Monday, 14 May 2007


With only a three hour leg ahead of us we knew we didn’t have to worry. We woke at the usual 6am and I updated a bit more blog. We breakfasted in the room, showered and packed (mostly dirty) clothes into our bags. Out the front, waiting for a taxi by 8.30, the morning looked clear and a little crisp at about 12 degrees.

Out at the airport we loaded up after untying and unlocking her. We called for the Mobil fuel truck for the last time and who should turn up but Terry the ex Refueller from Jandakot. He and Kevin had known each other since the 70s and 80s from refuelling Tiger 66. He is retired and looked really well and we had a great catch up chat.

Cloud west of Kalgoorlie

We were flying under turbulent conditions with broken cloud at 2,500. We were trying to find a hole big enough to fly up through when an RPT called inbound to Kal. He was miles above us however Kev alerted him to our position and he stayed high until we had passed. He reported sighting us before letting down on his descent. I wondered what he thought the “little” GA aircraft was? As we flew the cloud base got higher and the conditions better.

Sarah spent that leg in the back seat reading a magazine! I took photographs of the topography especially in the areas where farms had recently had heavy rain and it had unfortunately scoured their paddocks, stripping the topsoil as it rapidly ran off to fill their dams with debris and sheep manure. These dams would then become sour and putrid, being toxic to stock and unuseable.

At Merriden we were asked to overfly at 3,000 feet however, a training pilot after taking off, climbed up through our level and obviously did not see us as he tracked directly toward us from the left. We had to take evasive action to avoid a collision. (Head in cockpit checking maps?) After landing we checked fuel levels to find that we did not need any so we piled back on board and roared back into the air.

Heading uneventfully to York, we circled Lyn Forster’s “Brooklands” and saw someone waving at the open hangar door. We then tracked over “Tiger Country” – the hills, including Mount Dale direct to Mundijong.

As we came down over the edge of the scarp at 120 knots I tried to sight our property ahead but couldn’t quite make it out – then there it was – all green looking great after leaving it so dry 6 weeks ago. We circled overhead to see Mark and the Carrs standing out by the gateway. An approach over those (bloody) high tension power lines (I felt like lifting my feet off the floor), we tried hard to lose speed and height. However the preparation and set up was perfect and so was the final landing of our wonderful ‘Round Aussie Trip’.

Happy Co-Pilot

It was so great to have Mark there to meet us. Our pets and the property all looked great thanks to our house sitters, the Carr family.

Happy Zac greeting Kev Sarah & Harry with happy Zac


Up early, we had prepared to leave at day break, if the weather and conditions permitted, however after a phone call to Nullarbor Roadhouse we heard that the strip was although open, rather marginal due to wet sections. We were held up waiting for a telephone call.

At the airport by 7.45am we loaded up, checked everything and taxied off to Runway 29 which had a gently 10 knot north westerly wind blowing. As we lifted off Ceduna township and the bay looked very pretty in the morning light. We only had 76 knots ground speed and flew low across farmland and scrub until we picked up the eastern edge of the Great Australian Bight. We tracked along the beach as this would be the last time we could fly over the coast before the long overland stretch ahead. I spotted a pod of dolphins and Kev banked the plane so we could have a good look and take photos. We kept seeing more dolphin groups, both small and large. We even saw some surfing the waves however could not take any good photos due to how quickly we moved over head. It was so exciting to see so many dolphins in large family groups with lots of young.

Pod of Dolphins off the Bight Wombat hole damage Beach at Head of the Bight

Up over the cliffs at the Head of Bight we overflew Nullarbor to inspect the strip. Our ground had improved, taking one 1 hour 40 minutes to reach there which meant we had sufficient fuel to track the extra 150 nm across the desert to Forrest. After a quick team conference, the decision was agreed to continue on. We tracked 280 out across the flat staying below headwinds. The scenery below had changed considerably since our outbound trip due to the rains – there were puddles shining in the sun everywhere. About 30 miles we saw a group of camels, adults dark brown, fawn coloured sub-adults and a white baby. The next group we saw, we overflew and they all looked very healthy despite existing in a normally waterless, featureless plain. About 10 miles short of Forrest we saw 3 black, what we thought, were dingoes before landing at Forrest with diminished fuel reserves.

