Friday, 8 April 2011

April 5 Lethbridge to Apollo Bay

After a wonderful evening meal and sleep at the Taberners we departed for the drive to Apollo Bay.  Craig & Lara had lent us their Ford Mondo station wagon which was very roomy and we felt very privileged to be allowed to use their car.  We had decided to drive as we had been advised that the AB airstrip was not very wide nor safe since the rains.

The day was bright and sunny and after wishing Ian (Kevin’s brother) a happy birthday via telephone we headed off with advice on what we should see when heading for the Cape Otway lighthouse.  Our first stop was Torquay to refuel and buy supplies and then locate the entrance to the famous Bells Beach where all the international surf carnivals are held.  The beach access was very steep and the surf was almost non-existent however it was great to actually see this beach.   
Kevin & Nanny at Bells Beach

We drove on to Anglesea – a very popular holiday spot where famous landmarks are the two bathing beauties.
Bathing Beauties

Winding our way down the coastline, we were astounded at the beautiful views that opened up around every headland.  The teal blue waters and perfect white waves rolling onto yellow sand or craggy rocks is the perfect outlook for any holiday maker.  The hills got steeper and the houses fewer past Airey’s inlet and Moggs Creek – where the most spectacular pole house stood out against the sky line.

Round many u corners and 35km bends we wound further down the
Great Ocean Road
with the sun shining constantly on the beautiful beach & coastal views.  Lorne is quite a large holiday resort with many motels, shops and very picturesque.  Stopping at many view points to take photos we passed both old and new holiday homes, Kennett River Caravan Park and Skenes Creek until Apollo Bay opened out before us.

As Karen was still at work I decided to show Kevin the local airstrip.  We introduced ourselves to the local pilot and took a walk out to find that the strip though narrow, was well sealed and the grass alongside was quite long but the ground hard – we could have landed there after all!

I finally found the way to direct Kevin to Paradise where I had seen the most magnificent holiday chalets when I had visited a few years ago.

Barnam Road Paradise Chalets

The drive up was through tropical rainforest full of tree ferns and wrens.  Kevin & Nanny were most impressed with both the forest and countryside considering we were so close to the coast.  Coming up to the chalets we found that they were for sale – Oh how exciting…… And we found out that they were only asking 1.94m$  [read….cough, cough, choke…..choke]  Oh well, it was well worth the drive.  The entire valley was very pretty and appealing in the afternoon April sunshine.  On the return drive we stopped at the picnic spot where I had previously seen a platypus however he was not to be seen anywhere this time.

We drove to Karen’s place to wait for her to come home from work but were very surprised to find her and Kristy already home.  With much excitement, we greeted each other and the remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent:- settling in, chatting, preparing the room, chatting, organizing dinner, chatting, walking the dogs, chatting and just talking a bit (hehe) [For those who don’t know Karen was a great friend from Mundijong until she left some 3 years ago to move to Apollo Bay – so we had a bit of catching up to do.]

April 4 Echuca to Lethbridge

We cleaned up our cottage after preparing sandwiches for lunch.  Kev got a lift to the airport with Lorrie and Chris early whilst Mum and I stayed behind with just the food bags to bring.

We had time to kill before the airport bus so the lovely driver dropped us in town to enjoy a coffee in the morning sunshine and watch passing dog walkers.  We arrived at the airport about 10 am to be greeted by the Shines who were finishing tightening Staggerwing fairings and then were having a day in Echuca.

Grand Champion Stearman at Echuca

I helped clean up the clubrooms a bit and had a coffee before we departed for the short flight to Lethbridge following the Taberner’s in their C195.

We flew at 2,500 feet over very pretty country with some small hills and steep gullies.  Craig and Lara left us behind easily and we cruised on alone with a 10 knot headwind.

past Wind Farms to Lethbridge
We spotted Lethbridge in the distance and were instantly amazed at the layout of this all-over grass airpark.  We heard and saw a Gazelle joining overhead at the same time but managed to join downwind and landed on rwy18 before him.  It is such a pretty place.

Craig and Lara were unpacking their plane and towed it into a massive hangar which also held 10 other aircraft.  The property owner met us and directed us to a safe parking area.

We were given a lift to Craig and Lara’s also by John an AAAA member. 

