Maurice Kirk

Maurice's Blog

April 2001 - Posts

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Political asylum granted by France - to a British citizen - for the first time since the French Revolution... Key videos: We see Maurice being interviewed in Jersey in Dec 2010 and talking outside the Royal Courts of Justice, in June 2008. Here he introduces himself to a meeting of the Forum for Stable Currencies at the House of Lords, on March 9, 2010. In July 2010, Maurice speaks to the British Constitution Group in Stoke on Trent. For first-time visitors, a complementary and introductory blog offers also a one-page summary of his ordeals and battles.
  • The end and a pair of boots

    M arrived at Bankstown for the second time. He had flown in early before returning to Sydney Harbour for the fly past. Genevieve and I were at the Opera House to watch him complete the final part of the route, but we waited and waited..... we saw the Campbell team land the Albatros and some of the subsequent melee in the harbour. It was a wonderful spectacle and a fitting conclusion to the race.

    M spent a considerable amount of time talking to journalists and reporters at Bankstown, before returning to Sydney on the last coach. A scurry then ensued to get ready for that evening's bash, a reception and dinner to present prizes and to mark and celebrate the end of the race. John Howard, Prime Minister of Australia, awarded the prizes and, not part of the programme, presented M with a new pair of boots on behalf of the Kai Tak team. M's subsequent speech resembled something from the Oscars "...and I would like to thank my family, and everyone that knows me....... and did you hear about my oil leak? and I would like to thank my mother......" type of thing until mercifully cut short by the Kai Tak team. Luckily, M does not remember in detail. He has resumed his red wine habit as he is no longer dieting (a condition of his return home).

    Although I knew of the plot to replace M's boots, I was unaware of the next bit of the plan. Phil Black or "Blackie", the cattle auctioneer and pilot, who had entertained us so brilliantly at Longreach was called to the stage to auction M's old boots for a charity. Amazingly, bidding was brisk and the hammer eventually fell at 2,200 Aus dollars to Geoff Beesley. M duly and protestingly (he loved his old boots) autographed each and I rejoiced in his smartening up his appearance.

    Sunday was a public day at Bankstown and we met lots of people who had travelled some distance to look at the aircraft that had completed the Kangaroo Route 2001. G-KIRK commanded a lot of interest owing, I think, to the sheer unlikelihood of her completing the route. During the afternoon Geoff Beesley arrived with M's old boots. He had reflected on these being M's good luck and returned them. We replaced them with M's Piper Cub baseball cap which had also accompanied him for the whole trip. This was signed and oil plastered and certainly looked as though it had been through the mill and back. A more fitting and less smelly momento of the trip.

    It was particularly fun for me to meet a number of people who had been communicating with me via our website during the race. Richard Jeffery, now of Sydney, late of Dinas Powys, S Wales is one such person who kindly spent his whole Sunday helping us make arrangements for the safe B and B and crating of G-KIRK. Until this was arranged M did not relax. Richard then drove us back to our hotel and expanded our Australian experience by introducing us to Twoeys beer.

    All good things must come to an end. We left Sydney on Monday, 9 April to fly back to the UK, to rain, cold and animal health problems. Our flights were straight forward other having to decompression the gas cannister of the life raft before being allowed on our airoplane. On arrival at Heathrow we were reminded sharply of the contrast of attitudes between continents. We had carried M's broken propellor by airline, coach, taxi and private car from Coolangatta via USA to London - no problem. But at Heathrow bus terminal we were met by a furrowed brow and scowl "You can't put that fing on yer, mate". Attempts at compromise did not yield any benefit and so we hired a car and drove home.

    I had forgotton to keep an eye on the heating fuel situation while M was away. It had run out. Nice to be home.....

  • Boot conspiracy

    Having stopped short of Coolangatta at a cattle station at Goolawindi (apologies that I can't get this name right) M telephoned on Friday morning and left a message of my instructions for that day! I was to purchase 6 AA batteries (for his radio), 1 pair of size 11 RJ Williams boots, get his video/DVD repaired and be at Coolangatta airfield by 11.30. He had also left a message that he needed his spare prop. from the Albatros but that was being dealt with by the race organisers.

    Earlier in the week M's boots had become something of a cause celebre. The Kai Tak team had approached me in a conspiratorial manner and asked the size of M's feet. They were plotting a new boot ceremony for M at Saturday night's dinner where they would present him with new boots to replace his much-loved and utterly falling apart pair, worn for the entire race. Spare shoes, even flipflops, would have added unnecessary weight to G-KIRK's load. I passed on the boot request to the Kai Tak team and prepared my story - inadequate time for shopping / you should try shopping with a two year old / why should I do your shopping anyway? I'm not your slave etc.

