At Lakeland Downs
On Monday July 27th., 1998 Chrysalis Drama Team departed Normanton in the Gulf of Carpenteria in northern Australia at 6:20AM, it was still dark, we were worried that some of the grazing Roo's might run across the strip as we took off, but that was not a problem , so we were off on a very pleasant VFR flight to Lakeland Downs on Australia's Cape York Peninsula.
Weather briefings indicated no weather problems. The team were all eager for the start of a full, and hectic week entertaining the kids on Cape York Peninsular with gospel plays and drama. They had warmed up at two overnight stays on the long trip up, Longreach and Burketown.
The it was a beautiful flight east into the sun rise and we arrived in the circuit Lakeland Downs at ten past eight. The weather was fine, there was no significant cloud and the surface wind was light and variable tending to favour a landing on runway 16. There was no hint that this would be the end of our 9 day trip, not the beginning of day 3 as we expected.
The strip at Lakeland is grass. We entered the circuit down wind for runway 16 and after flying a normal circuit, landed normally, the surface was firm the grass, I estimate its length at 100m to 150m long.
The aircraft slowed normally and we taxied to the southern end of the strip. As we taxied, it was hard to sort out where to park the aircraft, clear of the strip, no one in the plane could see any taxi way marked with cone markers. This is not unusual at strips used mainly by the Doctor ( Australia’s Flying Doctor Service).
The strip is surrounded by long grass, I guess it was from .6 of a meter to over one meter high, the length of the grass made it difficult to see where to park the aircraft.
As we approached the southern end of the runway we saw a wide recently mown strip, roughly at 90deg on our left, leading off the runway, with vehicle wheel tracks running up the right hand side. Found it at last!.
The mown strip ran towards an open hanger, with a Cessna 182 aircraft parked in it. There was a clear area for turning adjacent to the hanger that we could park the aircraft on. So over we motored.
The vehicle wheel tracks were very close to the right hand side of the mown strip. If I taxied with the aircraft wheels on the vehicle wheel tracks, the starboard wing would have been passing through grass over 1 meter high.
So we headed up the middle of the taxi way, and this was to be our undoing because this taxiway had a concealed concrete drain pipe installed for ½ of its width, and a spoon drain for the other ½ of the width.
Of course all the locals know about this, and cause they fly "real airplanes" (with wings on top) they use the road to cross the drain.
We were very fortunate as there were no injuries (except my pride).
The aircraft nose wheel had impacted with the end of a concrete drainage pipe. The impact with the hidden pipe had caused the nose wheel to collapse. The pipe was completely concealed by the grass.
We walked to Lakeland Downs school which had been the original destination for stop number one on a busy 3 school, and 1000 miles flying. Chrysalis drama put on their show as promised then planned how to get home, over 2000 miles away, with no aircraft.
The owner of the 182 Aircraft parked in the hanger arrived at about 11 AM, and asked why we had taxied down the middle, he said all the locals new the drain was there, and they taxied down the vehicle wheel tracks.
Denis told him that our wing would have been in the long grass, he replied that they all had high wing aircraft, so he had not bothered to mow the grass on the southern side of the wheel tracks or considered it a hazard.
That was the end of the 1998 Chrysalis Drama Patrol, but they will be back in 1999, giving their time, money and a week of their holidays to assist the faithful Christians who labour in this area bring the Gospel to those who otherwise may never know.