Following is the Day by Day diary done by Bev and Lang during the trip
This report was received from Bev Kidby on June 19, 1998
Written 10 June 1998
On 12 May Lang flew out of Caboolture Airfield in newly re-registered VH-UFZ and headed for Sydney via Port Macquarie where some of Barry Bishton’s alternative props were trialed. Qantas was unable to freight the aircraft to London as previously planned and, after sitting at Mascot Airport until 19 May, Lang and UFZ were loaded onto Martinair 747 freight aircraft and were transported to Amsterdam where they were offloaded at Schipol Airport. More frustrations ensued when the Dutch customs could not come to grips with the fact that this aircraft had not flown in but wanted to fly out of the country.
Eventually on 26 May, Lang, with Martinair pilot Aert Mante as the aircraft’s first passenger, left Holland with no paperwork, no stamps, nothing to indicate he had ever been there. They flew in bad weather down the coast landing in Calais. From there they crossed the Channel to Dover and on reaching the English coast were forced to land immediately because of continuing bad weather and missed the planned reception at Biggin Hill arranged by our major sponsors Cox Aviation Insurance. The next day the weather was still poor, and a flight into Duxford Museum was all that was managed. UFZ was put in a hanger for the next three days until the weather improved and Lang was able to make Woodford Airfield at Manchester ready for our first airshow in the UK.
We were given a wonderful welcome at the British Aerospace Airfield at Woodford as this is where the A.V. Roe factory was originally situated and all Avians were built with Bert Hinkler as the test pilot for the factory in the 1920’s. UFZ was returning after 71 years, and as it is the only one flying in the world it attracted an enormous amount of attention.
I arrived from Australia per favour of Garuda Airlines and met up at Woodford with Lang and our campervan we have purchased for our gypsy like existence doing the airshow circuit over the next three months.
The Woodford Airshow was on 6 June and the morning after Lang flew out of the airfield. Continuing atrocious English weather meant he did not make Biggin Hill airshow that same day.
We met up again at Brooklands Museum in Surrey where, coincidently on the 9 June the Friends of Brooklands were having their annual Summer Party celebrating this year, the 90th anniversary of the first ever flight made from the airfield by Alliot Verdon Roe. UFZ took pride of place in a large marquee sheltering 250 invited guests. UFZ’s folding wings make it easy to move and display in confined areas unlike conventional aircraft. Prince Michael of Kent, who is the patron of Brooklands introduced Lang to the guests and, resplendent in his dinner suit and Australian flag bowtie, Lang gave a short address about the project which was very well received.
On Tuesday 9 June Lang was presented with a cheque of 12,000 pounds from our major sponsor, Cox Aviation Insurance, England.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on June 26, 1998
On 12 June we left Brooklands in Surrey, and Lang flew to Middle Wallop, the Army Aviation base in Hampshire. This is an allover grass strip where Lang spent a month back in 1970 doing a conversion on to Chipmunks while in the army, so flying in once again was quite nostalgic. I followed in the campervan although for three days the airshow provided very nice accommodation with all meals supplied.
The Friday was the first fine day we have had since arriving in the UK, and we enjoyed watching aircraft flying in and practising for the two day airshow. The weather unfortunately didn’t last as the first day of the airshow – Saturday – was completely washed out and having the camper on site was very welcoming.
On the Sunday a complete airshow was accomplished even though there were rain showers on and off all day. The Avian again created a lot of interest and Lang did a very nice display showing this graceful little aircraft to its best advantage.
From Middle Wallop we went back to Fairoaks, a little airfield near Brooklands, where more work was done on the generator which has not worked effectively since being installed. We were able to have it replaced with an alternator which now produces all the electricity required for the radios. On Tuesday Lang did some air to air photography with Norman Pealing who is based at Fairoaks, and four years ago did some fabulous shots of the Vimy over London. Again he produced some magnificent shots.
On Wednesday our entourage headed northwards, back to Woodford Airfield in Manchester ready for the next airshow which was in Northern Ireland. Bad weather kept us in Manchester until Friday when I was able to abandon the van and have my first flight in the Avian. We did a bit of scud running landing twice before the overwater leg and into Newtownards. Lang made the choice of flying into Scotland and then over the shortest water leg for which I was grateful. The cockpit is very snug but the wind swirls continuously around, so suitable dressing is essential for comfort.
We had a very warm welcome to Newtownards in County Down and again were accommodated very adequately. The airshow was on Saturday afternoon featuring the Constellation and the C54 from the USA, Harriers, Lancaster, Spitfires and the Red Arrows. We are now starting to get to know the other crews quite well as we all move around the countryside to the various airshows. At all shows the military always have a significant presence.
Land went up in fine but very gusty conditions, and on a touch and go was caught in a wind gust. The left hand undercarriage bent, which caused the right wing tip to scrape on the runway. He lifted off and tried to get an assessment of the damage, since he had no way of seeing for himself. Most of the advice to him was to land on the bitumen so he would slide rather than dig in on the grass. He made an approach and then aborted by which time everyone was aware there was a drama happening and I was feeling decidedly nervous. His next approach was onto the grass and he made a magnificent landing holding the left hand wheel off until the last second and set the Avian down to a loud round of applause, without doing any further damage.
The rest of the weekend looked pretty bleak at that stage, but it was not long before Lang was introduced to a chap who had a workshop on the airfield and assured us he could do the work required. Colin and his dad, Noel O’Neill looked at the damage after the show on Saturday night and we all decided work would start the next morning so we went off to the after show party. At nine o’clock we got a phone call saying they had got enthused and work was well on the way.
Next morning the mob had departed for Enniskillen, in County Fermanagh for the Sunday airshow. Welding and fabric repairs proceeded on the Avian and by just after midday we were on our way again thanks to the generosity of the locals.
We did the hour long flight west and were slotted into the airshow not long after our arrival at this very picturesque airfield on the shores of the loch. Following the airshow Lang and airshow organiser Jeff Salter flew in the Avian back to Newtownards and I had the luxury of a closed Piper cockpit. Jeff put us up for the night and on Monday it was back to Woodford once again.
The Avian was awarded Best Aircraft of the show and we were presented with an Irish Crystal Goblet.
The visit to Ireland was a first for Lang and myself, for me it was a visit back to my roots in Portdown, Armagh but for both of us it left us feeling we had met some very wonderful, generous and special people.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on July 3, 1998
We flew back from Ireland in one hop taking 2 hours 20 minutes with a nice tail wind (this time being able to see Scotland as soon as we were airborne), landing back at Woodford. Again we were forced to stay put until Thursday because of bad weather. Being at the British Aerospace facility though did give Lang a chance to do maintenance work in a nice large hanger, with plenty of expertise on tap. A number of minor jobs have been necessary on the aircraft enroute – fixing oil leaks, fine tuning rigging and the numerous little niggles that arise daily when flying aircraft of any age. With only 30 hours flown so far we are still very much in the test flying stage.
On Thursday 25th June we repositioned ourselves in Lincolnshire at Gamston, a small airfield near Retford. The afternoon was spent in Sherwood Forest reliving the exploits of Robin Hood.
The following day we arrived at Waddington RAF Base for the two day airshow, where the Avian was a static display. In windy showery conditions we set up our display board and merchandising table and answered a constant barrage of questions. The amateur photographers and aircraft spotters are very serious moving around with ladders and trolleys to carry all their gear. The Avian is always the centre of attraction and seldom is it free of a couple of photographers aiming for the “perfect shot”.
The weather continues to be very poor and after a month we are still to see a full sunny day. Lang finds the poor visibility unpleasant with most of his repositioning flights being below a cloud base of less than a thousand feet. The Royal Air Force bases around the country make their low level radar advisory service available to the general public and Lang finds their traffic warning alerts very useful, strangely, relatively few private aircraft seem to take advantage of this excellent service.
I took advantage early in the week to visit some relatives in Norfolk, and then we headed south towards Bedford, and the three day PGA Rally at Cranfield (the Oskosh of the UK). This was a huge success with over a thousand light aircraft on the airfield with the Avian getting a great deal of attention.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on July 6, 1998
The Cranfield P.F.A. (Popular Flying Association) Rally on 3rd, 4th and 5th July was really great. Not only did it not rain for three days, but we met up again with so many wonderful people we had already met at previous air shows. Over 1,700 aircraft flew into the rally, so there were aircraft of all shapes and sizes covering the whole airfield. The Avian, once again, received an enormous amount of attention and was presented a Special Commendation Award.
I guess after 12 months of extremely hard work, it is now gratifying to be able to take a step back and realise we have created something unique, an aircraft most people thought they would never see flying again, an aircraft that can only be seen in a very few museums world wide.
Another benefit of such a show was Lang being able to speak to a number of trade people and as a result will have various essential items donated to the project.
During our week at Cranfield we met up with the Goulbournes (friends from Papua New Guinea 18 years ago) and with them we went to their daughter’s Royal College of Music recital in London, which was a nice change of pace from airfields.
We are now starting to plan our route back. Our intention is to spend six days in Italy as a tribute to Bert Hinkler’s memory and in this period, visit his grave site and memorial outside Florence. The rest of the trip will be along the old Empire Air Route. Through the Middle East we will fly Egypt-Jordon-Saudi Arabia-Bahrain. This will enable us to meet up with old friends from previous England/Australia trips.
This report was received from Lang Kidby on July 8, 1998
There are no problems, only opportunities. We now have the opportunity to completely rebuild the Avian!
While going into the Moat Farm Strip near Ipswich to inspect the Avro 504 being built for the RAAF Museum at Point Cook, the Avian put a wheel into a furrow and the corn alongside the narrow grass runway leapt up and grabbed the wing. In the ensuing low level acrobatics, the aircraft was extensively damaged, finishing upside down.
After crawling from the upturned wreckage, I apparently caused the ladies among the alarmed rescuers to retreat for some time as I quietly voiced my displeasure at this unexpected turn of events.
Within 30 minutes, phone calls of support were pouring in and it seems every vintage specialist in the UK wants to be involved in the rebuild. By 8 o’clock the next morning, the aircraft had been stripped, damages assessed and a plan of action drawn up. By 9 o’clock the engine was on the back of a truck to Vintec for checking, Graham Potts in Australia had plans enroute by courier and Robert Dunlop was standing by in Brisbane to start churning out wing ribs.
Cox Aviation Insurance have enabled all this to happen with instant approvals and total “whatever you need” support. I have even been invited to dinner in London by the Cox Management to cheer me up, which is extremely encouraging.
On top of all this, Bev’s mother has taken seriously ill, so while I roll up my sleeves, she is on an emergency dash to Melbourne. It never rains…………..
This report was received from Lang Kidby on July 18, 1998
What began as a disaster is quickly developing into a triumph of teamwork and positive thinking over adversity. The almost destroyed Avian has now began its resurrection.
With some form of fate deciding the site of the accident, not 50 metres from the Avian’s sudden demise, the wings are already well on the way to rebuild at Tony Ditheridges, AJD Engineering, one of the best known vintage aircraft builders in the world.
Tim Moore at Skysports has pushed his Bristol Beaufighter rebuilds aside to tackle the Avian fuselage while Vintec have the engine stripped for inspection. Of course none of this would have happened without the total support of Cox Aviation Insurance, who upon hearing of the accident issued two instructions – get a flying aircraft to Farnborough – come to dinner in London. Not the usual response to a major insurance claim!
I have had to invest in a slightly disreputable 200 pound car to carry me faithfully hundreds of miles a day running between all the contractors, suppliers and advisers. All hold out strong expectations of the planned Farnborough 13 September departure happening on cue.
