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My Aeroplane

Aviation Services

Photo Gallery & Trips

Technical Stuff

Accident Reports & Safety Issues


Flight Planning



My Aeroplane

Photos of my Piper Piper Dakota PA 28-236 Reg. VH - MCS equipped with 235 hp Lycoming 6 cyl. O-540 -J3A5D Engine, Constant Speed Propeller, TAS (Cruise above 5000') 135 kts @65% Power, Rate of Climb 1100 fpm at sea level ISA, Fuel Consumption 50 lph, Endurance 5 hours 30 mins, Seating for 4 Adults, Max. Take-off Weight 1361 Kg, equipped with Dual VHF Nav. Comms VOR, ADF, HF, GPS100, ELB, 8-channel EGT & CHT Engine Scanner, Standby Vacuum, Auto-Pilot, Air Switch, Assigned Altitude Indicator, Dual PTT, Intercomm, Electric Trim, Mode C Transponder, Monroy ATD-300 Traffic Watch passive transponder receiver.


VH - MCS Jandakot Airport, Perth, Western Australia, and on the ground at Adelaide Airport South Australia.

Refueling at Caiguna airstrip & Forrest Airport, Nullarbor Plain.

Refuelling Leigh Creek Airport and unloading supplies Tarcoola, outback South Australia.

A fine shot taken at last light at 10,000' over Mount Gibson W.A. and cruising above the clouds.

Australian register of Piper PA 28-236 Dakota's


Aviation Services

My Company, Murchison Grade Control Pty Ltd in Western Australia provides specialist trenching services for mineral sampling (grade control) and the installation of underground services in remote areas. For the aviation industry we have installed Airport Lighting and Drainage Systems at Mount Magnet, Golden Grove, Wiluna, Leinster, Jundee, Mt. Keith, Bronzewing and Plutonic Gold Mines, Leonora Shire Airport, Yandi Iron Ore Project Airport. Additional work has been done for Air Services Australia in relocating Aerial Navaids at Meekatharra, Forrest and Paraburdoo Airports. Trenching for Aerodrome Management Services for the installation of lighting and PAPI system at Murrin Murrin Nickel Mine was completed in July 2004. Large scale project included trenching and cable installation for the Jindalee Over Horizon Radar Project at Laverton W.A. and 58km of airport lighting, power and communication cables at RAAF Base Learmonth $69M upgrade in 1998-99.Our Ditch Witch Earth Saws and Trenchers cut a well defined clean trench with minimum surface disruption and the finely ground spoil is ideal for backfill with damaging the buried service.

Please contact myself, Warwick Archer on 08 9319 1113, Mobile 0417 977 841 or by email at

Our South Australian based company, Underground Installations Pty Ltd, specialises in similiar work as well as the installations of telecommunications infrastructure.

Local manager Tony Gold can be contacted on 08 8296 4664, Mobile 411 082 735 or email

Please tell your friends and associates this site is best searched by using search engine and typing in Warwicks Aviation.

Photo Gallery & Trips

Perth - Adelaide trip 22-23 April 2003.

Between the above dates I flew to Adelaide, South Australia with my old school & army mate John Mathwin. Because I had to go to Kalgoorlie on the way and we needed a flexible timetable we decided to go in my aeroplane. We flew to Kalgoorlie on Tuesday 22/04/03, spent 2 or 3 hours there and then on to Forrest on the Nullarbor and stayed the night. The following day we flew Forrest via Head of Bight with a landing and refuel at Ceduna then on into Adelaide Airport.With a big high pressure system located south east of Adelaide the weather was fine but with 10-15 knot headwinds most of the way. Picture right shows VH-MCS at Adelaide Airport.

Flight details were:

Tues. 22/04/03
Perth (Jandakot) to Kalgoorlie Southern Cross 077 deg. M 7500' 298 nm 2 hr 42 min. 110 kts 131 litres
Kalgoorlie to Forrest Zanthus, Rawlinna, Loongana 088 deg. M 9500' 343 nm 2 hr 50 min. 120.8 kts 138 litres

