Thursday, 21 April 2011

April 19 Tamworth to Gatton Airpark

Our plans for the day were to fly from Tamworth to Gatton Airpark – home of Steve and Beatte Ewing.  Gatton AP is only 20 nm east of Toowoomba and the total flight was anticipated to be about 2 ½ hours.

After packing our bags and checking out of the motel, we again phoned our trusty taxi-driver Russell (he was almost like a son to us by this stage!!) and headed off to the airport.  Russell helped us carry bags to the Stinson and we all spent some time talking about the Stinson until he headed back to work.  At about this stage I remembered I had left my bathroom bag back at the hotel.  Most annoyed at myself, the best suggestion I had was to phone Russell (again) and have him collect the bag and bring it back to us.  An expensive case of forgetfulness – cost us $25.00. :]

To ensure we had enough fuel, we had to taxi to the bowser – this required a clearance from the control tower.  Following refueling, we again had to obtain a clearance to taxi to the holding point prior to run-ups and take-off.

QantasLink at Tamworth

We initially misunderstood the directions and turned the wrong way.  The map in the ERSA of the field showed so many taxi-ways we had to ask directions from the tower – who assisted us kindly.  We passed a Qantas Link intrastate commuter – doing his pre-flight checks and parked next to a Cap10 (a trainer) to complete  our own run-ups.

Completing run ups, we taxied to the holding point for runway 12Left and were told to enter runway and hold as a twin engine was completing a missed approach on the same runway but from the other direction!! How unusual – we thought.  I finally spotted the twin, high in the air, he announced his completion of his missed approach and we were given permission to depart.   

Ravines just out of Tamworth

After departing I was amazed at how quickly the terrain changed from lovely  parkland to very steep bushland ravines.  The sky was clear and the cloud base at about 4,500ft so we were able to climb high to avoid the bumps.  We passed Inverell, Texas and Warwick – all in varying types of valleys and lots of water/reservoirs abounding.
more ravines - Tiger Country

Gatton Airpark
Kevin spotted Gatton Airpark first.  It was such a pretty sight.  A wide green landing strip atop a hill with houses and hangars all neatly built down one side.  Only 2 new houses were being constructed on the opposite side.  Steve and Beatte were not yet back from “BrisVegas” and we were warmly greeted by their neighbour Martin who gave us a cuppa before helping us push the Stinson back to the hangar.

Steve and Beatte arrived home soon after and we spent hours catching up on when we last saw each other etc.  Steve owns a Fairchild (under restoration) and a Nanchang.  He previously lived in Tyabb and flew regularly with Peter B and Bob A.  He misses that flying camaraderie but totally enjoys having his hangar with air strip all outside his door.

Stinson with Steve Newing's Nanchang at Gatton Airpark

 We were taken to a golf club restaurant where we all enjoyed ourselves.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

April 18 – Tamworth AELEC & Touristing

It was nice to feel warm when we left the motel and headed out with Russell (the bestest Taxi drive in Tamworth) to the brand new Australian Equestrian Complex where the National Quarter Horse Show was being held.

AELEC Tamworth

Inside AELEC

AELEC indoor arena

The programme for the day was reining classes for juniors, rookies and open.  We were so impressed with the design and enormity of the building.  The stable complex held 400 horses. There were 2 full size outdoor warm up arenas, 1 indoor warm up round arena with spectator seating.  The indoor arena held spectator seating and room for supplier’s display cubicles.

We sat and watched lots of competitors warming up – some achieving awesome slide stops and roll backs in readiness for their patterns.

As it was cold inside we went out for a look at the stables and warm up arenas.  The temp was about 26 degrees so very comfortable for us.  After thawing out we bought a lovely coffee and went back inside to watch the competition.

Not knowing one good reining pattern from a bad one, we were impressed with the correct circles at various speeds, the stops and one-the-spot spins and then the sliding stops.  The judge’s scores were all within 4 points for 5 competitors and we couldn’t pick the difference.  One competitor received a zero score – and we couldn’t see what she had done wrong….poor girl.      

There was such a variety of awesome looking QH’s.  I was quite taken with the chestnut sorrel with roaning and full blaze and stockings.  His rider seemed very in tune with him and he was a pleasure to watch.

AQHA Hall of Fame

After taking in the AQHA headquarters Hall of Fame,  we walked a few blocks passing the Regional Entertainment Centre to the Golden Guitar Museum and Coffee Shop. 
Regional Entertainment Centre

Us at the Golden Guitar Museum
We thoroughly enjoyed the wax museum of country singers, both old and new. 
Smokey Dawson wax figure

It was well worth the visit.

Calling our friendly taxi driver, Russell, we headed back into Tamworth for a quick repair job at the optometrist to my spectacles, which had fallen apart.  We then enjoyed wandering the busy main street – window shopping and picked up a windcheater each for $2.50.  Such big expenditure!!

Following the restful afternoon we walked from the motel down town to investigate eateries.  Kevin had noticed a rump steak dinner at a pub and luckily for him it was the first one we came to that was still open.  It was a lovely old style pub with dark wooden d├ęcor.  Kevin enjoyed his steak whilst I polished off salt & pepper squid (calamari) with salad.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

April 17 – Luskintyre to Tamworth

The morning sky showed patches of blue between the clouds with quite a high cloud base.  After an all-in breakfast – mainly poached eggs cooked by Vince – the cleaning up and packing began for departure.

I took a long walk, (suffering a case of the sads cause it was my birthday and Kev had forgotten) saw some lovely Alpacas (one tiny cria) and beaut views of miles and miles of rolling hills in the distance.  Meanwhile Kevin moved the Stinson out, loaded her up and socialized with the Luskin crew.

