Well with lockdown again back in some parts of VIC, we have to pass on a huge thanks to one of our members, Philip, for sharing with us his incredible adventure away in October last year.

In early October 2019, my wife (Sally) and I, set off in TBL to visit the Flinders Ranges and to see a little of Lake Eyre. It turned out to be a fabulous flying trip!

The Flinders Ranges is a spectacular region to fly over and it is only about 5 hours from Pt Cook in a C172! The outline plan of the flying days was as follows:

  • Day 1: Pt Cook – Renmark – Rawnsley Park
  • Day 3: Rawnsley Park – Leigh Creek – William Creek
  • Day 4: William Creek – Arkaroola
  • Day 6: Arkaroola – Lake Mungo
  • Day 8: Lake Mungo – Point Cook

Below are the “nil wind” flight plan details, not including scenic excursions to the Painted Hills and Marree Man. On the way home the planned stop at Kerang (for fuel) was not necessary, due to favourable winds.

A rough map of the general outline.

Day 1

The front edge of a high pressure system brought dull weather to SW Victoria for our departure, but at least it offered a handy tailwind component. ATC provided flight following very shortly after departure, proving the advantage of submitting a
flight plan. I wanted to fly as high as possible for the tailwinds and direct tracking, but initially the cloud base would not allow it.
Eventually, the skies cleared sufficiently to climb to 8500’ where the temperature was only 26°F (-3°C). TAS for the trip averaged out at 105kt @ 2350-2450 rpm, depending on altitude.
I needed a magnifying glass to accurately set the IAS/TAS guide on the ASI. The orange line below shows 8500’ at 26°F and Tas on the outer scale.

TAS for the trip averaged out at 105kt @ 2350-2450 rpm, depending on altitude.
I needed a magnifying glass to accurately set the IAS/TAS guide on the ASI. The orange line below shows 8500’ at 26°F and Tas on the outer scale.

The first stopover in Renmark was just to refuel. It took about 3 hours to reach from Pt Cook. It was a shame not to stay longer and visit the area (but that’s for another trip). The terminal is accessible and has seats, drinking water, a kettle and fridge.
After refuelling ($2.40/l) we had a picnic in the terminal and then headed for Rawnsley Park (about 1.7 hours).

Rawnsley Park is at the southern edge of Wilpena Pound. On arrival, we delayed our descent, so that we could take in a high-level view of the pound prior to landing. I copied this file picture – it shows the pound from above.

A view of the southern edge of the pound (behind TBL) which is not far from the
Rawnsley Park Airstrip.
The old Rawnsley Park Homestead.

At Rawnsley Park there four levels of accommodation from camping to luxury ecovillas. There is also a small store and a great restaurant called “The Woolshed”. We chose to stay in the comfortable Holiday Units, which are in the most convenient location if you don’t have a car.

There are many walks and tours available from Rawnsley. We took an enjoyable 4WD tour on our second day; a pleasant way to view more of the local features, and understand a little of the ancient geology in the area. There are some fascinating fossils to see; evidence of the earliest life on Earth. We also saw wildlife,
including some Yellow-Footed Rock Wallabies.

You can read all about Rawnsley Park at www.rawnsleypark.com.au

There is a local scenic air operator called Chinta Air that have aircraft and pilots based at Rawnsley. I rang them ahead of my visit for more detailed strip info and scenic flight suggestions. I met two great young pilots who gave me the coordinates to find the “Painted Hills” and the “Marree Man” on our flights further west.

Day 3

On Day 3 we left Rawnsley early and got airborne before any of the tour flights. It was a spectacular route through Wilpena Pound and along the Heysen Ranges towards Leigh Creek.

Leaving Wilpena Pound and following the Heysen Range.

We slowed down to enjoy the scenery and landed after about an hour in Leigh Creek to refuel. The fuel price was very reasonable for the remote location ($2.62/l) and we could enter the terminal. If you wish to stay longer in Leigh Creek, there are very good reviews of the hotel with a friendly pick up service and genuine
hospitality.

After Leigh Creek, we headed across the outback towards Anna Creek Station. South of us, we could see Lake Torrens which is 250km long! We weren’t aiming directly for William Creek because we wanted to see an area known as the “Painted Hills”. This area is located on Anna Creek Station and is not accessible by road. Anna Creek Station is bigger than Wales, UK!

After an aerial tour of this impressive feature, we flew to William Creek and stayed the night. Fuel is available at William Creek (about $3.15/l). There is reasonable accommodation and the pub is very pleasant with good food. The locals are very friendly (and the barman was from Uruguay!)

Day 4

We woke early the next morning to beat the scenic flight traffic to Lake Eyre. It was a superb morning to fly and the aircraft trimmed perfectly in the smooth air! That was a pleasant change from the bumpy ride across the scrub the day before.

The high pressure system was moving slowly and we were now in about the centre of it. The front end of the system had brought nice cool air up from the south, so it made the outback stay very pleasant!

After some great views of Lake Eyre, we then set course to find the “Maree Man”. We found it easily (thanks to the pilots from Chinta Air) and made a few orbits at varying altitudes to take in this unique feature. It is a great tribute to the ancient culture of the traditional custodians of the country (and to bulldozer art!)

After viewing Lake Eyre and the Maree Man, it was a very pleasant flight on to Arkaroola. The back story to this remarkable site is inspiring! Reginald and Griselda Sprigg were a truly remarkable couple. Reg. was a protégé of Sir Douglas Mawson and they worked together on some projects. There is a great book about Reg. Sprigg called “Rock Star”.

Sally and I had the pleasure to meet with the present owner/operators of Arkaroola, Doug & Vicki Sprigg. If you are a pilot, you are a friend of Doug! The hospitality and courtesy extended to us was superb. Vicky picked us up at the airstrip, helped me push TBL into a hangar and drove us to our accommodation. When Doug met us, he immediately handed me the keys to a 4WD and made suggestions of sites to visit by road.

Day 6

It was sad to leave Arkaroola after such a brief and exciting visit, but we did so with full tanks (@ 2.95/l). Our next stop was Mungo Lake and tail winds were still with us this time on the back end of the same high pressure system that had served us so well.

We had a great view of Lake Frome on the way.

The proprietors of Mungo Lodge Lake were great hosts and run an excellent restaurant! This is an easy weekend away from Pt. Cook and well worth a trip in itself! You can easily walk to the comfortable accommodation from the airstrip apron. https://mungolodge.com.au/

The sunset tour of the Lunette was beautiful! The sight is very significant to the indigenous bands of the area and the discovery of the 45,000 year old “Mungo Man” was a critical piece of Australian anthropology and Homo Sapien-Sapien evolution.

Day 8

For the final leg home, it was another early start. We had fine flying in the highpressure system but now a front was approaching. If we could keep far enough ahead of it, we would beat the cloud bands and be able to surf the NW winds. The theory worked, so it was not necessary to refuel since leaving Arkaroola; we made it all the way home to Point Cook!

You can see the ominous “Mackerel Sky” (that sometimes occurs ahead of a front) prior to our early morning departure!

I am already hoping for another trip to the area in 2020. It was great flying, spectacular scenery and great outback hospitality! It would be fabulous to do the trip with a “ground crew” in a 4WD and see much more on the ground and in the air!

Thank you to our dedicated volunteer committee for enabling me to make the journey!

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