What wonderful hospitality by other aviators – we couldn’t be in better company.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

April 3 – Echuca AAAA Airshow Day

The freezing night dawned onto a bright sunny but slightly breezy day.  Kev caught a lift with Chris & Lorri to the airfield whilst Mum & I stayed back for a slower departure and food preparation morning.  We arrived at 9.45am with the airshow due to commence at 11.00 am.  The show opened with the Bagpipes Band playing down the taxiway.

Southern Knights Harvard

Aerobatic Formation

The first event on the programme was the Southern Knights Harvard formation aerobatic team.  They are a very polished and experienced crew who display at many events throughout the eastern states of Australia. 

 Following them was a Vintage Aircraft flypast display with

Kevin & Dick Nell after the display

1935 Stinson Reliant Gullwing (us of course)
1942 Beech 17 Staggerwing  (Shines)
1934 Avro Cadet with Clin Ashton Martin at the controls
1930’s DeHavilland Dragon (Colin) and a Dragon Rapide
1948 Cessna 195 flown by Craig Taberner
Kevin and Mum Elwyn outside RIAMA the Dragon

All machines have their own attributes with the Staggerwing being retract undercarriage showed her stuff at speed with the C195 sliding along not much slower than that at 135knots.  The Dragon & Rapide were quite slow but very elegant whilst the Cadet showed her paces and her great character.  Our Reliant showed off her huge wing to the crowd as her specialty is comfort and style.  Kevin had the honour of taking Dick Nell with him on this display.

The day's programme also included a helicopter, Winjeels, Lockheed 12 handling displays, aerobatics by the L39 jet trainer. Then Yak 9, Mustangs, Spitfire, Curtiss Kittyhawk and Warhawk and Hudson flybys. The major highlight was Australia’s Red Bull ace pilot, Matt Hall completing a detailed full aerobatic sequence in his MXS-R low wing monoplane.  It was a very exhilarating and crowd pleasing display.  The day’s event closed with the RAAF Roulettes Pilatus PC-9/A 7 aircraft team aerobatic display. 

The stream of departing GA aircraft was also very interesting for the public to watch due to the variety of aircraft ranging from Tiger Moths to homebuilts. 
We traveled home in style once again with Lorri and Chris in their rental car to relax again before our evening meal.

April 2 Echuca

Kev headed off to the airport for practice day whilst Mum and I planned a touristy day in Echuca.  Our first item to mark off the “bucket list” was a riverboat cruise on a paddle steamer.  So we booked a time on the Pride of the Murray and then bought food and staples for the next few days.  The paddle steamer itself was beautifully maintained  and well appointed.  We enjoyed a very calm cruise upstream and were surprised at the number of restored paddleboats there were on the Murray.  The tidal flow was very fast and many kayakers were taking advantage of it.

Pride of the Murray

Emmy Lou

After the cruise we went into the old area of the wharves and wandered through craft shops including woodworking and ironmongers shop, the chocolate factory and many gift stores.  The town had a lovely chestnut horse pulling a lovely wagon on a tour of the main town blocks.  That wagon and horse passed us at least 6 times during our travels – he was very popular.  We also saw a banner advertising the Airshow which was planned for tomorrow (Sunday) and there at the bottom was a photo of our Stinson parked there in 2007.  (I could even see myself walking by)

The official AAAA event commenced with a dinner at the Airfield that evening.  A huge marquis had been organized with caterers.  The people and atmosphere were all friendly and a great camaraderie was offered by all attendees.  The meal was plentiful and well received on the cold night.  The MC for the evening was our friend, fun-loving Peter Bernardi and Craig Taberner announced the category winners.

Longest traveled was Rod Edwards, Stearman from WA…..
The President’s Choice was our Stinson Reliant from WA…….
The Reserve Champion was Chris & Lorrie Shine’s Staggerwing from WA…..
And Grand Champion was ………….  another Stearman from WA………
Once again, WA had blitzed most of the awards

The lovely black and yellow CT4 won Best Military and 2 Tiger Moths won Best Vintage and Best Restoration. 

We caught up with Dick & Margaret Nell from Goulburn, Colin & Maeva Smith from Croyden in NZ., Mark Michell from SA, Jim & Jenny Wickham from Tyabb as well as many other new friends from Victoria.

