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Orchid Beach Airstrip, Fraser Island


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Haven't been there for awhile and is planning to go this weekend. What was the strip like?

I was there last week. The grass was long, They definitely need to mow it!

 

 

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Thanks! Still bumpy?

Wasn't too bumpy but I sure pulled up quickly once I touched down. My main worry was getting off again. Used up a lot of runway!

 

 

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Short answer - DO NOT USE 'YORC' !!! - this runway is a death trap at the moment (19th Oct 2016). The grass is WAAAAY too long. I have a J400 and the grass was whipping at the spats so much so that we could not get to rotate speed and used up literally every inch of the runway (and more). I am lucky to have escaped it today. We had to veer off to the corner of the runway, to go up a small 'ramp' at the end of the runway to avoid hitting the trees and once airborne with the stall warning blaring, I nosed down over the cliff (sand dune drop off) to get the speed to continue on to the shock I'm sure of some 4wd's on the beach. I tried to call the airfield today but no answer as I have some stern words for the caretaker. They will be hearing from CASA as well as it is an accident waiting to happen. Our friend in tow also departed 2 weeks earlier when they were told it was mowed the day before and barely made take off. They were with us today and made it with about 50 meters to spare but have a 180HP engine and higher clearance from the spats to the ground which helped, but you don't want to be here as everything has to be working for you to survive a take off here right now.

 

 

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Short answer - DO NOT USE 'YORC' !!! - this runway is a death trap at the moment (19th Oct 2016). The grass is WAAAAY too long. I have a J400 and the grass was whipping at the spats so much so that we could not get to rotate speed and used up literally every inch of the runway (and more). I am lucky to have escaped it today. We had to veer off to the corner of the runway, to go up a small 'ramp' at the end of the runway to avoid hitting the trees and once airborne with the stall warning blaring, I nosed down over the cliff (sand dune drop off) to get the speed to continue on to the shock I'm sure of some 4wd's on the beach. I tried to call the airfield today but no answer as I have some stern words for the caretaker. They will be hearing from CASA as well as it is an accident waiting to happen. Our friend in tow also departed 2 weeks earlier when they were told it was mowed the day before and barely made take off. They were with us today and made it with about 50 meters to spare but have a 180HP engine and higher clearance from the spats to the ground which helped, but you don't want to be here as everything has to be working for you to survive a take off here right now.

It sounds like you got very lucky, but you should also reflect on how the accident report would have read. The long grass would have been a contributing factor, but you were on the ground safely before you got into the plane. The primary cause of the accident would have been your decision to take off from an unsuitable airstrip. Runway condition is just one element of t/o performance that should be considered before every takeoff in the same way that wind and density altitude are. If it were me, I'd have waited for the bigger more powerful ship to go first as it would have given you some clues. Additionally, I would have an abort point in my mind half way down the runway. If I wasn't at 70% of rotation seed by that point, I would have aborted. Anyway, not having a dig as it's all easy in hindsight, but the complaint to CASA may have unintended side effects. I certainly wouldn't be telling them this story.

 

 

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Yes - I understand this is a responsibility of the pilot to access these conditions - and this was done - however there is no exact science when it comes to deciding whether the grass length will be too long. We did wait for the more powerful plane to take off and they rotated with about 50m to run (and even less 2 weeks earlier).

 

With about 30% of the remaining runway I was considering an abort but it was also too critical at this point and running off was likely so I committed and was lucky.

 

My lesson has been learned however it is only right for me to point this out to pilots wanting to use this airstrip in future as with my plane needing only 300m normally to take off, the approx 600m of runway should have been more than enough even with less than ideal conditions. This grass length is however the critical factor and unless the caretakers are cutting this grass down at least 50% from where it currently sits, the above article might not read so lucky for the next crew.

 

A CASA complaint has been lodged and I don't care the consequences for myself as for one I did nothing wrong. But they need to access the condition and enforce a standard (grass length standard) as it is currently an accident waiting to happen.

 

The most worrying thing was my take off technique was as close to perfect as you can get so with a high number of the small aircraft fleet having similar take off numbers to my plane (J400) it is almost a certainty to happen again. If you read the pilot notes from people who have been responsible enough to write comments (ozrunways), there is notice from years back about this sort of issue also.

