QANTAS stands for "Queensland and Northern Territoires Ariel Service", founded by a few WWI pilots backed by farmers, farmers who had to wait a year, they were lucky, for their shopping to arrive. Yes it was some likely lads with a biplane made of string but they figured it was a solution to the outback, their solution and spirit is alive and well.
Given the NT's size and shortage of metalled roads then small flights are pretty much essential, and great fun. Today's pilot apologised for his late service then explained that he'd been in this plane this morning, and then another and then another and was back in this one. He finished off with "this one actually works".
He then turned the air con on - a geezer of fog then engulfed him and the front of the plane.
Still this one had air con that could run on the ground, this mornings flight had warning dymo tape all over the place, saying not to run it with engines at under 1000RPM, there was also a sticker on the compass warning you it didn't work with the air con on. Nice.
Last year I flew in the build up, another smaller Cessna, that had no air con, so the pilot taxied around at both ends holding the door open with one arm to keep the plane cool. Only putting 2 hands on the controls after pushing the throttles forward on take off. He touched down and was doing the Nazi salute on the door handle before he'd pulled up on landing.
last time they were flying us around in Cessnas it was cos the chief pilot had lost his certification on metros, thus loosing all pilots their metro certification. These are a bit bigger and duller. Even so their was a hell of a clonk from behind me in one once.
One thing that plagued early QANTAS was turbulence, hot air rises and lets face it the out back is hot. This time of year hot and wet, more specifically hot and thundery. It was almost certainly lightning that caused all the damage I was flying out to fix. Makes it bouncy, even in an air liner - you kind of know you getting home to Darwin even on an International flight, the pilot goes odd ways round thunderstorms. Lightning illuminates the clouds and the seat belt light comes on early.
A small plane gets hurled around the sky. I should point out that a Cessna 404 has little head room, and I spent much of this mornings flight lurching around the sky with my hand jammed between my head and the roof. If you follow the link you'll notice the 404 went out of production in 1982, or 32 years ago. I assume therefore the local mechanics have been following the signs at Darwin airport that say "Cyclone Area, tie your plane down".
The plane I came back on this afternoon was a 414 Conquest or as the lady in the check in shack called it "a fast one", no messing, Wadeye to Darwin in half an hour. Oh and when I say "check in shack" I am being generous. I've just read the Wikipedia Article on the conquest it reads:
"The Cessna 441 is limited to 22,500 hours of air time by a Cessna Supplementary Inspection Document (SID). This life-limit SID is mandatory in the USA for air carriers operating the aircraft but is advisory only for private operators"
I'm betting its not mandatory in the the NT, nor apparently is a door handle that latches properly. Remember kids this was the one that "actually works".
Any way here's the aborted landing at Port Keats this morning: