30th January 2003
Arrival in Hawaii
DWF arrived in Hilo, Hawaii, on Thursday
30 January, after a 7-hour flight from Christmas Island (please
see details below), and a quick flight was made to Honolulu on 31
January. Up to 10 days are anticipated in Hawaii, allowing time
for aircraft maintenance prior to the 2000-mile flight to California.
DWF will also be joined by Dave and Lori Geiger from Omaha, and
Brian, Douglas instructor in Omaha last summer.
On a truly major and exciting note, Maria will
join Ty, DWFs safety pilot, in Honolulu where they will marry
next week!! All DWFs very best wishes go to Ty and Maria for
their wedding and future life together!
Indeed, many thanks go to Ty for his safety
pilot duties over the past three and a half months, which have been
very much appreciated. It really is a major feat for a pilot, let
alone an instructor, to sit in the co-pilot's seat and effectively
"do nothing" for so long. Hats off to Ty!
30th January 2003
Flight to Hawaii
It was good to see that conditions
had cleared from the night before with only occasional showers passing
by. Given the lack of telephone, television and internet, it was
impossible to gain an updated route forecast to Hawaii. However,
access to www.wunderground.com
on Samoa two days earlier had
given a long-term forecast of clear weather. Also, prior to takeoff,
it was possible to listen to an half-hourly HF radio broadcast of
Honolulus Terminal Aerodrome Forecast which confirmed fair
weather for arrival. Good!
Soon after takeoff, a disturbing discovery was
made. The left-hand main tank read half-full, a loss
of 40 gallons, which was extremely odd and somewhat unnerving given
the long 1160-mile flight. No visual fuel leak could be detected,
so the cause may have been a faulty fuel gauge or possibly some
settling of fuel in the main fuel tank cells (bags contained
within the wing). However, such a large loss was unlikely. Still
concerned about the possibility of running low on fuel, a worst-case
recalculation of fuel was made which confirmed sufficient for Honolulu,
but not much to spare. Indeed, if strong headwinds were encountered,
fuel could become marginal. A contingency plan was therefore made
to land 85 miles short at Hilo on the big island of
Hawaii. As it turned out, half an hour later when San Francisco
Radio gave IFR clearance over HF radio (a flight plan
for todays flight had been filed two days earlier in Samoa),
DWF was re-routed to a point just south of Hilo. This resulted in
a 120-mile detour, and with headwinds building, it was an easy decision
to land short at Hilo.
From 90 miles south of Hawaii Island, the huge
mass of Mona Loa volcano (13,679 feet high) was visible above clouds,
and after a quick detour around local showers, a visual approach
was made into Hilo Airport. Thereafter another challenging
arrival presented itself! Some days earlier, paperwork requirements
had been checked for US arrival and it was understood that forms
just needed to be completed after landing. Wrong!! Hilo Customs
duly informed DWF that it was subject to a US$5,000 fine as 24 hours
prior written notice had not been given. Explanations were given
and fortunately a formal warning was given plus an assurance
made by Douglas that this would not happen again! (Understandably,
this was much appreciated.)
It was good to complete the two long flights
from Samoa over water to Hawaii - 2,388 miles in total.
29th 30th January 2003
Christmas Island, Kiribati
There are a number of countries worldwide
where diabetes medication can be difficult to obtain and/or patients
find medication difficult to afford. This includes Kiribati territory
in the Pacific, and it was good to take supplies of insulin, needles
and blood testing kits from Insulin For Life charity
in Melbourne to donate to Christmas Islands Health Centre
On 30 January, a half-hour journey was made to
London, the main settlement in Christmas, to meet Dr. Eritane Kamatie,
District Medical Officer. While the Kiribati government covers the
cost of medication, stock levels can be low and some medicines have
to be rationed. The island had run out of soluble (quick acting)
insulin and there were only two blood testing kits for Christmas
Island and two nearby islands with a combined total population
of 8,000. Dr. Kamatie was very grateful indeed to "Insulin
For Life" for the donated supplies. (Indeed, there are people
in developed nations who don't know just how lucky they are!)
In the afternoon the aircraft was refueled using
(rusty!) 200-litre drums and a manual pump. The main tanks took
more than expected so an additional trip had to be made to London
for an extra drum. Refueling therefore took three hours, but time
was plentiful and the atmosphere relaxed. Kiribati uses Australian
Dollars as currency, but a combination of Australian and US dollars
was accepted as cash payment for the fuel.
Christmas Island is remote at over 1,000 miles
from the nearest large island, and oddly, it was back over the dateline
from Samoa (i.e. a day ahead) despite being further east. There
was neither a television nor a telephone in the hotel (the hotel
used a radio transmitter/receiver to communicate with other islanders),
and indeed, there are very few means of communication on the island.
Christmas is government-owned and run, and is effectively a huge
coconut plantation after trees were planted around 40 years ago.
A large lagoon teems with fish life and several American fishing
enthusiasts were staying at the islands only hotel (basic
but comfortable) on package holidays.
Kiribati territory was British until 1969, and
in the late 50s and early 60s, Christmas Island was used for nuclear
(airburst) bomb tests. At the hotel it was fascinating to meet Dennis
Ellam, a journalist with UKs Sunday Mirror newspaper, and
Brian Cassey, a freelance photographer, both of whom were covering
a story on nuclear bomb testing.
DWF stayed on Christmas Island for two nights
and one day. The night before departure saw a storm passing over
the island which caused concern for the aircraft standing out in
the open, and for the following days departure for Hawaii.
However, by 3 a.m. the weather (and wind) had subsided, allowing
a solid four-hour sleep before departure.
28th January 2003
Flight from Samoa to Christmas
Island, Kiribati (1288 miles)
Another interesting and
this time, thought-provoking arrival
Despite spending several hours contacting the
Kiribati Aviation Authority and Christmas Islands police office
the day before, DWF could not be 100% certain that the islands
Flight Service Officer was aware of DWFs early arrival and
that the airport would be manned. There had apparently been difficulty
with the islands telephones for some time. However, the Aviation
Authority (based on Kiribatis capital island of Tarawa, 1500
miles west of Christmas Island) said it would try to make contact,
and Christmas Islands police office was asked to pass the
A takeoff deadline of 0930 local time was set
from Faleolo Airport, in order to ensure arrival 40 minutes before
dark for the estimated 7.6 hour flight, just in case the airport
was unmanned and therefore runway lights unavailable. After 1.5
hours of airport formalities and refueling, take-off was at 0925,
acceptable, but a bit close! Apias Met Office had been visited
at 6.30 a.m. where accurate winds aloft and en-route
forecasts were given for the first 1100 miles. It was a bit discomforting,
however, that a formal Terminal Aerodrome Forecast was not available
Island, and that the last 200 miles were forecast from satellite
imagery only. However, the Met Office staff assured DWF that clear
conditions would prevail for arrival on Christmas Island.
Takeoff was into the northerly edge of a cyclone
system, and the first two hours were spent dodging some heavy build-ups.
Thereafter, clear conditions prevailed as per the forecast. The
ferry tanks (installed in place of the four rear seats) were used
for this long flight, allowing an extra 125 gallons for extended
range. All had been going fine until just 40 miles from Christmas
Island, when low cloud and heavy rainstorms were encountered
- contrary to the forecast! Also, contact with the Flight Service
Officer/Air Traffic Control had not been possible, confirming fears
that the early arrival message had not got through.
This was the thought-provoking stage. It was now
impossible to gain a local altimeter setting for accurate altitude
readings during the instrument approach in poor weather, and no
runway lights would be available should weather force a couple of
missed approaches into darkness. A conservative
(low) altimeter setting was therefore dialed into the altimeter
to prevent going dangerously low in cloud, and the GPS 08 approach
initiated having earlier been cleared to Christmas Island
Airport by San Francisco (HF)
Radio. On final approach the aircraft was still in thick cloud at
700 feet, but a brief break allowed visual contact with the runway
six miles ahead under the cloud base. Relief! DWF therefore descended
below the clouds ahead and maintained visual contact with the runway
for landing. It was only too noticeable that the cloud ceiling was
around 400 feet, the same as
the minimum descent altitude. Had a break in clouds
not existed, a missed approach may have been necessary - not an
attractive prospect just 30 minutes from sunset and with no runway
At one stage during the instrument approach, a
joke was made that the Flight Officer and customs may hear the aircraft
overhead and come out to the airport. Indeed, this is exactly what
happened! Soon after landing at the small and deserted airport,
a motorbike rode up with Sam, the bare-topped Air Traffic Controller,
sitting astride. He apologized for not being in the
Air Traffic Control Tower for arrival and explained that he was
expecting DWF the following day. No problem! DWF had arrived safely,
and thats all that counts!!
Christmas Island really is a remote spot! Just
5,000 people live on the island, the highest point of which is only
15 feet above sea level. There is also just one place for visitors
to stay Captain Cook Hotel. It was good to check in here
and enjoy a couple of beers!
22nd28th January 2003
Samoa definitely has an easy-going
pace of life. Nobodys in a rush, and if you are in a hurry
yourself, people look at you with a quizzical expression!
On the first day a visit was made to the author
Robert Louis Stevensons house in which he lived from 1890
until his death in 1894. A hike was made up to his gravesite which
is located on a tranquil hilltop overlooking Apia and the Pacific
Ocean. Suffering from tuberculosis, one can see why he wanted to
live his days out in Samoas warm climate and his stunning
house and grounds.
On the second day, a meeting was held with Dr.
Satu Viali, the Consultant in charge of the diabetes clinic at Apias
only hospital, plus Asomahiu Tupuala, the clinics Nurse Manager.
It was an informative visit. A survey of Samoas population
in 1978 showed diabetes incidence at 6% while a survey in 1991 showed
a near doubling to 11.5%. Another survey in 2002 is likely to yield
significantly higher figures. Increased incidence of (Type 2)
diabetes has coincided with a developing economy i.e. urban migration,
sedentary jobs and lifestyle, mechanized transport (instead of walking)
and richer diets leading to overweightness and obesity (and in turn
higher risk of Type 2 diabetes). There were only 20 cases of diagnosed
Type 1 Diabetes in the whole of (Independent) Samoa. This is only
0.1% of people with diabetes and is one of the lowest ratios worldwide
- it is normally
somewhere between 3 5%.
Dr. Satu estimated that over 75% adults were overweight
(probably 50% classified as obese) and explained that cultural issues
play an important role with this problem. Older people generally
take it easier and apart from young people playing rugby
and soccer, exercise is unpopular. (In fact, Afamasaga Toleafoa,
the slim 57-year old editor of Samoa Observer had
been told he was a disgrace to the older generation
as he takes regular exercise including squash!) Society is sociable
and also communal, and with frequent visiting come large offerings
of food. It is rude to refuse food, and people overeat. Also, people
with diabetes are often concerned about the stigma of refusing food,
so accept and find regulating diet and weight difficult.
As in Fiji, there were no dialysis machines on
Samoa. However, the government supports medication and also pays
for kidney disease patients to fly to New Zealand or Australia for
operations to establish peritoneal dialysis (flushing within the
stomach wall). Many thanks indeed go to Dr. Satu and Asomahiu Tupuala
for this informative and fascinating meeting during their busy schedule.
On the second last day in Apia, DWF learned
that a cyclone was forecast to pass within 200 miles of Samoa. It
was therefore decided to head north to Christmas Island earlier
than planned and miss out Pago Pago on US Samoa.
23rd & 22nd January 2003
Flight to Samoa
DWF arrived at Nausori Aiprort at 8 a.m.
to find that customs and immigration had not yet been informed of
departure, and that the Met office had also forgotten to obtain
a weather forecast. However, no worries - there was plenty of time
for todays 600-mile flight to Samoa. Two hours later, N30TB
was refueled and ready to go, and many thanks go to the airport
and Air Traffic Control (ATC) staff who helped DWF on its way.
Take-off was straight into a heavy rainstorm and
plenty of turbulence. During the first hour the weather radar screen
was monitored to avoid the worst of the storms, and with intermittent
radio crackles signaling proximity of lightning, the
No. 2 radio & navigation aids and No. 2 GPS were switched off
in case of a strike (which can knock out operating avionics equipment).
Conditions then began to clear after which towering cumulus
clouds could be seen forming in the distance but dissipating before
developing into thunderstorms beautiful.
Approaching Faleolo Airport on Independent Samoa,
ATC instructed DWF to follow the ABM MITI arrival procedure,
which strangely did not appear on the primary GPS database. However,
it was possible to punch in waypoint co-ordinates from the Jeppesen
Charts, after which the arrival was made with views over volcanic
Savaii Island to the north.
Faleolo was another interesting arrival
for DWF! After paying landing and parking fees at the aircraft,
and arranging for refueling the following week, it was discovered
that customs and immigration had gone home between shifts at 4 p.m.
Not wishing for an illegal entry (it would have been possible to
walk straight through the airport building), attempts were made
to find a customs and immigration telephone number in Apia, the
city. However, nobody seemed able to help. Even Polynesian Airlines
seemed hostile in its initial reception, stating that DWF should
have given them prior notice of arrival, and by the way, this would
cost US$250 for the privilege! The office manager then did a good
wind-up by claiming there was no Apia customs and immigration
telephone number, and the next airport shift would be eight hours
later at midnight. Nice one! Well, after some
further discussion, Polynesian Airlines proved to be extremely helpful,
ringing Apia customs and immigration, and taking possession of arrival
forms and passports for DWF to collect in Apia the following day.
Polynesian Airlines, thank you very much for your help after all!
Faleolo Airport is 23 km from Apia where Edward
at Aggie Greys Hotel kindly supported special rates for DWF
(for which many thanks). The taxi driver gave a running commentary
of life in Samoa. Indeed, pace of life is relaxed and friendly.
Many open fale (open-sided buildings) were passed, plus
numerous pigs and chickens running free by the roadside.
DWF took off from Fiji on 23rd January and
crossed the International Date Line to arrive in Samoa on 22nd January.