PS from Bev – Melbourne
Not to be outdone by the Avian, my Mum last week was refused entry by St Peter and family, friends and doctors are amazed and thankful for her complete recovery. I will therefore return to the UK in another week.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on July 30, 1998
I arrived back in the UK on Monday after being away for three weeks. We have our gypsy camp set up on the edge of the corn field at Moat Farm where Tony Ditheridge has his home and business operation, AJD Engineering. Here the wings are fast taking shape. The ribs freighted from Robert Dunlop in Brisbane last week unfortunately were mislaid en route for a few precious days. Any delays are a cause for consternation with our very tight time schedule.
Yesterday Lang and I collected all the metal components from Heathrow where they had undergone testing. All were passed OK, so can be used again. Only one flying wire broke in the accident and has to be replaced.
Today we are delivering the rebuilt rudder, elevator wires to Skyport near Bedford, where they will be fitted to the repaired fuselage.
Messages of support and encouragement have flooded in from all around the world, which helps to sustain the enthusiasm of all the workers on the project.
On the administration side, we are starting to churn out letters to the embassies and many other contacts in the countries along the England – Australia route.
NOTE: The word corn is a general term used here in the UK for what we call wheat in Australia.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on August 21, 1998
Progress on the rebuild is continuing in all quarters with three weeks to go!! Vintage Engine Technology have finished the engine and it is ready for fitting. Aeroplane Monthly have generously donated 1000 pounds so a bigger, lighter wing fuel tank can be built, giving Lang a better range.
This weekend we went to the De Havilland Moth Club’s 19th annual fly in held at Woburn Abbey. The weather was great, the surrounds magnificent and over 100 moths of all types arrived for the weekend activities. At the dinner in the Abbey on Saturday night, Lang made the presentation of the De Havilland Trophy to Barry Markham who last month completed a solo flight from Western Australia to England in a Tiger Moth. The fly-in is held at Woburn each year, as it was the family home of the Duchess of Bedford (The Flying Duchess) who in the 1920’s flew a moth from England to India and later to South Africa. In 1932 after taking off from the Abbey she was killed off shore.
From Woburn we have come to Kemble Airfield in Wiltshire where the Vimy is undergoing its rebuild. Neither Peter McMillan (Owner) or Mark Rebholz (Chief Pilot) could be here from the USA so they asked Lang to do ground runs and possible test flights for the BMW engineers who are over from Germany. They have fitted engines, gearboxes and propellers which have been developed for the South African trip later this year.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on August 27, 1998
Last week the workshops, unfortunately, had a few problems with the construction of the wings, which has put us a number of days behind our schedule. Now with two weeks until the start of Farnborough Airshow we still have a lot to complete but have every confidence that with a lot of hard work somehow we will be ready on time.
The engine is now at Skysport with installation begun, the undercarriage is completed and attached to the fuselage. A lot of night work is planned to finish the wing covering this week.
At Farnborough the Avian will be a static display from Monday 7 September in the antique aircraft area. Monday to Friday are the trade days, and then the public days are on Saturday and Sunday. Lang will be slotted into the airshow early in the afternoon on Sunday 13, departing from England, on the first leg of the trip to Troyes in France.
At the request of Lang’s Vimy partner, Peter MacMillan, we managed to squeeze in a couple of days with the Vimy last week at Kemble, while a team of five from BMW Germany worked on the installation of the engines, gearboxes and propellers. The second day saw the engines burst into life sounding wonderfully smooth and a very different noise to the Chevy engines. With many other areas still requiring work, Lang was unable to do the expected taxiing or flying while the German team was in the UK. The big green bird that we remember, is being painted silver and will be named “The Silver Queen” for the South African trip originally done in 1920 by Van Ryneveld and Quintin Brand.
On Saturday night we went to a wonderful outdoor concert held at Old Warden airfield the home of the Shuttleworth collection. Called the Hawker Proms, at last light, displays by a Sopwith Camel, Hawker Cygnet, Totntit, Hart and Hurricane were accompanied by appropriate music and dialogue. Then after dark we were entertained with stirring British music with a finale of Land of Hope and Glory to a backdrop of fireworks and enthusiastic waving of hundreds of Union Jacks – it was a very entertaining night.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on August 31, 1998
We seem to be taking one step forward and two steps back at present Ih is proving very frustrating. Last night we worked with Lind and Clive Denney of Vintage Fabrics to begin the fabric work on the first of the four wings. The other wings will come in stages as they are finished during the week. A long weekend this weekend also isn’t exactly what we needed with one week to go – everyone is taking bets – can it be done!!!
On Tuesday I went down to Heathrow and picked up our new propeller, that Martinair freighted from Barry Bishton in Port Macquarie, Australia.
This week the project received a cheque for aus$10,000 from Bundaberg Council, and the Avian will carry the name “City of Bundaberg”. Prior to leaving Australia Lang visited Bundaberg several times (Hinkler’s birthplace) to make contact with all interested parties, as Hinkler is still regarded as the town’s favourite son. We are very grateful to have this support and the connection with the town.
During the week we had a very nice evening with Carolyn Grace who is Australian born and the only female Spitfire owner and pilot here in the UK. For me it was also a pleasant birthday celebration.
This report received from Bev Kidby on September 6, 1998
Work is going on night and day. We unfortunately will not make Farnborough for the first few days, but are now aiming for Tuesday, and Wednesday at the latest. As the weekdays are the trade days we are only allowed to fly in to the airfield between 5 and 7 pm, each evening.
All week Lang and I have helped with the fabric work – cutting, gluing, doping, stitching, more doping and then the final silver coat. The last of the four wings will be taken over to Skysport in the morning and the rigging will then be done. The aircraft will undergo weighing and be ready for yet another test flight.
I will head down to Farnborough early in the week and even if the Avian isn’t present I will set up camp and displays with a large “Watch this space”.
We are also starting to pack up our gear and sort out what is going to be freighted with QANTAS and what we take on the trip. We have now sold both the car and the van, but have use of the van until I leave. I will be waving Lang goodbye on the Sunday and then have a few days to tidy up everything and then I fly to Rome from here on Wednesday 16th.
There will be a small contingent of Aussies to see Lang depart, also from USA will be Deric Jacques with his sister Denise who lives in England. Deric and Denise are the children of Fredrick Jacques who was the original owner of UFZ when it was shipped to Australia in 1927. Both remember flying in the aircraft as children. It is unfortunate that the ferry tank has been put in during the rebuild as it means there can be no more joy flights and Deric can’t again experience the thrill of an open cockpit.
Our itinerary in Italy has Lang flying into Genoa from Cannes on 15th, spend the day of 16th in Genoa where I will catch up with him. On 17th we are to be taken to Florence to see Hinkler’s gravesite and the memorial the Italians erected in his memory. Lang will fly from Genoa to Padus on the 18th, and then the next two days are spent attending an airshow with the Avian. On the 21st I fly to Pescara, and on the 22nd leave Italy from Bari to Athens. This itinerary has been arranged by Contessa Maria Fede Caproni, who is graciously hosting us during this period. She is a member of the famous aircraft family, who had large aircraft factories in Trento, Northern Italy.
Hopefully next week I will have lots of good news to pass regarding the Farnborough Airshow.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 11, 1998
VH-UFZ flies again. The Avro Avian flew into Farnborough Airshow late last night. The weather was not ideal but Lang was happy with the short flight and excepting a few minor alterations the Avian is ready and rearing to start the flight home on Sunday, 1.15pm (UK time).
Cox Aviation Insurance
Vintage Engines Technology
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 15th, 1998
The bird has flown and as I write this Lang has landed at Cannes for his second overnight stop.
The week has been so hectic with so many ups and downs, but the pressures tend to diminish when we realise Lang actually met the deadline and took off from Farnborough Airshow at 13:00 13th September. Our farewell delegation watched him lift off and turn across the airfield and disappear from sight enroute to France. Three hours later I had a phone call saying he had made Troyes but had had a really rough crossing over the Channel. Even though he had a tail wind it was pouring rain and blowing a gale, making conditions very miserable.
Again today Lang has just phoned, and saying he has had the worst flight of his life. The winds are just horrendous across France, and his landing a nightmare. When he did ring through he had reached his hotel on the waterfront in Cannes with private beach etc. etc. courtesy of Shaikh Hamad from Bahrain. As I am still in the UK packing boxes at Brooklands Museum, to freight home, I received the news with very mixed feelings.
It is thanks to the long hours of hard and dedicated work from all the contractors involved all this week that made the take off possible. Also this week we had donated the weighing of the aircraft by Steve Cook of Loadmasters and charts for the whole route from Jeppeson.
Before take off yesterday Ron Hedges, General Manager of British Aerospace presented a cheque for 10,000 pounds to Lang and I. With the exchange rate this brings them into the project as a major sponsor, and gives a historic link to UFZ’s roots here in the UK.
It was only last week that saw the fabric work on the wings finished and late on Monday the first time all the components were in the same workshop together. From then the Avian looked like and ant’s nest with at least seven or eight workers working on every aspect of the final assembly. After the first engine run on Wednesday Vintech decided to dismantle the engine to fix an oil leak overnight. Then on Thursday a successful test flight was carried out. Lang left Skysport later the same day, flew to Gramston and had a final check from Vintech. As it was extremely windy he went into the allover strip at White Waltham ready for his 1750 timeslot at Farnborough. I had arrived at Farnborough on Wednesday to set up our display so was elated to see him fly in right on time.
Our next few days were incredibly busy, but also we caught up with so many familiar faces and received so many best wishes. We have enjoyed our stay in England, but are very happy to be heading for home, even though I have no doubt the next month will also have plenty of ups and downs.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 16th, 1998
Today both Lang and I are in Italy but in different areas. I should catch up with him in Northern Italy tomorrow.
Lang had a good flight along the Mediterranean Coast from Cannes and arrived to a very warm reception from the local aero club in Genoa. He did experience problems with his radio and developed a leak in one of the fuel tanks. Both problems should be able to be rectified while in Genoa.
Today Lang with his host from Genoa, travelled by train to Florence and attended a ceremony at Hinkler’s grave site. The Australian Ambassador Rory Steele and several Generals along with the media were also present.
I was disappointed not being able to attend, as my flight into Rome made it too late to travel to Florence. None the less, Maria Fede Caproni met me in Rome and gave me a wonderful guided tour through the city. After a few hours at her home here in Rome, we are driving to the family home in Trento where we will spend the night.
Tomorrow morning I will see the Caproni museum in Trento and then travel to Parma where I will meet up with Lang.
We will stay in Parma for three days where there is an air show on the 20th.
This report was received from Bev & Lang Kidby on September 19th, 1998.
A few days in Parma have given the ideal opportunity to work on the Avian and iron out a few problems, as Lang has covered in his report.
The airport here is buzzing with activity in preparation for the airshow on Sunday. This year it is focussing on the 75th anniversary of the Italian Airforce. The day we arrived we saw the Tricolori team practising their routine which was very impressive.
The town of Parma dates back to Roman times 183BC and is famous for its artistic heritage along with ham and the parmesan cheese produced in the area.
We are staying in a very nice hotel for the four nights, and are close to both the town centre and the airport.
While Contessa Caproni has organised our activities here in Italy it is thanks to a generous donation of 3,000,000 lira from a friend of hers, Cirulli Miassimo, which is enabling us to spend our whole time in Italy no expense to the project. Cirulli has a unique collection of aviation posters he is intending to bring to Australia to exhibit.
