July 1991



Saturday 13 July -
Our intrepid holidaymakers meet on the footpath outside Ken's house to pack "Austral the Truck" with bucket and spade and everything else except the kitchen sink and associated plumbing and to make final arrangements for the torture recovery trip. Ken Woodrow, Clyde Ashton and Austral will depart at 0600 Sunday. Cliff Robinson, Bob Bean, Ian "Kiwi" Collins and Mick Hinsbey will depart in the Falcon station wagon at 0800 Sunday with a scheduled meeting in Miles for lunch.

Sunday 14 July -
Ken, Clyde and Austral depart on schedule. Cliff, Bob, Mick and Kiwi and the Falcon depart at 0700, one hour ahead of schedule. Consequently they meet just west of Oakey where various rude signals are passed in an attempt to get Clyde to stop turning right. After the Falcon passes, the truck decides to throw some rubber. Consequently a perplexing wait is made at Miles by the Falcon crew while Ken and Clyde grovel in the dust changing a tyre and a crow pinches Ken's sandwich. The tyre is duly changed and a replacement case purchased (a rare occurrence on a Sunday afternoon). We press on again into the sunset with Bob blinded by a setting sun on the road to Morven where we arrive thirty minutes after dark. The Morven camping ground is rudimentary to say the least and we have the first example of alfresco sleeping by Ken and Bob following a visit to the thriving metropolis of Morven for tea.

Monday 15 July -
A crisp (frigid) morning which causes Bob to wander in the dark and Ken to throw rocks at the caravan (he claims it was possums). The two vehicles depart separately, the truck direct for Longreach with Clyde and Bob and the Falcon following strange directions along dirt roads generally north-west finally finding a co-operative property owner who is prepared to give us two Wright Whirlwind engines ex Grant tanks. We also visit by devious route the remaining Grant tank complete with bush-bashing superstructure, lost somewhere in the wilds of the property. Later we visit Tambo where we are shown two tyres and peculiar hubs as well as two fuel tanks which we will pick up later. After a long drive into the dusk we meet the truck at Longreach where we all slept well.

Tuesday 16 July -
The truck departed direct for Mt Isa with the Falcon going to check out one of David's rumours at McKinlay without success. At Mt Isa Ken and Clyde swap the front left wheel with the spare, later to prove a wise decision. An a la carte dinner was enjoyed by all. Everyone retired except Bob who prowled Mt Isa until the wee small hours. Palm trees were seen to burst into flame after his passing with pipe alight! He swears innocence.

Wednesday 17 July -
A reasonably early departure for the truck left time for the others to do some last minute shopping in Mt Isa for bread and meat and catch up with the truck at Camooweal. They proceeded in convoy until some 200 km into the N.T. when the truck shed some more rubber - the one we had expected this time. We changed to the spare only to find it was leaking so had to travel to Barkly Homestead for repairs. This wasted two hours and after setting off again we made only 10 km before shedding some more rubber and losing the Falcon windscreen to a road-train. After another tyre change we pressed on into the night with the truck apparently boiling. The truck pulled up at the Cresswell Downs turnoff while the Falcon did a 20 km dash to Walhallow to report in and check on the location. Back to the turnoff where we had to pass through three gates and 35 km of paddocks to arrive on site even though we could not recognise it. Rude camp was made in the middle of the paddock and all retired alfresco at 2300.

Thursday 18 July -
Morning revealed a derelict area with no immediate evidence of an aeroplane but after a visit from a group of station hands we were led 1 km away to the dump spread over 1 km of scrub and largely invisible. There we discovered the forlorn fuselage cut off aft of the rear cabin bulkhead and with only one wing. Camp was shifted to the dump to be in close proximity to the aircraft. The rest of the day is spent setting up camp properly and looking through the dump to find sundry bits of aeroplane spread over half a kilometre and buried.

