Tuesday, August 14, 2012

TRIP REPORT - Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet Joyflight - Air Whitsunday Seaplanes - De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver - VH-AWD

TRIP REPORT - Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet Joyflight - Air Whitsunday Seaplanes - De Havilland DHC-2 Beaver - VH-AWD

My wonderful in-laws decided to buy me the ultimate birthday present of a scenic flight with Air Whitsunday Seaplanes, flying over the beautiful Whitsundays region of Queensland.

We had an early morning departure time of 8am. We arrived at the Whitsunsay Airport at Shute Harbour and proceeded into the Air Whitsunday Seaplanes terminal bulding, which is a separate stand-alone building away from the main airport terminal.

Check-in was easy with only the five passengers for this flight being myself, my wife, both mother- and father- in law, and his brother - my wife's uncle who was visiting from interstate.

After a short wait in the comfortable terminal - complete with views over the Airport, and fantastic photos of some historic events and aircraft movements in the Whitsundays - we were met by our pilot for the day, Chad. He informed us that we would be taking our scenic flight today in De Havilland DHC-2FP beaver float plane, VH-AWD, which was parked on the Air Whitsunday apron, along with a pair of their Cessna 208 Caravan float planes.

After receiving our strap-on life jackets, we boarded via the port side just behind the cockpit. We were boarded and seated according to body size, as the five available seats for passenger (including beside the pilot in the cockpit) are of differing sizes and comfort levels.

In the end, it was announced that it was my birthday flight, so had the privilege of riding up front in the cockpit with Chad. The other passengers were squeezed into the small cabin - as shown below.

That said, the cabin seating arrangement and available space was quite ample with no complaints coming from the family!

It was a little squashy for my large frame in the cockpit - however I didn't mind - I was more interesting in studying all the knobs and dials - especially when the Beaver became airborne!

Chad fired up the Pratt & Whitney radial engine, and soon after a couple of engine revs, we taxied away from the terminal area, and backtracked all the way down to the end of the Whitsunday Airport's Runway 14.

Soon after, Chad powered up the Beaver's radial engine and after a very smooth and short take-off roll, we were airborne and heading straight-ahead for Shute Harbour, which we passed pretty much straight over the top of.

A couple of left-hand turns later and we were established on a track that would take us overhead Hill Inlet - which is near the world-famous Whitehaven Beach.

The views all around were very spectacular, with perfect visibility on a lovely winter's morning. Only a couple of clouds to fly through, but overall, some fantastic views.  We maintained a cruising altitude of around 2500 feet with the occasional climb high and decent lower, to take in better views, and to clear some terrain.

Soon, off to the right-hand side, we could see Hamilton Island, with the resort and the airport on the island clearly visible.

Our overall track on today's scenic flight would see us virtually fly a loop out and back towards the Whitsunday Airport, and even though the views I had out to left hand side were quite limited, I would be able to see the sights on the way back.

As we flew toward Hill Inlet, Chad provided some limited commentary, with historical information, as well as general tourist information. I thought it was very informative and a nice touch.

After enjoying some more spectacular views over the Whitsunday Islands, Hill Inlet, and the spectacular white sands of Whitehaven Beach came into view.

To allow all of us to have a good view of these spectacular sights, Chad performed an orbit over Hill Inlet allowing for some spectacular views to be had.

Eventually, we turned onto a heading that would see us flying parallel to Whitehaven Beach, with the expanse of beach clearly visible out to the right hand side of the plane.

Suddenly I noticed two things: 1. we were descending, and 2. there were two aircraft shadows out to the right-hand side of us!

Firstly, Chad informed us that our flight today was to include a water landing and then take off on the water right in front of Whitehaven Beach - after-all we are travelling in sea plane!  Also - as it turns out - we were flying together with the Whitsunday Tiger Moth Adventures DH-82A Tiger Moth VH-BOJ. The bright yellow aircraft was unmistakable out to the left side of us.

Slowly, we approached the water, and soon after, Chad had us down and ploughing through the small swell. It was a little bumpy, but for my first ever water landing, it felt pretty much like was I was on a boat!  The Pratt & Whitney Radial engine was again powered up, and the Beaver gradually rose into the sky.  We were soon joined in the air again by the Tiger Moth VH-BOJ which this time, flew on our right-hand side.

The water-landing marked the turn-around point in our joyflight, and so with Whitehaven Beach and the Tiger Moth behind us, we turned back towards the Whitsunday Airport via Daydream Island - amongst others!

Again, some really spectacular views were had as we basically back-tracked over our outbound path - Hamilton Island could be seen off in the distance off to the left.

We passed over the top of Daydream Island and then headed towards Airlie Beach.

I believe other joyflights perform an orbit over Airlie Beach, however today, we turned towards the Whitsunday Airport, allowing us to enjoy some lovely views of Airlie Beach - and further to Abel Point Marina - out to the right-hand side of the aircraft.

Shortly after, we turned onto final approach to for landing onto Runway 14 back at the Whitsunday Airport .

Chad touched the Beaver down just passed the very faded piano keys, and we then taxied down the runway, and parked near the terminal building, adjacent to one of the refuelling bowsers. 

A few quick happy snaps of us finished off a magic morning in the air over the beautiful Whitsundays.

My thanks to Air Whitsunday Seaplanes for a magical morning.  It was certainly an experience I won't forget in a hurry! Thanks also to my parents-in-law for the wonderful birthday present as well!

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