 

 

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No offence mate but I don't think you can state that you did nothing wrong. Like I said, if you did crash, the majority of the blame would have rested with you. Runway condition may not be an exact science but it's more scientific that the approach you used. it's sad that you made a complaint to CASA because to many aircraft this strip would be perfectly fine.

 

 

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Ryan - what aircraft were you flying, and what is your experience, eg rating, hours and aircraft types ? Do you fly on many grass strips or tar runways?

 

Why did you decide to take off, you had the command decision, and you kept going, and almost did not make it ,as you state?? Did you write an incident report.as well?

 

I would reflect on your actions, and decisions first.

 

 

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irrespective of any outcome Ryan .................... I think the majority of us appreciate what you have told us

 

You are a more experienced pilot cause of it (and some of us will lean from it)

 

I've been to that strip and did not have a problem - also plane I fly you get nose wheel off the ground at say 10 knots - so I guess my drag decreases a third ?

 

Thanks ryan

 

 

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Nick - 'no offense' but were you in that plane. Did you feel the drag on the wheels? Talk is cheap so save it. All light aircraft not just 'many' should be okay on this strip. The fact of the matter is is a Jabiru, the most common small plane in Oz will struggle, there is an issue.

 

The whole point of letting people know is to prevent an issue in future. Grass grows and you may have no issue last month or in future if you catch the field at the right time, but based on being told it was mowed 2 weeks ago and the ACTUAL experience I had with the grass dragging on the spats like it was, this is a problem. If you think it's okay for you, go for it and take the risk - then the blame can be all with you the pilot (but I'm sure your family won't care who is to blame when they bury you), but saying 'the majority of the blame will have rested with me' if I crashed, does this make it okay? Legally I don't give a @# who is to blame but I won't let an unsafe field for 'some' planes to crash as a result.

 

This is what we try to prevent... You sound like you want to be a responsible pilot Nick but your priorities in attacking me are a bit left of field.

 

Men survive Fraser plane crash

 

It seems Nick you are more concerned with your own agenda to fly there then giving a S#$% about others safety - I normally don't go whinging to CASA over nothing but I spoke to the local store owner and based on her response of "well we'll charge $50 if we have to mow it more often' is absolute BS. Their attitude there is "the caretakers plane can get out of there so everyone else should be okay" is not on.

 

SSCBD - it is a Jabiru J400. Roughly 100 hours experience (60 on this plane). Mainly tar strips. I understand what you are getting at with regard to decisions making. However, if you see an obvious problem do you not try to correct it? The grass as of yesterday is just too long, plain and simple. No incident report, but I have approached the relevant people to ensure this strip is looked into to make sure they have a better standard set relating to an acceptable grass length.

 

Thank you johnm, yes - much learned. Hopefully not just for myself also and the strip is never let to get to this grass height again. The runway is very wide and would be a lot to mow so this is likely the reason but if they just mow the main central region and keep the outside at this length it would eliminate the issue, you just keep on the short section for take off and there is no issue.

 

I would also recommend if you have spats fitted, it is not recommended to land here unless they have halved the grass length from what it is now (but how do you really know). So just be aware as the spats exacerbate the issue. If we had no spats, we may not be having this conversation as well, but I can only speculate.

 

 

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If it unsafe to take off then it is YOUR responsibility and only a FOOL would take off knowing it was unsafe. I think you are a dangerous pilot Ryan and need to learn why people close airstrips and forbid people to land without permission, an ALA is for the pilot to access whether it is safe for them to land with their TYPE of aircraft.

 

I am unimpressed with your attitude and skill and suggest you do some research before landing at any strip and DO NOT take off if it is unsafe.

 

 

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Nick - 'no offense' but were you in that plane. Did you feel the drag on the wheels? Talk is cheap so save it. All light aircraft not just 'many' should be okay on this strip. The fact of the matter is is a Jabiru, the most common small plane in Oz will struggle, there is an issue.The whole point of letting people know is to prevent an issue in future. Grass grows and you may have no issue last month or in future if you catch the field at the right time, but based on being told it was mowed 2 weeks ago and the ACTUAL experience I had with the grass dragging on the spats like it was, this is a problem. If you think it's okay for you, go for it and take the risk - then the blame can be all with you the pilot (but I'm sure your family won't care who is to blame when they bury you), but saying 'the majority of the blame will have rested with me' if I crashed, does this make it okay? Legally I don't give a @# who is to blame but I won't let an unsafe field for 'some' planes to crash as a result.

