The club would love to share with you an essay by Clarrie Beckingham outlining his experiences as a General Aviation Private Pilot from 1972-98. Many of our members will recognise and remember the stories, people and aircraft Clarrie talks about.

Acknowledgement: The review of this section on Weekend Warrior by Mr. Jerry Trevor – Jones of Bathurst is gratefully acknowledged


For the majority of my working and married life, my two recreational pursuits (other than farm work on weekends and holidays) were flying and sailing.

As for sailing, my earliest experience was the purchase of a plywood sailing dingy a “Gwen 12” that I sailed on Lake Wyangan, near Griffith in 1969. This was my first year of work after graduating from Wagga Agricultural College in 1968. I then went onto obtain a part share in a “Lightweight Sharpie”, a very fast 3 man plywood sailing boat that was enjoyable particularly on Sydney Harbour. It unfortunately collided with a Fireball at the start of a sailing Regatta whilst boats were jockeying for positions at Carcoar Dam in 1973 and I was at the helm. We managed to limp ashore, taking no further part in the race. I think that was my last trip in the “Sharpie”!

My next period of sailing was with a friend from Mudgee who owned a nice bigger two person racing plywood boat, a “Flying Dutchman”. On this boat, I acted as a crewman during 1975 and 1976, sailing out of Cudgegong River Park on Burrrendong Dam, near Mudgee.

The Lightweight Sharpie at Ports Stephens in 1973 

In 1977, I purchased a Trailer Sailor, a “Sonata Six”. This was a six metre all fibreglass sailing yacht that being a trailer sailor allowed one to travel about the countryside. It had a six HP Johnson outboard just in case there were no winds and accommodation for four inside. All in all, a great
concept and yacht. It was sailed along with my wife, Fiona at Burrendong Dam, Sydney Harbour, Jervis Bay, Port Stephens and the Whitsundays in Queensland. Alas all good things eventually come to an end when the Sonata was sold to help pay for a new car when we moved to Maitland in
1985. The Sonata provided much joy and the concept of trail ring it about was, just great.

The Sonata Six in Whitsundays in 1982 

Most of my flying involved trips cross country, particularly to Queensland where you could benefit from a range of flying conditions, particularly weather, landing situations and control zones. For a “weekend warrior” this offered maximum experience for minimum cost; important when your
budget was always tight.

My first recollection of flight was during the 1950’s whilst we as a young family went for a holiday at Bulolo in New Guinea. I can recollect sitting in seats along the side of a DC 3 or World War II “Gooney Bird” and looking out the windows and seeing mountain range flash by as we came into
land at Bulolo.

At Bulolo I can remember my Mother also first taught me to swim, which was in the nick of time, given I almost drowned at the swimming pool in Samurai.I had gotten out of my depth and only by taking gulps of air and spring back to the surface from under water for fresh air, until help arrived was I able to survive. Samurai was a small island we were living at before moving to Port Moresby with my Father who worked with the Copra Marketing Board. There were one or two other flights in DC 4’s between Sydney and Port Moresby during holidays, whist we were living in Papua.

As for light aircraft, I think it was a general interest in flying that prompted me to go “up for a spin” with one of the McWilliams’s Wine family members in 1969 at Griffith. This flight was just exhilarating and, it was in a Cessna 150. I was fresh out of Wagga Agricultural College and at my first posting at the Viticulture Research Station with Department of Agriculture. I did not have any spare “shillings” to take flying up as a private pilot at that stage. However the trip was sufficient to wet my appetite to learn to fly at a later date when I could afford the cost.

I am not sure where the term “Weekend Warrior” came from; it was just a term picked on the Aero Club weekend drinks night circuit when tall tales got taller by the hour but the companionship, enjoyment and discussion on all things flying became forever impressed in one’s mind. Basically I think a “Weekend Warrior” was a part time Pilot who did most of his flying on weekends. I did most of my flying on weekends with other times during the week on business or holiday trips. In some respects as time went on, the amount of monies available was the major influence of what time I could spend flying as a non commercial pilot. Without a doubt flying offered all sorts of reasons for taking it up and continuing it for as long as I did, for some 26 years with the support of my wife, Fiona of course.