Forrest is worth a particular mention. First time visitors are amazed to find a large Airport with two 'jet size' bitumen runways at this remote siding on the transcontinental railway line in the middle of the Nullarbor Plain. The name of the Plain comes from the Latin, 'null arbor', meaning 'no trees'. Forrest takes its name from Lord Forrest, an early West Australian explorer, and its first state Premier. The Nullarbor is the largest limestone plain in the World, a huge limestone shield that was a former sea bed and is honeycombed with numerous caves, many of great depth and size. Forrest was one of the numerous railway communities that sprang into existence with the construction of the railway line between 1908 and 1916. In 1929 the first airservices to the West from Adelaide commenced using De Haviland DH-66 Hercules, large 3 engined biplanes that cruised along a stately 100mph. They would depart Adelaide with a lunch stop at Ceduna then on to Forrest which had a comfortable Hostel complete with dining room (pictured left) and maids for an overnight stop. The next day it was on to Kalgoorlie, and then to the former Perth Airport at Maylands. For many years Forrest was run by the Federal Governement and housed a Bureau of Meteorology weather station until it was relocated to the present site at Eucla on the coast. In recent years Forrest was purchased by the present owners, Forte Airport Management, who have done a magnificent job through Andrew Forte and the various airport managers who make the 'towns' permanent population of two! The Airport makes a welcome oasis in the desert for the long 'cross nullarbor' leg and also caters house and camping accommodation for 4 wheel drivers who brave the rugged plains. Well maintained and fitted out houses provide comfortable and relaxing accommodation together with the always hospitable managers, currently Ross & Alice Ryan. The silence of the plain, magnificent sunrises and sunsets, the blaze of stars at night, makes this one of my favourite stopping points which I can thoroughly recommended. After a season of good rain the plain is a carpet of green. Another feature for the air traveller is the whale watch season between June and September at the head of the Great Australian Bight just over one hour flight time to the south east. Its great see a part of Outback such as Forrest with a future. So often these remote places with loads of history and character have sunk into sad decay, Cook and the old mining town of Tarcoola are examples despite the fanfare given to "The Year of The Outback" and all that. I worked through this country in the late 90's on a contract to install signalling equipment on the railway between Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Details of that job is in My Business Page under Projects.

Views of the Forrest Airport, Nullarbor Plain, approach on finals(left) and departure, looking south.

Hanger, Forrest Airport, Nullarbor Plain.

Nullarbor Cliffs and Coastline.

Wed. 23/04/03
Forrest to Ceduna Head of Bight 101 deg. M 9500' 296 nm 2 hr 32 min. 116.5 kts 126 litres
Ceduna to Adelaide Direct 121 deg. M 9500' 294 nm 2 hr 25 min. 121.5kts 120 litres

Return trip Adelaide-Perth 1-2 May 2003.

Thurs. 1/05/03
Adelaide to Ceduna Ardrossan 295 deg. M 8500' 296 nm 2 hr 25 min. 122.5 kts 119 litres
Ceduna to Forrest Head of Bight 281 deg. M 8500' 296 nm 2 hr 24 min. 123.5 kts 115 litres
Forrest to Kalgoorlie Loongana, Rawlinna, Zanthus 265 deg. M 8500' 343 nm 2 hr 35 min. 132.4 kts 130 litres

On the return trip I was accompanied by John Mathwin again and my old mate Don 'Clacka' Phillips (pictured left), former Surf Lifesaver, kangaroo shooter and current real estate tycoon, fisherman and beer drinker. Don is responsible for most of these photos.After waiting out the passing of a cold front on 30th April which bought heavy rain to Adelaide we departed at 9:20 am CST in fine conditions under a broken overcast at 2000' and tracking out via the Ardrossan VOR. Over Yorke Penisula the cloud had broken up to scattered strato-cumulus between 4500' and 5500' and we climbed to our planned cruising level of 8500' as we crossed Spencers Gulf. A new high pressure system now worked in our favour with the GPS showing over 140 knots with the aid of the sou' easterly air flow. Approaching Ceduna we tracked towards the coast letting down through the clouds to reveal a magnificent view of the coastline and ocean then turning inland for a landing and refuel. Departing Ceduna climbing back to 8500' we could see the oyster farms on the western side of Murat Bay. The track follows the coast, providing great views of the world renowned 'Cactus' surfing beach at Point Sinclair south of Penong township, and the former port at Fowlers Bay. As we proceed west we pass over the extreme western margins of the agricultural lands to scrub and sand dune country with its remote and magnificent beaches. Again we track to 'Head of Bight' (HOB), the furthest point inland of the the Great Australian Bight, and over the whale watch lookout but it is too early in the season to see any whales. At HOB the Nullarbor Cliffs start, rising to over 300' and continuing to Eucla some 200 kilometres to the west. At HOB we track over Nullarbor Roadhouse (which also has an airstrip and fuelling facilities) and head towards Forrest. The cloud has now thickened to dense white strato-cumulus some 3000' below us and stretching to the horizon. Above the clouds the sky is a brilliant clear blue and the ride is smooth. Fifty miles south east of Forrest the cloud begins to break up as we commence our descent, now picking up a few 'bumps' from the rising warm air. With a 10 knot breeze from the sou' east we land on runway 09. Ross & Alice are waiting to refuel us and provide a cup of tea and Anzac biscuits.



Approaching Head of Bight and Nullarbor Cliffs, Great Australian Bight

After refuelling we flew on to Kalgoorlie via the now deserted lime mining settlement of Loongana, over Nurina, a rail siding that, during World War 2 was an Italian POW camp, no need for barbed wire fences out here! On over the still occupied town of Rawlinna, then the deserted town of Zanthus and on into Kalgoolrie at dusk.

Nullarbor from the air, Transcontinental Railway and Rawlinna Station.

Ore dumps and gold mines at Kalgoorlie with the Super Pit in the centre.

Approach into Kalgoorlie, base and finals.

