A Brasilia to Perth: Skippers Aviation Embraer 120
Christmas came and went and it was time to return to Perth. Ravensthorpe airport lies about 30km out of town and there is no public transport or taxi service. My sister and brother-in-law kindly drove me there, or it would have been a long walk.
The terminal will not win any awards for inventive architectural designs but it is functional. In fact, it's a big, green Colorbond shed. There is a covered waiting room outside, around the side of which is the baggage collection point. No carousel, just pick up your bags from the trolley. Toilets are located in a separate block.
Inside there is a small check-in area for the twice-weekly flights with Skippers and a once-weekly charter, operated by Virgin Australia. The latter is to ferry fly-in fly-out workers to a local mine site.
Steve greeted me and said, "You came down on the Dash, didn't you?"
"Yes. I was a bit surprised as I was expecting a Metro," I replied.
"Ah, well," he continued. "You'll be going back on the Brasilia."
Meanwhile my bag was weighed and a boarding pass issued. Together with my sister and brother-in-law, I was invited to go through to the airport "lounge". Despite all the signage, the security equipment is no longer used as it is no longer required: charter flights are exempt and Skippers aircraft are below the passenger number limit for screening to be needed.
The lounge itself is reminiscent of the waiting room in an old-style public hospital. Not a duty-free item in sight, let alone a book shop selling "Greatest Aviation Disasters
Before going through to departures, I went back outside to see if I could get photos of the incoming aeroplane. Landing into the wind, the Brasilia approached from the east, ran to the end of the runway and turned about. There weren't many passengers arriving and there would only be ten going back to Perth.
Boarding was announced and as I went through departures, Steve said, "Perhaps you'll get the Metro next time you're down."
Yes, perhaps. See you."
Skippers Aviation HK1937
Ravensthorpe to Perth
Aircraft ID: VH-XUD Seat: 8A
Type: Embraer 120 Brasilia
STD: 08:45 ATD: 08:30
STA: 10:00 ATA: 09:47
VH-XUD started life as PT-SPG and served with TACV aa D4-CAZ from the 19<span class="ordinal">th</span> of December, 1989. The new year of 1994 saw it join Flight West Airlines, an airline based in Brisbane that collapsed and eventually resurrected as Alliance Airlines. Alliance continued to operate it with the registration VH-XFZ but at the beginning of 2003, when they sold it to Skippers Aviation, the aircraft was reregistered as VH-XUD.
The captain was Simon, assisted by Owen, while in the cabin was Emily looking after the passengers. A fourth person was present but I wasn't sure whether she was a trainee or conducting an assessment.
The passengers were seated mainly towards the rear of the aircraft. One young man somehow managed to lose his boarding pass and Emily needed to check where he should be sitting. It turned out to be in the exit row so she explained how to open the exit and asked whether he would be willing to assist in the event of an evacuation.
Then she performed the safety demonstration, before walking through the cabin to make sure everything was stowed and seat-belts were securely fastened.
The engines started up and the Brasilia taxied out to the runway. Ravensthorpe has two runways, the main one sealed and the cross-wise runway (seldom, if ever used) is gravel. Dark clouds looked quite threatening as the aircraft turned and faced into the wind.
I always enjoy hearing the change in the sound of the engines and the feeling of the seat in my back as the aircraft picks up speed. Before long, I could feel the aircraft begin to lift as it left the runway.
VH-XUD was quickly off the ground and turned in a spiral circuit to take advantage of a break in the heavy clouds. This provided an opportunity to see the tidy farmsteads and fields where the harvest had been completed.
Passing over the airport, we soon emerged through the clouds into the clear sky. Had it been a fine day below, I would have been on the right side of the aircraft for wonderful views over Hopetoun, the Barrens Ranges and the bays and inlets along the coast.
Once the seat-belt sign was off, Emily came through the cabin, first offering that morning's West Australian
, then offering cushions. Shortly after, she came through once more, this time taking orders for refreshments. Available were tea, coffee, juice and water served with a packet of biscuits.
The first half of the flight saw us remain over a solid blanket of cloud. Gradually the cloud broke but conditions below stayed hazy. We passed over farming country, punctuated by occasional grain bins and salt lakes.
The communication bell advertised the commencement of descent. Emily offered mints to the passengers and collected any rubbish and empty cups or newspapers that people didn't want.
As the aircraft reduced altitude, the trees appeared to get bigger. Acacia Prison came into view.
The Brasilia darted in and out of passing clouds. Once more we passed Lake Leschenaultia but this time to the north. The seat-belt sign illuminated and Emily did the "tables stowed, seats upright" thing.
Our flight path took us over John Forrest National Park and Greenmount, with Great Eastern Highway (linking Perth with Kalgoorlie) snaking its way down the hill.
Passing the junction of Great Eastern Highway Bypass and Roe Highway, the Brasilia lined up for approach, flying over Kalamunda Road and the airport perimeter.
The aircraft landed on runway 24, passing the International Terminal and Terminal 1 Domestic, before turning off to taxi in front of the Qantas terminals.
A Boeing 737-838, VH-XZJ Mendooworrji
, in special livery was present. The livery was inspired by Western Australian Aboriginal artist, Paddy Bedford, a founder of the Warmun art movement. Using 140 nylon stencils, the design took over 950 man hours to complete and used 500 litres of paint, weighing 125kg.
Also present, VH-EBB Albany
, an Airbus A330-202 that for a while flew with Jetstar. Now back in Qantas colours, its flying kangaroo has so far eluded the recent design change and is happy to retain its forepaws and face.
As the journey came to an end, in front of the Valentine Road terminal I could see several aircraft in the Skippers fleet, including some Dash-8s and the elusive Metro 23.
Emily was at the door and Owen was on the ground at the foot of the aircraft steps as I deplaned and walked to the terminal. It had been a pleasant enough flight. The cabin interior was a bit grubbier than that of the Dash used on the outbound flight, reflecting years of use on runs to remote mining communities.
After Virgin Australia cancelled its RPT flights to Ravensthorpe, it looked as if the Shire would be without air transport. It will be interesting to see if Skippers entry will gather sufficient support to make their offering viable in the long run. I hope so. I still have that Metro to catch.Previous Trip Reports:Getting into the Spirit: Qantas A332 Perth to SydneyYour Personal Airline: AirLink Beech 1900D to DubboOur Heart is in the Country: Regional Express Saab 340BMotorcycles Galore: QantasLink Dash-8 300Q to TamworthDjawannasnack: Virgin Australia ATR 72 to SydneyNow You're Flying: Virgin Australia A332 Sydney to PerthA Surprise Dash: Skippers Aviation to Ravensthorpe