Five days are anticipated in Samoa after which flights are planned
to Pago Pago (US Samoa) on 28th January, Christmas Island in Kiribati
on 29th January (a 1260-mile flight), and Hawaii on 1st February.
18th 23rd January 2003
Fiji is well known for its blissful island
resorts, accessible from Nadi
International Airport on the west of Viti Levu Island. Fiji, along
with several other Pacific islands, is also known for cyclones at
this time of year, and on Monday 13th January, Cyclone Ami ravaged
Vanua Island to the northeast of Nadi. Radio appeals were still
being broadcast to assist cyclone victims, particularly in Labasa
which suffered devastating damage (the costs of which were estimated
Suva, Fijis capital city on the east of
Viti Levu, can be different to many peoples expectations.
The nations population comprises 42% Indians with the rest
predominantly (indigenous) Fijians. The nation's population is focused
in the capital city where two political coups have been seen. Since
the first coup in 1987, shop fronts have had wire mesh protection
fitted over windows at closing times. George Speight led another
(strange) coup in 2000. However, since 1987, Indian emigration has
gained momentum and it is estimated that Indians will reduce to
35% of population within the next few years. This net emigration
does not bode well for Fijis business community and economy.
However, incoming tourism is growing strongly, particularly from
Australia since the bomb blast in Bali last October.
While in Suva, Douglas met with Dr. Maximilian
de Courten, the World Health Organizations Pacific Region
Medical Officer, Noncommunicable Diseases, and many thanks go to
Max and also Tai for their time, and help in contacting people in
Fiji. Meetings were also held with Ashok Patel, an extremely hard-working
and inspirational man who holds the Medal of the Order of Fiji (equivalent
of the British MBE) for his service to the community. Ashok runs
an import-export business and dedicates his life to social work,
sitting on the boards of eight different charities/foundations,
including the Fiji Lions (fund raising) organization, and the Fiji
National Diabetic Foundation. It is estimated that nearly 20% of
Fijis population has diabetes, an extremely high figure, and
recently an awareness campaign supported by the National Diabetic
Foundation resulted in 30% of 10,000 who took blood tests being
diagnosed. A visit was made to the Fiji Diabetes Centre which employs
Dr. Kado plus five staff, and on average receives 10 patients a
day. Many thanks indeed go to Ashok who hosted Douglas and arranged
television and press interviews while working hard to gather and
distribute vital supplies for Cyclone Ami victims in Labasa.
One striking fact learned in Fiji was the
lack of dialysis machines across the islands. If kidney failure
is suffered (one of several long-term diabetes health risks), a
person either needs to find US$50,000 for a kidney transplant abroad,
or faces death.
18th January 2003
Flight to Fiji
A quick VFR (visual) flight was made from
Magenta to Tontouta to clear New Caledonia customs and immigration.
After departing Tontouta, DWF headed north east, crossing cloud-covered
mountains, after which it was a predominantly clear route to Nadi,
Fiji, with mirror-calm Pacific waters below and visibility of over
150 miles (timing the distance to clouds on the horizon). Communication
began successfully on long-range HF radio but after the first hour
DWF lost touch with Nadi Radio and continued without
contact with anyone for almost two hours. Fijis Viti Levu
Island was visible from 40 miles away as DWF passed over a number
of coral-fringed islands for a visual approach onto Nadi's runway
20. On disembarking, a handling fee US$500 was quoted and it was
a relief to agree self-handling (handling refers to
assistance with customs and immigration formalities, paying landing
and navigation fees, and filing onward flight plans). On approaching
passport control, however, a demand was made for written arrival
authority which DWF did not have. Indeed, DWF had entered Fiji illegally!