I will leave Parma on Monday and have a flight from Milan to Athens. Lang will overnight in Pascara and fly via Bari to Athens on Tuesday, where we are guests of George and Lydia Legarkis.
TECHNICAL REPORT 1
Bev is doing a great job with updates on the web (not that I have seen it yet!). Many people are interested in the more technical aspect of the flight so I will try and make some input on a regular basis.
The aircraft was completed for first flight on the morning of 10 September. At 2200 the night before, the engine was in a thousand bits on the floor, having been removed to fix oil leaks.
A quick flight was done to Little Gransden to have the tappets adjusted and oil leaks sealed. On the way, it was apparent the Avian was about 7 knots faster, due to Barry Biston’s new prop and removal of the front windscreen.
The wind at Little Gransden was over 30 knots which made landing a bit exciting and the rough conditions made the flight to White Waltham, an all over grass field just west of London, very uncomfortable. A thirty minute wait on the ground was followed by another 30 knot wind take-off to meet my arrival time at Farnborough.
Departure from Farnborough was something of a first. Because the cross wind was so strong the organisers gave me an unprecedented airshow departure on the cross runway – the rules, even at Farnborough can be changed!
Heading into pretty sub-standard weather the Avian bounced across southern England with the engine giving a disturbing cough with each big negative ‘G’ “air pocket”. By the time I reached Dover the weather was lousy with visibility across the Channel about 5 miles in light rain. Manston radar were helpful but, at my low altitude, they kept giving me the big cross-channel ferries as traffic.
The GPS was telling me the crosswind was over 50 knots and trying to track up the beach to Calais against it was something of a struggle.
Turning right for the 2 hour flight to Troyes, just south east of Paris, I headed into continuous rain and about 1500 foot cloud base. The flight was quite miserable although the cockpit was reasonably dry. A couple of times as I flew in the rain below a particularly dark patch, the GPS dropped out. Water streamed over the bottom wings to pool in the gap seals on the ailerons. Forward visibility was almost zero but an open cockpit allows you to look over one side and even in the heaviest rain it was possible to see the surroundings.
At last Troyes appeared and I touched down on a wet runway. Just as I was coming to a stop the aircraft swung slightly and the application of the brake did nothing. Gracefully at 5mph the Avian did a ground loop, and without stopping, continued taxiing along the runway. Inspection showed that the wheel covers had directed water into the brake drums making them completely useless.
Monday 14th September provided low cloud with good visibility but very strong wind. The flight over mountainous country was one of the most uncomfortable I have ever had. Wind over 30 knots slammed the Avian up and down for hour after hour. The engine appeared to have settled down as it was no longer coughing in rough conditions although the oil temperature was on the high side. Bouncing over the hills into Cannes I saw the weather had turned to blue but the tower told me the “Mistral” had reached 30 knots across both runways.
A small British aircraft was landing in front of me and I saw him bucking and turning on approach, then, before my very eyes, being picked up and slammed into the ground, collapsing his undercarriage. The excitable lady controller started telling me how to fly the aircraft – “UFZ go around if it too rough…etc”
Picking the best of a bad lot, I chose the “Mistral” runway with only 20 knots of cross wind. Landing across the bitumen, heading towards the parked aircraft 100 metres in front of me, excited the controller even more. I was able to maintain marginal control down final but, just as I rounded out, the turbulence of the hangars struck. Heaps of power, legs going like a bike rider, control stick pumping resulted in some previously unknown acrobatic manoevres and about 2 inches of fabric neatly shaven from the tip of an aileron. Next time I will do this trip in a Kingair.
The next day promised better and, after replacing a blown exhaust gasket and patching the aileron, I headed along the beautiful coast to Genoa in Italy. My little micoair radio does not work in the 118 frequency range (unfortunately most control towers use this range) so I had my hand-held radio on my lap.
As the temperature of the day rose, so did that of the engine oil, confirming my expectation that some cowling work was required to direct air into the oil cooler fitted in Farnborough.
Just before touchdown in Genoa, a strong smell of fuel filled the cockpit and as soon as I pulled up outside the aero club the members pointed to fuel pouring from the aircraft. The new aluminium ferry tank, built in England, had split dumping 100 litres over my feet.
Piaggio Aircraft repaired the tank but strongly recommended its replacement. Tim Moore of Skysport, packing his company guarantee constructed a replacement steel tank and Peter McAllister arrived the next night in Parma (where we are attending the huge airshow) with it under his arm.
As this is written, Peter is fitting the tank and, with the help of the mechanics of the Aero Club De Parma, I have stopped the oil leaks and constructed a very neat air duct to the oil cooler. An extra vent has been cut in the bottom cowl to increase general engine cooling.
Having crossed the Italian mountains to the Agean side I am looking forward to the flight down the Italian east coast to Athens, trying to remain clear of Albania and Yugoslavia.
Problems with the Avian all come under the heading of “fine tuning” and would normally be fixed in a testing period. It is not often that a completely rebuilt aircraft heads off across the world with 30 minutes flying time under its belt. I am satisfied that with all the work done in England, the Avian is safer and faster than originally.
I am looking forward to only having to cope with an average of one disaster per day from now on!!
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 23rd, 1998
I am in Athens and Lang is expected in later today. I have just received word that he is refuelling in Bari, Italy.
So far, Still on time. Bev.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 24th, 1998
While flying down the east coast of Italy in beautiful weather on route to Athens, Lang discovered that a split had developed in the main fuel tank and was leaking fuel. We understand that the matter is being addressed and should put him one day behind schedule.
I am beginning to think Lang and I are going to spend most of this trip in different countries.
After the air show at Parma in which the Avian was a static display, Lang headed for Pescara and I came to Athens via Milan. Lang was looked after by the aero club at Pescara and while heading for Bari another fuel leak developed from the main upper tank. He decided to head for the larger airport of Brindisi and rescue bid #2 has been put into place by the guys in the UK. His original tank will be flown out and fitted. At present I am hoping the tank arrived, hoping it can be fitted in a few hours and that he can make Athens this afternoon.
The operation post at Legarkis’ when we first heard the news was devastated. But in true Greek style we have been wining and dining ever since. George and Lydia seem to have friends dropping by constantly, and I have met some wonderful people from all parts of the globe.
Yesterday I took time out to be a tourist and visited the Acropolis and other city sights. George took me into the city on the back of his motor scooter. While weaving in and out of the traffic with absolutely no protection at all I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Nonetheless I elected to walk back to their home.
This report was received from Bev & Lang Kidby on September 27th, 1998
Lang left Brindisi Thursday after the top tank was fitted. The first we heard was that he was landing at Corfu as he was unable to get approval to land in Athens – the CAA was on strike! George has a friend who works for Olympic Airways and a few strings were pulled, so a very happy reception committee saw him land at Athens Airport at 1830, a tiny speck amongst the other aircraft.
The radio has been a problem since the start of the trip, as a technician was available here Lang has stayed an extra night in Athens to get it fixed properly. Another problem has been our Egyptian clearance. Doug Wyght at Qantas was finding it difficult with the time difference to make contact with the right people. The CAA were not helpful, then we went to the military with no more luck. Through the help of the Australian Embassy in Cairo I contacted the Egyptian Foreign Affairs and was assured that it was no problem, but how could we guarantee payment, credit cards not being an option. Finally we are working through an agent in Egypt and have our fingers crossed a clearance will be available this afternoon – God willing, as they say in the Middle East.
I leave for Amman tomorrow night and if Lang can manage Athens – Crete – Alexandria today or Crete – Alexandria – Amman tomorrow he may make Amman before me. Otherwise it will be Monday and three days behind. We have a few lay days in our schedule so may be able to make up for lost time as we proceed.
STOP PRESS – Lang should be in Crete now.
TECHNICAL REPORT 2
Parma turned into 3 days of continuous work at the aero club workshop with Peter McAllister of Skysport working on the replacement ferry tank fitting while I worked with an Italian engineer on stopping oil leaks and fabricating a ducting system to feed through the oil cooler.
It was very gusty on departure for Pescara, about 2 ½ hrs down the Italian coast. The radios were hopeless and I wasted a lot of time bouncing at low level over the hills avoiding controlled air space. Something will have to be done about communications!
I was met in Pescara by yet more friends of Contessa Maria Caproni and the Avian was hangered at the aero club and I was taken to dinner.
An hours flight next morning resulted in a quick refuel at Brindisi then departure for Athens. 30 minutes out of Brindisi, over the Adriatic Sea, there was a strong smell of fuel and soon a fine spray coming from the main wing tank. Yet another fuel tank had failed!
Back in Brindisi to wait 2 days while Steve Roberts came from Skysport with my original stainless Australian tank. The spinner, also replaced in England, was also found split beyond redemption.
Now 2 days behind schedule I eventually departed Brindisi. Unfortunately the engine overheating problem, nicely solved by the ducting built in Parma, returned with a vengeance and for 4 1/2 hrs I juggled the power and airspeed to keep the needle just below the red line.
The removal of the spinner had spoiled the airflow over the cowls and hampered cooling. About an hour out I was ordered to land in Kerkira, Corfu to be told that I was not allowed to land in Athens because of an air traffic control strike. Immediately upon landing on this pretty Greek Island I was told the strike was over and I could proceed.
Back into the air, fighting high engine temperatures and a 25 knot head wind, I flew for 3 hours at 500 feet trying to use the many mountainous islands as wind protection.
Late in the afternoon I was circling on the edge of Athens control zone, talking on the hand held radio while listening on the main radio. This is it! Athens is where I get some proper communications! After being held circling on downwind waiting for a break in the continuous stream of jets I was slotted straight into the stream with instructions to follow the 747 as closely as possible as there was another, 2 minutes behind him. I m sorry to say I did not expedite as quickly as possible to stretch the gap to the maximum, hoping the fair crosswind would blow the wake turbulence to one side before I got there. The controller was becoming quite emotional by the time I touched down. I don’t know why, as the 747 behind me was only just rounding-out as I cleared the runway.
As this is written, the hopefully repaired radios being refitted, and with the addition of a new low noise headset, donated by Stan Moncrieff of Pilot Communication Ltd, communications should improve.
I expected to get away to Souda on Crete by 1030 local, do a quick refuel then press on to Alexandria in Egypt – about 8 hours flying, mostly over water.
The only thing to throw a spanner in the works is the Egyptian flight clearance, disturbed by the changes in plan. Bev has spent hours on the phone to embassies, clearance companies and civil aviation authorities. I have been told that the clearance will be available by the time I get to Crete “God Willing”. I am realistically expecting a Greek meal in Souda tonight.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 28th, 1998
Lang left Athens Airport midday on Saturday for the 1½ hour flight to Souda on Crete. He was met there by friends of George Legakis and press representatives. The radio after working well for most of the trip – failed again just before landing. It seems all the installation work thought required did not solve a problem in the unit itself. The technician fortunately set up the installation so Lang could plug his hand held in and use the external aerial giving him better range, so this must suffice.
While in Athens Lang was able to improve the air flow and has solved the overheating problem. Lang in his usual laid back fashion says he will be happy to reduce the ‘dramas’ to one a day – he finds these multiple dramas are a bit taxing!
Lang rang us in Athens and said he had the Egyptian clearance and would fly the Mediterranean on Sunday 27th, several hours later this was withdrawn as for some reason it was decided a military clearance was required as well as the civilian one already in place. Yesterday we went back to square one trying every contact we could think of, to speed up the process. When I left Athens for Amman Lang had flown to Iraklion (a little closer) and we were receiving help from the Australian Embassy in Cairo.