Darryl and Lyn (Forrest Refuellers) greeted us together with their extended families who were visiting from Victoria, with the normal warm reception. While Kevin completed the refueling procedure we went inside to have a bit to eat with Lyn and catch up on details of our trip. We had just gained 1.5 hours so even though we were eating lunch – it was only 10.30am in W.A.

Departing after 1 hour on the ground we tracked for Kanandah Station. Kevin had spoken to Mark earlier that morning and had been advised that their strip was OK. Staying low we were making good a 100k ground speed and experienced abundant small mobs of horses living out on the Nullarbor. Each mob had it’s own stallion that steered his mob away from the Bird as she diverted for a good look. Since the abundant rain there were many more watering holes and at any of those spots, a group of horses could be found. They seemed to keep to their specific coloured mobs from solids to paints.

Bay mob on the Nullarbor Small mob in the vastness

Surface conditions at Kanandah were calm and as we were landing Sarah spotted a kangaroo close to our starboard wing and called out. The distraction broke Kevin’s concentration resulting in a bouncy landing or two. We were met by Mark and a Swedish stockhand and refueling was quickly completed. A quick trip to the house, we joined Karen in a cuppa then returned to Lady Bird as time was “of the essence”.

Airborne once again we were hoping to reach Kalgoorlie before sunset. We saw many of Kanandah’s Brahman cattle quite close to the homestead but none of the “goats” we had seen on our first stop. The last of the treeless plain slipped below us and the remainder of the flight was uneventful, sliding into Kalgoorlie at 4.50pm. On the CTAF frequency our radio again faulted, making it difficult to communicate with other aircraft in the circuit.


A taxi into town to our Motel room completed a long flight. Our taxi driver had dropped us at one place but upon finding the cost to be $165.00 per night for the room, we decided to check around. That had been the highest cost of any Motel room we had found all around Australia! We walked up the road and settled into the Midas for only $105.00 per night – a very nice spacious room. Too tired to go to a restaurant, we walked into town for some take-away dinner as we were keen to sleep and start on our final leg HOME!


If the weather conditions were suitable we had planned to set off today for the West. Kev and Marc checked all BOM sites, telephoned properties across the peninsular and made all possible checks as carefully as possible. The forecasted front was huge and would probably stop us somewhere between Ceduna and home.

We got up early enough to say farewell to Fleur and Alexander before they left. Sarah and I fed and said our goodbyes to the horse, a chestnut 15+hh TB grumpy gelding named Nugget and a black 10hh welsh gelding with a lovely nature called “Toby”.

At Parafield, Kevin ran the engine to see if the repair would hold. Quite a number of ATA (Aircraft Training Adelaide) instructors came to watch and photograph Lady whilst she did her run ups. All things being correct we loaded aboard, thanked Marc sincerely again and looked forward to his next WA visit. We dragged ourselves into the air for about the 50th time on this trip and headed out on 03 via the light aircraft lane then the coast.

We had planned direct to Ceduna which took us out over the Spencers Gulf between the mainland and the Ayre Peninsular for about 15 minutes over water. As we had sent our life jackets back to Perth from Victoria we talked about our ditching and escape plan should anything unexpected happen. This clarified, we flew our track at 3,500 feet with cloud not far above us. After about 5 minutes the sky became murky and the visibility not very clear. Kev pointed out, what he though was, the coastline with 2 jetties in it. I could not agree with what he saw and soon it became apparent that it was a “greasy” north south line on the water that looked very much like a coastline. Instead of the NW track we decided to shorten the distance over water and tracked 030 just for safety. We continued on and within 10 minutes the “real” coastline came into view.
Ceduna Jetty and Bay

The peninsular with the continuing empty, dry paddocks were indicative of the drought and without many roads it took us a while to locate our position on the map. The GPS still had us on track of course, but we always navigated as a backup. Kev recognized road directions and soon the small town of Wudinna came into sight. Many jokes came out about “Wud n ya know it – there’s Wudinna”, and “Wud n ya like something to eat?".eh I know and they got worse!