All of my flying, of a total 648.39 hours (and 55 hours of night flying) was done with “USA made modern, all metal, light, single engine aircraft, from 1972 to 1998, over some 26 years. In 1998, at the time when I gave up flying at the age of 52, aviation was a part of half of my lifetime. It was that good being a weekend warrior!

One had to be extra careful and the days of the “barnstormer” were well and truly gone. I had flown when the aircraft available for hire were either Cessna’s and Piper’s and had the privilege of being taught by some of the legends in my lifetime at least, like George Campbell, of G.W. Campbell Flying School at Mudgee who passed way in wonderful Mudgee in 1984,
Charlie Polain who retired in 1985 to Manly and eventually to wonderful Cairns. Charlie was also “fit as a fiddle”, and also a very good tennis player and cricketer. One day I saw him do a somersault from a standing start inside the Clubrooms at Bathurst, simply amazing!

Also, Jerry Trevor-Jones who with Charlie and Lindsay Cox started Star Air Charter at Bathurst in 1977 and retired to picturesque Bathurst in 2001, after 23 years as Star Air’s Chief Flying Instructor.

Jerry went on to a fine career in Aviation after overcoming colour blindness, not only instructing but also as a Commercial Pilot. Jerry was also a long serving Secretary/Treaserer of Bathurst Aero Club for some 40 years. He was later made a Life Member of the club. These Flying Instructors and others were crucial to all manner of things associated with flying. There is more on the role they played in my typical “Weekend Warrior’s “flying, mentioned further on. However it was the Flying Instructors that taught and instilled all things necessary and good about flying to a large degree.

To me, flying was an absolute passion, a training ground for airmanship, discipline and being on time (I think it helped with Time Management at work) and particularly the need for attention to detail. Being on time for example, deemed that wherever you went, on cross country flights, according to your flight plan, your arrival time at destination, the ETA, (estimated time of arrival) meant you had to be within 3 minutes of nominated time in your flight plan. Usually on longer flights this meant you
might have to revise your ETA several times depending on weather, particularly winds.

Many other aspects of flying also appealed and the attention to detail was essential, particularly flight planning and making sure the weight and balance details for the aircraft were correct. The destination landing needed to be suitable, and the landing procedure that usually required attention to and fine but constant adjustment of rudder, power and aileron all at the same time meant you had to very much careful all the way to a full stop and even during taxing. In retractable wheeled aircraft and those with a constant speed propeller, one had to double check that wheels were down by a visual check and after double checking wheels down and prop as tuned into fine pitch on short finals and say “fine and green, checked legs” . You had to be “on your toes” so to speak, all the way.

Flying competitions, particularly those that involved forced landings, spot landings and minimal procedures using a hood and reliance on instruments without a doubt helped fine tune and correct any bad habits and problems that were developing or had developed. Competition time also offered an opportunity to get valuable feedback from Instructors judging the competition. I was never a big winner when it came to competitions. The best I ever did was a third placing in a Bathurst competition for Pilot of the Year. Practice makes perfect in aviation and I had spent most of my spare monies travelling rather than sharpen up my competition skills for flying competitions.

Flying offered many other things including a greater knowledge of weather, aircraft systems and caring for engines, a way to travel and see the wonderful country that Australia is, safely, speedily and cost effectively, for work and pleasure and to meet and know so many wonderful people associated with flying, particularly the legendary flying instructors, aero club members, other pilots and those associated with administration of flying.

From student pilot, and first flight in the Cessna 150 VH – RZP under the watchful eyes of Flying Instructor, Charlie Polain on 4th March 1972 to my final flight on 11th February 1998, undertaking a Biennial Flight Review in Piper Archer VH – BAC with Star Air’s Flying Instructor, Ian Burns and later relinquishing my Private Pilots licence in 1999 and ultimately retiring as an associate member, Bathurst Aero Club and all things flying in September 2011.