    G-KIRK (the other one - two years old) and I failed miserably to get M's video recorder fixed, but got to Coolangatta airport on time. M had already arrived and was enjoying himself relating his latest adventure to assembled journalists, reporters and photographers. G-KIRK's propellor was the focus of attention. While crossing the mountains West of Coolangatta, M became aware that the propellor was vibrating rather alarmingly. He was unable to safely land on the mountains and a subsequent 40 mile stretch of woodland meant that he had to persevere carefully until quite close enought to Coolangatta. At this point he decided to struggle on to the airfield. I am not a pilot but as a frequent passenger am aware of the necessity to be aware at all stages of a field/safe area in which to land in an emergency. I also vividly remember a trip with M when we had a similar sort of emergency over the Cairngorms in Scotland and no suitable precautionary landing area and so no choice other than to struggle on - not my favourite memory.

    After landing he found that two prop. bolts had sheared and had caused the prop. to crack. Luckily, the only major spare part that M had taken along on the race was a spare fine pitch propellor. This was for two reasons: as a spare part should his prop. be damaged and also as a contingency should he find difficulty in getting G-KIRK to lift when carrying a full load of fuel in the hot climates encountered. The Campbell team had kindly carried the spare in their Albatros. G-KIRK's progress would have been even slower with the extra weight.

    Instead of lunch at Coolangatta we sped around arranging the propellor change. Finding replacement bolts proved difficult and resulted in our visiting a number of hangars on the airfield many of which contained fascinating airoplanes and people. As is always the case, appropriate bolts were found in the bottom of someone's gash box; bolts with little prospect of finding a home but being kept "just in case". Thank you.

    Aware that headwinds forecast for the following day meant that they might not reach Sydney for the flypast, M and G-KIRK pressed on from Coolangatta at 15.00hrs heading as far down the coast as they could get.

    They reached Coffs Harbour Aeroclub at sunset. After a barbecue he met old flyers who saw the race in 1934. He stayed in the bunkhouse of the club overnight and was able to leave early next morning (Saturday, 07/04/01) for Sydney harbour. Again I get the impression that M's race has involved more fun than that of anyone else.

    KK (M's wife)

  • Last Leg of the Journey

    I was sad to leave Alice Springs after a very short stay - such a beautiful place. An unusually high rainfall this season has caused it to be green and lush. I'm definitely coming back (soon).

    We watched G-KIRK and M fly out of Alice at approx. 08.00hrs. Remarkably, G-KIRK (the other one) who is not yet two years old can recognise "Daddy's airoplane" at quite some distance although she seems to have transferred her affections to Mr. Campbell's Albatros.

    Birdsville is a remarkable place - a small "desert" town famous for its annual horse race. Even in Autumn it was very hot.

    M arrived at 14.30hrs and pedalled hard to catch us at Longreach. In doing so he had an emergency over the Simpson Desert when his oil pressure fell to below 20lb/ and oil temp. rose to 120 degrees C. His engine, he tells me, sounded like "a bag of nails" (and not for the first time, I say). He decided to attempt a landing on the hard sand below, but as he neared landing, he realised what an idiot he was - his engine was running - just - and if he turned it off, it might well not restart. So Plan B and a flash of inspiration - M is used to flying low - that is his modus operandi at home. He realised that flying low over baked sand in the afternoon heat was not helping G-KIRK's engine cool - a sort of Icarus in reverse situation. Instead of landing, therefore, he climbed slowly, slowly to 2000ft and throttled right back until G-KIRK was just hovering. She gradually cooled down after approx. 40 minutes.

    At crisis point, before plan B was developed he called 1215 distress for the first time in his life. It was met by utter silence. He tried local frequencies to no avail. He made one more 1215 call which was picked up by a government aircraft - a wonderful feeling, he reports. He was able to relay a message via Singapore Airlines 232 to Melbourne that operations were normal as G-KIRK's engine cooled. This was a very, very salutory experience in the heart of the Simpson Desert.

    Yesterday evening while I enjoyed the excellent dinner and auction held for the airrace as guests of Longreach Cattle Handlers Association at the Hall of Fame, I received a message that M was, after all, abandoning the race and heading straight for Sydney. This did not surprise me in view of his tiredness, but I was very disappointed for him that he was having to quit the route this late in the race. I knew that he was finding it hard to face four more 11 hour days of nursing the very tired little G-KIRK along in headwinds. M had landed at a cattle station where he was made very a welcome guest. G-KIRK was, he informed me, tied down to the yard gate - "like a horse in a Western".

    Tonight he rang from Gundamindy in far better spirits. He's landed at at a cattle station, is being very well looked after and has had a great day, seen all sorts of wildlife and is 2 hours away from Coolangatta. He should be in to join us for lunch tomorrow before flying on towards Sydney......

    KK (M's wife)

  • Headwinds

    After another early start M and G-KIRK battled against headwinds to Tenneant Creek for refuelling after which they set off again towards Alice Springs but were brought down by darkness. This time, as a variation, they landed on a small road at Attack Creek, near a campsite where they spent the night, guests of some marvellously hospitable people who cooked M supper and made him a bed.

