diabetes world flight

- Aim
"To be the first pilot with Type 1 Diabetes
to fly around the world in a light aircraft and raise money for diabetes research".
- Douglas Cairns

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Flight Diary

30th January 2003
Arrival in Hawaii
DWF arrived in Hilo, Hawaii, on Thursday 30 January, after a 7-hour flight from Christmas Island (please see details below), and a quick flight was made to Honolulu on 31 January. Up to 10 days are anticipated in Hawaii, allowing time for aircraft maintenance prior to the 2000-mile flight to California. DWF will also be joined by Dave and Lori Geiger from Omaha, and Brian, Douglas’ instructor in Omaha last summer.

On a truly major and exciting note, Maria will join Ty, DWF’s safety pilot, in Honolulu where they will marry next week!! All DWF’s very best wishes go to Ty and Maria for their wedding and future life together!

Indeed, many thanks go to Ty for his safety pilot duties over the past three and a half months, which have been very much appreciated. It really is a major feat for a pilot, let alone an instructor, to sit in the co-pilot's seat and effectively "do nothing" for so long. Hats off to Ty!

30th January 2003
Flight to Hawaii
It was good to see that conditions had cleared from the night before with only occasional showers passing by. Given the lack of telephone, television and internet, it was impossible to gain an updated route forecast to Hawaii. However, access to www.wunderground.com on Samoa two days earlier had given a long-term forecast of clear weather. Also, prior to takeoff, it was possible to listen to an half-hourly HF radio broadcast of Honolulu’s Terminal Aerodrome Forecast which confirmed fair weather for arrival. Good!

Soon after takeoff, a disturbing discovery was made. The left-hand main tank read half-full, a “loss” of 40 gallons, which was extremely odd and somewhat unnerving given the long 1160-mile flight. No visual fuel leak could be detected, so the cause may have been a faulty fuel gauge or possibly some “settling” of fuel in the main fuel tank cells (bags contained within the wing). However, such a large loss was unlikely. Still concerned about the possibility of running low on fuel, a worst-case recalculation of fuel was made which confirmed sufficient for Honolulu, but not much to spare. Indeed, if strong headwinds were encountered, fuel could become marginal. A contingency plan was therefore made to land 85 miles short at Hilo on the “big island” of Hawaii. As it turned out, half an hour later when San Francisco Radio gave “IFR clearance” over HF radio (a flight plan for today’s flight had been filed two days earlier in Samoa), DWF was re-routed to a point just south of Hilo. This resulted in a 120-mile detour, and with headwinds building, it was an easy decision to land short at Hilo.

From 90 miles south of Hawaii Island, the huge mass of Mona Loa volcano (13,679 feet high) was visible above clouds, and after a quick detour around local showers, a visual approach was made into Hilo Airport. Thereafter another “challenging” arrival presented itself! Some days earlier, paperwork requirements had been checked for US arrival and it was understood that forms just needed to be completed after landing. Wrong!! Hilo Customs duly informed DWF that it was subject to a US$5,000 fine as 24 hours prior written notice had not been given. Explanations were given and fortunately a formal “warning” was given plus an assurance made by Douglas that this would not happen again! (Understandably, this was much appreciated.)

It was good to complete the two long flights from Samoa over water to Hawaii - 2,388 miles in total.

29th – 30th January 2003
Christmas Island, Kiribati
There are a number of countries worldwide where diabetes medication can be difficult to obtain and/or patients find medication difficult to afford. This includes Kiribati territory in the Pacific, and it was good to take supplies of insulin, needles and blood testing kits from “Insulin For Life” charity in Melbourne to donate to Christmas Island’s Health Centre

On 30 January, a half-hour journey was made to London, the main settlement in Christmas, to meet Dr. Eritane Kamatie, District Medical Officer. While the Kiribati government covers the cost of medication, stock levels can be low and some medicines have to be rationed. The island had run out of soluble (quick acting) insulin and there were only two blood testing kits for Christmas Island and two nearby islands with a combined total population of 8,000. Dr. Kamatie was very grateful indeed to "Insulin For Life" for the donated supplies. (Indeed, there are people in developed nations who don't know just how lucky they are!)

In the afternoon the aircraft was refueled using (rusty!) 200-litre drums and a manual pump. The main tanks took more than expected so an additional trip had to be made to London for an extra drum. Refueling therefore took three hours, but time was plentiful and the atmosphere relaxed. Kiribati uses Australian Dollars as currency, but a combination of Australian and US dollars was accepted as cash payment for the fuel.