I had spent 26 years flying and some 39 years as a member of Bathurst Aero Club with memberships Mudgee Aero Club and Royal Newcastle Aero Club in between, during the flying years as I moved around with my occupation as an Horticultural Advisory Officer with NSW Department of Primary Industries.


I learnt at the following places with the following Instructors and held

  • A Student Pilots licence (aeroplanes) for one year: 4th March 1972 to 11th March 1973, having soloed at Bathurst at 5.5 hours under the watchful eye of Flying Instructor John Cale (also from the G.W. Campbell Flying School based at Mudgee)
  • A Flight Radio Telephone Operator Licence on 11th July 1973
  • A Restricted Private Pilots licence (aeroplanes) at 34 hours, on 11th March 1973 at Bathurst with Charlie Polain and Chief Flying Instructor, George Campbell (from the G.W.Campbell Flying School based at Mudgee
  • An Unrestricted Private Pilots licence and competent to carry out daylight x country flights to nav 7 standard at 63 hours at Bathurst on June 16th 1973 as certified by Charlie Polain (from the G.W. Campbell Flying School based at Mudgee)
  • A Night VFR Fixed Wing rating at Mudgee from April 7th 1976 as trained by George Campbell from Mudgee and tested by DOT (Dept of Transport),

Thus I was rated a General Aviation, Private Pilot, and VFR (to fly by Visual Flight Rules and at night VFR, by Visual Flight Rules) with Constant speed or variable pitch propeller and Retractable Undercarriage endorsements on fixed wing design aircraft.

Concurrent with the practical flying tests and exercises that were also pure enjoyment during training, there was the requirement that I had to undertake a Theory course approved by DOT and recommended by the G.W. Campbell Flying School. So I duly enrolled and studied with the College of Civil Aviation based in Sydney by correspondence. The subjects studied for and passed “Above Average” were Principles of Flight, Navigation and Flight Planning, Engines, Systems and Instrumentation, Aeroplane Performance and Instrumentation and Meteorology.

There is no doubt about it; it is simply magnificent as to how much enjoyment it was to learn about Aviation when you are captivated by the art of all things flying. In one way or another, it goes without saying; you never stop learning in life. The college was also a provider of other necessary items for the new pilot such as myself by providing, essential items for pilots such as the trusty Kane Dead Reckoning Mark 6B Navigation computer, mainly used to calculate headings and ground speed from weather reports, the Douglas Protractor, mainly used along with the Nav-Aid Rule to plot on WAC (World Aeronautical Charts for pilot navigation) charts the course or bearing to fly, Nav-Aid Rule (to draw tracks, measure distance and headings) and a leather Flight Case to put all the gear associated with flying and flight planning into.


I am particularly indebted to the Flying Instructors, I mention below and already above, and to whom I am grateful for all the worldly advice, endorsements, and patience they exhibited during my Flying years.

The Flying Instructors and other more experienced aviators were people who I was in admiration of and who I feel contributed to not only my enthusiasm for flying , but also for many others who were learning to fly or obtaining endorsement or a check/review for a particular aircraft. Their comments were also appreciated at flying competitions and prior to undertaking a trip in an aircraft. Sometimes their help was invaluable and needed on a cold frosty morning start when the battery was flat or the aircraft was feeling a bit cantankerous at start up time.

Special mention must be made of George Campbell and Charlie Polain from the G.W. Campbell Flying School based at Mudgee. (Charlie was later to move to Bathurst and become an Instructor with Star Air Charter). George passed away in January 1988 after 40 odd years flying and instructing. George Campbell trained many pilots flying International Flights on overseas destinations and throughout Australia with all the major airlines at the time. Charlie Polain passed away on 7th February 2011 after retiring to Cairns.

