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/sq.in 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)