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Propeller damage Propeller bend

From the cockpit the pilot didn't notice a trench across his path as he taxied his aircraft across the grass airfield. Until, that is, the aircraft's nose wheel dropped into it and the spinning propeller blades struck the ground. The picture shows the damage to the blade tips and the severity of the bending.

It would be bad enough if that was the extent of the damage, but when a propeller strikes the ground a series of intense shocks travel through the spinning engine as each blade impacts the earth until it is brought to an abrupt stop. Thus a prop. strike frequently entails a full engine strip-down to locate further stress damage. The nose wheel leg, too, may have suffered damage.

An aircraft owner I spoke to thought it would cost in the region of $70,000 to return that 'plane to the sky. Meanwhile, no doubt, the insurance companies involved were having a few discussions.

The trench, by the way, had been dug for new electrical cabling to be installed.

Full on training for rural fire fighters.

Things never get boring here in Temora. All weekend we had parachutes descending, gliders flying and a full-scale training course for rural fire fighters including comprehensive water bombing of an inoffensive area of sand and grass on the far side of the airfield.


Elaine raises one arm while the two blokes try and balance on one leg (each).
The tandem parachutists completed the last metre of their descent regardless.

Saturday morning saw the arrival at Temora Airfield of all sorts of water bomber support equipment including a transportable headquarters building, pumps, hoses, generators, radios, portable toilets, a big red fire engine, a helicopter, two AT-802 Air Tractors and a huge road tanker carrying jet fuel in one tank and water in another - be fun if they got those crossed.

Bombers filling

Frantic tank refilling, the spinning propellers frozen by the camera.

Dozens of N.S.W. Rural Fire Service personnel arrived from around the region. Most were here to be trained to refill water bombers with either water or fire retardant foam as fast as possible and get them back into the air. Others were here to carry out the training or in a supervisory capacity.

Water Dump Foam Dump

Would Madam like salt with that? . . . . Pepper, Sir?

The aircraft shown above are American-built Air Tractor AT-802 crop dusters converted for fire fighting duties. A variation is also produced with floats so that it may land on lakes or rivers to replenish its water supply. Additional tanks inside its floats add to its normal 3,104 litre water capacity. The Air Tractor is powered by a single Pratt and Whitney turboprop. The two Air Tractors at Temora were fitted with deafening police-type sirens which they switched on as they prepared to dump their loads. Don't look up with your mouth open, seemed to be the message.

The rust-coloured substance being dumped on the 'fire' by the right aircraft is retardant foam which is far more effective than just water (left) for fire suppression.

AT802 taxies in.

An AT-802 coming in for a refill while the other - above it - lines up on the 'fire'. Their gas turbine engines and five-blade propellers generate 1,200kW of power compared to a mere 175kW generated by the Cessna 182 which was lifting parachutists and the Piper Pawnee which was towing gliders.

The water bombers flew all day long, dumping water and retardant on the far side of the field then landing for another load, never stopping their engines. The pilots must have been worn out. Apart from the constant landing and taking off they had to contend with parachutes descending, gliders thermalling and general aviation operating in and out of the airfield. One such aircraft was a pristine Tiger Moth which landed to refuel on it's way from a full engine rebuild to its new home.

Tiger Moth

The Tiger Moth's fuel tank sits on the upper wing, right above the front cockpit. If the refueller isn't paying attention and it overflows, it runs back down the wing and drains onto the pilot's seat - or his lap - in the rear cockpit.

I know, I know, you're sick of aeroplanes. But this is really about one aspect of our volunteer Rural Fire Service and the auxiliary skills they require to keep us safe. Not convinced? Well, okay, I won't be able to take any pictures of anything for a while with my Canon 60D. I tried to clean some spots off the sensor but they wouldn't shift so I tried a manual clean - very gently - and now things are infinitely worse so the 60D is going to hospital for a while. And doubtless coming home with a big bill!

Here is one more photo from Temora without an aircraft in site.


The transportable HQ building was powered by a very noisy little petrol generator. To keep the noise level acceptable the generator was moved away from the HQ and placed . . . next to the aircraft refuelling station.

Is this a good idea? I asked a supervisor.
Probably not, he replied and had a good look at the generator and the Avgas pumps.
And that was that. Aircraft came, refuelled and left, the generator roared and rattled on and nobody gave a damn.