Friday 2/05/03
Kalgoorlie to Perth (Jandakot) Southern Cross, Cunderdin 255 deg. M 8500' 297 nm 2 hr 20 min. 126.9 kts 113.5 litres

We overnighted at Kalgoorlie, my good mate & co-contractor, Steve Bellin who is based in Boulder, loaning us his 450 SEL for the night. In the morning I gave the blokes a tour of Kalgoorlie and the Super Pit then it was on to Jandakot Airport in Perth. Weather was fine & beaut and we cruised at 8500' with a tail wind. Jandakot frequently records Australias' highest monthly movements and today was no exception, traffic everywhere. On landing during our rollout the Controller with some urgency issued the instruction 'Mike Charlie Sierra without delay'. Turning off the runway we saw a Cessna Citation jet on short finals behind us and closing fast hence the urgency. All in all a great trip with the aircraft performing perfectly, good weather & good company.

Technical Stuff

Fuel & Range calculations

Accident and incident reports continually point to fuel exhaustion and fuel mismanagement as the largest cause of loss of power in light aircraft. Fuel exhaustion usually happens in the later stages of a flight and fuel mismanagement (sometimes leading to premature fuel exhaustion) can happen at any time. Because I frequently fly long legs across remote country that offers few convenient landing spots I pay close attention to the fuel state of my aircraft. The tools I use for fuel management include

During a long flight it may be necessary to consider at some point in the flight whether sufficient fuel remains to complete the planned leg with reserves intact. This situation may come about due to differences in actual winds from forecast winds or flying at a lower levels due to weather. Since it is always better to plan for this event prior to the flight rather than be confronted with the question during the flight, I use a formula that can be applied with information available to me at any time during the flight. This formula will tell me if I have enough fuel remaining, based on actual flight conditions, to achieve my destination with reserves intact. The cardinal rule is never violate your reserves unless every other option is exhausted. If a flight is properly planned and with all contingencies considered there should be no reason to eat into reserves.

The formula, which can be programmed into a small handheld computer, I use use a Casio COMPU-NAV Navigation Computer, reads as follows:

Rem = (D/T) * ((P/(F/T)-0.75))-D, where:

Rem = Range remaining,

D = Distance already flown,

T = Elapsed Time (already flown),

P = Fuel at start of flight (litres)

F = Fuel used in time T,

0.75 (hours) refers to 45 minute reserve.

The formula can be used at any point inn the flight but it is preferable to use it over or abeam the last 'best' alternate where you could land and refuel, or at any time when you suspect a change in flight conditions from those foercast, a higher fuel consumption than expected or lower ground speeds. Of course to use this method a fuel flow gauge is essential.


Flight YPJT to YFRT (Forrest W.A.) distance 630 nm, I am passing abeam Rawlinna, 139 nm to the west of Forrest and want to check if I have sufficient fuel to reach Forrest without encroaching on reserves. (Normally on this trip I would do a check abeam Kalgoorlie as fuel is cheaper and more readily available.)

D = 491 nm (distance already flown)

T = 3.66 hours, (elapsed flight time)

P = 272 litres (usable fuel on board at departure)

F = 176 litres (fuel used)

then Rem = 167 nm, ie based on ground speed (134 kts) and fuel consumption (48 l/hour) so far, the aircraft can fly on for another 167 nm before fuel reserves are breached so I can easily reached Forrest without using reserves.


D = 491 nm (distance already flown)

T = 3.82 hours, (elapsed flight time), equates with 128.5 knots,

P = 272 litres (usable fuel on board at departure)

F = 183.4 litres (fuel used), equates with fuel consumption rate of 48 litres/hour

then Rem = 140 nm, ie based on ground speed (128.5 kts) and fuel consumption (48 l/hour) so far, the aircraft can reach Forrest before fuel reserves are breached but I would need to be in the circuit Forrest.

Such a formula should be reguarly put to the test by using actual flight figures then checked against fuel remaining, fuel used, block ground speeds and actual block flight fuel consumptions.

The fuel flow guage should be checked against actual fuel figures after each flight and recorded. If discrepancies exceed 1% then fuel figures should averaged over last five refuellings and 'K' factor recalibrated.

ATD-300 Traffic Watch

I recently fitted a Monroy ATD300 Traffic Watch unit to my aircraft. This is a passive transponder receiver capable of detecting transponder replies from nearby aircraft and displaying their range and altitude on an 8 character dot matrix yellow LED display in Bright (day ) or Dim (night). It also provides distinctive voice warnings in relation to traffic proximity. The ATD-300 has a detection range of 5 nautical miles. The receiver consists of a receiver/indicator unit, antenna, power cord and telephone cable.

The ATD-300 provides distinctive voice warnings for traffic at different ranges. When set in the FAR mode and traffic is within 3nm and +/- 1000' of vertical separation "Traffic" will be annunciated. As the traffic gets closer to about 1nm and within +/- 1000' of vertical separation the message will change to "Traffic Nearby". When set in the NEAR mode only traffic within 1nm and +/- 500' of vertical separation will be annunciated by "Traffic Nearby". When set to MUTE there is no warning messages for any traffic, however traffic range and MSL altitude will still be indicated. Whenthere is no traffic activity the ATD-300 will automatically indicate the host transponder MSL pressure altitude.

