The trip from Brisbane to Perth nonstop and return three days later, is a crossing of 1948 nm Great Circle Route across Australia. This was a planned, nonstop trip to see our buddy homebuilders in Western Australia for the weekend function. The trip didn't take long but the drama of preparing paper work to satisfy the bureaucrats was something else. To get a permit for a homebuilt 39% overweight, for a 16 hour flight sounded easy. The reply was, "We have never done this before." Nothing is impossible; the Civil Aviation Authority chaps are great guys but are bound by structured rules that are out of date. With a so-called modem aircraft, Long-EZ or, for that matter, anything different - with no engineering justifications; the EZ Flight Manual so conservatively written - things looked bad for any approval. The only way to get anything through is to sit back and wait until you US EZ guys do your thing and get approval on History of Performance, but this is where it starts for us down under.
I must thank Rutan Builder Support for all their time and nonprofit effort to justify overweight Long-EZs that have flown in record breaking attempts with success. After this effort, all this evidence had to be set up properly by an aeronautical engineer and his Statement of Approval was necessary. The tank and fuel system had to be designed; the tank, 9G forward load with 7-1/2 psi pressure test, weighed only 9lbs. Fibreglass/foam panel is amazingly strong. The tank, 49 US gallons, was built in a big hurry. Some glass/foam panel was left over for an oil tank made with 5 minute flox joints. Nothing was built until approval for safety and airworthiness came through the system. The Engineer had to have all the Special Flight Manual Inserts with CAA signatures all over them, and a one square meter drawing of tank and fuel system. It all looked good in the end for a late getaway. As usual. Jean, my son, Glen, and friend crawling all over the Long-EZ for the final inspection/completion.
In the rush, a last minute decision to try the Vortex Generators - this time without approval, fitted on the canard. On the way to the Brisbane Airport, 75nm, I found a cloud to try them in. Believe me, it really worked. No down pitch. I knew then that I might stand a chance for a successful trip. Next morning, raining, of course. After the rush of preparing for this flight, the three hours sleep were welcome. There was no point in expecting a VFR departure 2 hours before light so I waited till first light and saw a couple of holes in the sky - really only good for F18-type aircraft. The rain had eased with low clouds, 1/8-1800 ft.
Out came the TV cameras. Two national channels had been waiting in rain 2 hours but they disappointed. The aircraft, at 1850 lbs. approved maximum take-off weight, flew normally and climbed 500 ft./min. under this cloud cover. Testing the canard and climbing into this spitting heavy cloud for 15 minutes. was fine, "the bloody thing worked, no trim change." Departed on radial, clocked on departure by the Tower, and disappeared into a white, precipitating cloud and never saw the ground for 30 mins.. while climbing a coastal range. The stick pressure did get heavier as it rained, but climbing with this weight, normally my canard would have given up long ago.
Now settled in at 10,000 feet in between stratiform layered clouds, I knew this was about as bad as it would get for this trip. Bearing west for 945 mn, intercepting a couple of NDB stations, went smoothly. The fuel burn was established on the Alcor Fuel Meter and full throttle was acceptable with maximum fuel flow of 22.5 liters/hour (5.9 gal.). The 0-235-L2C maintained 2700 rpm with all engine gauges showing normal and the TAS averaging 150 kts., over and back. Very soon the tree line disappeared, leaving red sand and only an occasional salt lake for direction. At the 945 nm mark, the NDB was working. The average ground speed was now 145 kts. For the 945 nm. The next 757 nm was strictly dead reckoning, 5 hrs. on the new RMI compass, resulting in a track error of 30 or 40 nm off track, acceptable for a homebuilt, plastic aircraft.
The next, and last, 300 nm flight was over a civilised part of the country with a few trees visible and signs of cattle tracks leading to water holes and, soon after, the fields were ploughed. The sun was still high in the sky giving a beautiful reflection in the Indian Ocean. This was one of the highlights of the trip - to experience seeing the Pacific Ocean on departl and then, the Indian Ocean on arrival. This puts it together in a nutshell: it's a long way across this 2000 nm wide, barren continent in a light aircraft, nonstop. The reception was overwhelming with meeting old friends again. The TV didn't miss the landing either.
So now the Long-EZ, "Winglettes" stands taller in the misnamed category "Ultralite". The trip from Perth to Brisbane was much easier to handle and it helps if you go to sleep sometimes. The return flight from Perth started 2 hours before first light and I must say, in Australian terms, "as black as a sheep's gut". When dawn broke, I was 10,000 ft., in stratiform layer clouds with the outline of the coast to the south; a beautiful sunrise mixed with Swan Lake stereo music tickling my excitement made it one of my life's most precious starts for the day. I flew over the South Australian coastline with 700 miles of the whitest and purest beaches fading from green to the deepest blue ocean you'd find anywhere. I have flown this area with Jean at water level; it's beautiful, pure, clean and undisturbed.
This trip was a mixed bag of air with little, if any, tail wind. Density altitude for most of the trip over and back was around 12,500 ft. I used only .5 liters. of oxygen and I'm sure this kept me on the ball. Long range flying is another dimension of flying, if you can lie back as you do in the Long-EZ, you don't get muscle fatigue from sitting, I was amazed. The fourteen hours soon went in excitement. Eventually, the coast came up - Brisbane at 10,000 ft. for a Tower clock timing a final decent to Oakey, 75nm west again, landing in the night. What a private welcome! Jean had the hangar doors open and we had lots to talk about.
BN - PTH - 1948 mn (Great Circle) clocked 13hrs, 41 mins., (heading west) 145.57 kts. av., 24.12 L/hr (6.35 US gal.) - 380 litres fuel useable - 330 litres used - 50 litres remaining.
PTH - BN - 1948 run (Great Circle clocked 13 hrs., 55 mins., (heading east) 140.88 kts. av., 24.43 L/hr. (6.45 US gal.) - 380 litres fuel useable 340 litres used - 40 litres remaining.
Longest distance-2037 nm nonstop for ClB Class,