Thursday, December 07, 2006

Dust cloud

I flew a clinic run yesterday up to William Creek (just north of the centre of South Australia. On the way, cruising at 23,000 feet, we noticed that there was a very large dust cloud covering the entire area and extending up to 10,000 feet. This made for an interesting approach to William Creek, which is just a small airstrip with a pub and two or three houses next to it. The airstrip is only gravel and sand, and is the same colour as the surrounding terrain - mostly red - so it is sometimes a little difficult to spot from a distance.

Yesterday, we flew right over it at 500 feet and still missed seeing it initially! I had to come back around and overfly the strip a little lower to be able to spot it, and then circle to land, keeping it in sight. This of course gave us a VERY tight circuit and when I got to final, I could see the threshold of the runway from 200 feet, but not the other end! Not an approach for the faint of heart.... We almost had to go home without landing, but managed to get down. Whis photo was taken just after we had shut down and you can see the conditions for yourself. When we left two hours later, it had improved somewhat, but still wasn't good enough to be a normal (visual) flight. We always fly on instrument flight plans so it was ok and legal, but that doesn't mean it was necessarily pleasant.

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