 

This is what we try to prevent... You sound like you want to be a responsible pilot Nick but your priorities in attacking me are a bit left of field.

 

Men survive Fraser plane crash

 

It seems Nick you are more concerned with your own agenda to fly there then giving a S#$% about others safety - I normally don't go whinging to CASA over nothing but I spoke to the local store owner and based on her response of "well we'll charge $50 if we have to mow it more often' is absolute BS. Their attitude there is "the caretakers plane can get out of there so everyone else should be okay" is not on.

 

SSCBD - it is a Jabiru J400. Roughly 100 hours experience (60 on this plane). Mainly tar strips. I understand what you are getting at with regard to decisions making. However, if you see an obvious problem do you not try to correct it? The grass as of yesterday is just too long, plain and simple. No incident report, but I have approached the relevant people to ensure this strip is looked into to make sure they have a better standard set relating to an acceptable grass length.

 

Thank you johnm, yes - much learned. Hopefully not just for myself also and the strip is never let to get to this grass height again. The runway is very wide and would be a lot to mow so this is likely the reason but if they just mow the main central region and keep the outside at this length it would eliminate the issue, you just keep on the short section for take off and there is no issue.

 

I would also recommend if you have spats fitted, it is not recommended to land here unless they have halved the grass length from what it is now (but how do you really know). So just be aware as the spats exacerbate the issue. If we had no spats, we may not be having this conversation as well, but I can only speculate.

Mate I hate to break it to you but these are the facts. Nothing I said was innacurate in any way. In fact, I could have chosen much stronger words as no doubt many others are after reading your story. I'm guessing that 99% of pilots would agree with what I said. It's not even a matter of opinion. The comment that all light planes should be capable of taking off from all strips is a ridiculous statement. I was trying to be polite about it on an attempt to get you to accept responsibility for your mistake and hopefully avoid it in the future but it looks like it's gone straight through to the keeper. So complain to CASA all you want, but don't complain if they have a few questions for you and for Petes sake take the chance to look in the mirror before you go pointing fingers

 

 

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I havnt posted here in a long time, but I felt like voicing an opinion on this one. I will quickly say though I appologise if this is full of typos, Im typing on my phone in a hospital waiting room.

 

Im sorry ryan but I have to say I see you as completely in the wrong on this one. You say you have 100 hours and then go on to say you had a perfect takeoff technique. There is no single perfect take off technique, they are variable for every situation. At 100 hours your still in flying diapers and there is no way you could judge if your takeoff technique is perfect with that little experience. Ive seen jabs take off in worse conditions than that in higher DA on shorter strips than that with no worries using proper soft field techniques. I really feel in relation to your take off the only person to blame is you. Its your job to judge your abilitys, your aircrafts abilitys and how your aircraft will be effected by varying factors.

 

This attitude you seem to have of your in the right and everyone else is wrong is as dangerous as things get. I really thonk you need to take astep back and assess things a bit. Youve had a few far more experienced flyers here tell you it was most probably your fault, maybe they are on to something?

 

But take off aside, if conditions where so poor, why did you land there? You where in the wrong here from the moment you set up to approach. Why did you not inspect the strip, why did you not drag the strip, why did you make the call to land there in the first place. Choice of where an aircraft operates is soley that of the pilots, starts and stops there. You cant put that on any book or phone call.

 

On another note I do however in all honesty applaud you for telling people of your experience. Those who know me know this is something Im a big fan of and try very hard to promote. My only issue is I think you need to take the time to assess things before you point fingers and pass the buck.

 

 

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Ease up fellas, no one will learn anything if your attacking each other.My guess is in time , he will realise himself a few good learning experiences from this...

Well I did try the polite approach first. Then there is this article that is always front of mind with things like this. Sorry if I stepped on any toes but I'd rather say something than regret not saying anything

Unusual Attitudes: Am I My Brother's Keeper?