Christmas Island is remote at over 1,000 miles from the nearest large island, and oddly, it was back over the dateline from Samoa (i.e. a day ahead) despite being further east. There was neither a television nor a telephone in the hotel (the hotel used a radio transmitter/receiver to communicate with other islanders), and indeed, there are very few means of communication on the island. Christmas is government-owned and run, and is effectively a huge coconut plantation after trees were planted around 40 years ago. A large lagoon teems with fish life and several American fishing enthusiasts were staying at the island’s only hotel (basic but comfortable) on package holidays.

Kiribati territory was British until 1969, and in the late 50s and early 60s, Christmas Island was used for nuclear (airburst) bomb tests. At the hotel it was fascinating to meet Dennis Ellam, a journalist with UK’s Sunday Mirror newspaper, and Brian Cassey, a freelance photographer, both of whom were covering a story on nuclear bomb testing.

DWF stayed on Christmas Island for two nights and one day. The night before departure saw a storm passing over the island which caused concern for the aircraft standing out in the open, and for the following day’s departure for Hawaii. However, by 3 a.m. the weather (and wind) had subsided, allowing a solid four-hour sleep before departure.

28th January 2003
Flight from Samoa to Christmas Island, Kiribati (1288 miles)
Another “interesting” and this time, thought-provoking arrival…..

Despite spending several hours contacting the Kiribati Aviation Authority and Christmas Island’s police office the day before, DWF could not be 100% certain that the island’s Flight Service Officer was aware of DWF’s early arrival and that the airport would be manned. There had apparently been “difficulty” with the island’s telephones for some time. However, the Aviation Authority (based on Kiribati’s capital island of Tarawa, 1500 miles west of Christmas Island) said it would try to make contact, and Christmas Island’s police office was asked to pass the message on.

A takeoff deadline of 0930 local time was set from Faleolo Airport, in order to ensure arrival 40 minutes before dark for the estimated 7.6 hour flight, just in case the airport was unmanned and therefore runway lights unavailable. After 1.5 hours of airport formalities and refueling, take-off was at 0925, acceptable, but a bit close! Apia’s Met Office had been visited at 6.30 a.m. where accurate “winds aloft” and en-route forecasts were given for the first 1100 miles. It was a bit discomforting, however, that a formal Terminal Aerodrome Forecast was not available for Christmas Island, and that the last 200 miles were forecast from satellite imagery only. However, the Met Office staff assured DWF that clear conditions would prevail for arrival on Christmas Island.

Takeoff was into the northerly edge of a cyclone system, and the first two hours were spent dodging some heavy build-ups. Thereafter, clear conditions prevailed as per the forecast. The ferry tanks (installed in place of the four rear seats) were used for this long flight, allowing an extra 125 gallons for extended range. All had been going fine until just 40 miles from Christmas Island, when low cloud and heavy rainstorms were encountered - contrary to the forecast! Also, contact with the Flight Service Officer/Air Traffic Control had not been possible, confirming fears that the early arrival message had not got through.

This was the thought-provoking stage. It was now impossible to gain a local altimeter setting for accurate altitude readings during the instrument approach in poor weather, and no runway lights would be available should weather force a couple of “missed approaches” into darkness. A conservative (low) altimeter setting was therefore dialed into the altimeter to prevent going dangerously low in cloud, and the GPS 08 approach initiated having earlier been “cleared to Christmas Island Airport” by San Francisco (HF) Radio. On final approach the aircraft was still in thick cloud at 700 feet, but a brief break allowed visual contact with the runway six miles ahead under the cloud base. Relief! DWF therefore descended below the clouds ahead and maintained visual contact with the runway for landing. It was only too noticeable that the cloud ceiling was around 400 feet, the same as the “minimum descent altitude”. Had a break in clouds not existed, a missed approach may have been necessary - not an attractive prospect just 30 minutes from sunset and with no runway lights!

At one stage during the instrument approach, a joke was made that the Flight Officer and customs may hear the aircraft overhead and come out to the airport. Indeed, this is exactly what happened! Soon after landing at the small and deserted airport, a motorbike rode up with Sam, the bare-topped Air Traffic Controller, sitting astride. He apologized for not being in the Air Traffic Control Tower for arrival and explained that he was expecting DWF the following day. No problem! DWF had arrived safely, and that’s all that counts!!

Christmas Island really is a remote spot! Just 5,000 people live on the island, the highest point of which is only 15 feet above sea level. There is also just one place for visitors to stay – Captain Cook Hotel. It was good to check in here and enjoy a couple of beers!

22nd–28th January 2003
Samoa definitely has an easy-going pace of life. Nobody’s in a rush, and if you are in a hurry yourself, people look at you with a quizzical expression!

