Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Unapologetic insolence from an aging subversive

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Of Rocketships and Refrigeration


This week's work involved more flying, and to make it interesting we used a different aircraft.

Usually the charter company provides either a Piper Cheyenne Turbo or a Beechcraft Kingair. These are both capable and comfortable aircraft, but yesterday they used one of their Cessna Citations, a pure jet with a much higher performance.

This thing cruises at 400 knots and covered the distance between Roma and Cunnamulla in 45 minutes. It also handles the relatively short strips with ease. Stall happens at about 80 knots. The acceleration on takeoff feels much like that generated in a full sized jet. 
The weather was clear, and we had a great view of the recently-flooded countryside. Apart from hectares of water lying around, you could also see where it had been because of the discoloration of the countryside. Dead cattle were also evident.

The townships are just starting to get back to normal as the water recedes. I was talking to a freighting company owner in Cunnamulla who told me that yesterday (Friday) was the first day for three weeks that she’d been able to move anything anywhere. She was dealing with major bottlenecks all over the place from Thargomindah to Cunnamulla and west to Eromanga. Yes – this person was female. Bush women are often very effective business operators because they work on establishing relationships, and trust is everything out here.

But back to the aircraft. Apparently the reason for the deployment of the Citation was a combination of pilot training, and getting the thing to where it was needed (up north somewhere).

One of the pilots was telling me about a contract flying experience he’d had with a different charter company. They were contracted by a firm of undertakers who (in turn) had the government contract to bring bodies from outlying areas lacking refrigerated storage facilities to the morgue in Mt Isa. Apparently the only place to store the corpses in these communities was in the pub coldrooms, and there were any number of health regulations making this a no-no. Given the summer temperatures in these places (I’m talking Doomadgee, Kowanyama etc.) they needed to be taken somewhere to be refrigerated pretty smartly. Hence the use of aircraft.

I wasn’t game to ask for any detail, or whether the passengers/freight were easy to manage. He said it was a good earner and usually trouble-free. He flew alone, and didn’t report any strange experiences.

Anyway, they can use the Citation any time they like. It beats driving which entails a ten hour round trip.


Boy on a bike said...

In the old days, the railways used to move the coffins in the guards wagon. The bodies would be packed in ice to stop them going off.

For commercial travellers, who liked a cold drink when on the train, the usual form was to tip the guard and give him your beer.

The guard would put your beer in the ice in the coffin. You'd send someone from your group back every now and then to collect the next round from the guard.

Dad swears this is what his uncle used to do, back in the days of steam.

1735099 said...

This is probably accurate. Both my grandfathers were railway guards and I remember them telling me similar stories - embellished no doubt, but they did pack the bodies in ice.

"Grendel" said...

I've done a couple of citation trips back when I was in QLD. Our outfit traded up from a Super Kingair to a Citation - very nice, very fast and a fair bit more comfortable than the Cessna Caravans I sometimes had to ride in.

The runway at Cunnamulla is immense - a legacy of the second world war, and I was told that it is also an emergency strip for jumbos - not sure how true that is but there was always a navigation beacon out there that meant you often saw aircraft make a turn right above the town to come to their approach vector to Brisbane or Sydney.

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