I had very mixed feelings about leaving Athens yesterday as I was leaving the very wonderful support of both George and Lydia Legakis, Lang still had the longest overwater leg ahead of him, and the additional frustration of fighting bureaucracy. I hope it is not too many days before he is here with me in Jordan.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on September 30th, 1998
I can’t believe the clearances for Egypt took so long. Lang got both civilian and military clearances yesterday, too late to make the flight. So today (Wednesday) he took off early, is hoping for a fast turn around in Alexandria and is going to try and make Jordan later today. Realistically I don’t think I will see him until tomorrow.
Bert Hinkler was not able to get approval to fly into Egypt in 1928 – maybe there was an omen! Lang has been in Crete for 4 days, and became quite a celebrity. All five TV stations covered his landing at Iraklion and all the locals along the waterfront acknowledged him whenever he was out and about.
My first night in Amman on Sunday I spent at the Intercontinental Hotel, where we know the PR person from our 1990 rally. Even with a good discount I could not afford to stay for a prolonged time so after visiting the Australian Embassy I moved on their recommendation to a small hotel, far more reasonable, clean and friendly.
Jordan is a great country to visit. Moving around the city, I have not seen many tourists but I feel totally at ease and everyone seems friendly and willing to be helpful.
Bahrain will be my next stop and Lang will fly Amman – Ha’il – Bahrain, two very long legs mainly over desert.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 1st, 1998
Lang finally got Egyptian clearance and yesterday flew Crete – Alexandria – Amman. It was a 10 hour flight and he was quite exhausted. Today he plans to do some maintenance before leaving for Ha’il, Saudi Arabia tomorrow, another very long flight. He still plans to try and make up some lost time but realistically he looks like arriving in Australia a week overdue.
This technical report was received from Lang Kidby on October 2nd, 1998
George and Lydia Legakis were fantastic help in Greece, not only looking after Bev for many days but providing contacts for work on the aircraft.
The radio problem was solved by Elias Kokkatas, an airforce technician who removed and fixed it overnight. Elias was a contact of Michael Poulikakis, the Olympic Airlines captain who did much to smooth the way for me.
The last resort with the overheating problem was to remove the spinner backing plate to allow huge quantities of air through the cowls.
After wasting yet another day on repairs we received word that, despite Qantas asking for Egyptian clearances two months ago and numerous chaser calls through embassies by Bev over the previous two weeks, nothing was happening.
I decided to press on to Souda to at least get halfway across the Mediterranean to wait in Crete. Launching into a blue sky, with very little wind for a change, I headed south. The throat microphone, provided by “Pilot” headsets in the UK worked beautifully, completely eliminating the background wind noise which had annoyed airtraffic controllers for months.
But most importantly, the engine ran cold! The elimination of the spinner and backing plates has solved the problem. The aircraft is not as streamlined and has lost about 4 knots but I can live with that.
Over the island of Milos, about halfway to Crete, the radio stopped working again! Using the hand-held radio I crept into the circuit at Souda keeping an eye on the numerous charter tour jets arriving. Struggling to hear me, the controller gave me a clear landing on runway right (there are 3 parallel runways at Souda). As I was about to touch down an American C-130 entered the far end of the runway and started to taxi towards me. I thought this was pretty relaxed of the controller but the runway was very long and there was plenty of room. Suddenly he started yelling go around, which I did. “You cleared me to land on runway right.” “Yes, but you were supposed to land on the OTHER runway right!” He meant runway centre.
Vangellis and his friend George treated me royally with lunch and accommodation. George, who is a maintenance officer at the Greek airforce base on the opposite side of the airport, used his scrounging ability to get what we needed to fit up the hand held radio as the permanent main aircraft radio. Vangellis also handed me my Egyptian clearance. Within an hour, the Egyptian clearance has been cancelled and we were told 3-5 days for a military clearance which was needed for VFR flights. Two months to decide the military needed to be involved!!
Wanting to get as far as possible, I left next day for Iraklion, a further hour down the track. 3 days, hundreds of faxes and phone calls later, a clearance finally came through.
Looking at the map I decided if I could get a fast Alexandria turn around (an oxymoron) I could just get to Amman, Jordan before dark. Launching at dawn I landed in Alexandria 5 hours later after the longest overwater flight of the whole trip. Miracles do happen and I was out of Alexandria (after being robbed) in one hour.
The dust hug heavy in the air, leaving no horizon, as I staggered to the demanded 8,500 feet. For a change, friendly tailwinds pushed me down the Nile River to overhead Cairo. The pyramids stood out clearly below as I turned left and headed into hours of desolation across the Red Sea and over the mountains of Sinaii Peninsular.
Doing my sums it seemed that the helping wind would turn against me when I turned the corner around the bottom of Israel and over Aqaba and I would not beat the sun. By the skin of my teeth, I touched down at Marka Airport, Amman a few minutes before last light after 11 hours in the air.
After days of separation, I was pleased to see Bev waiting on the tarmac. She had turned the phone lines hot working on clearances for days in Amman.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 4th, 1998
We are certainly not going to break any speed records on this trip. Bert Hinkler did the entire trip to Darwin in 16 days, and here we are on our 21st day, and we are no further than Jordan.
Lang had a great trip Iraklion-Alexandria-Amman, although pretty exhausting. He was rearing to keep going but found all our CAA clearances with Saudi Arabia are in order but until they receive a letter from the sponsors in Ha’il will not release the clearance number, and somehow this has not occurred. Unfortunately this has all been hampered by the Middle East weekend, Thursday, Friday holiday so today the wheels seem in motion and he is hoping for a departure tomorrow. I have booked to go to Bahrain tomorrow to be sure I can keep ahead.
Stephen Hewitt the Australian Consul and Mike Sedman the British Air Attache both came and visited the aircraft at Marka Airport on Thursday and offered their help if required. HRH Prince Fiesal ibn al-Hussein also stopped by today and inspected the Avian, his operation Arab Wings have been very helpful since our arrival.
On Thursday night we attended an evening at the Outback Bar at the Australian Embassy, where we met quite a large number of expatriate Ozzies who live here or are passing through. Last night we had a pleasant evening with an Adelaide couple who are here on a two year teaching assignment.
The past few days have been spent mainly at the airport and sitting by the phone with a few excursions into the city centre and the wonderful array of exotic wares and scents.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 5th, 1998
I left Amman midday on Sunday for Bahrain. When I left, Lang was sitting in the operations room at Arab Wings hoping for the phone call that would give him the green light to proceed.
During Saturday Lang visited the headquarters of the Royal Jordanian Falcons at Marka Airport. There he met up with chief instructor and lead pilot Ghazi Sadoun who we had met at the various airshows in the UK. He invited us to spend the night with he and his wife Mimi at their olive farm north of the city. It was a beautiful spot, so peaceful away from the city.
On my arrival in Bahrain I was met by David Ryan who works in the CAA, so all queues through immigration and customs were eliminated. On arriving at David and Mary’s house we leant Lang was again staying with Ghazi in Jordan. Lang had received the sponsorship letter he required but now needed a letter from the Ha’il Airport authorities to allow a landing. Shaikh Hamed bin Ebrahim al Khalifa here in Bahrain is using his contacts with Saudi Arabia to help speed the progress. So again here’s hoping.
This report was received from Lang & Bev Kidby on October 10th,1998
When I left Lang sitting in Arab Wings Operation room last Sunday I had no idea he would sit there for another two full days. And while Lang sat, here in Bahrain I have received wonderful support from Mary and David Ryan along with their children Miriam and Richard.
“Everything comes to he who waits” and Lang has now completed two legs over Saidi Arabia. Today he took off right at first light from Ha’il and experienced a pretty uncomfortable eight hour flight. He froze at high altitudes and the Avian ran rough or boiled and experienced bad turbulence at low altitudes. To add to this a strong head wind stayed with him all day. He arrived exhausted but to a very pleasant welcome hosted by Bahrain CAA. The temperature here today is 40 degrees C.
We will have tomorrow as a lay day. The aircraft is in the DHL hangar and Lang can use their facilities to do some regular maintenance.
We have the Oman clearance but as yet not one for Pakistan, so on Saturday Lang will continue and I will fly to Karachi to see what the next stage will bring.
TECHNICAL REPORT – Wednesday 7th October
“Man plans while destiny laughs” …. Old Arab saying.
The prediction of difficult clearances is coming true with a vengeance! The Saudi clearance, long organised, fell over at the last minute. Two factors were the problem. Firstly, following Hinkler’s route as closely as possible, meant going away from established air routes. Secondly, the high profile of the project caused undue attention from everyone not normally involved in clearances. The result of all this was once again having to deal with the military and, despite Princes and Kings personally intervening, 6 days were spent on the telephone in Amman, Jordan.
Captain Ghazi Sadoun, a Royal Jordanian Falcons, aerobatic team pilot we had met in England, took Bev and I under his wing and we spent each night being looked after on his pretty olive farm. Ghazi and his wife Mimi were magnificent.
Bev, once again, was fooled into departing early on the next leg and went to Bahrain only to find me stuck in Jordan for a further 3 days.
After a number of false starts – “clearance will be issued soon, ring back in an hour” (every hour for 3 days!!). I finally departed Marka Airport for Ha’il right in the centre of Saudi Arabia.
Slowly climbing straight into the raising sun the heavily laden Avian struck out across the southern part of the Syrian Desert. Hour after hour we plugged on into very hazy conditions with the GPS showing a steady 70 knots ground speed. The flight looked like taking about 6 ½ hours but the first half was very smooth. Slowly the desert turned from dry river beds into a vast carpet of tightly packed and extremely rough sand dunes ( nowhere to even attempt a forced landing) – not a road for hundreds of miles.
As the sun got higher the turbulence started and the dust haze increased. 8,500 feet didn’t improve the situation and soon I saw the haze turning into full-blown dust clouds. By the 4th hour the Avian was forcing its way through what seemed like solid sand. I could only see straight down and the sand started penetrating everything.
It was swirling into my streaming eyes and I could feel it crunching between my teeth. The fine layer of dust had to be wiped off the instruments every 10 minutes or so to enable them to be read. Oh yes, did I mention the turbulence by this time had reached severe standards?
The engine, now running cooler, hummed along and I was glad I had fitted the RAAF Tiger Moth type air filter to the normally open air intake. The fine mist of oil still comes back over the windscreen and I tried to wipe it with a rag only when total forward visibility was lost, afraid the congealed oil/sand mixture would permanently scratch the perspex.
An hour out of Ha’il the sand thinned to the normal brown haze and bouncing over the black, stony mountain range jutting up out of the desert, I landed to a 20 knot, oven-like wind straight down the runway.
HRH Prince Megrin arrived to meet me, then whisked me away to lunch at the palace. All is forgotten as I write this in my room in the “Little Palace”.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 12th, 1998
Our stopover in Bahrain has been great, renewing friendships and lots of good food. Even before Lang arrived I had been included in two very nice evening functions with David and Mary. Then with Lang’s appearance we had the reception at the VIP lounge at the airport hosted by the Under Secretary for CAA His Excellency Ibrahim al Hamer. Thursday night we were taken out by the Ryans to a very pleasant restaurant where we met up with Rod and Sally Taylor and enjoyed a lovely evening.
The next day Rod was host when we visited the British Club for lunch, and then in the evening Lang and I were the guests of Shaikh Hamad bin Ebrahim al Khalifa with more good food and company.
During the day David took Lang to meet His Excellency Yousuf Shirawi who was the Minister of Transport when we came through with the Vimy. All these acquaintances were very involved in the support provided by the State of Bahrain for the Vimy project.
