Episode 3 video transcript


CATHERINE: So the rules about a straight-in approach

at a non-controlled aerodrome.

You can do it provided you call at 10 miles and again at 3 miles,

you give way to other traffic that's already in the circuit area.

We have to call with our intentions at 1-0 miles.

Mount Isa Traffic, Charlie Yankee Foxtrot...

PETE: Mount Isa is situated in the Gulf

with the biggest single productive mine in the world's history,

producing lead, copper, silver and zinc.

For this reason, it's a very busy airspace.

Everything from fly-in fly-outs,

bush pilots, RPT and RFDS.

Mount Isa is a non-controlled aerodrome

and is one place you really need to use and listen to your radio.

MAN: We're talking about real events, not just...

PETE: Aviation safety advisor Brad Johnson

is holding an AvSafety seminar in Mount Isa.

So we thought it a good opportunity to catch up for a chat.

BRAD: We're really an industry resource.

We carry out safety seminars,

we try to educate and promote aviation safety.

We also do on-site visits to organisations

and help them out as a resource to the industry.

Hi, I'm Kim. I'm from CASA.

BRAD: We do bring a human face to the organisation.

Face-to-face sit-down,

talking about their issues with some of the regulations

and what's happening with them.

We're a small team Australia-wide with a lot of industry experience.

There's usually an aviation safety advisor you can talk to

that'll have some industry background

in the stuff that you need to talk about.

Today's a no-fly day, so our pilots are enjoying a well-earned rest.

It's all part of their fatigue management.

But what it allows me to do

is have a chat with the Royal Flying Doctor Service

and get a bit of information on

the essential, life-saving work that they undertake.

But it also gives me a chance to find out what it's like

to fly in and out of Mount Isa.

-G'day, Mark.


-How you going?

-Very well, and yourself?

Yeah, really, really good.

Mate, what's it like working for

an iconic institution like the Royal Flying Doctors?

Best job in the world.

PETE: How big is this area that you look after?

MARK: About 500,000 square kilometres.

-That's a big office.

-A big office. A great office.

-Have you seen every corner of it?

-Absolutely not.

What's it like flying into Mount Isa, then?

MARK: It's a great place, great environment to fly in

and very good weather for flying.

It's often clear. Winter is just brilliant.

This is a great time of year - it's nice and cool,

aircraft perform well, not too much turbulence.

Coming into summer, it's a bit different, of course.

What would be your advice to pilots

flying into Mount Isa for the first time?

MARK: Read your ERSA.

Regional airports are generally not complicated.

The thing you do have to remember is that regional airports have

a very large cross-section of aircraft operating out of them.

Here at Mount Isa we have people coming and going from properties

in their various types of aircraft,

jet traffic to and from the cities,

mining charters coming and going in jets and high-capacity turboprops,

us, obviously.

So there's a fairly broad mixture.

It really pays to get across what's happening in the area

on the radio

well before you get there

so it gives you a good mental picture,

a good situational awareness, of what you're going into.

Good radio work is absolutely essential, especially out here

where we don't have air traffic control and radar.

It's really important that you do listen to your radios,

you understand what frequencies you're on,

you understand how the CTAFs work.

Ask a question if you don't know, because nobody's going to get excited

about somebody asking a question.

They will get excited about

coming across an aircraft they weren't expecting.

What are some of the challenges you see?

Typically, if we're going into a remote location -

a station property or a mine site -

we always have a talk to those folks before we go there

so we've got a really good idea of what we're going into.

And if it doesn't meet the minimum criteria, then we just don't go.

What's your fatigue management strategy?

We've got a fairly proactive fatigue management strategy.

The rosters are designed around

the latest thinking in fatigue management.

We don't have multiple night shifts in a row.

And we have a matrix or a system for assessing

the fatigue risk on every case

to ensure that we're not pushing the margins in that direction.

Now, the Royal Flying Doctor Service is not immune to tragedy.

How has that flowed through the procedures you guys now use

in terms of your decision-making?

MARK: A couple of ways we manage it.

One is that pilots don't know what we're going to.

All we know is we're going to point A to get an adult patient

to go to point B

and it's either safe or it's not.

If it's not safe, we don't do it.

And that level of safety doesn't change

on the basis of the patient's condition.

Well, as far as aviation adventures go,

today is right up there with about as good as it gets.

We're leaving the mining town of Mount Isa

and we are flying 306 nautical miles

up to Karumba.

But before we go, Catherine's been asked to undergo

an alcohol and other drugs test.

So just waiting for the all-clear

and then we are ready to go.

We've just left Mount Isa heading for Karumba.

This is going to be one good day's flying.

We're going to touch down briefly at Burketown.

And we have one good day of flying ahead!

Oh, oh! Look at that!

No way!

CATHERINE: Yep. Don't tell the others, they'll all want one.

PETE: A mine just on the outskirts of Mount Isa.

And they've just taken this down halfway to China.

That is a really deep hole.

CATHERINE: OK, so we've got Burketown.

So tell me everything I need to know about it.

PETE: OK, so Burketown has an elevation of 21.

-Very flat.


-It is run by Burke Shire Council.


Burketown is an isolated town located in the Gulf of Carpentaria

in far north-western Queensland.

We're going to make a quick stop here to change our camera batteries.

As you can see from the footage, we have GoPro cameras

attached to the wing, strut and tail of our aircraft.

Anything attached to an aircraft must have an engineering order

that is approved by CASA.

Nothing last-minute about this.

Our paperwork was organised months before we even left.

There it is - the Gulf of Carpentaria's just come into view.

Just! (LAUGHS)

If you're coming anywhere near the Gulf of Carpentaria,

you have to check out Karumba.

Crocs, crabs, barra - it's got it all here.

But it is a sleepy town,

so it's not to trick you into complacency

when you're coming into the airstrip.

There's a fair bit of air traffic.

You've got your mining charter flights, your fly-in fly-outs.

You've also got your heli joy-flights as well in the area.

The other thing about Karumba is that this place is frequented by

one-third of Australia's waterbirds.

So there's a high possibility of bird strike when you are coming in here.

So you need to be on your game,

but definitely worth coming to check out Karumba.

Karumba is located in the Gulf of Carpentaria.

It's where the outback meets the sea

and it's the only town along the Gulf of Carpentaria

that's in sight of the Gulf itself.

The town's economy revolves largely around fishing

and the Century zinc mine.

In the late '30s, the town was a refuelling and maintenance stop

for the Empire flying boats of the Qantas Empire Airways.

The Gulf of Carpentaria is also host to the Morning Glory.

It's a roll cloud.

It's a season event that happens between September and October.

The clouds move in from the Gulf around sunrise

at approximately 60km/h.

As the roll cloud moves through the atmosphere,

the air in front of the cloud is pushed up and over the cloud.

It's becoming a bucket list for glider pilots

who soar at pretty significant heights

around, above and in front of this amazing cloud.

In fact, it's becoming a drawcard for any pilot

who just want to see this natural occurrence

with their very own eyes.

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