Kirk reaches Oz

Maurice Kirk, the 'Flying Vet', reached Australia on November 8, 2004, after an incredible 11-hour flight over the open ocean from lonely Norfolk Island. He's wearing a survival suit and flying from the back seat. Overhead is a modified wing tank adding some capacity over what he carried on the London-Sydney race, and in the front seat is one of the 20-liter jerry jugs that provided additional fuel. Also note the plexiglass tubes that complete the fuel system. (Photo © 2004 by Maurice Kirk; all rights reserved; please don't download, repost, or forward!)

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Back to Oz by way of Norfolk Island

On November 5, Liberty Girl made its official takeoff from New Zealand's North Island. After a clandestine landing to add a wee bit of fuel to his considerable hoard, Maurice flew northwest to Norfolk Island, which measures a scant 5x8 kilometers (3x5 miles) in size. He found it okay, though he lost GPS coverage for an anxious half-hour.

Worse yet, he discovered that transferring fuel from his 20-liter jerry jugs to the Cub's 12 gallon fuselage tank was far more difficult than he'd anticipated. The first problem was a vapor lock in the hose. He got around that by blowing into the jugs, resting a bit, then taking another blow. But when that was done, he found that he couldn't jettison the jugs as he had hoped: he sent one astern on a line, but it kept getting hung up in the flying wires on the Cub's tail—and then of course he had a devil of a time getting it back into the cockpit. As a result, with the empty jugs between him and the last full ones, he just wasn't strong enough to raise them high enough to transfer their contents.

Norfolk Island No matter! He made it, and spent three days on Norfolk, meeting descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers who were transferred there a couple centuries ago. On Monday, November 8, he took off from Norfolk's World War Two airfield for the even longer flight, west to Australia. He was 11 hours and 30 minutes en route. (Maurice believes that with maximum fuel, Liberty Girl is good for 15 hours! What buttocks he must have!)

Maurice says his total fuel capacity (and you'd better believe he was at full capacity when he took off from Norfolk) is 75 Imperial gallons. That equates to 90 U.S. gallons, or 720 pounds of fuel! Using the lat/lon of Norfolk Island and Brisbane, I make the crow's-flight distance to be 788 nautical miles. Obviously he flew more than 800 NM. He averaged about 60 knots, not a bad speed at his weight. The fuel burn was high because of Liberty Girl's weight and nose-high attitude for the first half of the trip—something on the order of 5 Imperial gallons (6 gallons U.S.) per hour.

He landed in Coolangetta, near Brisbane, to find the airport empty of anyone who had the slightest interest in his astonishing feat. Nothing daunted, he flew up to Dawin and put Liberty Girl in safe storage at an aviation museum, and himself went home to Wales to raise money and acquire permissions for the next leg of his journey. Stay tuned!

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