A quick phone call to Paul in the UK (5 a.m. local
time!) at Overflight Ltd., DWFs clearance agent, confirmed
that a fax requesting authority had been transmitted successfully
on 9th January. However, there was still no sign of documentation
in Fiji. Fortunately the airport duty officer, Vula Cabemaiwasa,
rang some senior Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation officials
and sorted everything out within two hours - for which many thanks
One stipulation of the on-the-spot authority
was that DWF aircraft had to be searched for anything suspicious
inside. After this was carried out, a short 35-minute flight was
made to Nausori Airport near Fijis capital city of Suva. This
was one of the busiest and most enjoyable instrument flights so
far. Several course changes were given en-route - Fiji has no radar
service so navigation beacon radial and distance information was
requested by Air Traffic Control, with new directions given to remain
clear of other aircraft. With cloud covering Nausori, a fast let-down
through cloud was made into darkness below for Runway 28s
VOR/DME instrument approach. On shutting down engines,
a burly security guard approached the aircraft and demanded an explanation
as to what DWF was doing at the
airport! There had been no prior notification of arrival. However
a quick call to Vula clarified everything for which many
12th 18th January 2003
Overall, New Caledonia was extremely enjoyable,
with a friendly and helpful atmosphere, and the main island possessing
stunning mountain, beach and coral reef scenery (please see Flight
Around New Caledonia, 15th January details). The hotel was
situated beside Ansa Vata beach and just 1 km away some R&R
was enjoyed on an idyllic island called Ilot Aux Canards - Duck
On arrival on 12th January, DWF was lucky to be
met by Yannick Bonnace who works at Magenta Aeroclub. Yannick helped
DWF prepare for the memorable flight around New Caledonia on 15th
January which joined Dr. Jean-Michel Tivollier in Koumac, and also
made the stay at Magenta Airport very easy, for which many thanks
again! On Friday 17th January, Yannick also flew Douglas and Ty
in a Cessna 182 to the beautiful Ile des Pins (French for
Island of Pines), 30 miles east of the main La Grande
Terre island, where a car battery was being delivered. A number
of rain showers were dodged on the outward and return flights. Ile
des Pines is sometimes referred to as the Jewel of the Pacific
and gained its name from James Cook in 1774 who noted the araucaria
pine trees ringing the shoreline. Stunning coral reef,
azure lagoon waters, and several white sandy beaches surround the
island. It also has interesting colonial history, and during a quick
drive with Yannick and Olivier, a visit was made to the ruins of
convict settlements used for Communard political prisoners
from France in the late 1800s. DWF also met Stan and Francois, Air
Traffic Controllers at the Ile des Pines Tower. Stan
and Francois control the six + commercial flights a day not
a bad place to work when there are a few hours off between the morning
and afternoon flights!
Early in the week Douglas met Dr. Dominique
Megraoua at the Centre deducation diabetique et dietetique.
The Diabetes Association in New Caledonia recently ceased to operate
and the Centre deducation, which employs four staff, takes
responsibility for educating and preparing those newly diagnosed
with diabetes. On average seven people are sent each week by the
Gaston Bourret Hospital and family doctors in Noumea (which has
a population of 76,000). It was interesting to note that a survey
of diabetes in New Caledonia completed in 1993 outlined that rural
incidence was considerably less than urban, while Melanesians (or
Kanaks, who comprise 44% of total population), Wallisians and Tahitians
suffered much higher incidence in urban environs than Europeans
(mainly French descendants).
15th January 2003
Flight Around New Caledonia
What a tremendous day! Dr. Jean-Michel
Tivollier invited DWF to fly up to Koumac in the far north of the
main island (La Grande Terre) to visit a renal unit run by ATIR
(Association pour la prevention et la traitement de LInsuffisance
Renale). Jean Michel has an enviable combination of work and pleasure.
Once a week he hires a Noumea Magenta Aero Club aircraft and flies
with other medical staff to remote spots to spend time at renal
units where patients undergo dialysis, 30% of whom have diabetes.
Soon after Jean Michel took off in his single-engine Tobago, Douglas
and Ty followed in the DWF aircraft. The scenery along the western
flank of La Grande Terre was beautiful, with azure blue lagoon waters
and fringing reef contrasting vividly against green inland mountains.
New Caledonia gained its name from James Cook in 1774 when he saw
the similarity between the islands mountains and those of
the Scottish Caledonian Highlands. (Have to admit though, the Scottish
Highlands are missing a few tropical offshore islands, coral reef
and 28 degree C waters!). The fringing reef around the main cigar-shaped
island of La Grande Terre runs for over 1,140 km creating a stunning
23,500 km2 of blue lagoon waters.
About two-thirds along the coast, DWF passed over
Le Coeur de Voh, a perfect heart-shaped outline in natural
vegetation quite amazing! Approaching Koumac at the northwest
end of the island, 160 miles from Noumea, DWF passed by some huge
mountaintop open-cast nickel mines. New Caledonias economy
focuses on mining and metallurgy, nickel mining and smelting accounting
for the bulk of economic output and foreign earnings. The result
of this is that large mountain-top areas are stripped bare and seen
from many miles away.
About five miles from Koumac, Jean Michel was
on the radio to find out where DWF was, and as it turned out, both
aircraft landed within a couple of minutes of each other. A visit
was then made to the Koumac renal unit where four patients were
undergoing dialysis, one of whom had Type 2 Diabetes. The cost per
person per annum for dialysis is US$50,000. This figure is based
on operating costs of dialysis three times a week per person, equipment
depreciation, personnel requirements, and the building lease. Fortunately
in New Caledonia government funds plus insurance cover these costs.
It is a sobering fact that New Caledonia is one of few Pacific islands
which offers inhabitants dialysis facilities.