The ATD also features a built in voltage warning indicator that lets you know if the aircraft voltage is out of range. Also if there is no mode C altitudedata transmitted the ATD-300 indicates the transponder Mode A code.

The unit can be mounted simply on the dash top with velcro and plugged into the cigarette lighter or dash mounted.

Having now flown with the unit for the last month the best comment I can make, its brilliant, provides alerted "See-and Avoid" and makes traffic indentification much easier, its ability to monitor host transponder Mode C returns gives the confidence that the transponder is working correctly. Few aircraft have volt meters so this is an added redundancy feature.

Engine Management, the lost art.

The management of reciprocating aero engines is critical to performance, flight safety, economy of operation and engine life. Comparisons with piston auto engines produce more differences than similarities yet many aircraft operators, particularly the inexperienced, seem to regard their operation in the same light. Consider the differences, leaving aside the even more complex issues of turbocharging & geared engines. Operating demands and requirements placed on aero engines include;

The real masters of complex reciprocating engine management were the Flight Engineers of the 50's in the big piston engined airliners of the time, Super Constellations, Stratocruisers, DC-6 and DC-7s etc. These aircraft were equipped with large powerful piston engines that represented the very pinnacle of their development. An example is the massive 3,500 h.p. 28 cylinder Pratt & Whitney Wasp Major pictured right. In fact it can be argued that they were developed to a point beyond which reasonably reliable operation could be expected. Failures were not uncommon, factory TBO's, when reached were often less than 1000 hours and there was little or no prospect for further development. To gain more power either cylinder size or numbers of cylinders had to be increased. Larger cylinders meant poor flame front advance and more cylinders meant increased complexity and its attendant problems. An example to illustrate this was the fact that Qantas stocked one spare engine for every installed engine on its Super Constellations. Three engined arrivals and turn backs were not uncommon. These engines, already highly stressed, were literally operated on the razors edge as Flight Engineers strove to extract the maximum range and performance while controlling cylinder head and oil temperatures during critical flight phases. To do this they had sophisticated engine analysers, cathode ray oscilliscopes and instrumentation to moniter the performance of each cylinder and spark plug. The light aircraft operator does not have these tools and thus a sound understanding of what is happening in the engine and the appreciation of how to best manage the power plant is essential.

One of the most important aspects of engine operation is management of exhaust gases temperatures (EGT). EGT reacts directly to fuel/air mixture ratio. As the fuel/air mixture approaches (by leaning) its chemically correct (optimum) ratio the EGT will rise indicating the most efficient energy release, and will peak at the optimum mixture. The temperature at which the peak occurs will vary depending on air temperature & pressure, humidity levels and other factors. If leaning continues beyond this point the EGT will fall as the mixture becomes less efficient. Since aero engines use fuel as one of their cooling mediums , the problem here is one of inadequate cooling of cylinder internals & valves & seats.

Many light aircraft possess either no EGT gauge or a simple 'relative' temperature gauge with one probe to the exhuast pipe of the manufacturers designated 'hottest' or 'first to peak' cylinder. The single EGT gauge does not give absolute temperature, but climbs to a peak as the mixture is leaned. Standard practice then dicates that the mixture is richened to 50 deg. F rich of peak thus providing a buffer against running too lean. All very agricultural. The table above shows EGT data for a Lycoming O-540 (in my aircraft) using a 6 channel analyser. The yellow bars show the EGT for the'peak' cylinder, in this case No. 2 for each level with the 'p' indicating the peak EGT at that level. Note that the 'spread' (hottest to coldest) is fairly tight at the lower levels but the spread increases and becomes more erratic the higher we go. This is a result of poorer fuel atomisation at lower air temperatures and pressures at altitude and thus more erratic fuel metering to each cylinder. This is typical of a large carburetted engine. One would expect to see a tighter spread through the altitude range with an injected (IO) engine. Note that at 9500' No. 6 cylinder 'peaked' first and thus leaning procedures would use that peak and not lean any further. This would have been missed by a single probe EGT gauge. Thus during the leaning procedure what we would have seen is a continuing rise in EGT on all cylinders except No. 6 which have started to fall. If we had only used No.2, we would have been operating No. 6 lean of its peak EGT. This cylinder could then be subject to operating for an extended period of time without adequate cooling, with the possibility of overheating the piston and burning the valves and seats and the added risk of detonation with dire consequences for the whole engine. The 6 channel EGT analyser enables us the accurately identify the first cylinder to peak and enrichen accordingly, thus protecting all cylinders from the problems mentioned above. Additionally, because we have a much tighter handle on all EGT's we can operate to tighter margins, that is, running at 25 deg. F rich, instead of the more conservative 50 deg. F. This will save fuel and improve performance without compromising the engine.

The Engine Analyser display is in the centre right of the panel below the VOR. This unit has 8 channels, 1 to 6 for the EGT of each cylinder while channels 7 & 8 display the cylinder head temperatures (CHT) for cylinder No.1 (coolest) and cylinder No. 4 (hottest), respectively.