Kevin W showed us through his cottage which is undergoing an addition of bedroom and ensuite.  It was lined with rough hewn timber with a polished original timber floor.  The fittings were all found at op shops and recycling centres and included the Kooka wood stove, cast iron heater, original sinks, claw foot baths (2) and the bathroom ceiling lining was corrugated iron.  It was truly homely and very comfortable.  It also boasted a cellar which held his wines and was used as a dining room on occasions.

We departed Luskintyre at 11.14am with a final flypast and headed off up the valley.  Countless massive coal mines dotted the landscape while we climbed to the cloud base of 3,000 feet.

Coal mine Hunter Valley

Heading for the hills

Arriving at Tamworth

Passing Musselbrook and Scone, our track took us up mountain valleys with rugged hills each side and little villages amongst farmland.  We experienced some rather severe mountain turbulence which had Vicki out of her seat (loose seatbelt), before descending into Tamworth’s wide open tableland.  With a right base onto runway 12R we landed at 12.10 pm gaining ample and willing assistance from the Tower boys.  We taxied to the fuel bowser then requested directions to a tie down bay.  A local gent – Stewart Kedar - offered us both information and help by giving us a lift into town and finding a suitable motel for the evening.  He later sent us beautiful photos of the Stinson at TW airport. 
photo by Stewart Kedar

Lizard sculpture in Bicentennial Park
We spent the afternoon quietly before taking a walk down town to see the end of the Tasting Extravaganza in the Bicentennial Park and past the pond with amazing granite animal and bird sculptures.  After purchasing smoked salmon, jam and a very healthy fruit/vege juice we wandered back through the lovely wide streets of Tamworth before partaking drinks, cheese and biscuits to celebrate my birthday. 

All daggers were removed from Kevin’s back after his bad start to today when he forgot my birthday!!!  See photo of him hanging from the yardarm atop the tower!
I really did want to hang him!

Tomorrow – the National Quarter Horse Show is on in town.  We are going.  Yippee!

April 16 – Rain Day in Luskintyre

Saturday dawned dull and drizzling with the rain increasing as the day progressed.  We spent the day watching videos, organizing our washing and drying, drinking copious amounts of coffee and reading books.

Stinson alongside Kevin Weldon's copter

Tiger squeeze (PS love CYA)

I couldn’t believe that Kev W had pushed his million dollar chopper aside so that we could squeeze the Stinson in out of the rain. There were at least 3 other Tigers in there already.  It allowed Kevin to spend quite a few hours cleaning the Stinson in the luxury of the hangar. 

The evening meal was a combined effort by Frank, Vince, Geoff and Kevin W resulting in a lovely chicken, mashed potato, rice, vegetables and casserole mix.  Wine, both red and wine flowed freely and the meal and conversation was all very much enjoyed until bedtime.

April 15 – Goulburn to Lustkintyre, Maitland

 Luckily for the us, the day dawned bright and clear so we were able to meet Kim Jones at the airport prior to our departure as planned.

Margaret and I did a spot of shopping before heading out to the airport where Kevin and Dick had already untied and packed the Stinson.  Marg said her goodbyes as she had her regular swimercise class on Friday mornings.

After a quick briefing and refueling we watched Kim take off in his Piper Cub Vagabond VH-KIM – a newly built, neat and clean Cub with beige colouring.
Kim Jones in VH-KIM

Cloud from fire smoke
Cliffs to coast
We said our sad farewells to Dick – he is such a true friend and aviator and he and Kev have so much in common.  We took off, caught up to Kim and took as many photos of his Cub whilst he formated on us even though the air was quite lumpy over the hills.  After quite a few good shots (and some bad ones) we parted company and set our heading over Mittagong and past Wooloongong with it’s breathtaking cliffs and then down to Stanwell Park on the beach where we had descended down to 1,000 feet to enter the Victor 1 Light Aircraft Lane – northbound up the Sydney beaches. 

Sydney city

Sydney icons
 Passing southhead and the entrance to Sydney harbour we tracked north along the coast past the beautiful city.  We were lucky to see most of the city in the gloom but the beaches were vast and clean. 

We passed Barrenjoi and the Entrance before tracking inland for Luskintyre.

Arriving over Luskintyre we saw a number of Tigers on the beautifully manicured airfield and managed a lovely three pointer to finish a most interesting flight of only 1hr and 45 minutes from Goulburn.
Arriving at Luskintyre

Luskintyre is the home of the LuskinTigers – a group of dedicated Tiger Moth owners including Kevin Weldon’s Museum and hangar and a Tiger restoration workshop run by Matt.  Matt has taken over the Tiger Restoration from Ray Windred who retired due to ill health 2 years ago.  He is a dynamic young LAME who is working hard to improve the business and has completed 8 Tigers in his first 2 years. 

Nancy Bird Walton Tower

There are at least 10 Tigers that fly from there as well as the restorations in progress.  New to the cluster of buildings is the Lady Bird Walton Memorial Tower dedicated to the wonderful aviatrix, who’s ashes were spread at this airfield after her death.

Later that afternoon Kevin Weldon arrived in his beautiful 6 seater jet helicopter while Geoff Kubank arrived by car.  We were welcomed into the club house by Vince with freshly made cappuccinos and settled in easily to this wonderful environment.  We were lucky to have flown in the morning as the weather was closing in and showers commenced.

We were dragged off to the Lochinvar Hotel for a pub meal with Kevin Weldon, Geoff K and Matt.  We had an enjoyable evening listening to Kevin W’s funny and tall stories blended with aviation conversation with Matt and Geoff.

As everyone else had imbibed too much wine or beer it was left up to me to drive home in the rain.  It was a successful trip with four “back-seat” pilots telling me what to do – we all arrived home safely.

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.