Before the returning to Koumac Airport, a quick
drive was enjoyed in the renal unit car to Malabou Beach, almost
at the very northern tip of the island. Soon after takeoff for the
return trip, DWF was skirting beautiful eastern flank coastal mountains
at 1,500 feet. Right under Mont Panie, the highest mountain, (5,341
feet), some waterfalls cascade down sheer rock faces, and with a
background of blue lagoon waters and tiny (blissful) tropical islands,
the whole environment was truly stunning. Overall it was
one of the most memorable flights for DWF, skirting hillsides, exploring
remote valleys, passing over tropical islands and beachside resorts,
and flying over large tracts of uninhabited land with natural vegetation.
Some more nickel mining complexes were passed on high ground before
heading south back across to the western flank and to Noumea.
Many thanks indeed go to Dr. Jean-Michel Tivollier
who invited DWF to join him at Koumac and whose tremendous hospitality
was much appreciated. Thanks also to Yannick Bonnace who very kindly
lent DWF visual flying maps and explained how local procedures worked.
Some airports have air traffic control for morning and afternoon
commercial flights and sometimes
non-French speaking aircrew are advised against flying there in
case of mid-air misunderstandings. It was indeed good to be forearmed
with such knowledge and avoid certain airfields as DWF flew around
New Caledonia (even though the o level school French
comes in handy at times!).
12th January 2003
Flight to New Caledonia
Todays flight was a straight 784-mile
line from Brisbane to Noumea Tontouta Airport, followed by a short
visual flight 20 miles southeast to Noumea Magenta Airport.
It was a pleasure to see Rab, Susie and Rebecca at the Brisbane
International Airport prior to takeoff thanks for coming!
Conditions were clear throughout the flight although a little excitement
was experienced after switching fuel tanks approaching Tontouta,
when the left engine misbehaved fleetingly. (On throttling back,
all returned to normal.) Tontouta sits in a valley with tall mountains
to the north, an attractive backdrop for landing. Customs and immigration
were particularly efficient, and in no time at all, DWF was on its
way to Magenta Airport. An "interesting" set of radio
communication misunderstandings followed. DWF crew could not understand
the French-accented Air Traffic Control (ATC) instructions and meantime,
ATC could not understand Douglas Scottish accent! However,
procedures were spelled out slowly and ATC were very helpful with
landing directions. (It's good to see that "The Auld Alliance"
between France and Scotland still stands!) Once again, it was tremendous
to be met at Magenta airport, this time by Yannick Bonnace, who
knows Bill Finlen in Brisbane. Yannick has been incredibly helpful
and hospitable to DWF while in Noumea, for which many thanks indeed!
10th - 12th January 2003
Brisbane has a pleasant atmosphere, busy
and balanced with good infrastructure. An enjoyable evening was
spent with Bill and Jennifer Finlen and their daughter. Bills
round-the-world flight in his V-tail Bonanza in 2002 was quite a
marathon given the short time-frame of seven weeks. There were also
several long flights, travelling across Africa and over the Atlantic
to Recife in Brazil before heading up to the USA and across the
Pacific an extremely fulfilling experience. Another most
enjoyable evening was spent with Rab and Suzie Finnigan and their
daughter Rebecca. Rab and Douglas were in the RAF Ski Team together
from 1985 to 1989, with Rab being the trainer in the last couple
of years. Three of the British Combined Services Ski Team members
who skied in Australia now live in Oz, plus another one is in New
Zealand. Australia has a pull for many people, the climate and lifestyle
being particularly attractive.
10th January 2003
Flight to Gympie
While DWF was in Bangkok, Douglas met the
Reverend Dr. Richard Martin of Gympie who subsequently invited DWF
to meet the Gympie Diabetes Support Group while in Brisbane. On
Saturday 10th January, DWF made the 80-mile trip north over beautiful
rolling countryside and semi-tropical vegetation, passing the Glass
House Mountains (originally named by explorer James Cook after
likening the distant glistening sheer rock faces with glasshouses).
On approaching Gympie, a quick orbit was made to allow a glider
to land, after which a quick low pass ensued to ensure the runway
was clear of kangaroos! Thereafter ensued an excellent two hours
meeting members of the Gympie Diabetes Support Group and the Gympie
Airsports Club who kindly put
on a Barbie (BBQ!).
It was a pleasure to shake paws with Sir
Joh, a dog who has had Type 1 Diabetes for over seven years.
Indeed, Sir Joh was the first diabetic dog Douglas had met! Angus
and Gem Dutton had some years ago noticed that Sir Joh had lost
considerable weight (8 kgs) and soon after became too weak to walk.
Suspecting some kind of poisoning, he was taken to the vet where
a blood test showed a blood sugar reading of 38 mmol/l, incredibly
high! Within 10 minutes of receiving an insulin injection, Sir Johs
tail wagged for the first time in a while and he then got up and
walked again. Sir Joh is a fine cross between a Golden Labrador
and Beagle, with the best of both temperaments showing through.