April 1 Echuca

Following a cereal and/or cooked breakfast put on by the RAAF I quickly headed off on the train to Tullamarine to collect Mum/Nanny Milly from her flight from Tasmania.  The train/bus journey took longer than expected and I was a bit late to meet her but with a quick turn-around we jumped back on the Skybus back to Southern Cross Station and then on the train again back to Point Cook Airport station. 

Arriving back we were collected by Brett, a lovely Point Cook staff member, who had lent us his car and been so helpful with any request over the Pilgrimage.  We also were met by John Bassi, a South African helicopter pilot friend of Jude’s (WA friend), who wanted to interview us to enable him to write an article on the Stinson.  John, his sister and family were very interesting and lovely people. 
Lineup at

beautiful Pt Cook

We helped Mum aboard the Stinson and departed beautiful Pt Cook and headed for Echuca.  The properties under our wings were magnificent houses surrounded by lush gardens and then the terrain moved onto rolling hills to steeper river cutaways.   We spotted a few private airstrips set amongst the hills and ate our lunch as we cruised along.  With Avalon, Point Cook and Tullamarine airspace in the vicinity, all g.a. local flying must surely be very controlled.

I flew some of the way through lots of smoke haze and arrived at 2.42pm.  We were parked in the front row and after tying down the craft we caught the bus into town to our accommodation at the Caravan Park chalet.

By time we got settled in the chalet it was quite late but Kev walked back into town and bought bread and pies/pasties for an easy dinner.

March 31 Point Cook 90th RAAF Anniversary

Up early for bus transport to the airfield, I had been lucky enough to make contact with Karin Shulz a white shepherd breeder in Ballarat who kindly brought her 5 dogs out to meet me.  I had a wonderful time meeting all her girls and her new male pup from New Zealand.  My dog fix was fulfilled but I missed my Ajax all the more.
With limited time I rushed to catch the last bus. Once there, I organized myself, jumped aboard the Stinson and we departed Ballarat at 11.09 am for Point Cook, taxiing behind the Roy Fox in the Dragon Rapide then following us was Rod and Rob in the Stearman.

After a short 37 minute flight we spotted Point Cook airport in the distance.  What a beautiful location! – 2 airstrips surrounded by lush green paddocks, adjacent to the beautiful Victorian coastline.  “Truly a glorious setting for an airfield”.  We lowered our nose for a fairly wide circuit and landed softly on the grass strip alongside runway 17.

The lineup of aircraft on the grass was truly a spectacular sight and the military aircraft on the front flight line were very impressive.  After the ritual registration we were allocated our rooms and trudged off to find them. 

Point Cook approach

 They were called the ‘Condos’ being 2 story and quite new compared to many of the accommodation blocks.  Our itinerary was to include the formal event of the Official Dinner for the RAAF 90th Anniversary but before that, we had time to experience the famous Pt Cook museum.  The standard and layout of all the exhibits was truly educational with lots of videos along the way.  We even found the information on the Stinson where she was inducted to the RAAF.  It was allocated A38-1 (which we knew) and was in Communications Corp for only 2 years.  The yellow brick road led us to numerous hangars with many static aircraft displays  concluding with the modern day F-111 – definitely well worth the visit. 

  One of the most unusual displays in the museum was the Bristol Military Boxkite which was almost complete.A truly exquisite work of art in fabric and wires.

We left ourselves an hour to prepare for the evening’s event and went back to our room to freshen up and get ready.  The organizers had requested that we dress in period costume for the era of our aircraft in aeroplane associated clothing.  Due to the ongoing plans of our trip we did not have the capacity to bring costumes for this event and Kevin had been too busy re-installing the engine to find any clothes.  I had however located a hat and dear Sonia had obtained a lovely little bag from her neighbor, so together with some of my regular wardrobe I dressed myself for the event.

Some of the costumes were truly amazing.

Following cocktails and appetizers outside (brrrrr) we were invited into the Officers Mess to commence the dinner.  The walls were adorned with paintings of present and past Point Cook Chief of Air Staff and Co A Force.  The evening’s event brought 5 past CoAF’s, local politicians, Event Sponsors (Qantas), Temora Museum, all town Mayors, and organizers together with the 140 odd pilots, co-pilots and partners.  The rooms were filled to capacity with all tables closely stacked.  The d├ęcor and food were all superb and the speeches though long were interjected with humour and inclusion of the pilgrimage participants.  One of the most appreciated men on this tour was Colin Griffin a 91 year old veteran who was still flying.  His witty comments kept us all laughing. {The next morning we were walking to breakfast and came up behind Col, who quipped “I’m at maximum continuous power – can’t go any faster}.  This man is an inspiration to us all with his attitude to life.

