Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Coffin Run

I know i said i would write about the Tennant Creek flights and i still will. Its a work in progress with lots of photos and things to say. But today i had an interesting flight which i thought i would write about first. It was actually 2 charters merged into the one flight. Firstly, I was to fly a coffin down to Ayers Rock for a burial in one of the communities near Yulara. (Yulara is the name of the Aboriginal community at Ayers Rock.) I then had to cool my heels in the airport terminal for 2 hours and then fly to a community called Fregon to pick up 2 Aboriginal kids who were flying to Alice Springs for school.

So i departed bright and early after loading the coffin. To load the coffin you have to remove the door of the C210. Quite an easy task, although a little bit fiddly. However, once you know what to do its easy. The coffin was quite heavy and took 4 or 5 of us to get it in there. To load the coffin we must remove all the seats (except the pilots) and fold the back seats down. We then put a milk crate on the floor where the front passenger seat usually is, and the coffin sits quite nicely down the length of the fuselage. The pictures above and below give you an idea of how its loaded.

A lot of people dont like doing the coffin runs. Personally it doesnt bother me, and although it may sound disrespectful, it becomes a fairly good armrest inflight. The C210 doesnt have much room as you can see in the photos, so really its inevitable. If you think flying coffins is bad, one of my work colleagues had to fly a body in just a body bag. That would probably gross me out.

Nonetheless, i departed on time and it was a smooth morning with winds from the Northeast. Being in one of the faster C210's i arrived at Ayers Rock in just over an hour. When i got to the airport, there was already a car waiting with 5 dudes to help me unload it. Its definately nice when things actually goto plan. The worst part about my job at the moment is due to the heat and regular rain, which has made the insects and flies unbelievable. And for some reason at any aerodrome i visit they are tenfold.

But whatever, back to it! After unloading the coffin i walked to the terminal to relax, bought a coffee from the kiosk and read my book till mid-morning. I snapped a photo of the terminal from the inside. Provides a good view of the ramp. Ayers rock only gets Qantaslink 717's and Qantas 737's. The only other movements are general aviation, and thats usually only for refuelling.

At around 11am, i departed the rock and headed to Fregon. It was about 45 minutes for this flight. There was already a passenger waiting for me when i arrived which was good. After being told that the other student wasnt coming, i had the engine started and began to taxi back to the runway. However just as i was turning around to backtrack, i saw a car come screaming at me. The other student arrived just in time. We do a lot of these charters around the place and its not uncommon to wait on the ground for non-existant passengers. For example, sometimes we get charters to pick up 19 children and only 3 will turn up. Its such a waste of money when 2 cheiftans and 2 C210's show up for 3 kids. Although flying the return leg home empty is always nice.

I snapped this picture of Ayers Rock as i departed. Its pretty rare to be able to fly as close as this. But today there was no traffic at all on my departure.

After having both students in their seats, i took off back for Alice Springs. It was a very bumpy ride, and i ended up going to flightlevels to get above some of the thermal acitivity. It was possibly the most bumpy ride i can remember having in a light aircraft. Lucky for me the students had strong stomachs and didnt make me clean unwanted mess off the floor!!

Thanks for reading. I will complete my Tennant Creek posting soon and write about other recent charters.

Although not taken on todays flight, this is a picture of a 717 landing in Ayers Rock. Was taken at the rwy 13 holding point. Good looking aeroplane.


  1. Mike: enjoyed the pictures and commentary. Never been to Aus, and all I know of it are the big cities and the Outback in between. I will check-in periodically to keep track of your adventures, you lucky bugger!

  2. At least the folks in the coffins don't complain about the ride!


  3. Hi len!

    Thanks for reading! yeh, although the aboriginals dont complain either usually. I try to be polite as possible, but sometimes its hard, especially when they leave the plane trashed.

    MC! Thanks for reading! I will try update the blog more this weekend

  4. Gostei muito do seu blog, leio regularmente.

    (I really enjoy your blog, use to read regularly. Congratulations!)

    Fábio from Brazil