Adversity – A stepping stone to success (Hey, what colour is this..?)

Seemingly, whenever I tell someone I am colour-blind they feel compelled to put me to the test.

“No… really, is that what you see?”

“Can’t be, you sure?”

And every so often I get that old chestnut…

“Are you like a dog and just see black and white?”

Mind you, I’m pretty relaxed about it these days…

Perhaps my dress sense gives me away, after all, there was that matter of the yellow pants I bought all those years ago.

Sensibly, these days I outsource my clothing purchases to Janet-Planet who has a good eye for fashion, mind you she has a naughty sense of humour as well, so I usually get TomO to do a second pass on any clothes she buys me, just in case she’s in a playful mood.

But even that has its limitations as without doubt TomO has inherited his mother’s sense of mischief…

Throughout my school years I always wanted to join the air-force and fly fast jets.

Yes, I know, everyone did, but I really wanted to!

It wasn’t until I underwent the air-force medical that the discovery was made, which went to explaining quite a lot. I only wish they had given me the medical first, rather than have me sit through hours of entrance exams only to stamp that brand new file…

“Colour-blind, FAIL….”

..Talk about being gutted, but I eventually moved on and ended up in the employ of the Bank of New South Wales, licking stamps to put on envelopes…

A Bank

 

And speaking of my banking colleagues.

I did manage to give them a good laugh when I came home with an old Holden Station Wagon.

Not that there was anything wrong with having an old Holden…

But a pink one?

It was unique…

I was living in a small country town in Northern Australia and I’d had my eye on that car for a long time and couldn’t believe my luck that it hadn’t been sold before I saved enough money to buy it.

I swear that car was yellow, such is the vagaries of a colour-blind!

But hey, I wore that car like a badge and there was no missing it at the Mareeba Drive-In on a Saturday night…

CrayonsAnd for heaven’s sake we won’t even talk about coloured crayons, other than to say the sight of a colouring-in book and crayons is still stressful to this day…

But my colour deficiency did motivate me to thumb my nose at the air-force, give them the

bird, so to speak, not that they shouldn’t have rules about colour deficiency, that sounds perfectly reasonable to me, but I wasn’t going to let it beat me either.

“After all, adversity is just a stepping stone to success, right…? It only gets the better of you if you let it and there was no way this would hold me back, ever…”

I’ve enjoyed a successful career with the bank, 42-years worth…

Ah, no, I’m not still licking stamps, but thanks for checking!

And I went on to fly my own plane.

It wasn’t quite a fast-jet, but hey nothing wrong with pretending sometimes. And when I tired of sitting in the pilot’s seat, I swapped the plane for a parachute and jumped out of them – until I broke my bum in a mid-air incident (but that is a story for another time).

But strewth,  I’ll tell you a funny thing, odd as it may seem I didn’t like the colour of the plane I owned, so I repainted it…go figure!

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

 

Crikey – Talking about Neighbour’s (Don’t mess with this bloke)

Ever had a next door neighbour that you wish would just go away? You’ll know the ones I’m talking about, loud, unruly, parties until all hours, beer bottles chiming to the sounds of cheers!

Mind you, it almost sounds fun when it put is that way, but it does wear thin after a while.

 And then there are the silent ones, no noise, no parties, pretty much keep to themselves, but shikes, they sure can give you the creeps.

Strewth, we’ve had our fair share of them over the years, but we are lucky to have great neighbours all around us these days!

But I’ll share a yarn about one neighbour that we had a while back, in the outback.

We were out touring in Far North-Queensland, FNQ (pronounced ef-fen-Q), up in the Gulf Savannah Country where Janet has her roots.  Mott’s are still grazing sheep and cattle in that region to this day, and for me this region was my backyard as I grew up in Townsville…

Over the past few years we have made the 7,000 kilometre round-trip to one of our most favourite spots in the Australian bush, Lawn Hill Gorge.

Now let me tell you, this is one heck of a beautiful spot that we first visited back in the 1990s. It was literally a flying visit in an aircraft we owned, a Piper Arrow, call sign Foxtrot-Tango-Hotel.

This was before the little tacka, TomO,  came along, and we flew it extensively over the Australian outback before selling it some years back.

These days we enjoy the drive north through the outback in The Landy just as much as we did flying over it.

The Aussie Outback, it’s a great place to just stand still and take it all in, a place where the barren land and ochre red soil meets the deep blue of the never-ending sky…

Anyway…

When we were last up there we had no problem securing a great spot beside the creek, which surprised us as there were a few others around at Adel’s Grove, a small tourist resort that caters for travellers just nearby to the main gorge.