On the first day a visit was made to the author Robert Louis Stevenson’s house in which he lived from 1890 until his death in 1894. A hike was made up to his gravesite which is located on a tranquil hilltop overlooking Apia and the Pacific Ocean. Suffering from tuberculosis, one can see why he wanted to live his days out in Samoa’s warm climate and his stunning house and grounds.

On the second day, a meeting was held with Dr. Satu Viali, the Consultant in charge of the diabetes clinic at Apia’s only hospital, plus Asomahiu Tupuala, the clinic’s Nurse Manager. It was an informative visit. A survey of Samoa’s population in 1978 showed diabetes incidence at 6% while a survey in 1991 showed a near doubling to 11.5%. Another survey in 2002 is likely to yield significantly higher figures. Increased incidence of (Type 2) diabetes has coincided with a developing economy i.e. urban migration, sedentary jobs and lifestyle, mechanized transport (instead of walking) and richer diets leading to overweightness and obesity (and in turn higher risk of Type 2 diabetes). There were only 20 cases of diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes in the whole of (Independent) Samoa. This is only 0.1% of people with diabetes and is one of the lowest ratios worldwide - it is normally somewhere between 3 – 5%.

Dr. Satu estimated that over 75% adults were overweight (probably 50% classified as obese) and explained that cultural issues play an important role with this problem. Older people generally “take it easier” and apart from young people playing rugby and soccer, exercise is unpopular. (In fact, Afamasaga Toleafoa, the slim 57-year old editor of Samoa Observer had been told he was a “disgrace” to the older generation as he takes regular exercise including squash!) Society is sociable and also communal, and with frequent visiting come large offerings of food. It is rude to refuse food, and people overeat. Also, people with diabetes are often concerned about the stigma of refusing food, so accept and find regulating diet and weight difficult.

As in Fiji, there were no dialysis machines on Samoa. However, the government supports medication and also pays for kidney disease patients to fly to New Zealand or Australia for operations to establish peritoneal dialysis (flushing within the stomach wall). Many thanks indeed go to Dr. Satu and Asomahiu Tupuala for this informative and fascinating meeting during their busy schedule.

On the second last day in Apia, DWF learned that a cyclone was forecast to pass within 200 miles of Samoa. It was therefore decided to head north to Christmas Island earlier than planned and miss out Pago Pago on US Samoa.

23rd & 22nd January 2003
Flight to Samoa
DWF arrived at Nausori Aiprort at 8 a.m. to find that customs and immigration had not yet been informed of departure, and that the Met office had also forgotten to obtain a weather forecast. However, no worries - there was plenty of time for today’s 600-mile flight to Samoa. Two hours later, N30TB was refueled and ready to go, and many thanks go to the airport and Air Traffic Control (ATC) staff who helped DWF on its way.

Take-off was straight into a heavy rainstorm and plenty of turbulence. During the first hour the weather radar screen was monitored to avoid the worst of the storms, and with intermittent radio “crackles” signaling proximity of lightning, the No. 2 radio & navigation aids and No. 2 GPS were switched off in case of a strike (which can knock out operating avionics equipment). Conditions then began to clear after which towering cumulus clouds could be seen forming in the distance but dissipating before developing into thunderstorms – beautiful.

Approaching Faleolo Airport on Independent Samoa, ATC instructed DWF to follow the “ABM MITI” arrival procedure, which strangely did not appear on the primary GPS database. However, it was possible to punch in waypoint co-ordinates from the Jeppesen Charts, after which the arrival was made with views over volcanic Savai’i Island to the north.

Faleolo was another “interesting” arrival for DWF! After paying landing and parking fees at the aircraft, and arranging for refueling the following week, it was discovered that customs and immigration had gone home between shifts at 4 p.m. Not wishing for an illegal entry (it would have been possible to walk straight through the airport building), attempts were made to find a customs and immigration telephone number in Apia, the capital city. However, nobody seemed able to help. Even Polynesian Airlines seemed hostile in its initial reception, stating that DWF should have given them prior notice of arrival, and by the way, this would cost US$250 for the privilege! The office manager then did a good “wind-up” by claiming there was no Apia customs and immigration telephone number, and the next airport shift would be eight hours later at midnight. Nice one! Well, after some further discussion, Polynesian Airlines proved to be extremely helpful, ringing Apia customs and immigration, and taking possession of arrival forms and passports for DWF to collect in Apia the following day. Polynesian Airlines, thank you very much for your help after all!

Faleolo Airport is 23 km from Apia where Edward at Aggie Grey’s Hotel kindly supported special rates for DWF (for which many thanks). The taxi driver gave a running commentary of life in Samoa. Indeed, pace of life is relaxed and friendly. Many open “fale” (open-sided buildings) were passed, plus numerous pigs and chickens running free by the roadside.

