Journaling the Journey

Captain Biff Windsock, journaling the journey

Luskintyre Aerodrome, near Newcastle, to Sydney's Bankstown Aerodrome
Second Leg of the Journey

Returned to Australia from Reno arriving in Sydney in early December.  Since I enjoy train travel, I took the train from the SYD airport to Newcastle, New South Wales, about 100 miles north of SYD.  The Red Rockette had earlier been stored there while I came home for business reasons. 

It was good to see the old girl again.  She had been well covered while resting in a nice, nearly new hangar and had survived the wind storms and the famous "Red Dust Storm" of the eastern coast of Australia earlier in the year.  You may remember that famous photo that went around the internet of the Sydney Opera House barely visible in the red dust swept in from the central desert by strong winds.  My friends of the Newcastle area and the Luskintiger group of Tiger Moth pilots at Luskintyre in particular, had taken good care of the Red Rockette during my absence.  I owe many thanks to Frank Williams, Vince Cronin, and David Salter for their generosity.

First order of business was organizing the required annual inspection of the aircraft.  Good friend David Salter, very high time cropduster and DH Beaver pilot , had learned of an American FAA certified mechanic and inspector now living in SYD.  That chap was contacted and he agreed to perform the inspection for me.

After the inspection was completed, some nasty weather settled in for a few days so time was spent cleaning the aircraft and organizing the numerous pieces of gear that are required for an overwater international trip.  Finally on 10 Dec the weather and I agreed with each other and good friend, local fireman and new Tiger Moth pilot Vince Cronin and I made a local "recon" flight over the famous WWII seaplane base at Rathmines on Lake McQuarie.  Many PBY Catalinas had been based there during the war.  The wreckage of one of them lies in silence on a hilltop on Lord Howe Island. The seaplane ramp and several buildings still remain at Rathmines.  An honorary dip of the wing was made in respect to all of those who served there and the many who lost their lives in the defense of their nation.

The Red Rockette and I then returned to the wonderful little aerodrome about 25 miles west of Newcastle, Luskintyre, near Maitland.  The field is home to a Tiger Moth restoration company operated by Ray Windred and also a wonderful museum.  Rays restoration shop was once called the "Christmas toy shop for big boys".  I concur.  Many colorful Tiger Moths in various states of restoration sit about.

Following are several links to some info about the aerodrome and club:

Luskintyre Aviation Flying Museum
Point Contact Luskintigers
Temora Aviation Museum

The boys of Luskintyre have recently built a WWII style tower for photographers, etc on the field.  It is dedicated to Nancy Bird Walton, one of Australia's most famous early aviatrix.  She was quite a lady.  So much so that Qantas named their first blunderbus . . . ooops . . . Airbus A-380 after her (no cards or letters please).

Sat, 12 Dec was the date of the first Australian Young Eagle ride in the Red Rockette.  I had met Group Captain Alan Clements, F-18 and Hawk aviator, during a visit to a Temora Air Museum "flying weekend".  There he was flying some of the wonderful collection of mostly British aircraft, including a Meteor.  His daughter, Daniele, is keen on aviation as well.  It was a lovely moment for me to see the smile on her face while her dad rode in the back seat.  He was a happy guy as well.  He learned, as many others have, that a back seat ride in a Staggerwing isn't all that bad.  Somewhat elegant, matter of fact.

Flew down to Bankstown airfield in Sydney in mid-December for some propeller maintenance.   Visited with old friend Rob Loneragan, the SeaRey aircraft importer for Australia.  Rob and I became friends long ago when I learned that his family has had three different Staggerwings in their history at Mudgee, NSW.

The prop maintenance took longer than expected...surprise, surprise...and ended up being in Sydney for Christmas as well.  Thankfully, friend Andrew Niemeyer and his lady invited me to their home in SYD for Christmas dinner.  The next day Andrew took me up to his other home on the edge of the ridge in Leura  overlooking the Blue Mountains.  Magnificent!  This is national park area and is within an easy drive of Sydney.  Andrew shared a bottle of 1998 Dorrien Estate "The Growers" Shiraz of Barossa Valley.  To sum it up....WOW!  Thanks Andrew.

While up in the Blue Mountain area, we visited old friend and Staggerwing owner Doug Drummond, who lives in the next village, Wentworth Falls.  Doug has an amazing collection of player pianos and other musical instruments.  He made a career out of repairing and restoring such items.  He has a full on pipe organ in his home as well but is reluctant to play it since it may literally lift the roof...and disrupt the neighbors.  His home could be called a museum to pianos, music boxes, etc.

Back to Bankstown and more work on an annoying propeller oil leak.  As most aviators know, a little oil goes a long way to making a mess of things.  All of a sudden it was New Years Eve.  I had attempted to wrangle an invitation to a vintage flypast over Sydney Harbour early on New Years Eve.  The bottom line of that thought was "bureaucracy will raise it's ugly head every time".  Since I had not applied 6 months in advance, etc, etc I would not be allowed to participate.

Not one to sit when my aircraft was now ready to fly, I phoned my friends up at Luskintyre.  They were planning a Dawn Patrol flight on New Years morning...why don't I come up and join them?  Oh very well...and away from Sydney's Bankstown aerodrome went I northbound up the coast back to Luskintyre, described previously.  New Year's Eve at the Lochinvar Pub with many old and some new friends, a good time had by all.  An early evening of it since the alarm was set for 0400.

More later.