Some experiences with George include training for my night VMC rating at Mudgee, we had to load up Georges Falcon ute with kerosene lamps with blue painted glass to put out and pick up , for making a runway flight path, before the installation of permanent PAL operated runway lighting; during one night exercise George was able to detect from engine run up that I only had one magneto operating( there should have been two, for part of the run up checks is to test RPM with one magneto then the other, then you switch to two); that no, I would not necessarily get better braking if I retracted flaps as soon as possible in a PA 32 after landing; he had a close encounter
whilst training Australia’s young pilots during the WWII years when an aircraft fell from the sky right near the tailplane of the aeroplane he was flying whilst in a close formation exercise. George like all the following fine Instructors, I came to know and appreciate their skills ( including Jerry Trevor- Jones, Ian Burns, Charlie Polain, Tony Howard ,Sally Ann Ward, John Blackwell and John Cale) was strong on pilots being safe by being responsible.

It was a privilege to break from flying training at the end of the day to enjoy a “wee dram of whiskey” with George or have a cuppa and talk aviation with George and other instructors. George, later in life and just before he passed away in 1988 was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to Aviation.

George, was responsible for an opportunity for me as a member of Mudgee Aero Club in 1978, to go up front in a Qantas Jumbo Boeing 747 whilst enroute on an overseas trip to England and Europe. I had followed for the first time overseas to England in the footsteps of my wife to be, Fiona. I was privileged to travel in the Cockpit of the Jumbo for the night takeoff from Bahrain, over Europe and the reporting procedures and on landing at Heathrow in England. The landing procedure was a breathtaking experience for me, noting the London landmarks whilst coming into land at Heathrow Airport with two active runway approaches in use and other aircraft on finals with our Jumbo. This was an experience that I will always be grateful to George and Qantas for.

Charlie Polain, who I have already mentioned, and to whom I am very grateful, was to provide most of my instructing and was also involved in WWII experiences as a DC3 Pilot in Papua New Guinea and from whom much worldly advice was gained. As mentioned above after retiring to Cairns, Charlie sadly passed away in 2011 at the age of 90. Both George and Charlie , as did all the Flying Instructors, made flying training not only safe but really enjoyable.


I have flown/endorsed to fly 11 different light aircraft, i.e,

  • Cessna 150, C172, (Skyhawk) C177 (+Cardinal RG, R – includes retractable), C182+Skylane RG, C210 +Centurion R
  • Piper 28 (Piper Cherokee 140, Archer III), PA 32, (Cherokee 6) PA24 (Comanche R)
  • Mooney 21R

In the end, I must confess, for a Private Pilot and basically a ‘weekend warrior’, Maverick in the movie “Top Gun” said it all when he famously said “I feel the need for speed”; hence the C210, Centurion retractable, VH-ALX was a clear winner when you could flight plan at cruise speed of IAS (Indicated Air Speed) of 150 knots! Most of my flying however was done in the ever faithful, VH–DUF, a Piper Cherokee Six of which you planned for a cruise IAS of 120 knots.

All these aircraft were all metal, the Cessna’s being high wing, and the Pipers being low wing with high performance air cooled Lycoming motors. By 2011, light weight/ ultra lights were becoming more popular. This trend was not my cup of tea, for the ultra lights I felt were just that, “ultra light” and more subject to weather, bouncing around, load restrictions etc.


The following data illustrate that one had to have this type of knowledge and a lot more, to go flying i.e. have knowledge of the aircraft Flight Manuals. It became necessary, after appropriate endorsements to fly in all sorts of different aircraft at times, as I moved around the state with NSW Department of Primary Industries. Some key data that one had to memorise included,