DWF took off from Fiji on 23rd January and crossed the International Date Line to arrive in Samoa on 22nd January. Five days are anticipated in Samoa after which flights are planned to Pago Pago (US Samoa) on 28th January, Christmas Island in Kiribati on 29th January (a 1260-mile flight), and Hawaii on 1st February.

18th – 23rd January 2003
Fiji is well known for its blissful island resorts, accessible from Nadi International Airport on the west of Viti Levu Island. Fiji, along with several other Pacific islands, is also known for cyclones at this time of year, and on Monday 13th January, Cyclone Ami ravaged Vanua Island to the northeast of Nadi. Radio appeals were still being broadcast to assist cyclone victims, particularly in Labasa which suffered devastating damage (the costs of which were estimated at F$380,000).

Suva, Fiji’s capital city on the east of Viti Levu, can be different to many people’s expectations. The nations’ population comprises 42% Indians with the rest predominantly (indigenous) Fijians. The nation's population is focused in the capital city where two political coups have been seen. Since the first coup in 1987, shop fronts have had wire mesh protection fitted over windows at closing times. George Speight led another (strange) coup in 2000. However, since 1987, Indian emigration has gained momentum and it is estimated that Indians will reduce to 35% of population within the next few years. This net emigration does not bode well for Fiji’s business community and economy. However, incoming tourism is growing strongly, particularly from Australia since the bomb blast in Bali last October.

While in Suva, Douglas met with Dr. Maximilian de Courten, the World Health Organization’s Pacific Region Medical Officer, Noncommunicable Diseases, and many thanks go to Max and also Tai for their time, and help in contacting people in Fiji. Meetings were also held with Ashok Patel, an extremely hard-working and inspirational man who holds the Medal of the Order of Fiji (equivalent of the British MBE) for his service to the community. Ashok runs an import-export business and dedicates his life to social work, sitting on the boards of eight different charities/foundations, including the Fiji Lions (fund raising) organization, and the Fiji National Diabetic Foundation. It is estimated that nearly 20% of Fiji’s population has diabetes, an extremely high figure, and recently an awareness campaign supported by the National Diabetic Foundation resulted in 30% of 10,000 who took blood tests being diagnosed. A visit was made to the Fiji Diabetes Centre which employs Dr. Kado plus five staff, and on average receives 10 patients a day. Many thanks indeed go to Ashok who hosted Douglas and arranged television and press interviews while working hard to gather and distribute vital supplies for Cyclone Ami victims in Labasa.

One striking fact learned in Fiji was the lack of dialysis machines across the islands. If kidney failure is suffered (one of several long-term diabetes health risks), a person either needs to find US$50,000 for a kidney transplant abroad, or faces death.

18th January 2003
Flight to Fiji
A quick VFR (visual) flight was made from Magenta to Tontouta to clear New Caledonia customs and immigration. After departing Tontouta, DWF headed north east, crossing cloud-covered mountains, after which it was a predominantly clear route to Nadi, Fiji, with mirror-calm Pacific waters below and visibility of over 150 miles (timing the distance to clouds on the horizon). Communication began successfully on long-range HF radio but after the first hour DWF lost touch with “Nadi Radio” and continued without contact with anyone for almost two hours. Fiji’s Viti Levu Island was visible from 40 miles away as DWF passed over a number of coral-fringed islands for a visual approach onto Nadi's runway 20. On disembarking, a handling fee US$500 was quoted and it was a relief to agree self-handling (“handling” refers to assistance with customs and immigration formalities, paying landing and navigation fees, and filing onward flight plans). On approaching passport control, however, a demand was made for written arrival authority which DWF did not have. Indeed, DWF had entered Fiji illegally!

A quick phone call to Paul in the UK (5 a.m. local time!) at Overflight Ltd., DWF’s clearance agent, confirmed that a fax requesting authority had been transmitted successfully on 9th January. However, there was still no sign of documentation in Fiji. Fortunately the airport duty officer, Vula Cabemaiwasa, rang some senior Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation officials and sorted everything out within two hours - for which many thanks indeed!

One stipulation of the on-the-spot authority was that DWF aircraft had to be searched for anything suspicious inside. After this was carried out, a short 35-minute flight was made to Nausori Airport near Fiji’s capital city of Suva. This was one of the busiest and most enjoyable instrument flights so far. Several course changes were given en-route - Fiji has no radar service so navigation beacon radial and distance information was frequently requested by Air Traffic Control, with new directions given to remain clear of other aircraft. With cloud covering Nausori, a fast let-down through cloud was made into darkness below for Runway 28’s “VOR/DME” instrument approach. On shutting down engines, a burly security guard approached the aircraft and demanded an explanation as to what DWF was doing at the airport! There had been no prior notification of arrival. However a quick call to Vula clarified everything – for which many thanks again.