 

 

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Nick - 'no offense' but were you in that plane. Did you feel the drag on the wheels? Talk is cheap so save it. All light aircraft not just 'many' should be okay on this strip. The fact of the matter is is a Jabiru, the most common small plane in Oz will struggle, there is an issue.The whole point of letting people know is to prevent an issue in future. Grass grows and you may have no issue last month or in future if you catch the field at the right time, but based on being told it was mowed 2 weeks ago and the ACTUAL experience I had with the grass dragging on the spats like it was, this is a problem. If you think it's okay for you, go for it and take the risk - then the blame can be all with you the pilot (but I'm sure your family won't care who is to blame when they bury you), but saying 'the majority of the blame will have rested with me' if I crashed, does this make it okay? Legally I don't give a @# who is to blame but I won't let an unsafe field for 'some' planes to crash as a result.

 

This is what we try to prevent... You sound like you want to be a responsible pilot Nick but your priorities in attacking me are a bit left of field.

 

Men survive Fraser plane crash

 

It seems Nick you are more concerned with your own agenda to fly there then giving a S#$% about others safety - I normally don't go whinging to CASA over nothing but I spoke to the local store owner and based on her response of "well we'll charge $50 if we have to mow it more often' is absolute BS. Their attitude there is "the caretakers plane can get out of there so everyone else should be okay" is not on.

 

SSCBD - it is a Jabiru J400. Roughly 100 hours experience (60 on this plane). Mainly tar strips. I understand what you are getting at with regard to decisions making. However, if you see an obvious problem do you not try to correct it? The grass as of yesterday is just too long, plain and simple. No incident report, but I have approached the relevant people to ensure this strip is looked into to make sure they have a better standard set relating to an acceptable grass length.

 

Thank you johnm, yes - much learned. Hopefully not just for myself also and the strip is never let to get to this grass height again. The runway is very wide and would be a lot to mow so this is likely the reason but if they just mow the main central region and keep the outside at this length it would eliminate the issue, you just keep on the short section for take off and there is no issue.

 

I would also recommend if you have spats fitted, it is not recommended to land here unless they have halved the grass length from what it is now (but how do you really know). So just be aware as the spats exacerbate the issue. If we had no spats, we may not be having this conversation as well, but I can only speculate.

Ryan Thank you for your reply to me above. I am not picking on you, but you are not getting the points.

 

Here are some facts -

 

However, first I suggest you re read the ops manual on "incidents" and fill one in on yourself to the RAA. That was my point but you did not pick it up. People do not blame everything including the tools or machines they use. I understand completely you think that maybe a 100 hours with 60 on type is sufficient to be bullet proof, but all the guys here with thousands of hours and experience only get that way because of right decisions, fear, and a bit of luck and more right decisions. A hundred hours is nothing and I am not being rude to you at all.

 

HERE is where I think you are inexperienced in the operation of the aircraft and your decision to GO ON, is when you ran out of airstrip and did not abort much earlier as you did not accelerate normally in long grass. That is the point some of us are making. As above you pick a point of if not airborne - abort takeoff. As you have posted a "WE" you also had the responsibility of a life of a pax.

 

I suggest if you disagree with me, you sit down with your local CFI and go over it in detail and see which side he comes down on. Again not picking on you - just trying to open your eyes.

 

 

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Ryan, you've done one right thing and that is to share the incident here.

 

Your interpretation of the incident appears poorly thought out and that's why you're getting some flack here.

 

Fill out an incident report and come to terms with what you missed out in your decision making:

 

- landing on what was unuseable for your aircraft and/or skill.

 

- taking off on what what unuseable for your aircraft and/or skill

 

- continuing takeoff when you were in doubt. If in doubt abort. This should be covered in your pre-takeoff brief.

 

That's not an extensive list, but hopefully you come to terms with what is your responsibility as a pilot.

 

Remember to take responsibility, not just on unlicensed strips like this, but anywhere.

 

I hope you push aside your defensiveness at peoples remarks here and accept your role in this near accident and have a safer time as you learn more about flying. I teach others now and the best bit is that everyday I learn more about flying and myself. A large amount will remain a mystery to the end. Be careful with the little bit of knowledge you have..

 

Cheers

 

 

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Ease up fellas, no one will learn anything if your attacking each other.My guess is in time , he will realise himself a few good learning experiences from this...

He nearly killed himself and wants to blame some one else ! You are a not capable of any discision making obviously !

 

Well I did try the polite approach first. Then there is this article that is always front of mind with things like this. Sorry if I stepped on any toes but I'd rather say something than regret not saying anythingUnusual Attitudes: Am I My Brother's Keeper?