The other great advantage of the multi-channel analyser is its ability to monitor engine behavior over time and aid trouble shooting. A frequent indicator of trouble with any machine is a departure from normal operating parameters. This signals that something has changed without known intervention and should be investigated. I keep a record of all important operating parameters during flight on part of my flight log. A copy is under Flight Planning on this page. I wont go through all the trouble shooting applications, there are many, and there is plenty of information that can be sourced on this subject. A couple are worthy of note. Firstly plug fouling is a common problem. As Murphy's Law dictates, the last plug you remove from the engine, because it is the most difficult to reach, will be the fouled plug. The analyser will help you find it more easily, it may be the cylinder showing an uncharacteristically high EGT that has the fouled plug, as combustion is slowed down and part of the still burning mixture is passing out through the exhaust port (to where the probe is located). The other important use is in providing evidence of something going seriously wrong during operation. This happened to me recently of a flight ot Leonora. It was a beautiful day for flying and all was right with the world, when 50 nm south east of my destination I noticed something had changed, bigtime! All EGT's had risen by over 50 degrees F, while cylinder head temperatures had dropped. Airspeed had also dropped by 2 - 3 knots. Classic symptom of magneto failure. As with the fouled plug, poor flame front advance (due to only one plug firing) means that the mixture is still burning as the exhaust valve opens subjecting the probe to the still burning gases. The combustion temperatures however will be lower and some of the heat will be dissapated through the exhaust resulting in the lower cylinder head temps. Airspeed will of course suffer, due to the slight drop in power. In this case I enriched the mixture to reduce temperatures and prevent the possibility of detonation. On the ground, magneto checks indicated that, indeed, a magneto had failed to due a broken condensor lead, causing arcing at the points and subsequent failure. Did'nt save me any money in this case, but alerted me to a serious problem and enabled me to take some action.

Falling EGT's are also an indicator of the build up of carburettor ice, an ever present danger. However I believe that an earlier indicator will be falling manifold pressure, so watch it like a hawk when conditions conducive to icing are present.

Author, Warwick Archer CPL.

The Napier Nomad

Research By Chris Ashworth

 The famous aero-engine firm of D. Napier & Sons of Acton, West London, though often thought reluctant to move with the times, had in the 1920s experimented with exhaust-driven superchargers and in the 1930s dabbled in diesels, but with little success. During World War 11 the firm was too busy getting the Sabre into production and sorting out its many problems to be concerned with less conventional though theoretically more economical engines. Napier was, however, well aware that the General Electric Company of America had developed heat-resistant steels that enabled turbo-superchargers to be in-stalled in operational aircraft such as the P-38 Lightning, P-47 Thunderbolt and B-29 Superfortress, and that other firms, notably Junkers, had steadily improved the aircraft diesel.

At the beginning of 1945 the Ministry of Aircraft Production issued a requirement for an economical 6000 hp engine, fully expecting tenders to propose the use of power-recovery systems employing exhaust gas turbines, possibly driving the crankshaft through fluid couplings, as was being proposed by the Curtiss Wright Company in America. However, Sir Harry Ricardo, one of Britain’s greatest engine designers, had recently suggested that the most economical combination would be a diesel two-stroke allied to a gas turbine, propounding the theory that careful design would enable the virtues of one to compensate for the weaknesses of the other, and result in an engine of considerable power that would be economical throughout a wide altitude band.

Napier was impressed by his arguments and using pre-war experience with the Culverin and Cutlass (valveless two-stroke diesels) and more recent work on the Sabre (horizontally opposed cranks and centrifugal compressor) designed a 24-cylinder H-type engine of 75 litres capacity. It was not built, however, because the company decided that the commercial outlets for an engine of this size would be very limited. It was cut in half, a horizontally opposed 12cylinder two-stroke diesel driving the rear propeller shaft of a contra-rotating unit, while an 11-stage axial compressor and twin-turbine assembly (based on the Niaid), mounted below the main engine and driven by augmented diesel exhaust, drove a co-axial shaft and the front propeller. Both turbine discs were used for take-off, but during the cruise stage one was isolated and the fuel/air augmentation cut off. This engine was expected to produce at least 3000 shp - it was named the Nomad.

Nomad 1

The compressor and turbine assemblies of the Napier E. 125 (Nm.3 Nomad 1) were tested during 1948 and in October 1949 the prototype engine was run as a complete unit. It was 10ft 6in. long, 4ft 10in. wide and 4ft 1in. deep. Weighing 4200lb and rated at 3125 ehp, the engine was installed with considerable difficulty in the nose of Lincoln SX973, which had been allocated to Napier’s Luton Flight Test Department in November 1948. SX973 flew with the Nomad 1 in 1950, the engine making its only public appearance at the 1951 SBAC display at Farnborough. In total the Nomad 1 ran for 860 hours on the test rig, 270 hours driving test propellers and 120 hours in flight. It was temperamental, but when running properly it could produce 3000 shp plus 320lb thrust with an sfc of 0.36 lb/ehp/hr.