It turns out our neighbour was a magnificent Olive Python measuring about 5 metres in length.

A beautiful specimen and apparently they are only known to eat small children…

Just kiddin’…

It had taken up residence just on the bank where we had set up camp.  Despite their size they are not an aggressive snake and they are not venomous. And we have our fair share of those venomous ones.

Crikey, we’ve got a bagful of the world’s most deadly snakes, and none of those “rattling” things that they have elsewhere, just hard-core mean and downright dangerous ones!

Okay, fair’s fair, the North American rattle snake does make it into the top ten…

Most passing by our camp were totally oblivious to it being there, many who saw it thought they were about to be eaten alive, others were curious at a seemingly chance encounter with something so wonderful.

Late in the day, as the sun drifted low into the western horizon and shadows started to cast long, it would move on, returning first thing the next morning to take up its position once again.

Yep, neighbours, they come in all shapes and sizes, some you love to bits, others you’d be happy to see the back of, but for sure, we’d be happy to have this bloke as our neighbour anytime – best “guard dog” we’ve ever had…

Ps. For those who might be wondering, Janet was the photographer and loved it. Um, I must’ve been busy with something… 😉

Antics in a Bi-Plane (Tigers’ over Wanaka)

Baz & TomO - ready to take to the skies
Baz & TomO – ready to take to the skies

A flight in a Tiger Moth from a by-gone era sounded far too good an opportunity to pass up.

On a recent visit to the South Island of New Zealand and in between climbing in the Southern Alps, I did just that, accompanied by my adventurous son, TomO…

 And TomO, being a bit of a military buff, relished the opportunity to chase his father around the skies over Wanaka, while Mum, Janet, watched from a vantage point on the lake foreshore below.

TomO and Baz over Wanaka
TomO and Baz over Wanaka

The Tiger Moths are owned and operated by Peter Hendriks at Classic Flights, Wanaka.

 Peter, along with his flying partner, Andy Hailey, who recently left the RAF after trading a seat in the supersonic Euro-fighter for something just a bit slower, expertly piloted the aircraft.

It even had me reminiscing over my own flying days, another time when Janet and I flew the length and breadth of Australia in our own aircraft, a Piper Arrow.

VH-FTH
Piper Arrow
VH-FTH

TomO and I kitted up in the flight room, donning flying gear of the Tiger Moth era, including a silk scarf, and with the smell of aviation fuel in our nostrils took to the blue skies over Wanaka.

Anyway, why don’t you just jump on board with us and join the flight…don’t forget to strap yourself in, we don’t want you falling out when we do a loop!

And how good is that smile on TomO’s face!

Tiger Moth’s over Wanaka (TomO and Baz take to the skies)

 TomO and Baz over Wanaka

Climbing mountains is one way to get your head in the clouds and tomorrow I will be travelling to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island for another week of adventure in the mountains. 

I climbed this breath-taking area last September and I am looking forward to being there again…

 And I am certainly hoping for better weather than the blizzard conditions I experienced last week whilst climbing Mt Aspiring and neighbouring peaks.

But mind you, there is more than one way to get your head in the clouds and this morning TomO and I took to the skies over Wanaka, chasing each other in two vintage Tiger Moths”.

Crikey, I could go on about how good it was, and it is fair to say TomO still has a smile as big as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but why don’t I just let the photo’s do the talking…

TomO - always smiling
TomO – always smiling 
TomO going into a loop
TomO going into a loop

 

A Death Trap in the Mountains (A tale of human frailty)

As a financial markets professional in the fast paced world of foreign exchange trading I must say one of the most enduring lessons I have learnt is an old adage that has served me well – “plan the trade and trade the plan.”

 Mind you, a career in financial markets was not always goal my and as a young school boy growing up in Townsville, Australia, I frequently looked out the school window to watch the military aircraft landing at Garbutt airbase.

Townsville is a military town and home to a large contingent of air-force and army personnel.

My heart was set on a career in the air force flying aeroplanes.

Of course, in reality, very few people get to achieve that dream. Mine was cut short when I discovered at the air force medical that I shared an impairment common in males, colour deficiency.

Over the years it has been graded as moderate to severe, seemingly dependent on what test was being given, and who was interpreting the result.

Naturally it was hard to accept that something totally outside of my control had cut short a potential military flying career. 

