Air journey debriefing

Lessons learned from my flight from Sydney to Tennant Creek, Cairns, and back to Sydney:

*  Carefully check the power setting and wind conditions.  The headwind on my first leg, which was the longest of the whole trip, left me with only 30 minutes’ fuel reserve.  A stronger wind could have caused me to run out of fuel, in part because I had used an engine power setting for no wind.  I should have used a higher power setting, which would have got me there faster, with more reserve fuel remaining.

* Get more training using radio procedure, especially in primary (larger airport)  control zones.  The procedure differed from what secondary airports in large cities used.  I had more experience flying into secondary airports.

* Keep heads-up on takeoff for a long trip.  It’s tempting to watch the instrument panel.  On departure from Mount Isa for Cairns I didn’t get an immediate positive ground fix on my location.  As a result, I didn’t get a positive ground fix until I was close to Cairns airport, causing me to have to report myself as lost.  Had I got a positive fix at Mount Isa departure, I would have realized that my wind correction was invalid; that the strong south wind had not developed.

* Try to avoid bad weather if possible.  My flight south from Cairns was along the coast because I wanted to see the Great Barrier Reef from the air.  Because I was close to the coast I had to battle weather from Cairns to Bundaberg.  I never got a look at the reef.

* Flying along the coast also forced me to fly through a severe thunderstorm.  It would have been safer to fly back to McKay, refueled, and flown to Sydney by an inland, more direct route.

* Keep an eye out for low clouds ahead and get below them. fly back a few miles if you need to.  Flying above clouds is only allowed for those with instrument flight endorsement.

* When you see clouds ahead at your altitude, turn around immediately.  You can be into them before you know it; life threatening for anyone without instrument training.

* In flying, as in life, things move quickly.  You need to make critical decisions, often with little time to consider alternatives.  Then you need to live with your decisions.

* A flight that you live to write about, is a good flight.

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