Monday, 14 May 2007


Graham,Jessie, Meagan & Dawn Whitehead

Tree roots holding the embankment

We awoke to a fairly cool morning. Unfortunately the washing I had done the previous evening had not dried so we piled it into the dryer whilst having breakfast. We all then went for a walk around the perimeter of the Whitehead property which is bordered by the Ovens River. They own right to the water line so that ensures neither casual fishermen nor campers can stay on the river without prior permission. The river edge had been extremely washed away by previous floodwaters. The size of the trees and logs that had been carried down were indicative of the ensuing force of the floodwaters. Some trees were amazingly still growing whilst their roots were clinging precariously to the river banks. Other portions of the river banks showed damage by carp that feed and undermine the edges. These fish were not native to this area and had been dumped in the river systems some years previous. The land leading up to the riverbank had been under water during previous winters (though not recently) so they had a dinghy tied to their back fence. A funny sight as the river was 20 metres away and down a 5 metre embankment.

Kevin with Joe Drage and VH-UXL formerly CH-CWM

Wangaratta Airfield

After that lovely relaxing walk and talk we said our goodbyes to the girls and headed out to the airport to meet Joe Drage. Joe had been the original owner of Lady Bird in her life as VH-CWM until he donated her to the Wangaratta Air Museum and there she had “sat” since the early 90s not flying after 1996.

Joe (whom I had never met) was a lovely quietly spoken man. The glint in his eyes about the condition of the Stinson was apparent and he stated that she was probably better than when first manufactured. He nimbly climbed aboard and sat in the pilot’s seat admiring the interior. We went about untying her and getting her ready for a local flight. Much to our amazement Joe did not wish to come for the fly but wanted to watch and listen to her. So Kev, Graham and Dawn strapped themselves in and took off into the still morning air.

Sarah had used this time to settle herself in the local Aero Club rooms and was attending to her school work. Time was very hard to find (when we were not flying, exploring or traveling in some way) to keep up with her set work.

We watched in amazement as this huge winged “bird” once again took to the skies. Joe and I talked about her, her history and how good the engine sounded. This was only one of a few times I had seen her fly recently as we were always aboard. Her wings looked huge in comparison to her fuselage and her engine not too noisy (for a radial).

After about 20 minutes they returned – everyone with grins upon their faces. We were expected at the Echuca Air show that day – and as it was 11 am we thought we had better get moving. But Joe wanted desperately to show Kevin his current aeroplanes. They drove off to his property about 20 kms away and in his hangar were a Tiger Moth and a very rare English monoplane with strange control configurations where you pushed the stick up to descend and down to climb. A 1974 Rolls Royce, a 1930s classic vintage car (sorry can’t remember) and a collection of rare aircraft engines in their stands (in running condition) and a heat powered fan. Joe lit some mentholated spirit, placed the fan over it and a little piston crank assembly immediately started rotating a fan – very impressive and efficient. He has a strip capable of taking the Stinson which we will surely visit on our next trip!

Back at Wang airport we loaded our entire luggage once again into that magnificent locker and headed off to Echuca – only 78 nm away – probably only a 45 minute flight.

Echuca airfield & aeroplanes "Riama" DeHavilland Dragon VH-UXY De Havilland Hornet

As we got closer the skies began to close in and drizzle appeared on the windscreen. We had left a warm sunny morning and here it was raining. The airfield lined with an assortment of aircraft in many different colours looked fantastic from the bank turn over the top. Kevin managed a reasonable landing (very difficult knowing many eyes are watching) and we were marshaled to our spot in between “Riama” a burgundy De Havilland Dragon and VH-UXY a silver De Havilland Hornet Moth. The crowd was fairly thick on the fence line and all wanted to see the Reliant. Upon climbing out and getting wet, Sarah and I quickly grabbed extras from our luggage – climbed back in to our “mobile home” and changed into warmer clothes. We were then able to place Lady Bird closer to the fence line with the doors open so that the public could see in. Not long after our arrival, the skies cleared and we had a chance to enjoy the new arrivals at the annual Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia’s fly-in.

After registration we all enjoyed a hot sausage roll for lunch (better late than never). It was after 3 pm so we organized ourselves to catch the bus service to our motel. We unfortunately missed the bus so phoned our motel that sent out a car. We only had 2.5 hours to get ourselves ready for the dinner and presentation evening being held at the Moama Bowling Club.

We finally arrived to a huge reception centre filled with aviators, family and friends numbering approximately 200 people. We were seated at a table with Peter Bernardi, Bob and Helen Atwater, Jim & Jenny Wickham. The nights proceedings were fantastically hosted by Peter B and the President of AAAA. Awards and incident recognition were delivered in between the three course meal. Best Biplane announcement!

People we knew were Geoff Kubank’s Tiger VH-BNI winning Best Bi-plane, Marc Michelle’s forced landing in a Chipmunk and Scott Taberner attaining a White Knuckle award for an engine failure in a Harvard. Many “tongue in cheek” awards were given out together with President’s Choice, Ladies Choice, Longest Distance Travelled, First Appearance, RG Carey Award, Best Monoplane, Best Military. The night went on and it was almost finished when they announced the Reserve Champion (not us?), then the GRAND CHAMPION and it was……. Kevin Bailey’s Stinson Reliant VH-UXL. We were overjoyed.

THE GRAND CHAMPION Kevin receiving our Winning Award Plate

That was quickly followed by a Memorable Arrival Award which was a bouncy landing executed at Tyabb and witnessed by at least 12 Aero Club members – to Kevin. Then the Long Suffering Pilot’s Wife Award was announced and it was…ME – no one more deserving!

As I cannot photograph the Award I have reproduced the words below:-

'This award of excellence recognises that Vicki Bailey has managed to retain her self-control, humour and sanity in spite of being the devoted wife of that peculiar species known as "PILOT". It is an admirable trait to be able to accept the joys and agonies of daily life under such circumstances'

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL

Stinson Reliant SR8C VH-UXL
over Perth city (Photo: Greg Hill)

About Us

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Flying farming couple who live on 135 acres. Kev is obsessed by aeroplanes. Vicki is devoted to horses and White Swiss Shepherds.