 Nomad 2

Long before tests on the Nomad 1were complete Napier had decided to re-design the engine to achieve a better gas flow and less complication. Designated the E145 Nomad 2, the revised version took advantage of development work on a much improved axial compressor designed for the Niaid, a new loop scavenge system which smoothed the gas flow through the diesel, and the Beier infinitely variable gearbox. The original centrifugal compressor was deleted, the 12-stage axial compressor being used to provide supercharged air for the diesel, the exhaust gases of which drove the three-stage turbine. The turbine in turn powered the compressor and assisted the diesel in driving the single 13 ft-diameter four-bladed Rotol or de Havilland propeller through the Beier gearbox, which reduced the output rpm to match the crankshaft. The design of the Nomad 2 was impressive and six engines were ordered by the MoS.

In June 1950 Avro produced a brochure for the Avro 717, a Lincoln fitted with two Nomad engines installed in the standard inner nacelles for use as an additional test bed and a possible long-distance record breaker. With the outer Merlins removed and the airframe generally cleaned up it was estimated that the aircraft would be capable of a still-air range of 13,382nm at heights above 30,000 ft. This was not practical from the crew aspect in an unpressurized aircraft; figures were also given for 15,000 ft, where a range of 12,687nm was suggested. As ever the MoS was less sanguine, estimating that 10,500nm was more likely, and the record-breaking idea was quietly dropped. Plans for the aircraft’s use as a test bed continued, however, with Avro suggesting the use of Tudor wing assemblies from the six Mk I airframes about to be scrapped, and the fitting of Lancastrian-type nose and tail fairings. It was proposed that Air Service Training Ltd. should carry out the modifications at Hamble, although Napier, who wanted to do the engine installation at Luton, opposed this.

It had been expected that flight testing of the Nomad 2 mounted in the nose of SX973 would start in June 1952, but a year earlier it was already clear that the engine would be late, and so the plan was changed. The use of SX973 and the development of the Avro 717 was abandoned and it was proposed that a Lincoln or Shackleton should be used with Nomads installed in the outer nacelles. The airframe work required would be minimal and the MoS was satisfied that Napier could do the complete job. On 13 October, 1952, they authorized the transfer of the second prototype Shackleton, VW131, to Napier for conversion and subsequent flight development of the E145 Nomad, the aircraft arriving at Luton on 16 January, 1953, about a month after the engine had first run in the test chamber. The E 145 was 10ft 11in. long, 4ft 10in. wide and 3ft 4in. deep, weighed 3580lb and produced 3135ehp for take-off at an sfc of 0.345 lb/ehp/hr, well below that of its nearest competitor, the Wright Turbo Compound Cyclone.

The engine installation in the Shackleton was extremely neat. The power plant was slung from four vibration dampers carried on a pair of semi-cantilever bearers. The beautifully faired cowlings fitted tightly, with streamlined blisters over the cylinder heads. The cooling radiators were mounted within the wing leading edge between the inner and outer engines, reminiscent of the Mosquito. The installation was first checked with dummy engines, which were also used for vibration tests carried out in April 1954, by which time some 350 hours running time had been attained on the Nomad 2. At least one, possibly two, flight-cleared engines were installed soon afterwards and some reports suggest that the engines were run in the airframe. Unfortunately interest in the Nomad was waning, and following the demise of the R.112D flying boat, and the decision to order the Griffon-powered Shackleton MR 3 for Coastal Command, development of the engine slowed markedly and the project was finally cancelled in April 1955 after an expenditure of 5.1 million.

VW131 remained at Luton until the fuselage was allocated to Avro for research into the ditching characteristics of the aircraft early in January 1956. The aircraft was dismantled and the fuselage despatched to their Bracebridge Heath facility near Lincoln on 7 February 1956. The remainder of the aircraft was scrapped at Luton.

Accident Reports & Safety Issues


The pilot was conducting a visual flight rules (VFR) flight from Walgett to an airstrip near Merriwa. The aircraft had departed from Walgett earlier in the day, but had returned a short time later when it was reported that the weather at the destination was not suitable for VFR flight. The pilot felt that he was under pressure to complete the flight that day. He continued to monitor the weather by telephoning for weather reports that were available from an automatic Bureau of Meteorology outlet, and by contacting a friend near the destination airfield. The aircraft later departed at about 1415. A search was subsequently initiated when the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination. The wreckage of the aircraft was located two days later on the top of a ridge, 3,880 ft above mean sea level (AMSL), slightly to the left of the direct track between Walgett and Merriwa.

The aircraft was found to have collided with trees during a right turn, at a rate of descent of about 2,500 ft/min. The impact severed the outboard section of the right wing. The aircraft had then collided with other trees before striking the ground. The right fuel tank had ruptured during descent through the trees and an intense post-impact fire had consumed the cabin area and the fuselage section immediately behind the cabin. Although the accident was survivable, both the pilot and passenger received extensive burns while escaping from the burning wreckage. The pilot died some time later from his injuries, before the aircraft was located by search-and-rescue services personnel during the morning of the second day of the search. A fixed emergency locator transmitter (ELT), mounted in the aft cabin area of the aircraft, was destroyed by the fire. While it was not possible to determine if the ELT had activated during the accident sequence, no signal from the ELT had been received by the satellite monitoring system. The pilot was known to possess a personal ELT; however, this was not located after the accident.