As the years passed, I decided that it was time to look back at my goal of flying aircraft and in 1994 I gained my Private Pilot’s licence and purchased an aircraft.

Being a methodical planner and risk manager, I relished the task of planning trips; although many didn’t come to pass because of my conservative approach.

In fact, many people both within the flying fraternity, and outside of it, congratulated me on this approach, but of course hidden within this seemingly good trait was a dangerous flaw.

 Eventually it bubbled to the surface, with almost tragic consequences.

Many years ago I planned a flight from Sydney to Melbourne to visit a family member who had just given birth to their first child.  The flight was planned under the Visual Flight Rules (VFR), which requires you to stay clear of cloud at all times.

The flight path was programmed in the aircraft’s global positioning system (GPS), and on auto-pilot this would guide the aircraft.

The weather was to be fine for the first stage of the flight, with some showers developing along the mountain ranges closer to Melbourne.

As I was approaching the half-way point of the flight I made the required radio calls for clearance through a particular control area.

The air traffic controller gave me the necessary clearance with a word of caution. There were showers on the western side of the ranges and I would most likely encounter these along my route.

Would I like to consider diverting around the weather as the skies were clear not too far to the west of my planned route?

I took the time to process this suggestion, after all the weather ahead still looked okay, despite what I was being told, and I would always have the option to backtrack, or divert should conditions become unacceptable for VFR flight.

Of course, what really was happening was a reversion to the “plan the trade, and trade the plan” lesson learned all those years ago.

I had planned this flight immaculately, it was in my GPS, it would be a hassle to change, and besides sticking with a well thought out plan had always served me well, I rationalised in my mind.

Perhaps that might have been a reasonable decision to make if experience was on my side, and if I had the capacity to not only realise when the flight along the planned route was no longer acceptable, and only if I was capable of acting immediately once realised.

I informed the controller I would be continuing as planned, to which he put the question one more time – would I like to divert to where the weather was fine.

He’d now asked twice, he was covered in the event this all went wrong!

The cloud base was lowering as I got closer to Melbourne and I had to continually descend to the aircraft, dangerously low, to remain clear of cloud.

In an instant the weather deteriorated significantly and not surprisingly in the most mountainous region of the flight.

I was now confronted with the possibility of doing a precautionary landing, which was not without its risks, and I was looking fervently out the window for a place to do this. There wasn’t one, I was in the mountains!

In any case, I don’t believe I was fully committed to this action.

The second flaw was now kicking in, a failure to act.

Seemingly I was delaying any action in the hope luck would be on my side.

I could almost touch the tops of the mountains; I was only moments from a disaster, from being a statistic.

I contacted the air traffic controller handling arrivals into Melbourne, and was given clearance to track towards the airport.  The weather had improved slightly and as I tracked west it cleared into a fine day, highlighting that had I amended the flight as suggested earlier it would have been much safer and certainly less stressful.

I have frequently looked back at this flight as a defining moment on many levels.

It encouraged me to go on and obtain an instrument rating to enable flight in cloud, providing a higher level of safety in these situations.

But importantly, it demonstrated to me that I was very inflexible once I had planned something.

It may have saved me and my employer a lot of money over the years, a product of “planning the trade, and trading the plan”, but this inflexibility has no place in an aircraft cockpit, and of course it almost cost me my life on this particular day.

An invaluable lesson was learned, one that I’ve thought about each and every day since…

The flaw is still there as it is a personality trait; I just need to keep it in check…

And as I head to the mountains it is forefront of mind and as part of my mountaineering training I am focussing heavily on my “human frailty”.

What traits do you have that work in some situations, but could have dire consequences in others?

Footnote: I have logged in excess of 1,000 hours as a pilot…and jumped out of them frequently! The aircraft pictured and the cockpit shot is of the aircraft we purchased. 

A Helicopter Ride – Fox Glacier (New Zealand)

The Fox Glacier, situated on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is spectacular and especially so when viewed from the air.

On my recent climbing trip to this region we were ‘choppered into Pioneer Hut high up on the glacier.

 The Glacier, situated close to Fox town, or Fox as it is know to locals, is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and the terminal face can be accessed with relative ease.

The helicopter trip to Pioneer Hut takes around 15 minutes and you travel approximately 15 kilometres to the top of the glacier, climbing from sea level to around 8,000 feet.

A number of helicopter companies operate from the township taking tourists on a short ride to view the glacier and if you ever get the chance be sure to take a ride…

 In the meantime, strap yourself in and join me on the ride to Pioneer Hut…