The long gray curtain

I thought it would be a great experience to fly along the Australian east coast and get a good aerial look at hundreds of miles of the Great Barrier Reef, so I decided to fly south along the Australian eastern coast.

A flight instructor working in Cairns was looking for a ride south to Sydney.  I readily agreed to take him along, as a co-pilot.  It was a great arrangement.  He handled the radio while I flew the airplane.

We landed at Townsville and McKay for refueling.  Heading south from McKay, we were about two hours into our flight when we encountered a great gray curtain ahead of us, stretching from horizon to horizon.

Heavy rain squall.

The flight instructor contacted Rockhampton tower and learned that the airport was open.  The rain squall was expected to cross over in about an hour.

We had a choice.

Do we turn back to McKay and spend the night, or should we chance the rain squall?  If we return to McKay we might encounter the same conditions the next day.  And four hours’ extra time in the Comanche was expensive.

Flying through a rain squall is risky.  Flight school instructors advise students to avoid them, at all cost.  An airplane can encounter huge downdrafts that can hurl an airplane into the ground.  Severe turbulence can tear an airplane apart.

So, of course, I ——- decided to risk flying through the squall.

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