Next stop albury

When we finally hauled the caravan off the site at Temora the grass under and around it had grown tall while the surrounding grass had been neatly trimmed several times during our stay. The two hundred kilometre journey to Albury took us through both heavy rain and sunshine but was uneventful. We visited Albury previously in February of 2010. This time we are back to rendezvous with our great friends, Greg and Bev from Sydney. Once again the wineries are to be raided.

The good news? There is not an airfield in sight. The bad news is that I'm without my camera. The AustraliaPost tracking system informs me it has arrived in North Ryde, Sydney. It should be delivered to Canon today for repair. In the meantime Pam has very generously offered me hers.

They're here.

And we're straight into the wine tasting . . .

wine tasting

Wine tasting at Rutherglen. Greg, looking almost startled, caught me taking a picture of the gang in typical pose.
Bev and Pam have more serious things on their minds.

We were given a marvellous tour of the Rutherglen Winery by the C.E.O., Phil Chamberlain. Phil showed us the vines, explained how the different varieties are grafted on to the root stock, how the shoots are pruned before each growing season to control how much fruit will be available for harvest. Too much fruit, or grapes that are too large, causes an inferior yield. Grapes which are too small have a richer flavour but are not practical from a juice volume perspective.

Phil and Vine

Phil Chamberlain explaining the intricacies of successful grape growing.

At all stages the grapes are sampled, weighed and the data stored on a computer database ensuring that the yield from any section of the vinyard is predictable. The whole operation is hugely scientific. Soil temperature and moisture content are constantly monitored at different depths. When the leaves first begin shooting, water to the vine is carefully measured to ensure that an adequate canopy develops but excessive leaf growth is prevented, allowing each plant's nutrient store to be available for the fruit.

Phil took us around the processing plant and laboratory, introducing us to the winemaking scientist. He explained all about that side of the operation. We inpected the vast stainless steel fermentation vats and sampled the content of several.

Vat sample

Phil drawing a cloudy sample of immature white wine.

We climbed ladders to walkways along the top of the tanks and looked out over the whole area.

Tanks from above

Phil explained how the taste of some wines can be improved by storing it in wooden barrels and how that process can be made more efficient by using stainless steel tanks with lengths of the correct timber suspended in the wine to impart the flavour.

The tour ended back at the tasting centre where we were free to buy or not. However, we received a 35% discount on all purchases. Not bad!

There had been just the four of us on this two and a half hour tour which was conducted by the C.E.O. himself. The cost? It was completely free! Thanks Phil, it was fabulous.

As always, Greg and Bev's time with us was all too short but we made the best of it, including a day in Bright, Victoria, where we visited Mount Buffalo and drove over the ridge to Mount Beauty on the way back to Albury. There'll be more on the Bright region very soon as we're heading there next.

Going back to Page 14 . . .

cassowary plum

Back in September of 2005 (page 14) we were in the Botanical Gardens in Cairns, Northern Queensland, where I came across a metalic blue fruit. At the time I asked if you had ever come across one, remember? It was lying with others beneath a tree and was about the size of a golf ball. Nobody responded and I forgot all about it until a couple of nights ago when I saw a blue fruit on an ABC television programme, Australia: The Time Traveller's Guide

The fruit is a Cassowary Plum.

The following words in italic are quoted from Wikipedia:
The cassowary plum (otherwise known as grey milkwood, brebong, biegbau, babai) is a species of Cerbera native to New Guinea and Tropical North Queensland in Australia. A favourite food of Tropical North Queensland’s iconic flightless bird, the Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuarius), is the aptly named Cassowary Plum (Cerbera floribunda).Cassowaries commonly eat cassowary plums, hence the name. The plums' sap is poisonous to most animals, including humans, but not cassowaries which consume the fruit with no ill effects because of their short and fast digestive system which passes the fruit relatively intact. The cassowary's stomach also contains a unique combination of digestive enzymes, making it immune to the toxins. The cassowary and the cassowary plum have a mutually beneficial symbiotic relationship. The plum provides food for the cassowary, while the cassowary spreads the seeds of the tree. The bird eats the plums whole and passes them out mostly intact. The cassowary's stomach is said to massage the fruit, helping it grow. Cassowary plums are more likely to grow once they have been through a cassowary. End quote.

So there you have it. It might have taken the best part of seven years but we got the answer in the end.

Footnote: This re-working of Page 163 was completed on 4 April 2013. It conforms to HTML5 and CSS level 3.