Around the Barkly
in eight hours
"Clear prop!" she cried, the
engine coughed to life and off we went. The little Cessna 210 was packed
to the sills with mail bags, parcels of all sizes and shapes, one cool,
calm and collected pilot and one reporter trying to guess the exact
moment during take-off where a loss of power would cash in the chips.
Needless to say the engine hummed like a bee and the plane flew like
a bird and I settled back to watch the landforms drop away.
On August 8th 1939 the first sheduled mail run in the region took to
the sky. At the controls was John Kellow who took off from Alice Springs
for a 730 mile trip to Victoria River Downs. A few days later in Europe
all hell broke loose - but that is another story.
My pilot was Mardi Kennedy who at age 25 had already been flying for
eight years. Did she have flyers in the family I asked; but aside from
a grandfather who flew bombers in WW2 it had been all her own passion.
I soon discovered that Mardi had clocked up 1200 hours, had been with
Air North for about a year and this was one of three mail runs she did
It had been my intention to alert all the station owners to my trip
so that they could all put on their best hats to meet the plane. Unfortunately
it was race weekend at Brunette Downs and many of them had already left.
Nevertheless as these pages show, some colourful characters came out
to meet us. You must be fond of take-offs and landings to enjoy a day
on the mail run. I think the only time we were on the ground for more
than a few minutes was when we refuelled at Walhallow.
Lunch of course was eaten on the way which was no problem for the intrepid
reporter who had decided to go light on the food just in case we ran
into a spot of turbulence. There are no facilities at all on this trip.
I can live without fast-food outlets but even the pilot agreed that
a toilet or two somewhere along the way on an eight-hour trip would
By the time we returned to Tennant Creek at sundown, I'd had enough.
It's not my idea of fun sitting in a cabin the size of a small car for
hours on end but as they say, "Someone's gotta do it".
Thanks to Mardi and Tracey at Air North for the memorable day.