Friday 19 July -
Awake at dawn with everybody keen to attack the problem of the tyres on the truck. With Clyde and Mick in the cab and Cliff, Kiwi, Bob and Ken hanging on for grim death on the back, the intrepid group set off on a short cut to Walhallow to replace the shredded tyre and to chase up the tailplane. On arrival Walhallow we were led to the dump to be pleasantly surprised by the sight of an almost complete tailplane and rear fuselage section. This was loaded using the "Armstrong" method without drama. It was then back to the homestead to inspect the resident aircraft (2 Bell 47, 1 C182 and 1 R22) and to replace the tyre with our last spare. We can't do any more tyres until we get back to civilisation. A hair-raising ride back to Cresswell with the tailplane finished off the morning session. Kiwi sat in as tail gunner for this trip. After lunch and a rest period due to the heat, the pile of aircraft components was sorted and work commenced removing the broken starboard wing section and separating the port wing at the joint outboard of the engine. Later in the afternoon the group trucked off to a billabong on Puzzle Creek to obtain two 44 gallon drums of water for washing. Steak barbecue followed at dusk with everybody in bed by 2200.

Saturday 20 July -
This morning Kiwi's grumpiness was in evidence as the days stretched ahead in a fog of depression owing to the lack of a McDonalds nearby. Trouble developed however when we found that the gas refrigerator had gone out during the night and our best efforts could not make it run on gas. As we had to run the generator for work during the day we plugged in the frig as well. The morning saw the removal of the remnants of the starboard wing while the rear pin was removed from the port wing. After lunch the lower main spar pin was removed and after disconnection of the aileron cables the wing was swung upwards to reveal the top pin. After spraying and heating the pin it came out on the fourth clout accompanied by the usual heart attack from Kiwi who was underneath and expected the wing to fall on him. This was carried off, again using the "Armstrong" method. Later the cabin was partly re-skinned with galvanised iron so that it would retain the myriad bits of aeroplane we were picking up. We now have a Junkers-Beech 18. Is this unique? We have decided that all future recoveries be conducted on dumps because of the apparently endless supply of bits and pieces useful to the job. Because of the problem with the frig we had to abandon the last of our steak and settle for beef patties and the standard spuds, carrots, onions and peas.

Sunday 21 July -
We slept in until 0745 (45 min after dawn) but this did not improve Kiwi's grumpiness, nor did snags for breakfast. The morning was spent in a comb search of the dump area which turned up a few more bits of aeroplane but not the mangled starborad wing we were hoping for. The afternoon was spent in transporting the wing to the loading point selected for the semi and filling two more drums of washing water. (we are a dirty lot, and that applies even after we have washed in dam water!). Bob tried unsuccessfully to bring down a duck or two and in penance made a damper for tea to have with saveloys. (Is this on the menu at Maxims?). While we were away, the tents were downed by a gust of wind and confusion ensued. We rolled the fuselage on to its side with the stub wing in the air as this is the way we plan to transport it. Later, after tea, we did a trial lift with the crane on the truck. This was so successful that we left it loaded on the truck for the morning. A strange phenomenon has been observed, probably due to the nightly walks, Mick has been getting shorter. His overalls now have more and more folds at the bottom end. He will probably be only four feet high when he gets home. Ken has complained that the truck step is getting higher. In his case it is probably an effect of old age. Kiwi is having hallucinations of multi-layered McDonalds hamburgers and fountains of Pepsi.

Monday 22 July -
The morning started slowly after a hot evening. The sky was clouded and raised the spectre of the need for a dash to the road if rains came, but the clouds continued to blow over. A run to the assembly area with the fuselage left it unloaded at the "rocket range" but we decided to bring back the tailplane and dismantle it from the rear fuselage. This was accomplished in a couple of hours and the dismantled sections returned to the pile. An easy afternoon was followed by compote a la Irish stew with the obligatory vegetables followed by pears and cream. My we do it hard!

Tuesday 23 July -
Everything is ready for the truck but we have two days to spare. This morning the Falcon made a trip to the junction to post direction signs for the Brambles truck while the rest of the troops picked over the dump both for personal trophies and to decide if one of the abandoned Southern Cross engines would be worth the transport to Brisbane for possible sale to antique machinery buffs. However we decided against this and so an easy day was enjoyed with the flies.

Wednesday 24 July -
How do we fill in another hot day? Rob the dump again? Get some more washing water? The onions have run out, the biscuits and bread have run out. At least we have carrots and potatoes and spam and fruitcake. We take the truck to the pile and load the fuselage ready for the semi.

