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.