Examination of the wreckage did not reveal any deficiencies that were likely to have contributed to the accident. Data extracted from a portable global positioning system unit found at the accident site confirmed that the aircraft had been in a right turn when it collided with the trees. Shortly after the accident the pilot had written a brief message on the left tailplane of the aircraft. That message indicated the pilot's perception of the accident sequence, and was generally consistent with the analysis by the investigation team.

The pilot held a private pilot licence for aeroplanes, and a commercial helicopter licence, together with valid medical certificates; however, he did not hold a rating for flight in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), nor was the aircraft approved for flight in IMC.

Reports from National Park rangers who were in the area at the time of the accident, and from the Bureau of Meteorology, indicated that the cloudbase was 3,600 ft AMSL, and that cloud was covering the ridge where the wreckage was found. The weather over lower terrain to the south-west of the accident site was reported to have been suitable for VFR flight.


The circumstances of this accident were consistent with uncontrolled collision with terrain following inadvertent flight into cloud. The pilot was primarily dependent on being able to see the ground or the horizon in order to maintain control of the aircraft. Once the aircraft entered cloud the pilot was no longer able to rely on external visual references and probably became spatially disoriented. The aircraft subsequently entered a right turn, descended rapidly and collided with trees.

The pressure that the pilot felt to complete the flight that day may have influenced him when choosing the shortest direct route over high terrain with associated poor visibility, rather than a longer route further to the south-west where clearer conditions prevailed.


  1. The pilot felt that he was under pressure to complete the flight that day.
  2. The pilot and the aircraft were only authorised for flight in visual meteorological conditions.
  3. Visual reference with the ground or the horizon was lost when the aircraft inadvertently entered cloud.
  4. The pilot probably became spatially disoriented and was unable to maintain adequate control of the aircraft when visual reference to the ground was lost.


As a result of this occurrence, the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation is currently investigating a perceived safety deficiency relating to operational issues associated with aircraft emergency locator transmitters.

Any safety output issued as a result of this analysis will be published in the Bureau's Quarterly Safety Deficiency Report.

Accident Gallery

The pictures below testify that even experienced Operators can have embarrasing problems.....



The Story of Randy Thistlewaite

as told by Tom Brady

           Randy Thistlewaite spent his boyhood days of the late twenties and early thirties days hanging around the fences of Oklahoma City Airport, staring in awe and wonder at the flying machines. His personal hero was the great Oklahoman aviator Wiley Post and he kept a scrapbook of his exploits. Randy’s parents owned a farm up near Guthrie and his father had a Fairchild 24. Sitting by his fathers side on their frequent flights down to the ‘Big Smoke’ Randy gained an early familiarity with things aviation.

The outbreak of World War II in Europe ensured that Randy’s Air Force career would enter a longer and more serious phase. With a small contingent of other American flyers he went to Canada to participate in the Empire Air Training scheme and then by ship to England. He joined the American Eagle squadron and converted to the new Hawker Hurricane. This aircraft, although soon to be overshadowed by the even newer elegant Supermarine Spitfire, was the backbone of Britains defense against the might of Germany’s Luftwaffe.

The Americans acquitted themselves well in this arena. Technically well skilled, aggressive and courageous they were highly regarded by their counterparts in the Royal Air Force. It was not until well into 1942 with the huge influx of American airmen into the U.K. that some resentments emerged of the “over paid, oversexed and over here” kind.

In 1941 after converting to the Spitfire Randy was posted back to the United States as a flight instructor. During that time he underwent training on the new North American P51B Mustang equipped with the Packard built Rolls Royce Merlin. This aircraft originally equipped with a V12 Allison was a mediocre performer until the installation of the great Merlin and went onto become perhaps the best all round single engine fighter of the war through its later variants. Whatever the case it was one of those classic statements of what looks good is usually good and vice versa.

            A shortage of combat experienced pilots for the USAAF 8th Air Force Bomber Group saw Randy convert to the Boeing B-17E Flying Fortress and return to Europe. The next two years until late 1944 Randy flew, trained and commanded crews on the great daylight missions over Nazi Germany. There is little doubt that these raids together with those of the Royal Air Force Lancaster’s, Stirling’s and Halifax’s at night threw the enemy war production into chaos and in so doing saved tens of thousands of lives in the ground struggle that would eventually be called upon to end the European War.

            As the war moved closer to Germany the Luftwaffe threw in more and more desperate defenses to protect the Reich. By now Allied fighters were at least equal too and in many cases were better than their German counterparts and the same applied to the pilots. Years of combat had seen the loss of many of the Luftwaffe’s finest Aces and the pilots that followed in these late years of the War, though brave enough lacked the experience to meet the demands placed upon them.

