A wing and a prayer into Nowra:


1 3 March 1980


On 3 March 1980 I flew from Canberra to Goulburn in a Cessna 182 with my parents. We landed at Goulburn to collect a family friend (Marz). He was a Headmaster of a large Catholic boy’s school in Goulburn. His full title was Brother Marzorini. My passengers were heading to a Headmaster’s conference starting at Nowra. I say starting because there they joined a ship to Sydney.


On parking the aircraft at Goulburn, I could see Marz standing next to a hanger. I walked the short distance to bring him over. As I approached, I saw that he had a cardboard box along with his small suit case. While this box was unexpected, it posed no issued for the 182. It had plenty of room in the baggage area behind the rear seats and we were not heavy.


We greeted each other commenting how beautiful the weather was. As I looked more closely at this box Marz said “I brought some annual reports. I hope you can fit them in?” Thinking no more of it I said it won’t be any trouble imagining volumes of old papers. My curiosity on lifting the box with all its weight was answered on hearing the familiar clinking of glass on glass. Marz then said “There’s a 74 and some earlier reports.” We laughed out loudly.


All stowed and secure we took off for Nowra. Nowra is a Naval Base - HMAS Albatross. I was required to obtain a clearance before leaving to penetrate their air space and to land. This was done and was not a problem. The approach to Albatross took us over an escarpment west of the base. Beautiful scenery welcomes a flyer as they travel east from Goulburn to Nowra. On contacting the approach operator, I was cleared for a visual approach to runway 08. This meant I was going to be landing in the same direction I was coming from - no circuit to slow down and more importantly, lose height. It was a straight-in approach. Normally a welcome thing but I was high - too high. I reduced power for the descent miles back however, the easterly wind was causing an upward wave over the escarpment. A wave pushing us up. I did not need it.


I could have requested a circuit or an orbit to lose some height – I should have. With the power back to an idle but importantly the airspeed also back to around 70 kts so as not to shock cool the cylinders, we were still flying too well and not going down fast enough. Everyone had their seat belts on. I did my prelanding checks. Everything secure - I put the plane into a steep left bank with opposite rudder. This produced a good side slip - the wings lost their lift. The fuel selector in the 182, while capable of isolating a tank, usually remained centred on ‘both’ avoiding the situation of having an engine cut out due to an exposed to air, fuel tank outlet.


We lost some height but not enough. I rolled the aircraft to the other side applying hard left rudder. After only a short time I rolled to the other side and opposite rudder. Marz was sitting behind my father up front with me. Turning to my right I had an easy view of Marz. During one of the crossover periods between side slips, I turned to see how he was travelling. He held a concerned look, eyes closed, mouthing I assumed a prayer, while counting his rosary beads.


The landing was uneventful, marked by joyous conversation. Dear old sky pilot Marz didn’t fly with me again. Hopefully because he had no need to.


© C.McKeown 2021.