You are absolutely correct in what you have said young fella ! This time ! You have no reason to say sorry ! If you don't speak up he may never learn what is really happening !

 

 

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SSCBD - it is a Jabiru J400. Roughly 100 hours experience (60 on this plane). Mainly tar strips.

 

Holy shit dude, you have basically no experience and orchid beach certainly has clearly proven to be beyond your experience and skill level. I think you should shut your mouth and learn from this. I can't believe you rang the owners and complained, bloody hell your going to wreck such a good thing for the rest of us. You just mentioned that you felt the drag on your wheels and yet you decided to commit anyway. Did you consider short field landing technique? Was your short field skills practiced on a bigger strip first and up to standard before attempting orchid beach.

 

I'm also disgusted that you try to lay blame on the airstrip for the Jabiru 160 crash. Taking a Jab 160 into orchid beach in summer with two people sets of huge alarm bells in my mind. You also try to say mowing the centre section will eliminate the problem. Appropriate decision making on your part as PIC eliminates this problem. My experience with that strip is that grass helps to keep the strip hard and not so sandy. I'd rather the long grass than sand.

 

I'll be ringing the caretakers tomorrow to offer then some positive reassurance so the rest of us can continue to enjoy this magnificent airstrip.

 

 

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SSCBD - it is a Jabiru J400. Roughly 100 hours experience (60 on this plane). Mainly tar strips.Holy **** dude, you have basically no experience and orchid beach certainly has clearly proven to be beyond your experience and skill level. I think you should shut your mouth and learn from this. I can't believe you rang the owners and complained, bloody hell your going to wreck such a good thing for the rest of us. You just mentioned that you felt the drag on your wheels and yet you decided to commit anyway. Did you consider short field landing technique? Was your short field skills practiced on a bigger strip first and up to standard before attempting orchid beach.

 

I'll be ringing the caretakers tomorrow to offer then some positive reassurance so the rest of us can continue to enjoy this magnificent airstrip.

You have reassured my faith in good piloting, airmanship and public relations ! Ol mate Ryan complained to CASA ! Can you believe it ! How long, Slope, surface and surroundings is Orchid Beach ? Let alone long grass ?

 

 

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Folks, I think you should all ditch the personal insults and perhaps focus on helping out. Mistakes are made in aviation, and people openly speaking about them should be applauded, not delt with abuse. Others will read this thread, and other will learn from it. Abusing a fellow pilot will just result in them not asking for advice in the future or telling their stories.

 

Ryan, thanks for your story. I was interested in flying into YORC, but your story has convinced me to go practice my soft/shortfield take off techniques first. Our club requires you to be certified into island airstrips (regardless of hours/experience) prior to landing solo, and I have qualified for that.

 

BTW, this could be a good article for CASA's Flight Safety rag that they send out to those who are subscribed. I always read those articles, and I have learned a lot from them

 

 

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Don't know why I bothered - totally missing the point.

 

Lets start by admitting my mistakes before you all get uptight and on the offensive towards my experience / attitude / personality / eye colour. The mistake made was to not abort the take off. I had assessed the conditions for which I was not happy with, and I should have aborted. BUT the reality was I didn't and as a result I had to commit because it was too late to brake as I would have fallen off the end of the embankment so at this point I thought based on very quick risk assessment, I would get the speed required (which I just did) to take off and I chose this over braking late and falling end over end off the cliff.

 

I don't need to put my tail between my legs and say well, it just must be me, if I was a 5000 hour pilot I would have taken off much sooner with a better technique. This is missing the point again as if a 600m strip and a plane that is rated to be taking in 300m can not manage this (with all the multiples taken into account due to the temp, grass, weight, etc. etc.) how can it not be capable in 600m...??? Hmmmm, lets see... THE GRASS IS TOO LONG!

 

I should have aborted the take off when I heard the grass loudly whipping the spats and the feeling of drag from it holding the plane back - BUT this again is not the point. We are not talking here about me - this is the performance of the plane being affected by the unreasonably long grass. Why accept this obvious problem out of fear they won't let you use the strip again with my safety concern. You think I'm arrogant and ignorant, well this is arrogant and ignorant to put your desire to use the strip with your plane ahead of unsuspecting planes incoming (who may not make the right decision to not take off like I did). Remember this is not a perfect world and we all make mistakes and I feel this mistake will be made again and again until someone is killed as a result (an no we are not all perfect decision makers like some of you behind your computer screens like to think you are).