Shortly after recieving his swords.            Randy by this time had moved back to the fighter wing flying the huge and brutish Republic P47 Thunderbolt. Now in his fifth year of war Randy had had more than his share of close shaves & bailouts but his greatest battle was yet to be fought. On the 28th January 1945 he was commanding a group P47 fighters escorting Liberator bombers on raid on the Ploesti Oilfields in enemy Rumania. Turning for the home trip they were bounced by a staffel of Bf 109G’s and FW 190’s. In the ensuing dogfights Randy found himself locked in mortal combat with a skillful and daring opponent. This opponent turned out to be none other than the great Major Erich Hartmann, the highest scoring fighter pilot of all time and known on the Eastern Front as the ‘Black Devil”. For 45 minutes they dueled in the sky, neither the brute power of the big Republic nor the agility of the smaller Messerschmidt giving either pilot a decisive advantage. Finally with their ammunition exhausted, the P47 low on fuel and the Daimler Benz engine of the Messerschmidt overheating both pilots broke of with a wave and departed to their respective bases. Later back safely on the ground the American ground crews found a row of bullet holes along the fuselage of the Thunderbolt testifying to the toughness of the airplane and to Hartmanns legendry firing accuracy.

The two adversaries did not finally meet again until many years later. Randy continued flying after the war in civilian service though returning to the Air Force during the Korean War. Hartmann finished the war with 352 confirmed ‘kills’, the highest score of all time, surrendered to the Americans but was passed over to the Russians and imprisoned until 1955.

Their next meeting took place at the rather remarkable Allied Aces versus the Luftwaffe Aces inaugural soccer match at Munich in 1958. Held at the former base of the crack Luftwaffe group JV 44 this match was well attended. Perhaps betraying their European sporting background the Luftwaffe trounced the Allies 39 to nil, Adolph Galland’s ‘Abbeyville Boys’ in particular having a field day in the forward lines. However in the club rooms after the game over drinks the Allied team Captain, the charming and charismatic Squadron Leader Bob Stanford-Tuck remarked in fact that they regarded the match a draw with the comment “who won the bloody war anyway”!

Randy Thistlewaite finally hung up his professional headphones in 1984 after a thirty five career with United Airlines. He now fly’s a beautiful Piper Dakota nicked named ‘Gracie May’ after his wife and devotes his time to volunteer work with the EAA, writing and recreational flying. His is a good friend of that other great journalist of aviation nostalgia Len Morgan and the two have often traveled together to aviation functions. Randy’s latest article is entitled the ‘Legend of Harvey Birchmore’ which should appear in a forthcoming issue of FLYING magazine.

The Author

This history has been compiled from the researches and writings of Tom Brady. Tom Brady was born in the outback South Australian town of Lancelot in 1891. He witnessed Harry Houdini’s first flight in Australia in the early part of this century and took up Flying. He traveled to England and joined the Royal Flying Corps in 1916 and spent time flying SE5A’s and Bristol Fighters in France. He became a good friend Albert Ball and Wilfred Owen. He served in Murmansk in Russia after the war before briefly returning to Australia. Tom then traveled extensively throughout the Europe and took up mountaineering learning from the great climber Cesare Maestri also known as the ‘Dolomite Spider”. He narrowly missed being interned in Germany on the eve of World War II.

Tom served with the Royal Air Force during the War. His service record and flight log shows time on Hurricanes, Spitfires and later Tempests. He won the DFC during the battle of the Falaise Pocket in 1944. How he came by this story is a mystery but the material was undoubtedly gathered in the course of his wartime experiences and later travels. He never flew again after the war.

Tom Brady is now a semi-retired earthmoving contractor and lives on the outskirts of Mount Magnet. Tom spends his time using unusual machines in unusual applications, researching, writing and looking after his pets. He is known to have the only complete collection of Dulcie Moles’ voluminous but little known work “Simple Stories for Seniors”. His Sunday roast spatchcock dinners are renowned throughout the area.

Flight Planning

This is a standard (blank) pre-formatted flight log that I use. For routes I fly regularly, I have plans with details included for that route and saved on the computer.

Aerodrome Weather and Area Forecasts


New Moon

First Quarter

Full Moon

Last Quarter

Jan 22


Jan 29


Jan 7


Jan 15


Feb 20


Feb 28


Feb 6


Feb 13


Mar 21


Mar 29


Mar 7


Mar 14


Apr 19


Apr 28


Apr 5


Apr 12


May 19


May 27


May 5


May 11


Jun 18


Jun 26


Jun 3


Jun 10


Jul 17


Jul 25


Jul 2


Jul 9


Aug 16


Aug 23


Aug 1


Aug 8


Sep 14


Sep 21


Aug 30


Sep 6


Oct 14


Oct 21


Sep 28


Oct 6


Nov 12


Nov 19


Oct 28


Nov 5


Dec 12


Dec 19


Nov 27


Dec 5


Dec 26



Airservices Australia

Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia

ATSB Accident and Incident Reports

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of Australia

Australian Aviation Museum - Curtiss-Wright Radial Piston Engine


The End








Last Updated 11/05/2010