In between the socialising Lang and David were not idle. With the help of DHL facilities provided by Peter Lloyd, Lang did a lot of necessary maintenance. When it came to the oil change, ironically there was no appropriate oil in Bahrain. Not only was the whole island searched but all the Gulf States and in the end Lang had to settle for SAE 40 instead of SAE 50. The word has gone ahead so hopefully there will be some available in Muscat.
At 9.00am this morning Lang left Bahrain enroute to Seeb Airport Muscat. A few hours later I was able to get a Pakistan clearance number to forward through to him which was a relief. So when I arrive in Karachi at 5.00am tomorrow morning I hopefully will only have a few hours to wait to see him arrive at the airport, with yet another two legs behind us.
Late news 1400hrs Oct 12 Brisbane time
Lang flew Bahrain – Muscat (Seeb Airport), Oman on Saturday, Muscat – Karachi, Pakistan on Sunday. And currently should be in the air on his way to Ahmadabad, India.
This report was received from Lang & Bev Kidby on October 13th, 1998
Lang had a trouble free flight from Bahrain to Muscat, although conditions were very hot and hazy. He stayed overnight at a hotel near the airport and left again 7:30 Sunday morning. Lang was looking forward to this leg as he has always been fascinated by the coastline between Gwadar and Karachi. Unfortunately the haze was so great for the 7 ½ hour flight he had no horizon and no forward vision the entire trip and managed to refuel and clear customs and immigration in 1 ½ hours – a record.
I had arrived in Karachi at 5am and booked into a hotel. Early afternoon I was able to talk my way up into the control tower so was able to keep informed of Lang’s progress and see him land.
A new international airport has been built since our last visit to Karachi and the old VIP lounge where we spent hours even days during the ’90 rally and the ’94 Vimy trip is no longer in use. So many places and happenings has produced a feeling of déjà vu related to our previous trips, not so Pakistan. Lang arrived at the airport today and was actually off and on his way by 10:30 to Ahmedabad in India. I had waved him goodbye at about 8:00 when my presence was causing a problem for their security. I spoke to Lang at 9:00 by phone and he said that they (the mysterious ‘they’) had lost all his paperwork and it would probably be hours before he got it all sorted out – I’m not sure what transpired to speed things up!
The aircraft is performing well and we now feel we are at last making progress.
For the next few days we will be out of touch as communications are not the best in this part of the world. Although we will use Katrina to relay any messages and contact numbers.
Tomorrow I will leave Karachi and fly via Bombay to Calcutta and wait for Lang there.
TECHNICAL REPORT – LATE 12 OCTOBER
After wallowing in royal comfort for the night at Ha íl I was up at 0330 and away to the airport for a first light departure.
My old friend, the headwind, was still around and I started with a heavy fuel load and rather depressing ground speed. Just clearing a 6000 foot black stone range to the east of Ha íl I found the wind swinging more to the south and soon the Avian was travelling sideways with about 35 knots on the beam.
As the sun rose, so did the temperature, and my efforts to reduce the wind effect, by flying low over the endless sand hills, were soon thwarted. An outside temperature of 43 degrees C, growing turbulence and dust reducing visibility to about 1 mile soon had me at 8000 feet. There it was much cooler and smoother but the headwind saw the Avian plodding along with a groundspeed of 45-50 knots. The visibility was still atrocious, with no horizon, so I flew for 4 hours on the limited panel instruments – very tiring.
After 8 ½ hours in the air, I finally arrived at Bahrain where the runway, even at that later time of day, would fry the proverbial egg. The 2 mile taxi caused fuel vapour lock and I was struggling to keep the engine going. The oil temperature was well into the red line area.
The usual great Bahrain reception, organised by our grand supporter, David Ryan, awaited. After speeches, press and TV I taxied the aircraft to the DHL hanger.
The following day was planned for maintenance and was spent on oil changing, plug cleaning, etc..
Donning my lifejacket once more I headed the aircraft south, right down the middle of the Arabian Gulf, 450 miles to Muscat in Oman.
The aircraft controllers demanded 8,500 feet and the visibility was so bad I did not look outside the cockpit for nearly 6 hours, only able to see the ocean directly below. Without even the suggestion of an horizon it was impossible to keep the wings level and hold a course without concentrating fully “on the clocks”.
To make matter worse the engine was “fluffing” atrociously with clouds of black smoke pouring from the exhaust. Only to be expected at the altitude, but unfortunately the friction on the mixture control was not gripping, so I had to fly holding it in position. The engine ran beautifully when properly leaned out but I still could not move my left fingers an hours after landing.
The slant visibility was almost nil although vertically it seemed almost clear. Coming into Seeb Airport at Muscat the approach radar brought the Avian, with its moving 1 mile circle of visibility, right down to final approach. As the runway came in sight I could eventually see its full length so I suppose the featureless desert was actually giving me 2 miles visibility.
The next day – more of the same! 200 miles over the water to the border of Iran and Pakistan followed by 400 miles of Pakistan’s desolate coastline. Another 8½ hours on the clocks!
The last little bit into Karachi cleared somewhat and I could see about 7 miles. Open cockpits add another dimension to flying – smell. As we flew over this large city, I was absolutely engulfed in the combined smell of sewerage and rotting vegetables.
I taxied into the airport at Karachi and was told to contact a strange frequency. I was delighted to hear a familiar voice – Bev. She had flown from Bahrain the night before and had insinuated herself into the tower (no mean feat in Pakistan). Having Bev along at every second or third stop is making this trip so much more enjoyable, Sha may not think so as she hits the ground running (our phone and fax bills for clearances, fuel and accommodation are terrifying).
Past experience with Karachi is no value as they think up new things every time. The entire nation is totally incapable of making a decision and if there is not a form or “permission” from a superior (who consults his form) nothing happens.
The first humourous (and it is humourous if you are not involved) incident was the initial customs man. “You must give your general declaration to customs” “Well, here it is” “No, I only do rummaging – I am rummaging staff” It didn’t say that on his ID badge which said in large letters “functionary” (they all had this on).
Early next morning I was in the airport, fight plan done, aircraft loaded ready to go. The impossibility of getting past any gate or door without a pass – absolute refusal by at least 5 security people, was solved by producing “my form”. The flight plan said civil aviation at the top and was covered in stamps and signatures. By producing this for meticulous inspection (one fellow even read it for 2 minutes upside down) I had access to the crown jewels.
“Clear to start” Prop swing, strapped in “Shut down! Flight planning needs a general declaration”.
2 ½ hours later including the old “You haven’t arrived so I can’t let you go” routine – solved once again by the same person using the same stamp twice – I was up in the flight plan office with 7 more stamps. “Why did you plan at 0300?” “Because I was here at 0200 and have been having a wonderful time collecting Pakistani stamps.” “It is now 0448 and the runway closes for maintenance until 0800!!! You will have to replan for that time.” (Impossible to reach India).
Race back to aircraft, flash flight plan at security, get start clearance, swing prop, jump in!
Hop out, swing prop, hop in!
Stagger out, swing prop, stagger in!
6 ½ hours fairly rough flight with 54 knots average ground speed sees the Avian “impounded” in Ahmedabad awaiting new clearance. The days lost in Brindisi because of the split fuel tank have really taken their toll with cancelled clearances. The domino effect has cost 5 days in Egypt, 6 days in Saudi and now, how many in India? At least the 12 forms (in “quadduplicate”) that I filled out here were waiting and handled in a friendly efficient? Manner. Better here than there.
This report was received from Lang Kidby on October 14th, 1998
TECHNICAL REPORT – 13 OCTOBER (PM)
Well, a day of mixed fortunes! Having foolishly accepted a glass of tap water from the control tower I spent the entire night on the throne with my head in the rubbish bin.
Being awoken at 0630 after about ½ hours sleep I boarded the hotel bus to the Ahmedabad airport. Rounding the first corner we ran over a motor cyclist killing him instantly. As the mob were stoning the driver and smashing every window in the bus I hailed a taxi to complete the short journey.
There I was confronted with a miracle! Somewhere from under the mountain of paper which is slowly pushing the Indian sub-continent into the sea, a “functionary” had found my clearance request and approved it.
All out effort to get away by 0830 on this internal domestic flight to Nagpur. But no. 3 hours later after producing 62 bits of paper including copies I was allowed to leave. Indian Oil, of course, do not carry oil so some time was lost getting 5 litres from the shyster who owns the local Cessna workshop. For the first time since Europe I had a horizon (still with a 15 knot headwind).
Feeling very dehydrated in the 40 degree C temperature I climbed the Avian above a broken layer of cloud into clear, cool blue sky at 5,000 feet. For a couple of hours we sailed along although I had drunk the first 2 of 4 litres of water consumed on the trip. About the second hour out I discovered one of the benefits of open cockpits. All one must do is incline one’s head to save one’s supply of sick bags. Fortunately the overdose of Lomotil tablets on departure kept one’s underpants intact.
Slowly the cloud climbed and I was forced to descent into the slightly hazy and bumpy heat below. The country is beautifully green and paddy fields cover the flat ground between low wooded mountain ranges. I flew over a number of Maharajah’s Palaces, usually situated on a cliff overlooking one of the numerous rivers.
About hour 4 there was a mighty explosion and I was showered with blood and feathers. One of the hundreds of huge eagles soaring all along my path hit the flying wires between the wings. The wingspan must have been approaching 2 metres and the size of the bird impaled on the wires was causing considerable drag requiring quite a bit of rudder. After a few minutes of side-slipping and attitude changing the carcass slipped away and the journey continued – the Avian none the worse for wear.
The weather continued to improve (not the head wind) and by the time I got to Nagpur there was 50 miles visibility – luxury! The paper war started again. My theories on bureaucratic dealing have been refined. Shouting and roaring only causes paralysis of fear in lesser minions, while anyone with stripes on his shoulders goes even slower. The best method is to slightly raise the voice and fix the culprit with a “looks could kill” stare. I have found this increases efficiency by as much as one percent!
Of course at Nagpur Indian Oil had no oil and no avgas. “How come they didn’t tell me this on departure?” “They should have. It is ATC’s responsibility. We produced a notam (notices to airmen) “But they didn’t give it to me!” “No, we haven’t delivered it to ATC yet.”
An hour and a half later after draining the dregs out of the two tankers and upending 25 avgas drums we produced 120 litres. Less than required so unless I get an elusive tailwind I will have to stop at Jamshedpur on the way to Calcutta.
The oil problem was solved by methods best not placed in print.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 15th, 1998
HOORAY! We are back together here in Calcutta. Lang arrived absolutely exhausted late yesterday. I knew his ETA was 5:30pm and was worried when I saw thunder storms brewing up over the city mid afternoon. Lang however managed to duck and weave his way through and arrived just before last light. Not only had three days of battling bureaucracy and difficult flying conditions caught up with him but also two sleepless nights suffering the dreaded “Dehli Belly”. A lay day is welcome today so aircraft maintenance can be done, forward clearances sorted out and some well earned sleep. My communication with Lang since Karachi has been through Katrina in Brisbane, rather than me, she is the one we have been relying on to make contact and relay messages along the route. The operation would not be proceeding without her stirling support at home base.
I came to Calcutta via Bombay and arrived in the city after dark. Lang and I had arranged to meet at the Airport Hotel but $200 a night seemed excessive, especially if he was stuck in Ahmedabad for any length of time. The people at the hotel reservation counter were very helpful and recommended a guest house close to the airport. After making the booking I became concerned when three of them insisted on taking me there. I did begin to wonder who would come to my aid in the dark streets of Calcutta if I needed help. I need not have worried, as I was delivered to very adequate accommodation – not 5star but secure, clean and friendly.