 

In reality this is a pressured decision also which (despite the training I know) due to the remoteness of the strip makes the decision biased due to the lack of other options to get out of there. If they make the correct decision not to take off when they see the shitstorm they have landed in, they will be stuck there until they convince the caretaker to bother to mow for them (not realistic). So this is why if they can simply mow the grass properly, this risk will be eliminated. Now what is wrong with eliminating some risk when it is simply a matter of cutting the grass lower (and no, it will not be a sandy bog if you cut it lower, the grass can easily be cut 50% lower and will have no issue (how do I know... I was there bending down looking at it in amazement at how long it was).

 

The reason for this post was to raise awareness that there is great caution needed at this airstrip. Instead I am being ragged on by every man and their dog for it with wise old words of advice on my decision making to take off in the first place. How the hell am I supposed to access grass length doing a fly by? You can't. If you think you can you are kidding yourself. Go fly by Orchid beach low (as I did before landing) and tell me you estimated right once you land and you feel it (it looks like short grass from the air). Calling ahead the caretaker told the pilot I flew in with that it was mowed 2 weeks before so this is safe to assume this will be okay as well. Not until we landed got out of the plane did it look long (again I admit I shouldn't have taken off, but this is not the point, the performance lost by the plane due to the grass is enough for something to be done - THIS IS THE POINT.

 

If you want to put your head in the sand despite the obvious difficulty which many will face (at this current grass length) you are an arrogant and selfish person. I don't really know why I am responding in such detail as really I am reaching out to people who are considering flying there, not the keyboard warriors hell bent on discrediting me. If you are okay with your particular plane in getting out of there. Good on you! Well done! Congratulations! But I don't care about you or your agenda. I care about the people who have no idea and would benefit from a heads up.

 

For potential Orchid Beach pilots who have never been: If you have spats and a single engine plane... Forget it unless you have assurance somehow that the grass is 'short' (hopefully by their standards at the shop there they wouldn't say the current condition would be considered short either, but who really knows). At least you know this story and as a result you might make a better decision to abort if you find yourself in the same runway condition I had to face there.

 

 

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But take off aside, if conditions where so poor, why did you land there? You where in the wrong here from the moment you set up to approach. Why did you not inspect the strip, why did you not drag the strip, why did you make the call to land there in the first place. Choice of where an aircraft operates is soley that of the pilots, starts and stops there. You cant put that on any book or phone call.

ausadvance why did you not drag the strip I plead ignorance here, what do you mean by drag the strip?

 

 

 

I went into this strip at about the same number of hours as Ryan. I didn't enjoy it one bit. The problem I had were the clumps of grass threw the plane all over the place on the ground. I was in a Foxbat. I certainly wouldn't go in there in a Jabiru, not without a lot more hours in the Jabiru first and I would certainly want some short field/soft field training beforehand as well. The other real problem I had was the wind sock. I got totally inaccurate info from it. In hindsight I should have been more aware, there was an obvious onshore breeze but the windsock did not reflect that.

 

 

 

My comment at the time was that I would never go back there, however I am now at a point where I would consider it again. I have learned a lot since the first time.

 

 

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Folks, I think you should all ditch the personal insults and perhaps focus on helping out. Mistakes are made in aviation, and people openly speaking about them should be applauded, not delt with abuse. Others will read this thread, and other will learn from it. Abusing a fellow pilot will just result in them not asking for advice in the future or telling their stories.Ryan, thanks for your story. I was interested in flying into YORC, but your story has convinced me to go practice my soft/shortfield take off techniques first. Our club requires you to be certified into island airstrips (regardless of hours/experience) prior to landing solo, and I have qualified for that.

 

BTW, this could be a good article for CASA's Flight Safety rag that they send out to those who are subscribed. I always read those articles, and I have learned a lot from them

Thank you Pearo, I was starting to lose faith. It's good to hear letting the issue be known might invoke some more practice / planning / readiness to reduce the risk for all so we can enjoy what we love rather than place unnecessary risk on ourselves.

 

Will have to consider the CASA Safety article. Thank you.

 

 

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