Cessna 150: (VH–RZP) (VH–KVU) – to be expanded

Cessna 172: (VH–DPP) (VH–RHP) (VH–WNN) (VH–CIY) – to be expanded

C177: Cessna 177 (VH–DZR) Cessna RG (VH–WSE) – to be expanded

C182: Cessna 182 (VH–KMM) Cessna RG (VH–IVQ) (VH–EOU)
* Touchdown 50knots (Cessna 172 same)
* Round out 80 back to 65knots (Cessna 172 same)
* Cowl flaps open for takeoff, climb and landing. In for cruise.
* Engine settings, climb 23.5rpm, pitch 22.5, initially top green at 200 feet
* Cruise 23 rpm, pitch 21.5, economy, and 23 rpm, pitch 22
* Plan speed 130 knots, fuel consumption 11-12gph, 66 gallons total, endurance 4.5 hours safe
* Tyre pressures 26 and 32 (main)
* Oil 10 quarts of D100 or w100.
* Climb: IAS 80 – 90 knots

C210: (Centurion) (VH–ALX), (VH–SKI)- to be expanded

PA 32: (Cherokee Six) (VH–DUF), (VH–PFE)
* Climb: IAS 90, Landing 65-70
* Fuel pump on for takeoff and landing
* Tyres 30 front, 35 mains
* Oil 9, 10(best), 12. Use D100, 80 in winter.
* Static vent and Pitot tube clear
* EGT lean out to 14 and a bit
* Engine: climb, 25rpm pitch 24,24rpm pitch 23, economy 23rpm pitch 22

PA 28: Warrior III: an example of Weight and Balance Calculations
Source: Piper Aircraft Corporation PA 28-181, Archer III Manual

Weight Arm Aft Datum Moment
Lbs Inches In-lbs
Basic empty Weight 159087.5139125
Pilot and front passenger 34080.527370
Passengers (rear Seats 340118.140154
Fuel (48 gal max) 28895.027360
Baggage (200 lbs max) 68142.89710
Ramp weight 255891.5234009
Fuel allowance for start,
run up, taxi
Take off weight 255091.5233249

Then it was a matter of making sure that the sample loading point (91.5) on a Weight and Balance graph falls within the CG envelope and that the airplane is loaded properly.

In the years associated with all things flying, and on retirement at some 650 hours, mostly for pleasure but sometimes for business (i.e. work related), I believe due acknowledgement must be given to my wife, Fiona and children – my daughter, Alexandra who passed away in 2001 and son, Jordan in particular who had put up with my passion for aircraft and flying. Also the Instructors mentioned above, also, Ian Burns, Tony Howard, John Fitzgerald and Sally Ann Ward of Bathurst’s Star Air Charter and John Blackwell of Cessnock who tested, checked, endorsed and were invaluable sources of guidance and advice and some of whom have also sadly passed away.


The aero clubs at Bathurst, Mudgee and Royal Newcastle provided companionship, friendship and focal points for all things flying. The longest association with Bathurst Aero Club was to prove a wonderful time. The only sad occasions were when I had to retire in 2011 due to Parkinson’s and the time when Alexandra was diagnosed with cancer at Christmas Eve in 1992, and for many of the years in between and until Alexandra lost her battle with cancer in 2001. The truth be known, I still have not forgotten Alexandra and all matters associated with her, including her battle with cancer even though it is now in 2011, ten years since she passed away. For all the time that I have been associated with the Bathurst Aero Club, it has stood out as an inspiration for good management through some challenging times.

The management by the Board and Committee that has steered the club admirably and made flying club activities so much more enjoyable for its members has in my opinion always been first class. For example at one Extra Ordinary meeting of Board it was decided on 13th April 1994,that an order for a new Piper Warrior III be placed with Bankstown Aviation. This was subsequently supported later in April by Information Meeting of members. This, the purchase of this the Aero Club’s third new aircraft in 1994, for a cost of at least $198,000.00 (a big difference to the second aircraft purchased in 1969 VH – DZR a C 177 for $13,200) was a bold move given that General aviation had gone through a lot of change in recent years. So too had Light aircraft manufacturing in the USA which had for a number of years during the early 1990’s ground to a halt due to litigation issues. The fourth new aircraft, a Piper Warrior III, came in January 1999, five years later at a price of $320,000 this time. Again due to good budgeting and support from club members the price was handled with the Club’s customary successful approach to such a big buy. Unfortunately this aircraft was totally destroyed in an accident with the loss of three lives at the end of October in 1999 near Oberon.