12th – 18th January 2003
New Caledonia
Overall, New Caledonia was extremely enjoyable, with a friendly and helpful atmosphere, and the main island possessing stunning mountain, beach and coral reef scenery (please see “Flight Around New Caledonia, 15th January” details). The hotel was situated beside Ansa Vata beach and just 1 km away some R&R was enjoyed on an idyllic island called Ilot Aux Canards - Duck

On arrival on 12th January, DWF was lucky to be met by Yannick Bonnace who works at Magenta Aeroclub. Yannick helped DWF prepare for the memorable flight around New Caledonia on 15th January which joined Dr. Jean-Michel Tivollier in Koumac, and also made the stay at Magenta Airport very easy, for which many thanks again! On Friday 17th January, Yannick also flew Douglas and Ty in a Cessna 182 to the beautiful Ile des Pins (French for “Island of Pines”), 30 miles east of the main La Grande Terre island, where a car battery was being delivered. A number of rain showers were dodged on the outward and return flights. Ile des Pines is sometimes referred to as the “Jewel of the Pacific” and gained its name from James Cook in 1774 who noted the araucaria pine trees ringing the shoreline. Stunning coral reef, azure lagoon waters, and several white sandy beaches surround the island. It also has interesting colonial history, and during a quick drive with Yannick and Olivier, a visit was made to the ruins of convict settlements used for “Communard” political prisoners from France in the late 1800s. DWF also met Stan and Francois, Air Traffic Controllers at the Ile des Pines “Tower”. Stan and Francois control the six + commercial flights a day – not a bad place to work when there are a few hours off between the morning and afternoon flights!

Early in the week Douglas met Dr. Dominique Megraoua at the Centre d’education diabetique et dietetique. The Diabetes Association in New Caledonia recently ceased to operate and the Centre d’education, which employs four staff, takes responsibility for educating and preparing those newly diagnosed with diabetes. On average seven people are sent each week by the Gaston Bourret Hospital and family doctors in Noumea (which has a population of 76,000). It was interesting to note that a survey of diabetes in New Caledonia completed in 1993 outlined that rural incidence was considerably less than urban, while Melanesians (or Kanaks, who comprise 44% of total population), Wallisians and Tahitians suffered much higher incidence in urban environs than Europeans (mainly French descendants).

15th January 2003
Flight Around New Caledonia
What a tremendous day! Dr. Jean-Michel Tivollier invited DWF to fly up to Koumac in the far north of the main island (La Grande Terre) to visit a renal unit run by ATIR (Association pour la prevention et la traitement de L’Insuffisance Renale). Jean Michel has an enviable combination of work and pleasure. Once a week he hires a Noumea Magenta Aero Club aircraft and flies with other medical staff to remote spots to spend time at renal units where patients undergo dialysis, 30% of whom have diabetes. Soon after Jean Michel took off in his single-engine Tobago, Douglas and Ty followed in the DWF aircraft. The scenery along the western flank of La Grande Terre was beautiful, with azure blue lagoon waters and fringing reef contrasting vividly against green inland mountains. New Caledonia gained its name from James Cook in 1774 when he saw the similarity between the island’s mountains and those of the Scottish Caledonian Highlands. (Have to admit though, the Scottish Highlands are missing a few tropical offshore islands, coral reef and 28 degree C waters!). The fringing reef around the main cigar-shaped island of La Grande Terre runs for over 1,140 km creating a stunning 23,500 km2 of blue lagoon waters.

About two-thirds along the coast, DWF passed over “Le Coeur de Voh”, a perfect heart-shaped outline in natural vegetation – quite amazing! Approaching Koumac at the northwest end of the island, 160 miles from Noumea, DWF passed by some huge mountaintop open-cast nickel mines. New Caledonia’s economy focuses on mining and metallurgy, nickel mining and smelting accounting for the bulk of economic output and foreign earnings. The result of this is that large mountain-top areas are stripped bare and seen from many miles away.

About five miles from Koumac, Jean Michel was on the radio to find out where DWF was, and as it turned out, both aircraft landed within a couple of minutes of each other. A visit was then made to the Koumac renal unit where four patients were undergoing dialysis, one of whom had Type 2 Diabetes. The cost per person per annum for dialysis is US$50,000. This figure is based on operating costs of dialysis three times a week per person, equipment depreciation, personnel requirements, and the building lease. Fortunately in New Caledonia government funds plus insurance cover these costs. It is a sobering fact that New Caledonia is one of few Pacific islands which offers inhabitants dialysis facilities.