Thursday 25 July -
Action at 0200. The earth shakes as a cattle train rolls by, but he has led in our road train and a dust-covered Kiwi is there to observe it all. Back to bed until dawn when we troop off to wake the driver and begin to load the dog trailer. This did have its moments, but eventually after two hours we have it loaded and another two hours are spent securing the aircraft and restacking his other load of broken glass. We have lunch and break camp and so are ready to depart by 1315. The convoy - semi, Austral and Falcon then went off to the Barkly Homestead some 260 km away where we left the semi and stayed the night. The first hot shower for a week and we begin to feel semi-human again.

Friday 26 July -
We have a leisurely drive back to Mt Isa with the usual stops to re-tie the tarp, but it is good not to feel any pressure about keeping to schedule. Back to our previous van and an obligatory dinner at the Irish Association Club.

Saturday 27 July -
Tourists abroad! Today we have a surface visit to the mine, through the underground museum and a wander around the town. The washing is completed. We can face the world again.

Sunday 28 July -
Everybody awake early for a delayed crack of dawn departure for a full days driving to Longreach. Clyde and Bob set off in Austral with the Falcon crew following after picking up a spare universal joint just in case the noisy joint fails completely. Ken takes over from Clyde at McKinlay Station with a stop at Winton for lunch. A small problem has shown itself with Austral consuming radiator water at a higher than normal rate. The weary crew arrived in Longreach at 1830 and decided to look at the radiator problems in the morning.

Monday 29 July -
After breakfast it's all hands on deck to check the thermostat and to remove and clean the radiator. This is completed and all is loaded and packed for a visit to Qantas Park and the Stockmans Hall of Fame. On the road again after lunch the radiator problems are getting worse. A small leak has appeared in the top of the core and this explains the consumption of water. The decision is made to drive on to Barcaldine with the radiator cap removed to buy some "stop leak" compound and try it out. This works successfully and we have the situation of Austral outpacing the Falcon on the leg to Blackall for our overnight camp in Jackie Howe country.

Tuesday 30 July -
Bob and Kiwi depart ahead of the Falcon for it falls on the Falcon crew to pick up some pieces of roadside rubber to be used as padding for the items to be collected at Tambo later in the day. This trip is plagued by rubber. We shed it on the way out and pick it up on the way back! Apart from road rubber there are numerous "road rissoles" with a dead pig or kangaroo being spotted every fifty yards. At Tambo, aircraft tyres, wheels and fuel tanks are collected and after some rearrangement of load we press on to Woolga Station to collect the two Whirlwind engines. On arrival at Woolga at 1300 a hasty lunch of spam sandwiches and "Tang" is prepared (memories of Sentosa). The work of changing yet another wheel because of a puncture on the truck is started by Bob and Cliff. Clyde and Mick unload the truck while Kiwi and Ken clear the dump to gain access to the engines. These are loaded easily and the gear is then reloaded with everything ready to roll by 1500. On the road again at a slow but steady pace stopping to check the load we head for Morven via Augathella. After about 40 km, the radiator in Austral finally packs up in a cloud of steam. The small hole is now a large hole, but luckily it is in the top of the core, so after a refill and without the cap fitted the crew plod on over dusty roads back to the bitumen at Augathella. After a refuelling stop, we continue to Morven being forced to travel at dusk with the Falcon leading because of better headlights. About 20 km out of Morven, with Kiwi driving the Falcon and Ken in Austral, the small convoy takes violent evasive action to avoid a kangaroo. This action is unsuccessful with the Falcon confirming a kill and thankfully no damage to the vehicle. With slightly tingling nerves we proceed on to Morven to return to the same van we had on the way out.

Wednesday 31 July -
Everybody awoke early to continue the drive on what could be the last day on the road. With Bob and Ken in Austral and Cliff, Kiwi, Mick and Clyde in the Falcon we head off. No problems with a driver change and refuelling stop in Roma then off again, hopefully arriving Oakey for a visit to the Museum of Australian Army Flying. Arrival at Oakey at 1530 gives us time for a one hour inspection before closing time. All were suitably impressed with the short visit. We press on for Brisbane only two and a half hours away. The tired but happy crew arrive in Brisbane at 1915, satisfied with the achievements of the past 16 days.

Facts and Figures:

Distance Covered (Austral)
5803 km
Distance Covered (Falcon)
5663 km
Grand Total
11466 km
windscreen (Falcon)
radiator (Austral)
tyres (Austral)
team members one year older (Clyde & Bob)
Kangaroo (Eastern Grey male confirmed)
portable fridge
universal joint (Falcon)