    He reports that he was asleep by 20.00hrs and "had the best night's sleep this trip". They were away early the next morning - his fellow campers stopped lorries for them to take off from the road. They arrived at Alice Springs at approx. 14.00hrs. Before this arrival at Alice, M and G-KIRK made an unscheduled stop owing to a shortage of oil. Again, they landed on a little road. M flagged down a truck which just happened to be carrying oil drums and whose driver kindly supplied M with the necessary to continue.

    What about the other G-KIRK and I? We travelled in the Campbell Team's Albatros to Alice Springs. She is the most beautiful and extraordinary aircraft - a "flying boat". It is such an unusual experience for me to fly at 10000ft other than on an airline machine (which I don't consider to be flying - rather more being transported). I wasn't asked to "watch out for pylons" once!

    M and G-KIRK arrived at Alice Springs on a rest day. It had been our intention to fly G-KIRK to Ayers Rock and to camp for the night. However, their late arrival, M's sheer exhaustion and the illegality of cramming me, the other G-KIRK and M into the original G-KIRK combined to make a lazy afternoon by the pool attractive.

    M was so tired that he began to talk of being unable to face further 11 hour days and toyed with the idea of simply heading straight for Sydney. It seemed to me that not to finish the route when so, so near completion was not an option and I urged him to continue - so close! I have never before known M feel unable to continue flying. Usually the more hours the better.

  • G'day from Coolangatta

    Since my last message G-KIRK (the other one) and I did indeed pack our bags and set out for Darwin via Heathrow, Los Angeles, Sydney and Alice Springs. To those of you who warned me that I was insane to attempt this in one hop with a two year-old - you were right - but we made it. I am not so sure that the stewards and stewardesses involved will recover so fast!

    For the record, G-KIRK (the other one) and I were waiting at Darwin airfield to watch M and G-KIRK (the original one) land on Australial soil at approx. 18.45hrs local time, just as darkness fell, with a spectacular tropical lightning show as a backdrop.

    This followed a journey which began on 11/03/01 in a 90hp, single -engined 57yr old light aircraft by a solo pilot of similar vintage.

    To backtrack, my last mention of M and G-KIRK was at Jakarta.

    From there they flew across the mountains of Java where, in bad weather, M attempted to film volcanoes. Again, he ran out of daylight as he headed towards Bali. As he continued over jungle M saw a graveyard of WW II aircraft including a Mitchell DC3 and an Albatross. Thinking "Spares - I know who might appreciate those" he landed on what turned out to be a military airfield (again!). After a "standard grilling" /questioning? (he's now well practiced and somewhat blase) M was taken by staff car to a very good hotel and given a conducted tour of the town by military personnel. A car was sent for him at 04.30hrs the following morning and he flew out at the crack of dawn after a platoon of soldiers had helped to prepare G-KIRK. n.b. I hope that these experiences do not cause M to develop delusions of grandeur - on his return he will find that 3 springer spaniels, 2 cats and I remain the only ground crew available.

    Owing to radar vectoring (?) he flew in the wrong direction for some short time before crossing East Java which he describes as the most spectacular jungle. He saw rhinoceri and many species of monkey. He landed on an exotic "coconut type of beach" (as in Bounty advert?) to dipstick his fuel tank (the sophisticated method of fuel calculation used by the Kirk household) and was able to continue for the last 50 miles across the water to Bali. Despite there being a rest day at Bali, M did not stop for any length of time but continued to eventually land in the dark (again!) on the island of Sumra. Here he found a little airstrip on which one airoplane a week lands. Lots of people turned out to see him (I do hope that he does not get delusions - 3 springer spaniels, 2 cats etc....). The airfield manager spoke English and took M home for the night as a guest.

    In the morning he and his electrician friend helped M to strip out all instruments and equipment that M considered unnecessary and heavy. These were crated and are to be shipped. The resulting decrease in weight enabled G-KIRK to carry substantially more fuel. As anticipated a headwind meant that the 700 miles of Timor Sea to be crossed were flown at 20ft altitude. M had calculated that fuel, oil and daylight would run out at the same time and he landed at Darwin with none to spare. The decrease in G-KIRK's load has enabled her to average an additional 5 knots groundspeed - not to be sniffed at when topspeed is 70-75 knots.

    In crossing the Timor Sea at 20ft M kept seeing pairs of whales. One pair rose out of the water in front of them necessitating avoidance action. Noone would ever believe that even M could break a prop. on a whale (despite having broken props. on many, various things in the past).

    M was desperately tired when they got into Darwin. By the time that G-KIRK had been tied down and we had arrived at our hotel and had eaten it was approx. 23.00hrs. He set the alarm call for 05.00hrs to start all over again towards Alice Springs....