The winners of the event questionnaire were announced winning a day with the Point Cook Air force including a flight in a PC9.  The evening concluded with cutting of the magnificent cake celebrating the Anniversary of the commencement of the RAAF on this day 90 years ago.

March 30 Ballarat

Dawn photo by Keith

The dawn came very calm and warm.  We caught the complimentary bus to the airfield just prior to the briefing for the day’s leg. The bus dropped all pilots at their respective airplane parking areas – which we thought was a lovely gesture.  Every thing about this event has been so well thought out.  After breakfasting at the club, we had nearly 2 hours to kill until our departure time.  I went for a lovely long walk back out of the airport and down a quiet country road.  A dirt track at a corner enticed me and I followed it for quite a while watching a big mob of kangaroos bound off the track and down into a creek line.  At least 8 of the mob stopped and watched me as I soaked up the scene.  The male would have been over 6’ tall and all were in fat healthy condition due to the lovely rains the area had received recently.   I returned to the road and followed it around to the next aerodrome gate and entered past the Sports Aviation Association clubrooms.  This portion of the airport property was in vast contrast to the Aero Club as this had neat gardens, mown lawns, lovely caravans and fairly new clubrooms. 

I moved between the Austers and stopped at the Chipmunk owned by Murray who had won an award at the Temora function.  He had a bubble on his Chippy that was made in WA and was exactly the same as on our Chippi. (Glen and Kevin purchased three when they were doing their restoration) I moved onto the Yaks – all very tall and streamlined but with large paddle prop blades.  Past various other types and then had a good look at the Black and Yellow CT4 that had won Best Military.  This unit was very clean, neat and tidy and really deserved its award.

I finished my walk just in time to tidy a last few things and then climb aboard ready for departure.  Kev had been interviewed by a TV station WIN whilst I was out walking.   This trip James, another photographer was joining us.  We taxied out after the Dragon and Drover with the Stearman following behind us.  We took off on runway 23 at 10.27.  The sky was overcast with low cloud however the countryside below was picture card perfect.  Almost English type paddock squares as far as the eye could see interspersed with hedges and irrigation canals.  Once again the Stearman formated on us and James was able to get some lovely photos.  We were also catching up with the Drover who was only achieving 86 knots against the strong headwind. So------ we overtook the Drover – great photo opportunity and then left her behind.

We finally arrived at Ballarat at 12.10pm local time to a light shower on the windscreen.  We landed behind the Dragon and taxied up past  PC9’s to park on the tarmac out from the Aero Club.  A huge crowd of about 1000 people were there to see the arrivals and bus loads of school children were arriving constantly.  About 3,500 school children were given the opportunity to view all the aircraft as well as watch the Roulettes do their amazing aerobatic display over head.  The weather was bitterly cold but we were well received and fed in a hangar out of the cold wind.  We caught up with Jim and Jenny Wickham who had dropped a friend at Ballarat to join the pilgrimage.

We caught the bus into town to book into our hotel and then go into Ballarat for some sightseeing. 

 The amazing old buildings in the city were very well preserved and presented.  It is truly a pretty city with very wide streets, angle parking and a median strip garden down the centre.  We wandered into the Mining Exchange Gold shop which was the first purpose built gold exchange in 1880.  We browsed the historial information, natural gold nuggets and then the jewellery.  An exquisite nugget set in a white gold ring caught my eye and after a short discussion – Kev bought it for me as my Eternity ring. Its simply superb…..lucky me.  Continuing our browsing around the city we made our way back to the bus pickup point and then back to the motel once again for a quick turn around, then out to dinner at the Ballarat Golf Club.  It  was within walking distance from our Motel so we quickly joined the Shines, Murray and Andy and also “Spot” and “Philthy”, the aircraft ATC unicoms for the event. (For the uninitiated –Unicoms are radio controllers {usually ground stations} who listen to the radio calls for departing and incoming aircraft but don’t give advice unless needed).  Another fantastic meal at this club was had with much laughter and stories from the two ATC guys.  These groups of aviators are all truly enjoying this memorable event and everyone’s company.

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.