Page 99: Our plans for leaving tamworth Are becoming rubbery.
  When will we leave?  
  Pam had set her 'finish work' date as December 18th. Then her employer asked her to stay a few more days to run one more payroll. During a discussion with her boss she offered to go in for the odd day during January if he was stuck. Why do I feel that won't be the end of it?

Meanwhile, back in Perth our lounge ceiling decided it had hung about for long enough and came crashing down. It brought all the mulched paper ceiling insulation with it, much to the delight of son, Nic, who was sitting beneath it at the time. You can imagine the mess just sheets of Gyprock would make but with all that mulched paper as well . . .
  Home, Sweet Home. Photo by Nic. I don't think he was in the mood for blowing soap
bubbles so there must have been dust on his camera lens.
  Anyway, whatever Pam does is up to her but the extra money would help put a new ceiling up. And buy a set of new tyres for the Pajero. No pressure, Pam.  
  Just thinking . . .  
  Have you ever noticed how some dogs, before they lie down, will turn in circles several times before deciding where to flop? Well, we watch new arrivals in the caravan park drive around and around before deciding which of twenty available (and very similar) sites they will park on. If they're staying for an extended period, fine. But frequently they'll leave the next morning.

Have you ever wondered why the handrail on those moving walkways - the ones that take you to the next level in shopping centres - travels just that little bit faster than the walkway itself? If you don't adjust your grip you are slowly pulled into a forward lean.

Hey, but aren't the walkways clever, the way they grip the supermarket trolley's wheels on the slope? Pity the same brains can't find a way of designing a trolley that will roll straight even when it's fully loaded. Why is it necessary to have all four wheels castoring? Back in W.A. they trialled lightweight plastic trolleys with fixed front wheels and which used only the rear wheels for steering. I found them fabulous, once I'd mastered the technique of swinging the rear end wide on corners. Then they disappeared and I haven't seen anything similar since. C'est la vie.
  Colourful Birds  

This Azure Kingfisher sat on the guy rope outside the caravan door, trapping me inside. I had to resort to
photographing it through a tinted window and a fly screen, then artificially restore the colour.

  This little fellow is a male Fairy-wren in his best mating plumage. Which variety of Fairy-wren?
We weren't able to decide from our bird book. We see quite a lot of these lovely little birds.
  Crested Pigeons are common all over Australia but we've trained this pair to do tricks.
Okay, birds, on three raise your left feet. One, two, THREE!
  100 Bush Fires in N.S.W. result in helicopter accidents  

With just over a fortnight until Christmas, New South Wales was beset by bush fires. Two helicopters being used to carry water had been involved in accidents and two more were involved in a mid-air incident, all in the space of 24 hours.

• One chopper crashed in bushland "in thick fog" near the Dorrigo National Park killing a ranger and badly injuring the pilot.

• A second suffered a heavy landing near Tamworth when its engine malfunctioned. That pilot was slightly injured and the aircraft substantially damaged.

• In a third incident near Bathurst, the water bucket of one helicopter came into contact with another helicopter in thick smoke. Both of those aircraft landed safely.

By a coincidence, we were showing our good friends Ross and Jan Taylor some of the sights around Tamworth. Ross and Jan had driven all the way from Brisbane to visit us. We'd taken a drive up to Nundle and had stopped on the way to look at the Chaffey Dam when a huge commotion overhead announced the arrival of a water bomber helicopter.

  One of two water bombers which were fighting a forest fire near Nundle. It swooped low over the lake and . . .  

A short note on this helicopter:
Registered in Canada as C-FCAN, this Bell 212 belongs to Wildcat Helicopters based in British Columbia. It has very recently (post April 2009) had a "FastFin" kit fitted to improve stability and performance. The water tank beneath the fuselage is filled through the blue hose as shown below. Over the fire, the floor of the tank is released to hinge down and all the water is dumped at once.

Since writing this page I received an email from my brother Jim who has spent a good many years fighting forest fires in Canada. He writes: As the snow continues to fall outside, I was just looking at the pic of the Wildcat 212. This machine was under contract with the Forest Service at the Rapattack Base in Salmon Arm for the summer. They have 3 such 212's used for rappel and extraction (winch visible on starboard side) of fire crews usually into heavy timber or steep terrain. CAN was based with a crew in Williams Lake for the latter part of the summer and was used on at least 3 of the fires which I had reported when flying air patrols. As well as having the belly tank to dump directly onto fires, it can off load from a hover, via a hose line, into a 300 gallon bladder that the crew rappel into the fire with them, giving them a limited water supply for mop up. More often than not, these crews will restrict themselves to building helipads to allow other crews in by more conventional means.

An insite into how the Canadians tackle the fire problem. Thanks Jim. (See picture lower down this page.)

  . . . began to fill its water tank. The inlet pipe was so short that the aircraft almost had to sit on the water's surface.  
  In a matter of seconds it had filled its tank and was away back to the fire.  
  No sooner had the Bell 212 departed than a Bell 204 "Super B" arrived (see picture below). This helicopter had a water bag suspended beneath it on a long line.  

Notes on this Bell 204 "Super B":
Registered in Australia as VH-UHF, this 'copter belongs to Commercial Helicopters of Mudgee, N.S.W. It started life as a Bell UH-1 Iroquois - the famous Vietnam War "Huey" helicopter. Over sixteen thousand of these 'copters were built between 1959 and 1976. This one was converted to a Bell 204 "Super B" heavy lift helicopter. It has a longer tail boom, longer rotor blades and a more powerful engine than the original UH-1. It is now capable of carrying 1,830 kg. which correlates to more than 1,500 litres of water in its bucket.

  There was no need for this Bell 204 "Super B" to get near the water surface as . . .  
  . . . its water bag was suspended a long way beneath its belly. It 'dunked' the bag in the lake and pulled it up full.  
  That bit of excitement over, we drove on to Nundle. We arrived to find the Bell 204 (blue helicopter), which had already dumped its water, landing in a paddock opposite the pub to refuel from one of two tankers present. There was also a large red fire tender standing by in case of mishap. This setup had been there for two days. The fire was in the Nundle Forest which was sufficiently distant to render the smoke invisible from the township, the wind fortunately not blowing our way.  
  The View from my brother jim's office Window.  
  Jim has been involved in fire fighting in Canada since - what would it be Jim, about 1968? In those days he was very much at the sharp end of operations but now he's semi retired and carries out air patrol duties from Cessna 172 and 185 aircraft. Where would you go if the fan stopped now, Jim?  
  The Nundle Wollen Mill  
  I've probably described the Woollen Mill in previous pages but this time I took a couple of pictures.  
  Frank Ogden is always happy to run the machinery for visitors and explain all the different processes.
The photo was taken from a mezzanine floor; we were not allowed to go down close to the moving parts.
  I don't pretend to understand all the processes involved in taking the raw fleece through to
coloured balls of wool ready to be knitted into garments, but it's all there at Nundle.