Both in Karachi and Calcutta I have paid a driver for 2-3 hours duration. In Karachi I visited the British Embassy and here in Calcutta the Austade Centre. This also gives me a chance to see some city sights. Since being in the Middle East and Asia, excluding Bahrain I have seen very few Westerners, and with fair hair feel quite conspicuous. I must say though at no point have I been treated with anything but respect and friendliness.
From here I head for Singapore tomorrow and Lang will leave for Myanmar, Langkawi and Singapore on Sunday.
This report was received from Lang Kidby on October 20th, 1998
It has been a few days since I have had a chance to catch up with reports, so I had better get to it.
I think the last report left everyone in Nagpur, India with the drama about getting fuel from Indian Oil. Leaving reasonably early (for India) I headed east into the usual headwind but quite nice weather. Only obtaining enough fuel the night before to get part way to Calcutta, I planned to stop at Raipur to top up for the very long flight. As I gave the 25 mile out call requested by Nagpur tower and my estimate for Raipur they told me Raipur was closed! Although it was on my flight plan they had neglected to inform me. So here I was in the middle of India with nowhere to go except back to Nagpur.
Back to the giant heap of fuel drums at the fuel depot. The fuel people, being so meticulous, poured the one or two litres out of each drum through a chamois leather filter into the fuel truck then insisted on running the truck filter circulation system for 20 minutes. Meanwhile the clock was ticking and last light at Calcutta was looking very close. At long last I got into the air again and headed towards Calcutta, 7 ½ hours away. Most of the flight was very pleasant over green paddy fields at low level but as I got further east the skies darkened and I started hearing airliners diverting around the thunderstorms over Calcutta. To make things worse the headwind increased so for the first time I pushed the power up to maximum continuous to try to beat the dark. After much ducking and weaving around (and through) heavy rain, I touched down on Dum Dum Airport’s flooded runway right on last light.
The following day was a planned maintenance day, with an Indian Oil man holding an umbrella over me – it made no difference to my sodden state – change the oil, clean the plugs and did the many little jobs required on an old aircraft. Although the monsoons had supposedly officially finished, the Bay of Bengal, was living up to its reputation.
Right on dawn the next day, after waking all the sleeping officials behind their counters for the usual stamp fest, I headed into black sky on a “special VFR” departure. Soon I was down on the mangroves in the vast Ganges River delta in driving rain, instead of the usual spray and mild flood in the cockpit it was coming in with the strength of a garden hose. My Jeppesen chart was soon a handful of porridge. For about 2 hours this went on, sliding up one muddy river until it became narrow enough to see the trees on the other side. Then back down again to the sea. A huge waste of time but I was not prepared to lose contact with the trees and launch out over the muddy ocean.
About 3 ½ hours from Calcutta the weather gave its last final effort and I raced for a light patch in the rain beneath two adjoining thunderstorms. As I broke through, I was dazzled by the brilliant sunlight and could see the clear hills of Myanmar (Burma) 75 miles away across a sparkling blue sea.
The next 4 hours were perfect tropical coastal flying. Big Cumulo Nimbus clouds were towering over the ranges but the visibility along the very pretty coast was 100 miles. I arrived at Yangon Airport to a very friendly reception from all the various officials – what a change from the last couple of weeks! “Come up to customs when you have finished fuelling, do you want a drink?”
The only avgas available was supposedly the old 80/87 grade which was fine for the Avian but when the drums arrived I saw they said 1887, not 80/87. It was the required red colour and went through a vast array of ceremonies and incantations like filtering, water testing then pouring through a chamois leather. The engine cylinder heads ran hotter and the plugs must have been slightly fouled because the engine ran-on after shutdown the next day, but it seemed to do the job.
An early departure from Yangon saw the Avian heading for a 10 hour flight (the longest of the whole trip) the weather down the beautiful Burmese coast was atrocious and I was very glad to get past Phuket in Thailand and land at the lovely Langkawi Island in Malaysia after a pretty miserable flying day.
The usual foul weather start ensued the next morning and I battled past Penang along the coast in more heavy rain. Luckily the weather soon cleared and a very unusual tailwind appeared as we scooted along down the west coat of Malaysia. So fast was I that I caught everyone napping and landed at Singapore’s Seletar Airport an hour early.
The ever-reliable David Richards of Universal Weather had everything under control and soon I was taxiing across the airfield to the Hawker Pacific hanger to be met by Bev and Ray Vuillermin (with tea and sandwiches). Ray and his wife Glenda are our very generous hosts while we are in Singapore.
The Australian paperwork has finally caught up and Hawker Pacific will be carrying out the Avian’s first 100 hour/annual service.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 20th, 1998
Here we are again in the world of ATM machines, credit cards and efficient communications. Singapore is such a contrast to the last few weeks of our travels.
I left Calcutta at midnight and arrived in Singapore just after 6.00am Saturday morning. Ray Vuillermin (a Singapore Airlines Captain) met me and since I have been staying with Ray, his wife Glenda and their children Patrick and Bridget.
Lang appeared midday on Saturday, for once ahead of schedule having had a few hours of at least enjoyable flying conditions. After the press departed the Avian was put into the Hawker Pacific hangar ready for its 100 hourly service.
Monday was a public holiday so, for the first time since the beginning of the trip Lang did not go anywhere near the Avian, and actually relaxed with no worries of future bureaucracy. With all his past flying experience in both New Guinea and Indonesia the rest of the trip holds no real concerns for him.
Today 20th October, it is back to work. While the 100 hourly is being done Lang is continuing to do more maintenance work, including repairs on the split propeller. Tomorrow we will both be heading for Jakarta.
While in Bahrain Lang met Norman Parry, an Englishman who is flying a Tiger Moth from England to Australia. Unfortunately we heard yesterday he has been stuck in Oman with a burnt exhaust valve. Norman left England with another Tiger but has been on his own since Italy.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 22nd, 1998
On takeoff from Singapore the Avian blew a gasket, causing Lang to land and get it repaired immediately. He is now due to fly into Jakarta today Thursday 22nd October.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 23rd, 1998
Yesterday morning Lang left Vuillermin’s home at 5.00am and I left an hour later, heading for different airports in Singapore. As I was eating breakfast crossing the equator at 11,000 feet I did give a passing thought to Lang droning along amongst a lot of cloud and many thunderstorms.
I was met in Jakarta by Colin Rymer from the Australian Embassy and taken to Brigadier Jim and Anne Molan’s home where we are staying. Jim is Defence Attache here in Jakarta and has known Lang for many years. Unfortunately Jim is at present in Australia, but has made sure we are very well looked after during our stay.
We were sitting making plans for Lang’s arrival at Harlim Airport when we received the news Lang had not left Singapore. Apparently on take off the engine had lost power and on returning to Hawker Pacific discovered he had blown a gasket – a fortunate place for this to happen, rather than over water or wilds of Sumatra! Repairs were able to be done on the spot, but Lang decided to remain in Singapore rather than try for Palembang late in the afternoon in dubious weather,
As I write this I know Lang left Singapore 7:28am after waiting for the weather to clear, so at this end we have our fingers crossed for his arrival at 1:30pm.
Hawker Pacific at Seletar not only donated all the work done on the Avian but contributed $1000 to the project. Many thanks to Marshall Ross and Kevin Lorrigan.
The last leg flying, Singapore – Jakarta I was able to use my sponsored flight, Australia – England return donated by Garuda Airlines. Hopefully I will be able to use this ticket from here to Darwin.
Before leaving UK I had no idea how to organise my travel but I have been very lucky with my flights. I only book as required and to date have completed eight legs on many different airlines and the cost at present is still under $4000.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 27th, 1998
As I write this Lang should be in the air out over the Timor Sea. I am thinking of the sense of relief Lang will feel sighting the Australian coastline not only knowing it is the completion of 7 hours over water in a single engine aircraft but that he has completed what he set out to do.
Since India on many occasions he has said Ï can’t wait to get back to Australia”. My feelings are definitely a mixture of apprehension and excitement. For the over water legs he sits on his one man life raft, has a life vest on and one safety beacon around his neck and another in the cockpit.
Lang arrived in Jakarta in the middle of a thunderstorm, after experiencing much the same over the whole of Singapore – Jakarta leg. I will leave Lang to cover the technical aspects of his hold over in Singapore. The Australian Embassy had organised a big press coverage on arrival at Harlim Airport.
In the evening at Anne Molan’s house we had a pleasant informal dinner with all the defence personnel from the embassy and their partners. Anne and her staff were great during our stop over. Having access to local knowledge certainly makes it easier to get things done.
Lang left at 7:30am next morning to Dempesare and I was able to organise my next leg into Darwin using my Garuda ticket arriving 4:00am Saturday into Darwin Airport.
So it is now Sunday morning and I am off to the airport as this is one welcome I do not want to miss.
MON 26 – Lang landed safely in Darwin at approx. 2:30pm to a wonderful reception and a thunderstorm. A full report will follow from Lang.
This report was received from Lang Kidby on October 31st, 1998
Events have piled up very quickly over the last week or so and I have been slack in my report writing. I think the last report left us in Singapore.
Hawker Pacific made their facilities available to us for a 100 hour service and by early morning the aircraft was stripped and being checked over thoroughly, a task which took the whole day.
At first light the following morning I was at the airfield at Seletar with all formalities having been completed by the very efficient Universal Weather. Bev was off on a Garuda flight to Jakarta not long after my departure.
Just after lift-off the revs suddenly dropped and it was with some difficulty, that I managed to bring the heavily loaded Avian around for a landing. Every indication was normal but I was down to half power.
Hawker Pacific put a man straight on the job and it was not long before we discovered the head bolts had come loose on one cylinder (not connected with the servicing). The entire day was spent removing the head, inspecting then replacing all the components. Peter McMillan, an old army mate, now flying for Silkair, kindly put me up for the night while Bev cancelled the arrival welcome in Jakarta.
Once again, a dawn start, but this time the weather was atrocious. Continuous walls of thunderstorms were sweeping over the airfield as I taxied out in a gap in the weather. By the time Seletar tower had got a clearance for me to depart, the next storm hit. There I was, sitting on the runway with a full-on tropical thunderstorm dumping thousands of litres a minute on the little plane. Water sluiced off the top wing straight onto my head and with the seat cushion and my boots full of water, I retreated to the hanger.
An hour later I was away for a very a very crooked 7 hour flight to Jakarta, zig-zagging around heavy rain the whole way. After passing Palembang I made a deliberate effort to find the landing spot of the Vimy on the southern tip of Sumatra. It was pretty easy to see. Although the rice paddies were now wet and green, I could still clearly make out the shadow of the runway I had constructed 4 years ago.
As I approached Jakarta a huge black storm was dumping its contents on Halim Airport and I just managed to get on the ground. Taxiing in through the driving rain I could see a large group of TV and newspaper people trying to film from under the wings of parked aircraft.
The Australian Defence staff took control and I was magnificently hosted during my stay. Brigadier Jim Molan (another army pilot) was not in-country but his wife Anne and the senior staff could not do enough for us.
Launching early for a very long trip to Bali, I spent 7 ½ hours droning along the pretty Java coast before spending the night at Dempasar. The usual thunderstorms caused no more than the usual problems.
From Bali there were two very long overwater flights to Waingapu (200 miles) then on to Kupang in Timor.
The last leg to Darwin was completed with a minimum of effort (even a tailwind) and the 420 mile ocean crossing was completed early. It sure was great to be back in Australia after all this time and the enthusiasm in the northern capital was tremendous.