The Duttons are dedicated in looking after Sir Joh, and through
Sir Joh have been active members of the Gympie Diabetes Support
Group for many years.
Many thanks indeed go to everyone who came
out to the airport it was a real pleasure to meet everybody
and give a talk about DWF in the Airsport Club hangar. A total of
A$190 was raised from the meeting, for which many thanks indeed!
This was such a welcome surprise and addition to DWFs fund
9th January 2003
Flight to Brisbane
Contrary to the previous days weather
predictions, it was a clear and sunny day, albeit slightly hazy.
The Instrument Flight plan was happily discarded and the visual
flight plan for 500 feet all the way up the coast to Brisbane was
filed. Priot to takeoff, it was a pleasure to meet Aminta Hennessy
who with her husband Ray Clamback run a flying school at Bankstown.
Aminta and Ray also ferry light aircraft across the Pacific, Aminta
having made 20
ferry flights and Ray over 200! Also, many thanks again go to Air
BP who refueled DWF at Bankstown, and to Rodney for giving DWF a
lift out to the airport.
Soon after takeoff, the Victor 1
low level flight corridor was followed along the Sydney Heads coastline,
passing Bondi Beach and Manly with stunning Harbour views in the
background. Thence up to Gosford Bay where DWF thoroughly enjoyed
wheeling over Eric and Jacqui Henrys house, upturned faces
and waving arms clear to see! The New South Wales coastline heading
north was stunning, with mile after mile of unspoiled beaches stretching
away into the distance. Just after Newcastle, a rusting stern section
of a huge shipwrecked tanker was seen just off the shoreline. Heading
closer to the tropics, the vegetation became increasingly lush as
DWF passed Port
Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Coolingata and the Gold Coast
skyscrapers. On arrival at Archerfield Airport it was a pleasure
to be met by Bill Finlen who carried out a round-the-world flight
in a V-tail Bonanza last year in just seven weeks.
4th 9th January 2003
Sydney was another busy, productive and extremely
enjoyable few days. A gathering was organised by Don Gillies with
Darrell and Mary Jose and Bob Guthrie, part of a north Sydney Diabetes
Australia group, at Nancy Birds house. Nancy is 87 years old
and a fascinating aviation celebrity who flew her own Moth biplane
at the age of 19 in outback Australia on barnstorming tours and
medical flights before The Royal Flying Doctor Service was
established. (Many thanks indeed for your two books Nancy.)
Afterwards a meal was enjoyed with
Dick and Pip Smith and Dick's Mum at their north Sydney home. Soon
after arriving, Dick wheeled his helicopter out of his garage and
a most enjoyable flight ensued around Sydney Harbour. It was fascinating
to hear Dicks own round-the-world flights, the first of which
Douglas remembers as a television documentary of the first solo
helicopter circumnavigation many thanks for a most enjoyable
evening, Dick and Pip.
A quick visit was also made up to Gosford Bay
near Woy Woy to see friends Eric and Jacqui Henry. Eric was the
manager of the British Services Ski Team when Douglas first came
to Australia in 1985, and as ever it was good to catch up. It was
also good to see Dave Stretch, plus Morgan and Hannah to whom many
thanks go for offering to arrange a fund-raising quiz night for
DWF - much appreciated!
Sydney is set around stunning harbour shorelines
and during the five-day stay it was a pleasure to jog the streets
from Kings Cross to Rushcutters Bay. A quick swim was also enjoyed
at Bondi Beach, famous for its Pommies Christmas and
New Year parties (Pom standing for Prisoners Of
The last evening in Sydney witnessed a stormy
southerly blowing heavy rains and winds of up to 100
km/hr through city suburbs, uprooting trees and causing damage in
areas including Bankstown where N30TB, DWF's aircraft, was sitting.
There was some concern for her health but fortunately the next day
she was found intact!
3rd January 2003
Flight to Sydney via Cooma, Canberra
The first days flying for 2003 was
extremely enjoyable, comprising four separate flights to reach Sydney.
Firstly many thanks to all who came out to Moorabbin Airfield for
departure including Channel 9 TV station whose helicopter and camera
crew flew alongside DWF for the first 10 minutes of the flight to
Cooma Polo Flat. After an hour it was a pleasure to fly over Thredbo
ski resort, close to Mt. Kosiusko (Australias highest mountain)
where Douglas skied with the British Combined Forces Ski Team in
1985, 1988 and 1989 (with many memories coming back!).