We had left about 11 am and saw Ceduna come into view at 2pm. We landed on the north south strip and had a long taxi in cross winds (very hard on the brakes) to the bowser. We fuelled up and even though we had time to fly on to Nullarbor Roadhouse a telephone call confirmed that the strip was US due to large puddles and muddy stretches.
Upon landing we found that Lady had indeed spat the dummy at having her oil leaks repaired - so she leaked at another point. Quite a long time was spent cleaning her up whilst Kevin refuelled.
Lady Bird's "NEW" oil leak

We tied Lady safely beside a hangar and caught a taxi into town. We had plenty of fruit and snacks for the trip so ate them for a late lunch. Kev and Sarah walked into the shops for tomorrow’s snacks and a chicken for dinner whilst I worked on the blog. We are our light dinner in the room then Sarah and I went for a walk out the pier. We could see garfish (gardies) in the shallow waters with the light from the spotties along the jetty. Out further a few couples were fishing but with no luck. We could hear splashes and see ripples where schools of fish were feeding however no one was fishing near them. After the pier we walked along the foreshore path between an avenue of trees. We saw, what we thought was, a cat or fox run down the embankment onto the beach and upon our return saw the same animal scrounging near some rubbish before hiding down the embankment again. Sarah is pretty sure it was a fox – and I thought so too as it would be a suitable area to scavenge food from both tourists and fishermen.


Into the wartime hangar at Nhill


We all slept in till after 7am. Sarah was cuddled in her bed with the electric blanket on whilst Kev and I had slept in an old fashioned double with the mattress at 3 foot high. Darryl had left very early that morning for a meeting in Melbourne. We enjoyed our breakfast with Mary, watched the magpies being fed then a walk around the garden.
Thatched garden shed at Argall's Nhill
We headed out to the airfield to pack and prepare for our next leg to Adelaide. The Nhill hangar is the only 1 left from the 5 that were built during the war when flying training was at it’s peak. The small clubrooms held photos from that era when it was a full time flying training school (FTS).
Drought stricken Victoria A lonely little cloud East of SA border

We departed Nhill about 10 am, once again over drought stricken country with some paddocks ploughed and prepared in anticipation of rain. The countryside changed to scrub, too poor for agriculture. Sarah was feeling ill due to turbulence and for the first time in the trip tried my sickness band. Much to her relief it helped her nausea abate and she felt more comfortable for the remainder of that leg. We climbed to 4,500’ for smoother air and descended back to 2,500 as we approached Tailem Bend and Murray Bridge. On calling Melbourne Centre for our airways clearance into Adelaide we experienced radio problems and could transmit but barely receive. After orbiting outside controlled airspace we finally raised Adelaide tower where we were blessed with an American controller called Chuck who was fantastic in the way he directed (without transponder radar assistance) around the back of Adelaide control and into Parafield. He reminded us of the Oshkosh controllers by the ease with which he handled our situation.
Inside Eagle Maintenance Hangar Parafield
Landing at Parafield we taxied into the Eagle Maintenance hangar where Mick Wright had arranged for us to be able to, once again, work on the oil leak problems. Marc Michelle soon arrived offering his help in the required repair of the leaks. Unfortunately I had been suffering from quite a severe headache and could not be any help to them so Marc took Sarah and I to their house to rest for the afternoon. They live on a 40+ acre property at One Tree Hill which is about 25 minutes from Parafield. Up into the hills we drove and the Michelle property was set in a picturesque valley which was suffering from the drought. There was not 1 blade of grass in the paddocks to feed their horse and pony nor their 3 sheep. Many kangaroos stay on the property as Marc and family make them welcome and we saw a small mob near the driveway as we entered. The house was a huge design with a very appealing skyline. The bedrooms/kitchen etc were set around a main room of 10 square metres with a fully glazed gable roof. It had shade blinds to keep out the severe sun and was a very pleasant room in which to relax. The ceilings were 12 foot high and all internal doors were colonial style with glazing. The décor was rustic with the dining table being at least 12 foot long. Sarah went outside to meet and feed the horses and walk around the property. I went to bed with more tablets to try to get rid of the headache.

Kevin and Marc returned home after a long afternoon where they again degreased the oil laden engine, ran it to find the specific leaks then re-cleaned and sealed two gasket areas with (good old) selastic. The plane was made ready for tomorrow’s departure before hangaring Lady Bird for the evening. Her 2nd night inside for the whole trip!

Although I spent my time in bed feeling horrible the Michelle family made us feel very much at home and Kevin and Sarah enjoyed a home cooked meal and their hospitality before retiring for the night.