Before the returning to Koumac Airport, a quick drive was enjoyed in the renal unit car to Malabou Beach, almost at the very northern tip of the island. Soon after takeoff for the return trip, DWF was skirting beautiful eastern flank coastal mountains at 1,500 feet. Right under Mont Panie, the highest mountain, (5,341 feet), some waterfalls cascade down sheer rock faces, and with a background of blue lagoon waters and tiny (blissful) tropical islands, the whole environment was truly stunning. Overall it was one of the most memorable flights for DWF, skirting hillsides, exploring remote valleys, passing over tropical islands and beachside resorts, and flying over large tracts of uninhabited land with natural vegetation. Some more nickel mining complexes were passed on high ground before heading south back across to the western flank and to Noumea.

Many thanks indeed go to Dr. Jean-Michel Tivollier who invited DWF to join him at Koumac and whose tremendous hospitality was much appreciated. Thanks also to Yannick Bonnace who very kindly lent DWF visual flying maps and explained how local procedures worked. Some airports have air traffic control for morning and afternoon commercial flights and sometimes non-French speaking aircrew are advised against flying there in case of mid-air misunderstandings. It was indeed good to be forearmed with such knowledge and avoid certain airfields as DWF flew around New Caledonia (even though the “o” level school French comes in handy at times!).

12th January 2003
Flight to New Caledonia

Today’s flight was a straight 784-mile line from Brisbane to Noumea Tontouta Airport, followed by a short “visual” flight 20 miles southeast to Noumea Magenta Airport. It was a pleasure to see Rab, Susie and Rebecca at the Brisbane International Airport prior to takeoff – thanks for coming! Conditions were clear throughout the flight although a little excitement was experienced after switching fuel tanks approaching Tontouta, when the left engine misbehaved fleetingly. (On throttling back, all returned to normal.) Tontouta sits in a valley with tall mountains to the north, an attractive backdrop for landing. Customs and immigration were particularly efficient, and in no time at all, DWF was on its way to Magenta Airport. An "interesting" set of radio communication misunderstandings followed. DWF crew could not understand the French-accented Air Traffic Control (ATC) instructions and meantime, ATC could not understand Douglas’ Scottish accent! However, procedures were spelled out slowly and ATC were very helpful with landing directions. (It's good to see that "The Auld Alliance" between France and Scotland still stands!) Once again, it was tremendous to be met at Magenta airport, this time by Yannick Bonnace, who knows Bill Finlen in Brisbane. Yannick has been incredibly helpful and hospitable to DWF while in Noumea, for which many thanks indeed!

10th - 12th January 2003
Brisbane has a pleasant atmosphere, busy and balanced with good infrastructure. An enjoyable evening was spent with Bill and Jennifer Finlen and their daughter. Bill’s round-the-world flight in his V-tail Bonanza in 2002 was quite a marathon given the short time-frame of seven weeks. There were also several long flights, travelling across Africa and over the Atlantic to Recife in Brazil before heading up to the USA and across the Pacific – an extremely fulfilling experience. Another most enjoyable evening was spent with Rab and Suzie Finnigan and their daughter Rebecca. Rab and Douglas were in the RAF Ski Team together from 1985 to 1989, with Rab being the trainer in the last couple of years. Three of the British Combined Services Ski Team members who skied in Australia now live in Oz, plus another one is in New Zealand. Australia has a pull for many people, the climate and lifestyle being particularly attractive.

10th January 2003
Flight to Gympie
While DWF was in Bangkok, Douglas met the Reverend Dr. Richard Martin of Gympie who subsequently invited DWF to meet the Gympie Diabetes Support Group while in Brisbane. On Saturday 10th January, DWF made the 80-mile trip north over beautiful rolling countryside and semi-tropical vegetation, passing the “Glass House Mountains” (originally named by explorer James Cook after likening the distant glistening sheer rock faces with glasshouses). On approaching Gympie, a quick orbit was made to allow a glider to land, after which a quick low pass ensued to ensure the runway was clear of kangaroos! Thereafter ensued an excellent two hours meeting members of the Gympie Diabetes Support Group and the Gympie Airsports Club who kindly put
on a “Barbie” (BBQ!).

It was a pleasure to shake paws with “Sir Joh”, a dog who has had Type 1 Diabetes for over seven years. Indeed, Sir Joh was the first diabetic dog Douglas had met! Angus and Gem Dutton had some years ago noticed that Sir Joh had lost considerable weight (8 kgs) and soon after became too weak to walk. Suspecting some kind of poisoning, he was taken to the vet where a blood test showed a blood sugar reading of 38 mmol/l, incredibly high! Within 10 minutes of receiving an insulin injection, Sir Joh’s tail wagged for the first time in a while and he then got up and walked again. Sir Joh is a fine cross between a Golden Labrador and Beagle, with the best of both temperaments showing through. The Duttons are dedicated in looking after Sir Joh, and through Sir Joh have been active members of the Gympie Diabetes Support Group for many years.