The Aviation Heritage Centre opened their facilities and members spent the day running me around to complete the numerous small maintenance jobs required.
The following days have come in quick succession with a series of very bumpy flights in the outback summer weather. 6 hours to Tennant Creek (hosted as usual by Graham and Judy Sinclair at the Eldorado Motel) was followed by a short hop to Barkly Homestead Roadhouse (my favourite outback watering hole). The Tennant Creek Council kindly put on a car to drive Bev the 250 km to Barkly and with the strong headwinds in the Avian’s path, she arrived only minutes after me.
Another short hop to Camooweal followed the next morning. The wind was over 30 knots on the nose and as I arrived over the Camooweal strip I could see almost the entire population waiting. Unfortunately the wind was almost straight across the runway and, despite my best efforts, the landing roll finished with the second slow-motion ground loop of the trip. Undeterred, I taxied in to a tremendous welcome. In the crowd were a number of elderly people who had seen Hinkler arrive here in 1928.
From Camooweal I departed into the usual headwind and bounced over the rough hills around Mount Isa into Cloncurry, Hinkler’s next stop. On the ground for only an hour we pushed on to Proa Station accompanied by the owner Duncan Fysh (the nephew of Qantas founder Hudson Fysh) in his Cessna 150 with Bev on board.
Duncan had newly graded the smooth black soil airstrip on Proa and we are looking forward to meeting the locals who are coming in to see the Avian on this “open day”. If it rains, as is threatening, the strip will turn to glue in 10 seconds. I hope it stays dry for a couple of days at least.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on October 31st, 1998
Lang got away from Tennant Creek at 8:00 and took one and a half hours to fly to Barkly Roadhouse and we took two hours in the car to do the 225kms. We had a really relaxed day at this establishment.
While there we met up with Kathleen and Perry Morey. Perry was bringing his mum from Alice Springs to see the Avian at Camooweal, as her family had owned the local pub and as a 14 year old she had seen Bert Hinkler land in the town. I was fortunate to con a lift with them for the next leg of the trip.
Camooweal has a population of 360 and at least 100 were at the airport to see Lang re-create history. We were taken down to the local hall and a magnificent country feed was provided by the local ladies. Local historian Ada Miller had a great display on show and gave us a very warm welcome. Accommodation was provided for us at the Camooweal Roadhouse owned and run by Aidon and Dave Day along with daughter Rebecca and husband Hunter.
Today Lang was off before 7:00am enroute to Cloncurry for refuelling, this was also a refuelling stop for Hinkler. Again the Avian was met by residents that had seen BOV land 70 years previously. Macair an airline based out of Mt Isa very generously flew me on this leg and we landed just 10 minutes ahead of Lang. Duncan Fysh met us at Cloncurry and I flew the 91 miles with him back to his property in his 150. Lang landed on the property strip just before us and we were met by his wife Judy, neighbours and friends. Duncan is the nephew of the original founders of Qantas Airlines, so aviation is definitely in his blood.
We are here until Sunday morning which will be a nice change. Already this afternoon Lang has been out helping load hay and trying his hand at shooting wild pigs. The country around here is incredible, you can drive or fly for hours without seeing any sight of habitation, but it has a special attraction and the people are just fantastic.
Lang is a long way behind at present with his technical reports but promises he will catch up.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 2nd, 1998
Proa is a 30,000 acre sheep and cattle property with the nearest neighbour 20km away, and as promised proved to be a great stopover. Saturday saw many family friends and neighbours either drive or fly by to see the Avian and meet Lang and I. Saturday night Duncan and Judy organised a BBQ and with a bonfire background Lang related his trip to a very enthusiastic audience.
At 9am on Sunday morning Lang in the Avian and Duncan and I in the Cessna 150 headed for Winton, where many residents were at the airport to greet Lang. After Peter Evert welcomed Lang, he had the job of unveiling a plaque in commemoration of the flight. We were then wisked into town to visit the very impressive Waltzing Matilda Centre.
At 12:30 both aircraft were off again to a warm welcome from the town of Longreach, the Mayor Joan Malony gave Lang an official welcome and Pat and Joe Shannon greeted us on behalf of the Qantas Foundation Museum. We folded the wings on the Avian and it fitted nicely into the hanger beside the Avro 504. Here we said goodbye to Duncan as he headed back to Proa.
This morning saw Lang visit two radio stations for interviews, gave a talk to Grade 8 at the high school then do a tour of the School of Distance Education followed by a talk on air to the Grade 2. Finally he did one last appearance at one of the primary schools.
By midday it was back to the airfield and I flew with Joe Shannon in his 172 to Emerald with Lang about an hour behind us. Lang stayed overnight in Emerald then will head for Monto so he can fly into Bundaberg first thing on Wednesday. I was lucky to get a commercial flight from Emerald to Brisbane and after 5 months see Brisbane again. Tomorrow with Katrina, Kylie and Grace we head for Bundaberg.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 7th, 1998
It’s very hard to describe the emotions of the last few days as we have had two real high points of the trip. Firstly the exceptional welcome to Bundaberg was quite overwhelming and then our arrival back home was very emotional.
On Wednesday Lang flew the half hour from Monto with an escort of local aircraft. On his arrival at 9:00am in the Avian, bearing the name City of Bundaberg, he was met by the Lord Mayor Kay McDuff, many dignitaries, hundreds of school children, local residents family and friends. A dais had been set up exactly as it had been for Hinkler’s arrival with flags, sugar cane and a sign “Bravo Lang”. An official welcome was given by the Mayor, then we were all entertained by a school choir singing Husling Hinkler and Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, and the bands from two other schools performed.
For morning tea we were guests of the local Hinkler Air League. Another highlight for Lang was the reunion with daughters Katrina and Kylie and granddaughter Grace. I had had an early reunion and driven up from Brisbane to Bundaberg with them the day previously.
At the airfield the wings on the Avian were folded and it was loaded on a truck and taken into the centre of town, just as G-EBOV had been 70 years previously, where it was on display for the rest of the day.
Our party were taken to lunch at the Bundaberg RSL, then on a visit to Hinkler House, which is the house Bert and Nancy Hinkler lived in at Southampton, England. In 1985 it was relocated and has been set up as a museum in a beautiful garden setting, a real tribute to the dedication of Lex Rowland and his team of helpers. In the evening Lang was guest speaker at a local Rotary Club.
On Thursday Lang unveiled a plaque, in the presence of the Mayor, at Hinkler Park which was the original landing site of Hinkler’s arrival in his home town. We were all guests of the council for lunch, and at night we were taken out on the river by Ray Foley on his cruiser for beer and pizza, while watching the full moon rising which was a wonderful finish to our visit to Bundaberg.
Two aircraft had arrived from Caboolture Aero Club on Thursday and when Lang took from Bundaberg at 8:00am I was aboard a Cessna 170 piloted by Noel Spalding, (this particular aircraft that had been a participant in our 1990 World Vintage Rally) and QVAG president Shane Winter in his Auster. As we flew south it was very emotional as various aircraft with friends on board called their congratulations and joined us to escort Lang back to his home airfield and to complete the circle begun on the 12 May this year.
The local Caboolture RSL gave Lang an official welcome and then, after media interviews, Lang was amongst the many wonderful friends who had been such staunch supporters of the project since day one.
The rest of Friday and Saturday are to be spent relaxing with the family a complete luxury for Lang and me. Tomorrow the aircraft will be on display at the Caboolture Aero Club and a fly-in has been organised.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 13th, 1998
We had a fantastic day at our home airfield at Caboolture last Sunday. So many people came to see the Avian back where it had all began. To be among the many people who had made a significant contribution to the project either by working on the Avian, providing the much needed funds or just believing in what Lang began early last year, was very gratifying and humbling for both Lang, myself and our family.
This week has been rather hectic preparing for the next leg of the trip. Lang has still a lot of flying hours to accomplish – Australia is a huge place. Several days have been spent doing repairs and maintenance on the Avian. The top tank after replacement in Italy only had a covering of aluminium tape that had begun to lift, so now it looks a lot tidier with a fabric covering. The spinner has still not been replaced so the nose does not look as pretty as it did during the air shows in the UK.
This week has given me the chance to sit down with Katrina and sort out our new itinerary, then start the process of coordinating our activities for further along the line. I am also working on securing a car, as I have decided I will be able to pace Lang easily by road and this will enable me to carry some merchandise and be mobile at our many stops. The week has also seen a lot of catching up with correspondence although the bulk of it will have to wait until we finish mid December.
Yesterday at the invitation of Lyn Zuccoli of Aerotec in Toowoomba, Lang recreated Hinkler’s visit to the Downs for the day. This is the home of many warbirds and he was escorted into the airfield by Aerotec’s new baby warbirds, a Chipmunk and STA-Ryan, and treated to a very warm reception. UFZ spent its last four flying years in this area and three people who flew as passengers were there.
Last night we were invited to attend the Queensland annual Order of Australia Association dinner in Brisbane, where Lang received recognition of his achievements from the many highly decorated members.
Today the Avian will again have its wings folded and taken by truck into the centre of Caboolture and be on display for the day in front of the Returned Servicemans League. In the evening the RSL is hosting a civic welcome home to Lang and myself.
It’s also been so great this week to spend some precious time with daughters Katrina and Kylie, son in law Gavan and granddaughter Grace. But next week it’s back on the road again.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 19th, 1998
The time back in Brisbane was pretty hectic and just flew by, hence me not keeping up with the reports. Yesterday it was back on the road again, literally for me, as I am driving trying to keep pace with Lang flying. I can probably travel faster but he has the advantage of moving in a straight line.
Lang left Caboolture early and landed at Southport for a quick visit then on down the Queensland coast to Coolangatta Airport. Here an old Southport school mate, Fred Fraser had organised an impressive amount of media coverage. We spent quite a few hours there and then on south into New South Wales to overnight in Coffs Harbour. We landed at Coffs with the Vimy so it was great to visit the area again.
Today Lang flew 1 ½ hours to Port Macquarie with the weather deteriorating. Again he arrived to a large media coverage. We had intended continuing onto Newcastle tonight but as the weather showed no sign of improving we have opted to stay put and hopefully get through to the airshow at Bankstown, Sydney tomorrow.
UPDATE – 1545 Thursday
Lang made a stop in Newcastle this morning and flew into Bankstown at lunchtime today.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 23rd, 1998
Thursday morning the weather fined up enough for Lang to fly further south to Newcastle where another enthusiastic welcome awaited him. He was on the ground there for a few hours and then flew into Bankstown Airport in Sydney. This leg was pretty unpleasant as the wind was swirling over the hills to the north of Sydney and provided a pretty rough trip.
I drove direct from Port Macquarie to Sydney, meeting up with Lang at Bankstown. Here it was out with the air show paraphernalia once again. The Avian was on static display for the four days along with an Avro 504, as part of the Qantas Longreach Museum exhibit. Thursday, Friday were trade days and Saturday, Sunday were the public days.
We had a great time meeting up with many people we had not seen for years, and others we had met along the trip. The period also gave us some very welcome financial gain with the appearance fee from the airshow, then during the weekend the managing director of Rural & General Insurance Ltd., Charles Pratten presented us with a cheque for $1000.
Another historic occasion was achieved when during the airshow we lined up the Avian with the Avro 509 and an Avro Cadet which was also on display. It certainly made a great photo opportunity.
Lang also enjoyed the few days break from the flying and then, today, he actually came close to a pleasant flying day. The leg from Sydney to Canberra, even though it was over a mountain range and there was cloud cover, was nice and smooth. He arrived into Fairbairn Airport at midday after a quick stop in Goulburn along the way. Again he was met by press and the local Brumby people with armsful of tasty buns. If this continues all the way around Australia we certainly won’t starve.
