Of late I have spent more hours in a B777 than in a C172, so the time came to do a cross-country flight. I decided to take a couple of people up to Echuca- a destination that was far away (a few hours of driving) yet close (an hour of flying) and one that included seeing lots of different types of terrain and scenery.
The day was decided on and booked, and to ensure that things went smoothly, I invested in an hour of solo circuits a few days before. We had C172S VH-LSP from 10am until 2:30pm. A look at the forecast wasn’t great the night before with low cloud and rain. We decided to head to the airport, and once there things were starting to improve with the cloud lifting and no showers.
The plan was to zig-zag on the way up to Echuca by traveling from Moorabbin via the Kilmore Gap and Mangalore and then home via Kyneton, Bacchus Marsh and Altona.
I arrived and fuelled up the aircraft (then completing the 15 or so fuel drain points).Passengers were in and we were soon away. The winds were light at around 8 knots, and it was a northerly which meant a taxi down to 35R. Cockpit in the run-up bay
The delay for takeoff was minimal, and we headed down the runway and lifted off, setting course for Sugarloaf Reservoir. Some of the exciting landmarks on the way were the new Springvale Ikea and Monash University.
The leg to Sugarloaf is always short, and it was time to turn on the landing, taxi and strobe lights and head up the Kilmore Gap. The cloud at Sugarloaf was quite low which was a little concerning as we were pushed down towards the lowest safe altitude, but luckily it was only a small patch and we were right to climb back up again and fly down the gap without incident. Sugarloaf Reservoir
At Kilmore we set course on to Mangalore, where we were spoilt for choice with navigation with the GPS, ADF and VOR all pointing to Mangalore. A gentle tailwind gave us a ground speed of around 120 knots. A few aircraft were around Mangalore and we even got a call in from Melbourne Centre, who, after going through the squawk ident procedure, advised us that there was an aircraft dropping parachutists in the Nagambie Lakes area. He was at 14,000 feet well above the clouds and wouldn’t be able to see us. The aircraft then called to confirm that we were clear of the danger zone, which we were. He then asked for our exact position, which I gave and it seemed to be OK as the drops commenced. It’s good to know that they take the safety of the skydivers seriously.
Before I knew it we were already onto the final leg of the flight and 20 minutes out from Echuca. The NDB was again helping with navigation along with the GPS, and I tuned into the CTAF to hear what was going on. It sounded like there were a few aircraft around with a plane overflying, one doing circuits and one heading to the runway for departure. The wind was northerly at Moorabbin but according to the CTAF 17 was the runway to use. By the time we got to the aircraft, all the aircraft had left expect for an ultra light taking off which left us to descend on the dead side and join crosswind to land. The circuit was straight forward as there were no obstructions or real specifics to worry about. We soon touched down on 17, a nice paved runway with over a kilometre of length. The NOTAM for Echuca said that all unpaved surfaces were unavailable due to recent rain, but this was OK because the excellent parking area was paved as well. We were the only airworthy aircraft there and with the aircraft shutdown and the flying club closed, it was just us. One of the best parts about flying is that just an hour ago we were in the hustle and bustle of Moorabbin airport and Melbourne city, but now, it seemed like a world away. Parked at Echuca
Calling for a taxi was very easy and one came within minutes to take us the 8km into the historic port area for a quick lunch.
By 1pm we were back at the airport ready to leave to get back into Moorabbin by 2:45pm. With sufficient fuel still onboard and other things checked we were right to go. There were a couple of aircraft parked next to us now, and one of departing in front of us. With the unpaved surfaces still unusable we had to enter and backtrack the runway before turning around and departing. Taking us to Kyneton, this was to be the longest leg of the trip and with the autopilot and GPS flying there wasn’t much to do except scan for traffic, check the temps and pressures and use the chart to identify the towns we flew over. Out this way with heaps of flat, empty paddocks a forced landing would be no trouble.
Due to the headwinds we arrived at Kyeton about 40 minutes later and then proceeded down to Bacchus Marsh, descending to stay under controlled airspace. Bacchus Marsh sounded busy on the radio so we remained well above the action, steering onwards to Werribee. En-route to Werribee
Visibility was great and this was soon in sight, so we went on to the Laverton BOM Tower. Tuning into the Moorabbin ATIS revealed that Runway 35 was still the active runway. Altona
Over Williamstown, I tuned into the tower to find out that things were moving around at Moorabbin and they were switching to 17, which meant a few different aircraft were being instructed on how to change runways. The City
A Tiger Moth passed by 500 feet above us, and we were at Brighton with things seeming pretty busy. An aircraft was inbound in front of us, and there were two low-flying helicopters filming some costal event. We were told to join base for 17R reporting at Moorabbin oval, which was easily visible (being just up the road from Southland Shopping Centre). Brighton
I reported at Moorabbin Oval, and the controller instructed me to follow an aircraft on downwind. I was only able to see an aircraft on late base, so I called the tower to confirm who we were to follow. The controller promptly advised that the aircraft now turning final was to be followed.
We came in and all the recent circuits paid off as it was a decent crosswind landing. From there it was a short taxi back to the apron, and the end of another great flight despite being a little late getting the plane back due to the headwinds on the way home. The best part was being able to fly for just an hour but to be a world away from Melbourne and Moorabbin. It also helps to have another 2.9 solo hours in the logbook.
Here is a short video of the takeoff at Moorabbin, some of the enroute scenery and coming in past Melbourne and Brighton.
Author: Mitchell Dye - edited for the DownWind frontpage by admin