Out

Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 3: Desert, Salt Lake, Desert, More Salt Lakes, Desert, Mountains

Birdsville Hotel Car slogan "We may be rough, but at least we're expensive". So is the AvGas!
Woke up in Birdsville after finally getting a decent night's sleep.  I had felt shattered from only three hours sleep the night before.

There was a glorious blue sky and again, strong gusty winds.  Brian and Linda left our party to head up to Bundeberg, Queensland.  While our much reduced crew flew out over the arid Simpson Desert towards Lake Eyre in South Australia.  The lake was rumoured to be full of water and brimming with birds.  While it was great to cruise over Australia's lowest point and largest lake, the rumours may have been exaggerated...  There was a bit of water in North Lake Eyre and we did scare a few ducks.

Mouth of the Warburton River at Lake Eyre

Pink algae blooms in the Lake Eyre salt crust
After three hours straight flying and a last minute vomit from Louise (from now on we're not wasting money on bacon and egg breakfasts for her), we landed in Marree to refuel and restock our stomachs.  There was a little bit of confusion on which direction the runway was and Pauly and I flew in at opposite ends.  I ran into the refueler I met earlier this year on the Central Australia flight.  It was nice to have a chat with a familiar face.  Dodgy weather was heading for us so we decided to leave stright away and head for sunny Hawker.

Me and Tommy the refueler at Marree
It was great to leave the cloud and strong winds behind.  Although Pauly and I had radio chat for quite a while trying to work out where each other was flying.  After constantly scanning the horizon we realised that he was flying about 1000 feet directly below me.

The scenery changed dramatically from desert to the spectacular Flinders Ranges.  Approaching Wilpena Pound was an awesome sight, standing up like a monolith against all the other mountains.  You really get an appreciation of the two mountain ranges that join to form a natural amphitheatre seeing them from the air.

Flying over the Flinders Ranges, Wilpena Pound

Inside the amphitheatre of the Pound
18 nautical miles from the pound to Hawker, we set up the plane on its glide slope and aimed for the airfield.  I always love flying into these remote towns, some of which have the best airstrips - long and bitumen like Hawker.

Tomorrow we head to Mungo National Park to stay at the Mungo Eco Lodge, which has been recommended by some flying friends.

Over and Out