From the airport we went to the War Memorial, and then on a conducted tour of their warehouse facility where they store and restore much of their collection. A part of the collection is the D.H.9 which was flown from England to Australia in 1920 by Parer and McIntosh.
While I am typing this report Lang is being given a guided tour of the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation facility by the Director Dr Rob Lee, who we will be staying with during our two days in Canberra.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on November 27th, 1998
The morning of our second day in Canberra, the Australian National Capital, was spent catching up on Administration and domestic chores. During the afternoon Lang gave a talk to the Bureau of Aviation Safety Investigation staff about the flight. He is fast coming to the point where you tell him the length of the talk and then just wind him up and away he goes – anything from five minutes to five hours. As he says, he has not had the time to refine his presentations so his audience must be satisfied with the truth, and not the version where you can’t let a good story be ruined by the facts, which will probably come later.
We also had time to visit a number of people we have not had the chance to see for years, and had a pleasant evening with friends.
On Wednesday morning when Lang left Canberra Airport he flew up the river, across Lake Burley Griffin, turned up Anzac Avenue and then did a low pass over the Australian War Memorial, which was very spectacular. From there he headed for Cootamundra in New South Wales which was less than an hour’s flight. Among the greeting crowd were three elderly residents with lots of memorabilia – they had seen Hinkler land in the town in 1928. Later in the day Lang did another short hop to Wagga Wagga where he was met by the Mayor, the press and residents of the town. Lang stayed there over night with the President of the Aero Club. I decided to drive the five hours on to Melbourne to stay the night with my Mum.
On Thursday Lang left Wagga Wagga and called into the Air Museum at Wangaratta Airfield in Victoria. From there he was able to time his arrival into Melbourne for exactly midday so again the press and accompanying aircraft could co-ordinate with him. During this leg he had a good tail wind and landed at Moorabbin Airport in clear, warm conditions – one of his better flying days.
Here in Melbourne we actually have the luxury of some free periods, and the chance to be able to spend time with my family. This evening the Royal Victorian Aero Club are hosting an informal function at the club, and then tomorrow they will form an escort to fly Lang over to Point Cook where the Avian will participate in an Air Pageant on Sunday. Point Cook is the world’s oldest continuously operating airfield and is where Lang did his initial flying training. The Royal Australian Air Force at Point Cook now houses a very comprehensive aviation museum with many flying antique aircraft.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 2nd, 1998
Flying back into Point Cook Airfield was quite nostalgic for Lang, as he did his initial flying training there when he first joined the Australian Army. During the air pageant on Sunday Lang did a flying display in the Avian, along with many other antique aircraft.
On Monday Lang flew the five hours from Point Cook, Melbourne, to Parafield in Adelaide, while I took nine hours to drive the distance. I managed to arrive ten minutes before him by setting off at 4:00am.
We had a great welcome in Adelaide. This was very much a home-coming for UFZ, as it was Parafield where this Avian began its flying life in Australia when it was imported from England.
Today we are having a day off in Adelaide, although Lang has done some maintenance work on the propeller. Tomorrow Lang flies to Ceduna which in a straight line is only about a third of the distance I will have to cover in the car.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 4th, 1998
Yesterday both Lang and I left Adelaide at 8:00am. The wind was strong but weather otherwise fine. After I had driven for 3 ½ hours and was almost to Port Augusta I had a call from Lang telling me to alter my destination!
Lang’s path from Adelaide took him over the Gulf of St Vincent and Spencer Gulf. During this crossing the northerly wind got stronger until he had 20 knot ground speed. Lang decided to put down at Cowell on the western side of Spencer Gulf. He brought the Avian down safely in the 50 knot wind, but after leaping out of the cockpit the wind gusts increased. The aircraft was caught in a wind gust and carried backwards across the airfield with Lang hanging on grimly to the under-carriage, unable to stop the inexorable progress towards a ditch. Dragging Lang behind it, the Avian was blown into the itch, damaging one side of the elevator.
Leaving the aircraft jammed in the ditch with the wind threatening to blow it over completely, Lang phoned Cowell Electrical Services, whose owner Sue Chase owns the only hangar on the airfield. Within a few minutes Cameron arrived with the key, and he and Lang took about 15 minutes to push the Avian 50 metres against the wind to safety. A couple of times during this exercise the aircraft became airborne, despite the two heavy weights hanging off the wings.
I arrived in Cowell a few hours later and helped Lang remove the elevator and put it on a bus to Ivor Peach in Adelaide who was standing by to do immediate repairs.
At this stage we are unsure how long this will hold us up.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 6th, 1998
Another 5 days delay. Waiting, waiting! Another five days delay. Crete, Amman and now Cowell, South Australia. Unlike the first two, which were caused by bureaucracy, this is a prolonged delay for structural repairs. Bob Pratt and Ivor Peach will make the five hour drive from Adelaide on Monday with the repaired elevator. Then they will fit it to the Avian and complete all the necessary paperwork.
Hopefully later on Monday we will make Ceduna for an overnight stop. On Tuesday Lang will overnight at Forrest on the Trans Continental Railway Line, and on Wednesday to Kalgoorlie, and finally to Perth on Thursday.
Sue Chase has generously allowed the Avian to stay in her hangar while the Bonanza sits outside.
We are feeling a bit cut-off from the world as our mobile phone is out of range in this area. We have to drive 100km+ towards Port Lincoln or Whyalla to pick up any messages that have been left. The only motel in town, the Cowell Jade Motel (fax- 08 862 92290), where we are staying have been very helpful passing on the many media calls that have tracked us down. If there is an up side to all this, at least a mishap keeps the media interest alive!
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 9th, 1998
Our enforced stay in Cowell proved quite relaxing. The local pilots in the area, on discovering Lang in town, organised a night out at one of the hotels.
As promised Ivor and Bob arrived from Adelaide on Monday morning with the repaired elevator. There was quite an audience including the local school children, to see the Avian made whole again at the local airport.
At 1:00pm Lang took off for Ceduna where I caught up with him late in the afternoon. A few locals who had seen Hinkler land in 1928 were there to greet Lang.
Today has been a long day, but enjoyable. I drove 834 kms and almost kept pace with the Avian. I got away an hour before Lang and as I approached Nullabor Road House he appeared beside the car, so we stopped for an early lunch. The Eyre Highway is a very remote part of the Australian countryside, with only an occasional service centre. Most of these have airstrips which were built to service the Flying Doctor.
Again I got away before Lang and an hour or so later I pulled off the road to have a look at the spectacular coastline and again I was buzzed by the Avian. The aircraft is running very well, and despite 5 hours in the air for the day Lang was pleased with the flight. The unusually cool weather and nice tailwinds are most unseasonal – it is normally around 40 degrees with a strong westerly all summer long.
Tonight we are staying overnight at Caiguna, still on the Eyre Highway. I will leave early in the morning as I still have 600 kms to drive to Kalgoorlie and I want to be there ahead of Lang who has planned to arrive at 12 noon.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 11th, 1998
At 1:00pm yesterday Lang landed the Avian at Jandakot Airport in Perth completing everything he set out to accomplish with the re-enactment of Bert Hinkler’s Flight.
His arrival at the airfield was quite spectacular with five local Tiger Moths in formation with the Avian. A large crowd were at the Royal Aero Club of Western Australia to welcome and congratulate Lang on his achievement.
I had driven six hours from Kalgoorlie leaving early morning, as this was an arrival I did not want to miss.
The previous day at Caiguna Lang had woken to rain. He leapt out of bed, grabbed his belongings and took off straight away, as it was a dirt strip and just a small amount of rain would make it impossible to use. From there he went to Norseman and then on to Kalgoorlie, where Lang was met by aircraft from the local aero club and escorted into the airfield. At the Warbirds dinner in Sydney we had met Peter Williams who owns a Winjeel and lives in Kalgoorlie. Peter and his wife Barbara organised everything and looked after us during our stay.
We had an afternoon tour of this unique gold mining town and then a pleasant evening with a group of club members.
Here in Perth we are staying with June and Don Phillips. Don is President of the aero club and last night invited a group of aviators over for us to meet and to swap stories, which was enjoyable.
We will spend a few days in Perth and then it is the long haul back to Brisbane which will take quite a number of days.
Unlike Hinkler, who actually came to Perth to pick up his wife, Nancy, who had arrived by sea from England, and then flew with him back to the Eastern States, Lang will keep his long range tank in UFZ for the trip back and I will drive.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 18th, 1998
We arrived back home in Brisbane on Wednesday, and believe me, it feels good. It’s funny though now trying to contemplate everything that has happened in the last six months, some things early in the trip seem years away.
On the return journey from Perth, Lang was again plagued with bad weather, but that worked to my advantage as I was able to keep up with him in the car.
The first day he did a very long leg first to Kalgoorlie for refuelling and then followed the world’s longest straight railway line across the desert arriving after 11 hours in the air at Forrest, Western Australia right on last light. All day it was overcast with rain showers, so instead of the hot bumpy trip across the Nullarbor Plain that Lang was dreading, he had cold wet conditions. On Monday he left Forrest early and was hoping to make Port Augusta but with visibility approaching zero, decided to stay overnight in Ceduna, South Australia. During the afternoon I was driving though the town I spotted the deserted Avian with the covers on, sitting at the airfield and realised Lang had to be around somewhere. A quick phone call home to Katrina, and I was able to track him down at the local motel. During this period we had again been using Katrina as our go between, as mobile phones do not work in such remote areas.
From Ceduna Lang flew to Port Augusta, South Australia and there I met up with him for lunch. Lang was stuck there as the cloud was down on the Flinders Ranges an area he had to cross. I decided I would continue driving and stayed overnight at Wilcannia, New South Wales.
Tuesday night we again caught up with each other at Moree in New South Wales. Lang had done another marathon 10 hour flying day, refuelling in Broken Hill. Lang next morning did a leisurely two and a half hour flight and for me it was a six hour drive back home having covered 4,500kms in four and a half days, from one side of the country to the other.
Today, Friday, Lang is flying the Avian down to Coolangatta Airport where we are guests at the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) at their Christmas party this evening. This is the first EAA chapter of the huge American organisation in Australia having only recently been established. Tomorrow the Avian will be put on display in the Coolangatta airport terminal for the next month. Lang is certainly appreciating the fact he can now switch off and doesn’t have to climb into the cockpit any more to make a mile.
Next week Lang promises he will do a final round up of the trip, giving you all the more technical side of the Australian leg.
This report was received from Bev Kidby on December 23rd, 1998
We had a pleasant weekend at the Gold Coast as guests of the EAA and Australian Aviation Expo. Arrangements to place the Avian at Coolangatta Airport fell through, so on Sunday Lang flew back to Caboolture and the aircraft is now on display in the Caboolture Warplane Museum.
We are really back to reality now, and there is a mountain of work to be done. Our house needs lots of renovations, but that will take quite a long time unless we win the Lottery. Before we can finally wind up the project there are masses of paperwork to complete, and then after New Year I am back to full time work. Needless to say we are looking forward to having a relaxing Christmas with the family, and the birth of our second grandchild in a few weeks time.
It will take me a while to thank individually so many wonderful people who have supported the project in many different ways. Without that additional support, the project would not have been possible. In the interim Lang and I wish to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who participated in the Avian Project, and also thank everyone who has shown an interest and visited the web site. We wish everyone a safe and Happy Christmas and best wishes for the New Year.