This is quite a big event for the AAAA, and even looked like attracting a few Sonex variants. Of course the Sonex doesn’t qualify as an antique, but a few of the owners do so we were welcome. I would say that this is the best fly-in that I have ever attended. The workmanship on some of the restored aircraft had to be seen to be believed.
Echuca is only 70 nm from Kyneton, so hardly a trip, but Tony Richardson was flying over from Callington, near Adelaide, and needed to refuel along the way, so we agreed to meet at Swan Hill and fly down to Echuca in very loose formation and hopefully get a few air-to-air photos. Tony was going to have a couple of hours flight to Swan Hill compared with my flight of around an hour so there was no hurry. There was quite a strong southerly wind at Kyneton and I was anticipating a tailwind until I checked the weather and found a light northerly wind forecast, and so it proved. I started out on a heading of 316º which would take me to the west of Bendigo and a large restricted area NW of Bendigo. The restricted area wasn’t active but I used to wonder what it was used for and the answer is: model rockets. The restriction can go up to 37,000 feet so some of them must be pretty serious. In chalkier days, I once had my whole Year 7 science class build model rockets powered by Estes solid fuel motors. I made the bodies out of sheets of A4 paper rolled around a tube and soaked in epoxy and we turned up the nose cones using my power drill as a lathe. I don’t know if the kids learned anything but it was a lot of fun. Our little rockets wouldn’t have troubled any aircraft that were over 500ft AGL.
I have flown in to Swan Hill a couple of times before but never made it into town so I’ll have to make the facts up. One fact I don’t have to make up is that it gets pretty hot in summer, often seeing temperatures in the mid 40s (over 110ºF). Another is that while there are almost certain to be swans on one of the various bodies of water in the area, I couldn’t find any evidence of a hill. Here’s my contribution:
An old masochist from Swan Hill
Was generally acknowledged, a dill
He’d fill up his pants
With a bucket of ants
And wear ’em, just for the thrill
On other stops at Swan Hill I have never seen a soul, but on this occasion, a nice bloke came over to chat as soon as I taxied in. He turned out to be a retired farmer who owned a very nice Cessna 140 AND a fairly new Carbon Cub. Not surprisingly, the Cub was more fun to fly so had most of his attention. It seems to me that farming in this part of the world is largely high-stakes gambling on the weather so it’s nice to know that some of them come out ahead.
Eventually Tony’s shiny Sonex hove into view, and after a defuel and refuel we headed off along the Murray to Echuca.
By this time it was a bit lumpy in the air and you can see that we didn’t break any rules about formation flying. In fact we didn’t even get close enough for good air to air photographs. The flight was uneventful and the first surprise at Echuca was how casually it was organised. “Where can I park?” “Wherever you like”. It all seemed to work anyway.There were five Sonex variants: Chris Dearden had flown from Goolwa with his Xenos, Greg Tabe had flown the South Australian Sports Aircraft Club’s Sonex and Brian Ham had flown his up from Mangalore.
Here’s a selection of the displayed aircraft. Click on image for larger view:
The above aircraft are: Dehavilland Dragon Rapide, a collection of chipmunks and a very cosy air ambulance. The ambulance was detailed right down to an authentic-looking complete medical kit containing a packet of “Wound tablets”. Sounds like a handy item.
I assume the pilot of this beautiful Gypsy Moth (above) flew it in slippers or socks because there wasn’t a mark on it, even on foot-steps. Check out that auxiliary airspeed indicator and a compass that really means business.
The Waco, above left seems to have been built at a time when the engineers knew that they didn’t need two wings but the customers still expected them so they just made the lower wing as small as possible. The Ryan appears to be equipped for civil defence, or at least getting rid of annoying neighbours. The third aircraft is a Vultee BT13A trainer, a very rare bird for Australia as our air force never used them.
Now here’s something really special; the only flying Corsair in Australia. Our air force never flew Corsairs. This one is from the Honduran Air Force and still painted in their colours.
That’s what I call a tail wheel. There’s an inspection panel near the top of the fuselage for servicing the tail wheel. I assume it’s for access to the top of a hydraulic strut.
While we were ogling the Corsair, a couple more war-birds arrived; a P51 and a P40F (Merlin -powered) flown by Judy Pay
We had managed to miss any convenient shuttle buses so called a taxi and headed into town and went for a stroll to the old port area on the river. Echuca was once a pretty busy port and one of the old wharves is still standing, although these days it is well above the river, presumably because of damming and diversion of water for agriculture. All the same, the Murray is no Mississippi. A trip along the river must have just about had the crew of the paddle steamers giddy. Have a look at the Murray River on Google Earth and you’ll see what I mean. A trip along the Murray must be about three times direct distance.
Dinner that night was at the American Hotel where we met up with the very friendly mob from the Sports Aircraft Club from South Australia.
We breakfasted Sunday morning at one of the local cafes and then caught a taxi back to the airfield to find a few more rare aircraft had arrived since we left yesterday afternoon; another P40, the mighty Grumman Avenger, which really gets around- I have seen it a few times before, and a 1930s era Lockheed Elektra.
I have fond memories of the Elektras from seeing them in serials at the movies when I was a kid. It seemed that the hero was always fighting the bad guy for the controls or parachuting out of one of these beautiful aircraft.
There were a few more flying displays. The Corsair and Mustang did a few formation passes and it was quite striking how slim the Mustang looked in comparison with the Corsair, which is hardly a “fat” aircraft. A bit later when I was waiting to depart myself I had to hold while waiting for three aircraft to form up for a fly-past on their departure. They were the Corsair, Mustang and P40. It actually felt like an honour to have to wait for them. Here’s my departure.