Many thanks indeed go to everyone who came out to the airport – it was a real pleasure to meet everybody and give a talk about DWF in the Airsport Club hangar. A total of A$190 was raised from the meeting, for which many thanks indeed! This was such a welcome surprise and addition to DWF’s fund raising.

9th January 2003
Flight to Brisbane
Contrary to the previous day’s weather predictions, it was a clear and sunny day, albeit slightly hazy. The Instrument Flight plan was happily discarded and the visual flight plan for 500 feet all the way up the coast to Brisbane was filed. Priot to takeoff, it was a pleasure to meet Aminta Hennessy who with her husband Ray Clamback run a flying school at Bankstown. Aminta and Ray also ferry light aircraft across the Pacific, Aminta having made 20 ferry flights and Ray over 200! Also, many thanks again go to Air BP who refueled DWF at Bankstown, and to Rodney for giving DWF a lift out to the airport.

Soon after takeoff, the “Victor 1” low level flight corridor was followed along the Sydney Heads coastline, passing Bondi Beach and Manly with stunning Harbour views in the background. Thence up to Gosford Bay where DWF thoroughly enjoyed wheeling over Eric and Jacqui Henry’s house, upturned faces and waving arms clear to see! The New South Wales coastline heading north was stunning, with mile after mile of unspoiled beaches stretching away into the distance. Just after Newcastle, a rusting stern section of a huge shipwrecked tanker was seen just off the shoreline. Heading closer to the tropics, the vegetation became increasingly lush as DWF passed Port Macquarie, Coffs Harbour, Ballina, Coolingata and the Gold Coast skyscrapers. On arrival at Archerfield Airport it was a pleasure to be met by Bill Finlen who carried out a round-the-world flight in a V-tail Bonanza last year in just seven weeks.

4th – 9th January 2003
Sydney was another busy, productive and extremely enjoyable few days. A gathering was organised by Don Gillies with Darrell and Mary Jose and Bob Guthrie, part of a north Sydney Diabetes Australia group, at Nancy Bird’s house. Nancy is 87 years old and a fascinating aviation celebrity who flew her own Moth biplane at the age of 19 in outback Australia on barnstorming tours and medical flights before The Royal Flying Doctor Service was established. (Many thanks indeed for your two books Nancy.) Afterwards a meal was enjoyed with Dick and Pip Smith and Dick's Mum at their north Sydney home. Soon after arriving, Dick wheeled his helicopter out of his garage and a most enjoyable flight ensued around Sydney Harbour. It was fascinating to hear Dick’s own round-the-world flights, the first of which Douglas remembers as a television documentary of the first solo helicopter circumnavigation – many thanks for a most enjoyable evening, Dick and Pip.

A quick visit was also made up to Gosford Bay near Woy Woy to see friends Eric and Jacqui Henry. Eric was the manager of the British Services Ski Team when Douglas first came to Australia in 1985, and as ever it was good to catch up. It was also good to see Dave Stretch, plus Morgan and Hannah to whom many thanks go for offering to arrange a fund-raising quiz night for DWF - much appreciated!

Sydney is set around stunning harbour shorelines and during the five-day stay it was a pleasure to jog the streets from Kings Cross to Rushcutters Bay. A quick swim was also enjoyed at Bondi Beach, famous for its “Pommies” Christmas and New Year parties (“Pom” standing for “Prisoners Of Mother England”).

The last evening in Sydney witnessed a stormy “southerly” blowing heavy rains and winds of up to 100 km/hr through city suburbs, uprooting trees and causing damage in areas including Bankstown where N30TB, DWF's aircraft, was sitting. There was some concern for her health but fortunately the next day she was found intact!

3rd January 2003
Flight to Sydney via Cooma, Canberra and Gundaroo,
The first day’s flying for 2003 was extremely enjoyable, comprising four separate flights to reach Sydney. Firstly many thanks to all who came out to Moorabbin Airfield for departure including Channel 9 TV station whose helicopter and camera crew flew alongside DWF for the first 10 minutes of the flight to Cooma Polo Flat. After an hour it was a pleasure to fly over Thredbo ski resort, close to Mt. Kosiusko (Australia’s highest mountain) where Douglas skied with the British Combined Forces Ski Team in 1985, 1988 and 1989 (with many memories coming back!).