Sunday was the main public attendance day at the Fly-In. Kevin had been organized to fly in a photo shoot with Rob Fox over the top of the airfield. Their goal was to film the Stinson with the field of aircraft below him for future publications on the airshow. He left for the field fairly early whilst Sarah and I were free to roam around Echuca for a touristy time.

We wanted to see the Paddle Steamers and all the sights of the town. We were given a lift in by our Motel owner who offered much information about the shops, buildings and items of interest. We wandered the river-side laneway packed with booking offices for the ships. We walked into a beaut wood working shop where a young lad of about 13 was working on a piece whilst in another corner the tradesman was finishing each item.

Paddle Steamer Emmy Lou Wood down the jetty to the Steamer

The Steamers were so old yet so beautifully maintained. We watched 2 men roll a baggage trolley full of wood down the jetty to the steamer. They still run on wood fires to generate steam to run the paddle wheels. We shouted ourselves to a coffee and milk shake in a café as it was quite chilly. Then once warmed up we continued strolling around the town – it was Sunday so pretty quiet. Overhead we heard a radial and looked up to see Lady Bird purring past. Kevin was flying for the photo shoot and enjoying the feel of a light aircraft for the first time in 5 weeks.

Southern Knights Harvard Formation

Back at the field we sat and watched the continuing air displays including aerobatics by a 450 Stearman, Yak 18T, Mustang, Kittyhawk, Yak 9, and the Southern Knights Harvard team. Numerous other antique aircraft performed fly bys (including the Stinson). Jim Wickham put on a speccy performance display in his Robinson helicopter ably compared by his wife Jenny. Peter Bernardi and Bob Attwater did a splendid job of comparing the entire airshow only leaving their post to carry out a formation display in their Chipmunk and Ryan PT22.

Dick Nell's Stampe at Echuca

Another memorable performance was by our “old” time friend Dick Nell in his Stampe, carrying out a fully aerobatic display including everything from a porteous loop to a lomjevac with smoke which ran for almost 15 minutes. Not bad for a man of 76 years. He jokes that every display will be his last but keeps accepting requests for future events. We have nicknamed him “Dame Nellie” after Dame Nellie Melba who kept on coming back from retirement.

As the day wore on it became apparent that the general aviators were keen to fly back to their respective homes. The taxi way to the take-off point held up to 20 aircraft at one time. We finally joined the queue at 3 pm and departed for Nhill. The standard of the airshow had been superb. The weather had turned out perfect with a steady 10 knot breeze straight down the runway and the AAAA had excelled in organizing and running probably one of the best airshows we have seen in Australia.

Flying West we experienced even more alarmingly drought stricken country and to our astonishment saw hundreds of kilometers of wide open irrigations ditches full of water snaking out across the landscape. This was rice growing country and it was so concerning to see extensive flood irrigation still being used when the country is drought stricken!

We tracked directly to find Darryl & Mary Argall’s farmhouse situation about 10 nm south east of Nhill and found it right on the nose. Mary waved as we overflew before landing at the Nhill airstrip. During our ritual of oil wiping, windscreen cleaning etc Darryl arrived and it was great to catch up with Kevin’s old shearing friend. They met whilst shearing at Lake Varley in the SE of WA in 1967. He is Mayor of Nhill and has been deeply involved in local government for nearly 10 years. He is a big solid jovial fellow and the strong bond between him and Kevin was obvious as the evening’s banter progressed.


Darryl had prepared for us a resplendid meal of Osso Bucco followed by Golden Syrup dumplings and cream. As the evening continued Mary asked Sarah what would she like to do as the reminiscing stories were not very interesting to a 13 year old. So spotlighting was suggested..... and she jumped at the offer. Rugged up and into the ute Sarah spotted while Darryl and Kevin were each armed with 12 guage double barrel shot guns. The fun idea of the evening was soon dashed when Sarah found out that they would be shooting bunny-rabbits not foxes! She was told that they are vermin and so continued with the adventure. She did a great job, holding on in the back of the bouncy ute, getting the rabbits in the spot and following them however when the shooting was occuring it was found that the light went off the target! It became apparent that she was a great spotter but when the gun was going to be fired, she turned her head away so she couldn't witness what was going to happen.
Sara did manage to find the strength to hold the spotlight on the dodging target until Kev fired the gun too close to her ear and made her deaf! That was the end of that fun.

After returning to the house, warming up with hot Milo we all climbed into luxurious deep piled beds with electric blankets!


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.