Northern Exposure Report
Friday morning the 13th September, (yes Friday the 13th), 4 planes and 9 crew associated with Coldstream Flyers Club assembled at Coldstream Airfield in the Yarra Valley to begin their flyaway North entitled ‘Northern Exposure’. After several months of planning Baron WMZ, Archer HPS, Warrior KBW and Skywolf XVW were ready for departure to the first destination Narromine, for AUSFLY. The Sports Aircraft Association’s AUSFLY had many aircraft on display for us to view. The exhibition halls were represented by many companies displaying their wares. The Roulettes and Matt Hall put on some fantastic flying displays. Our tents were erected next to the aircraft and dinner and drinks in either the Aero or Gliding Clubs.
Next morning after breakfast at the Aero Club we decamped and headed for White Cliffs and the beginning of warmer weather. After checking in at The Underground Hotel it was off to the White Cliffs Hotel for drinks and a chat with fellow fliers from Coldstream and Tyabb, who decided to join us for 2 days. Dinner was at The Underground and after a good night’s sleep, former schoolmate of mine, Richard Allen gave us a guided tour of his underground house.
Time to pack up and hit the skies again, bound for Nockatunga and the Noccundra Hotel. Other than the licensees the only other inhabitants were frogs. Refreshing beers, dinner in the dining room and lightning displays filled our evening, along with Len and his Essex girls jokes. See Len if you wish to hear more. Accommodation was by means of Dongas. The following morning we had the aircraft lined up out the front of the pub for a group aircraft photo, one of the few places left where this can be done.
Birdsville was the next stop, a week after the famous races. First time some had seen inside the pub without it being stripped bare for the races. After lunch and check-in to the Motel section of the pub, it was time for a walk around town before dinner at the pub. Breakfast at The Birdsville Bakery in the morning and it was time to head to Longreach, the furthest point North of our trip.
Longreach had so much to offer we ended up staying for 3 nights at The Jumbuck Motel, not far from the airport. The QANTAS Founders Museum was a full day visit as was The Stockman’s Hall of Fame. Following the history of QANTAS and viewing some of their old aircraft was indeed an enjoyable experience, as was the wing walk on the 747. The Stockman’s Hall of Fame provides a memorial to the explorers, over-landers, pioneers and settlers of remote Australia. Kinnon & Co, Longreach tour operators, offer Cobb and Co coach rides and evening cruises on The Thomson River, followed by bush tucker, outback stories and poems, followed by a sound and light show on the banks of the river. After a busy 4 days in Longreach it was time to venture towards the coast to Hervey Bay, then a quick flight over to Fraser Island.
Orchid beach was our destination on Fraser as it had an airstrip. Mat was able to organise a house and two 4x4’s for our two night stay there. By chance, Orchid Beach Progress Association have a bar and restaurant that opens one night a month, as it turned out the day we arrived. Driving on Fraser was an experience, particularly in the yellow beast, a V8 powered Landcruiser. On the way to Happy Valley along the beach we stopped to view the wreck of the SS Maheno, watch tourist planes landing on the beach, and a first for the 2 drivers, being breath tested just before our lunch destination at Happy Valley. A big BBQ dinner at our house and next morning we were off to Port Macquarie.
Flying to Port Macquarie offered some very scenic coastal flying, as well as flying controlled airspace over Sunshine & Gold Coast Airports. Whether you flew at 1000ft or 4000ft the sight of the Gold Coast from the air was a sight to be seen. Hastings District Aero Club at Port Macquarie opened their doors, well, bar actually, for us to enjoy a few beers whilst we organised transport and accommodation. With over 40,000 people Port Macquarie is a large town and beautiful to boot, and a great choice of dining options and things to do.
Our next destination was Woolongong, via Sydney Victor One. Flying as low as 500ft near Williamtown (Newcastle), gave us practise for Victor One. Once again, very scenic coastal flying. Approaching North Head we descended to 500ft. Every pilot should do a Victor One at least once in their lifetime. The sight was amazing as we travelled south to Woolongong enjoying the views of Sydney and its harbour, along with the surf beaches including Bondi. Finally arriving at Woolongong we hit our first glitch for the trip, HARS was closed for renovations. No names mentioned as to who didn’t check this out earlier, but think President and you’re on the money. The decision was made to fill up and head for home to Coldstream. Arriving late in the day it was time to unload, relax, and head home to families, apart from Mat who arrived home in his Skywolf the following day. All agreed it was a great trip and plans are afoot for the next journey. If you haven’t done any outback flying, do yourself a favour and do it. In the words of Richard Kinnon of Kinnon & Co, he’s not sure that the city people need the country people; the country people certainly need the city people to come and visit. DO IT, and yes we need the country people too.