Many thanks indeed go to Helen Maxwell-Wright
who put DWF in touch with several aviation enthusiasts and celebrities
in Australia. The first stop was to visit Michael and Elizabeth
App who run a flying school for the disabled at the farmside strip
in Cooma, just 50 miles south of Australias capital city,
Canberra. On this airstrip, Michael and Elizabeth have Angus Cattle
and Apalcas grazing on the runway and earlier that morning it had
been affirmed that all livestock hazards had been cleared except
for the odd dried out cattle dung! A quick low pass was made (to
inspect the dunghills) after which a most enjoyable stop was made.
The airfield has an accommodation block, modified to offer full
disabled facilities. The next flying course is planned for April
using low-wing single-engine aircraft (for easier cockpit entry
and exit) and hand-control modifications for a range of disabilities
including spinal injuries. Several people had come out to greet
DWF including Win TV (Regional Channel 9) and Cooma Monaso
Express paper, plus Elaine, a hearty 80 year-old pilot in her Airtourer
aircraft - many thanks indeed for everyones support and enthusiasm.
DWF wishes Michael and Elizabeth all the best for future courses
its tremendous to see how much achievement and sheer
pleasure is derived from disabled flying. Great stuff!
The second flight was just 60 miles to Canberra
where Douglas met with Dr. Tak Sham, one of three aviation doctors
working with Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA).
For the past two years Dr. Sham has been very helpful processing
medical licences for Douglas in Australia, and it was good to have
the opportunity to meet up and thank him in person. Australia was
the first country to introduce licenced flying for people with Type
1 Diabetes as long ago as 1994, albeit with a restriction of a safety
pilot (and no requirement to test blood sugars either pre-flight
in-flight). It is very much hoped that data from DWF can help demonstrate
the safety and practicality of the US system for those flying with
Type 1 Diabetes, and that before long, more countries will allow
solo flying on a similar basis.
The third flight was shorter, just 16 miles to
Gundaroo, the homestead of Dick Smith, famous Australian businessman
and pioneering aviator who has flown five round-the-world adventures,
including the worlds first solo helicopter flight. Dick was
away at the time and Ben, the farm manager, kindly showed Douglas
and Ty around the Clubhouse which contained some
The last flight was to Bankstown, Sydney. En-route,
the Blue Mountain cliffs and ridgelines were seen in their raw beauty,
and approaching the airfield, Sydneys city skyline and famous
Sydney Harbour Bridge stood out clearly in the background. It was
good to arrive at Bankstown where DWF parked beside a couple of
old DC-3 aircraft. While offloading luggage a Piper Chieftain twin-engine
aircraft stopped beside DWF and out climbed
Rodney Sundstrom, an instructor with whom Douglas has flown several
times in Melbourne. Even though Douglas and Rodney had spoken by
telephone the previous day, this was quite a coincidence! Many thanks
for the lift into town Rodney!
Overall this was one of the most enjoyable
days flying for DWF, and many thanks go to Ty for his patience
while waiting for Douglas at various times during the day.
29th December 3rd January 2003
Melbourne was particularly enjoyable, meeting
with Dr. Paul Zimmet, Helen Maxwell-Wright and Shirley Murray of
International Diabetes Institute that combines cutting edge research
with Diabetes healthcare (clinics). One particular research project
is studying bacteria found in potatoes and its possible causal factor
for Type 1 Diabetes in western nations. IDI carries out considerable
research used by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and
has much experience in the Pacific region. The enthusiasm for the
Insitute, founded by Professor Paul Zimmett, and the network of
contacts is impressive and many thanks indeed go to Paul, Helen
and Shirley for their support for DWF. Douglas also meet with Ron
Raab and Neil of Insulin
for Life, a charity which receives donations of insulin which
are then distributed to Disaster Relief Areas and an established
network which helps people in countries who cannot afford to pay
for insulin supplies. Some containers of insulin and blood testing
kit were received by DWF to take to Kiribati, a tiny island nation
in the mid-Pacific, and the last stop before DWF reaches Hawaii.
Ron, who has Type 1 Diabetes, is a Vice President of the International
Diabetes Federation, and follows a diet low in carbohydrate formulated
by Dr. Bernstein of New York. Dr. Bernstein, who also has Type 1
Diabetes, adopted this diet in order to improve sugar control, and
a number of people now follow the diet and claim significantly improved
blood sugar control, trimmed weight and improved health.
Another most enjoyable
aspect of Melbourne for Douglas was meeting with six out of an old
gang of seven friends who used to live in Bangkok -
a very welcome coincidence! Many thanks Julie, Hugh and Ashlyn for
your hospitality, and also great to see you Liz, Steve, Noirin,
Hugh and Rupert, and Simone!
Headline News 2003!
Many congratulations to Lisa and Mike Frost
on young Joes arrival on 1st January! Lisa is the webmaster
for this website and is valiantly continuing with DWF updates! More
Latest News on flights around Australia will be posted over the
next few days...
news for the month of December