Cashbook and Claypan
Birdsville or Bust
East From Oodna
Alive in the Dead Heart
B-line for Birdsville
Aloft Over Birdsville
Liftoff for the Flying Padre
Thumbs up for the CGG Cairn
Perhaps more exuberant at leaving Birdsville is this section of CGG crew, fresh from building the French Line in 1963 and shown in the photograph above in their chartered DC3. Three of the men up front in the older picture are among the group waving up at the Cessna in the sidebar photo, some 35 years later.
Birdsville's Popular Outback Airstrip
The DC3s continued in service for many years but with the coming of the oilmen it was seen that the traffic load called for more modern, cost-effective aircraft. The Viscounts and Electras of the fleet required more runway than Birdsville had to offer, so Fokker Friendships were suggested.
Somewhat bizarrely, a small party of interested locals (the policeman Eric Sammon, BP agent John Hardingham and Adria Downs' Bill Brook) accompanied me in pacing off the runway in order to convince TAA and DCA that Birdsville was all right for the first of CGG's Fokker charters. At the northern end we simply compared notes of our counts and reported the average. Birdsville was duly authorised.
The first flight out on the proving run was filled to the brim with holidaying CGG passengers in late 1963 and all on board were relieved when the lumbering Dutch aircraft rose slowly but safely above the low range of sand dunes at the northern boundary of the strip.
TAA's Fortnightly Channel Country Service
TAA rated the Channel Country flight as their most arduous in the grid. Management obligingly excused every pair of hosties who served the route after one single return journey, from any further Birdsville missions. After all, it was a 14-day slog - Brisbane and all stations west to Birdsville, thence on to the Birdsville track properties and Adelaide. The outbound leg took a week and then they'd return the way they came, for another week of up-and-down flying. On some of the hops they'd no sooner get airborne than they were preparing to descend for an approach on another isolated outback airstrip.
DC3s were not pressurised and in the warmer months pilots could only manage the same altitude as scrub turkeys. The turbulence was severe and unremitting. Many inflight injuries were sustained and air-sickness was common among crew and passengers. Depending upon demand, crews removed vacant seats to create room for cargo and lashed the spare seats fast where they could. Cargo working free of restraining netting often caused problems for the hosties and hapless passengers as it moved around the cabin.
Trap for the Unwary (or, Nice One Edward)
Yet it is precisely this point of view that was advanced by the journalist Edward Stokes in his article on the Simpson Desert that appeared in the respected journal 'Australian Geographic' (page 69, Oct/Dec '93). Stokes reflected,
Tough Target for the Desert Mums
Opinion among the surviving CGG veterans is still divided as to the true identity of CGG's surveyor, however there is no dispute he walked every yard. Roy, some query? Elkins, they ask? It remains a mystery for those who had rare contact if any, with a colleague working way out in front of the main party and bunking in the remote "fly camp". Others with memories possibly distorted by time say Elkins' wooden leg was hardly a handicap because he was able to take his Simpson stroll in short, daily stages over three months' duration, with Sundays off.
Barely days out of the desert herself and having worked hard in return for sponsor generosity, Susan Bartell reported with enthusiasm,
Australian Geographic 'Adventurer of the Year' Lauded
||Try the "with Malice a'Forecourt?" link and read what they did|
|Lord of the
|Pilots of the
||Thommo's Desert Report||The BeeGees Page|
|Coles Express Picks On a Pensioner||The Kid From Towra Point|
|Bulldozing a Desert||Trans National Causeway|
|Signwriter for the Simpson||The Long Haul|
|Simpson Desert Birdlife||French Line Circa 1979|
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