Jerry Trevor-Jones in his excellent book,” History of Bathurst Aviation” quotes in relation to this accident “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect”

I might mention Pipers more often than not due to a soft spot for the brand, particularly VH-DUF, the Cherokee Six from Oberon and in which I was to spend a considerable amount of time. Bathurst like Mudgee and Royal Newcastle and I have no doubt many other Aero Clubs throughout Australia
has a wonderful, wonderful membership that has underpinned the aero club structure. That Bathurst Aero Club was so ably led and finances managed so well that over time that I was associated with the Club, from 1972 to 2011, they were able to purchase five new aircraft that I am
aware of. The aircraft were a C177, VH–DZR, 2 C172’s and 2 PA 28’s Warrior III , the 172’s and 28’s, all four being designated VH–BAC. The finances and in particular new aircraft budgets were always prepared and managed by Treasurer and life member, Jerry Trevor-Jones, who as mentioned above, started in 1977 the flying school and air charter business, Star Air Charter with Charlie Polain and Lindsay Cox.

The Bathurst Aero Club to its credit was a strong supporter of the community and to its credit always willing to undertake new and innovative activities. For example during the 1990’s the club staged a number of Air shows and open days with the proceeds benefiting children’s charities’ and sick children. For example, the open day in 1995 benefited the Children’s Ward at the Bathurst Base Hospital, in 1993 the Club raised approximately $3000 for Child Flight and in 1994, and another $3000 was donated to Camp Quality. This was a special time for our family and for Alexandra our beautiful daughter who had been diagnosed with cancer on Christmas Eve 1992. Camp Quality had by 1994 become an important part of Alex’s life and our family’s reliance on all the wonderful things that Camp Quality does for seriously ill children. No activity such as an Open Day can be achieved on your own and on the day that proceeds benefited Camp Quality in 1994, not only do we have to thank Star Air Charter and the Bathurst Aero Club members, other groups that helped make the day
a success included Hazelton Airlines, the Bathurst Gliding Club, the Ultra Light Aeroplane Association, the SES, Central Mapping Authority and the Bathurst Model Aeroplane Club. It is today a little easier to acknowledge all the help provided by so many at these Open Days, for at the time, we as a family from 1992 to 2001 were seriously distracted at times and involved in a major battle to keep our precious daughter alive.

One other thing when it comes to mind, with the Bathurst Aero Club’s support for children. Each year approaching Christmas the Club held an annual Christmas Party for children. Being the parent of two young children, it was tremendous to see the joy on children’s faces when it was time for Santa to arrive by air. First there was a flyover for a lolly drop then Santa landed and had aboard the aircraft sack’s full of presents. Our daughter Alexandra, enjoyed one birthday party in the Club House when 6 years old. I can remember that with her mates from All Saints School the party was complete with a lolly drop, and that made the party more enjoyable and kept the children happy.

VH-DUF at Uluru in 1975


The Commonwealth Government is responsible for various administrative procedures involved with aviation in Australia and over the years, has undergone change, some change being substantial during the period I was a pilot. This fact no doubt made life more challenging for me as a “Weekend Warrior”

When I first began flying in 1972, all manner of publications and services for the Private Pilot was provided free of charge. Person to person contact was important and necessary. Gradually over time, however, the pressures of change within the various groups responsible for administration of flying throughout Australia began to touch members of the flying fraternity in various ways. As the winds of change progressed and in particular “user pays” for various services began to take hold. For a” weekend warrior” it was a challenge at times to keep up with developments. None the less, the
services provided by the Commonwealth continued to be of a very high standard that we as Pilots came to appreciate.

By 2011, for example, personal computers were important for many sorts of information and communication required for flying. The Publications that were provided was thorough and needed updating fairly frequently.

