“Don’t take your eyes off that road!”

As we were about to enter the squall, we spotted a road beneath us.  The flight instructor said, “Take the airplane down to 300 feet, and follow that road.  Don’t take your eyes off that road!”

Losing visual reference without training is extremely dangerous.  A pilot’s sense of balance can mislead him.  Instrument training takes hours of instruction.

I had none.

As we entered the squall, the wind buffeted and the rain engulfed us.  The bucking airplane needed constant control and correction.  I could only see the road directly below and a few hundred feet ahead.  The windshield stayed clear because we were moving too fast for rain to stay on it.

Then, as quickly as we went into the squall, we were out of it.  And there was Rockhampton airport, close by and off to our right.  Behind us we could see dark, billowing storm clouds.

We landed.  Someone on the ground said, “Be sure to tie down tight.  We’re gonna get a nasty storm.”

We went into the local aero club shack and telephoned for a taxi.

About fifteen minutes later, while we waited for the taxi, the storm hit.

The wind was furious, buffeting the building and the airplanes tied down on the tarmac.  The rain blasted the building and drenched everything outside.  Our Comanche raised and bucked from the wind, but held firm on its moorings.

Soon the storm was past and a cab took us to the Heritage hotel, where we spent the night.

The Heritage hotel was an experience in itself.  Built in about 1900, its verandas are adorned in cast iron grillwork.  The night we spent there, the graziers’ association was holding their annual formal ball.  Mandatory dress was black tie tuxedo and full-length ballroom gowns.

The bedrooms were traditional, with high ceilings, ceiling fans, cast-iron bed frames but modern bedding.  The dining room, where breakfast was served, had white linen serviettes (napkins) held in silver plated napkin rings.

Overall, it gave us an authentic feel of British Colonial Empire elegance.

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