Presidents Report – June 2023

The Club BBQ at Murray Bridge Airport on May 20th produced a $211 donation to the RFDS thanks to the generosity of those attending.

Some 20 people were there with several arriving by air. David & Sherry Pocock flew down from Loxton in their RV12, John Siebert from Goolwa in his RV4 and Rod Lovell also from Goolwa with his 3 guests in his Beechcraft Musketeer.

Although it was raining in Adelaide it always amazes me how different the weather can be over the ranges in Murray Bridge. Mostly fine with just a light shower or two.

Being a DHC-1 Chipmunk owner, I was recently approached to ferry another owner’s Chipmunk which had been sold and needed to be flown to Newcastle, NSW. A 7 hour 30 minute flight in an unfamiliar aircraft required some careful planning. Although the aircraft had larger fuel tanks than mine I erred on the side of caution with maximum sector lengths of 2 hours.

The route was planned Aldinga- Wentworth- Griffith, night stop then, Griffith- Parkes- Maitland on the second day.

I waited for a weather window that gave three days of fine conditions and then set off on May 22nd. Conditions proved ideal with a light tailwind and overcast giving way to full sunshine by lunchtime. Refuelling at Wentworth was no problem with the fuel app on my phone working perfectly. The second leg directly to Griffith I had not done before and was expecting mostly scrubby country and not much else. It turned out that every homestead I passed along the way had its own airstrip even though it was not marked on OzRunways. It seems these sheep stations have good facilities these days!

Arrival in Griffith followed by refuelling was when the problems started! Upon engine starting to move the aircraft to the tiedown area the starter motor would not turn over, just a clicking noise from the solenoid. Fortunately Griffith has a maintenance facility so I headed down there for help. Robert, the engineer, came to the Chipmunk whereby he said “I’ve never seen one of these before”. With a voltmeter and putting our heads together we were able to discover the Starter Solenoid had failed. An interesting placement of the said item, bolted to the bulkhead behind the rear seat and under the battery. The rear seat had to be removed for access! A check around the airfield revealed no spares of a 24 volt solenoid so a new one had to be ordered from Sydney.

Too late in the day to get one overnight so the next day I became a tourist on foot around Griffith until the part arrived the day after. We were able to get the part fitted quickly and I was on my way at lunchtime on May 24th.

The aircraft started perfectly and I entered the runway to backtrack to the far end for take off. As I straightened up to commence the take off roll the left side brake failed completely! No flying today! With just the right brake available I commenced a very cautious return to the maintenance facility I had just left. It took nearly 20 minutes taxying on the grass to control the speed and involved several 270 degree right turns to get where I wanted as a left turn was impossible. After shutdown I was expecting a broken brake line or O ring. It turned out that the hub had cracked and the complete brake disk had pulled out of its mounting! Again Robert said “I’ve never seen that before!”.

Clearly I wasn’t going anywhere without replacement parts and trying to find Goodyear brake parts for a 73 year old Chipmunk was proving impossible. After many phone calls around the country to the new owner and other LAMEs I was able to establish that the only fix was to retrofit modern Cleveland brakes to the aircraft, which is what I have on my Chipmunk. I was able to find an STC and installation instructions from Wangaratta, VIC and Caboolture, QLD, and left it to the new owner to source the replacement brakes.

That was where I took my leave as no one knew how long it would take to get parts and fit them as no one in Australia has done the conversion on a Canadian Chipmunk before. The joys of old aircraft! Fortunately I was able to catch a Rex flight directly from Griffith back to Sydney and the Kero Burner to Adelaide, getting home just a day late. So ends my saga, disappointing, but was a nice aircraft to fly and it was interesting dusting off my problem solving skills rarely used since my retirement from airline flying.

Be advised that the ADSB subsidy program has been extended another year until the end of June 2024. The CASA website has details of how you can receive up to $5000 refund on the fitment of an approved system to your aircraft.

The guest speaker for June is Mr Bob Humphries. Bob was a career air traffic controller but spent a few years early in his career working as a pilot for a long forgotten airline called PAGAS, or Pt Augusta Air Services in the early 1970s. Come and hear his account of what it was like to do bush flying over 50 years ago without the aid of GPS. 

See this link to his Power Point slides so you can get some background detail to his story.

Blue Skies,


‘A good pilot may be disappointed by his aeroplane, but it will never surprise him.’- Len Morgan, Rules to Fly By, Flying Magazine March 1983