Many thanks indeed go to Helen Maxwell-Wright who put DWF in touch with several aviation enthusiasts and celebrities in Australia. The first stop was to visit Michael and Elizabeth App who run a flying school for the disabled at the farmside strip in Cooma, just 50 miles south of Australia’s capital city, Canberra. On this airstrip, Michael and Elizabeth have Angus Cattle and Apalcas grazing on the runway and earlier that morning it had been affirmed that all livestock hazards had been cleared except for the odd dried out cattle dung! A quick low pass was made (to inspect the dunghills) after which a most enjoyable stop was made. The airfield has an accommodation block, modified to offer full disabled facilities. The next flying course is planned for April using low-wing single-engine aircraft (for easier cockpit entry and exit) and hand-control modifications for a range of disabilities including spinal injuries. Several people had come out to greet DWF including Win TV (Regional Channel 9) and Cooma Monaso Express paper, plus Elaine, a hearty 80 year-old pilot in her Airtourer aircraft - many thanks indeed for everyone’s support and enthusiasm. DWF wishes Michael and Elizabeth all the best for future courses – it’s tremendous to see how much achievement and sheer pleasure is derived from disabled flying. Great stuff!

The second flight was just 60 miles to Canberra where Douglas met with Dr. Tak Sham, one of three aviation doctors working with Civil Aviation Safety Authority of Australia (CASA). For the past two years Dr. Sham has been very helpful processing medical licences for Douglas in Australia, and it was good to have the opportunity to meet up and thank him in person. Australia was the first country to introduce licenced flying for people with Type 1 Diabetes as long ago as 1994, albeit with a restriction of a safety pilot (and no requirement to test blood sugars either pre-flight or in-flight). It is very much hoped that data from DWF can help demonstrate the safety and practicality of the US system for those flying with Type 1 Diabetes, and that before long, more countries will allow solo flying on a similar basis.

The third flight was shorter, just 16 miles to Gundaroo, the homestead of Dick Smith, famous Australian businessman and pioneering aviator who has flown five round-the-world adventures, including the world’s first solo helicopter flight. Dick was away at the time and Ben, the farm manager, kindly showed Douglas and Ty around the “Clubhouse” which contained some fascinating history.

The last flight was to Bankstown, Sydney. En-route, the Blue Mountain cliffs and ridgelines were seen in their raw beauty, and approaching the airfield, Sydney’s city skyline and famous Sydney Harbour Bridge stood out clearly in the background. It was good to arrive at Bankstown where DWF parked beside a couple of old DC-3 aircraft. While offloading luggage a Piper Chieftain twin-engine aircraft stopped beside DWF and out climbed Rodney Sundstrom, an instructor with whom Douglas has flown several times in Melbourne. Even though Douglas and Rodney had spoken by telephone the previous day, this was quite a coincidence! Many thanks for the lift into town Rodney!

Overall this was one of the most enjoyable day’s flying for DWF, and many thanks go to Ty for his patience while waiting for Douglas at various times during the day.

29th December – 3rd January 2003
Melbourne was particularly enjoyable, meeting with Dr. Paul Zimmet, Helen Maxwell-Wright and Shirley Murray of International Diabetes Institute that combines cutting edge research with Diabetes healthcare (clinics). One particular research project is studying bacteria found in potatoes and its possible causal factor for Type 1 Diabetes in western nations. IDI carries out considerable research used by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and has much experience in the Pacific region. The enthusiasm for the Insitute, founded by Professor Paul Zimmett, and the network of contacts is impressive and many thanks indeed go to Paul, Helen and Shirley for their support for DWF. Douglas also meet with Ron Raab and Neil of Insulin for Life, a charity which receives donations of insulin which are then distributed to Disaster Relief Areas and an established network which helps people in countries who cannot afford to pay for insulin supplies. Some containers of insulin and blood testing kit were received by DWF to take to Kiribati, a tiny island nation in the mid-Pacific, and the last stop before DWF reaches Hawaii. Ron, who has Type 1 Diabetes, is a Vice President of the International Diabetes Federation, and follows a diet low in carbohydrate formulated by Dr. Bernstein of New York. Dr. Bernstein, who also has Type 1 Diabetes, adopted this diet in order to improve sugar control, and a number of people now follow the diet and claim significantly improved blood sugar control, trimmed weight and improved health.

Another most enjoyable aspect of Melbourne for Douglas was meeting with six out of an old “gang” of seven friends who used to live in Bangkok - a very welcome coincidence! Many thanks Julie, Hugh and Ashlyn for your hospitality, and also great to see you Liz, Steve, Noirin, Hugh and Rupert, and Simone!

Headline News 2003!
Many congratulations to Lisa and Mike Frost on young Joe’s arrival on 1st January! Lisa is the webmaster for this website and is valiantly continuing with DWF updates! More Latest News on flights around Australia will be posted over the next few days...


Latest news for the month of December

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