As a flyer, one had to be aware of the considerable array of abbreviations, acronyms, synonyms and terminology used in and by the various Commonwealth groups in their publications. For example the AIP (Aeronautical Information Publication) and Australia Enroute Supplement Australia (ESA) was to provide much information and a flyer had to know what was meant by such terminology as NAIPS, SPFIB, AVFAX, DECTALK, FLIGHTWATCH, VOLMET forecasts, MTAFS and CTAFS for example. The attention to detail was such that the ESA also contained details on Fruit Fly Exclusion Zones! One had to be associated with Horticulture to appreciate that attention to detail. Other publications were often colour coded to help with staying up to date included the AIC and AIP.

Maps included the essential ERC (En Route Charts), FISCOM (Communications Chart with Radio Frequencies listed), the VTC’s (Visual Terminal Charts) and the WAC’s (World Aeronautical Charts), all vital for the VFR, Night VFR rated Private Pilot.

The WEATHER: A pilot had to have considerable respect for the power of the weather and the limits imposed by one’s qualification and the limits of aeroplanes endorsed to fly. Obtaining weather information was critical to all things flying. Not only did one get weather information from DOT (Department of Transport) for departure, en route and destination, but one was also staying in touch with weather throughout a flight. Just to be doubly sure, one spoke with friends at destination and where possible enroute. The weather was that important for flying and it was necessary to fly within your training, qualifications and expertise. Never ever get caught by weather; always have an early way out of any deteriorating situation!!

When I first went flying in 1972, weather forecasts were
available by talking to the DOT weather man. By 1995 however Automated Meteorological Telephone briefing was available. The man was still available from DOT in case you could not make contact with the computer. The AMT briefing was a computerised system, so basically one had to get used to conversing with a computer. First you had to dial up 008 numbers at Brisbane or Melbourne, and then hit the tone button (there was progress in telephone equipment also), then go 1 or 2 to get direct access or guided access, then enter the relevant ARFOR/TAF code for details.

Another way of getting information was by way of fax, AVFAX to be more precise. AVFAX was a way of getting the latest MET information as well as NOTAM’s. NOTAM’s are Notices to Airman and are again like weather information very important information updates from DOT including head office, FIR, airspace, departure, enroute, destination and alternative locations.

For safety purposes, one group when I first went flying was the Air Safety Investigation Branch that produced the Aviation Safety Digest. This excellent publication was also to undergo some change over time, and by 1990 Civil Aviation News (a Newsletter for the Aviation Industry), Aircraft Maintenance – a Pilots Guide, the” Basi” Journal were being published by the Bureau of Air Safety Investigation and “Flight Safety Australia” by 1996 being produced by Civil Aviation Safety Authority, (CASA).

Special editions like the” Aviation Bulletin “published by the Civil Aviation Authority also provided more up to date information, such as the Airspace Changes. By 1992 the Civil Aviation Authority was leading industry though considerable change. The Australian Airspace model based on five airspace classifications A, C, D, E and G being introduced to and with support from the aviation community. By mid 1993 the Australian model was introduced.

The Airspace changes as proposed in October 1992 and introduced in July 1993 were major and meant to put Australia in line with and based on the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) airspace classifications after much consultation with industry.

The Safety publications were excellent and often taught you what not to do and provided other vital educational information associated with aviation safety. Often the articles in these publications were a case of an accident or an incident producing a safety message or aircraft design change. Throughput all this Administration change, the level of information transfer, updates and consultation from the Commonwealth, I can only reiterate were excellent.

Another example was the change over from person to person information on obtaining weather forecasts and lodgement of flight plan details to computerised voices in Brisbane and Melbourne. Further change for example has taken place in Airspace reporting procedures. For example, no more reporting “Operations Normal” every 30 minutes in outside controlled airspace, except when full reporting with lodgement of flight plan details with Air services Australia or when under radar coverage in class E airspace.. You could travel all over Australia without reporting officially so long as you stayed outside controlled airspace. In these circumstances, alternative arrangements were necessary by advising as many friends as possible know of your intentions and when you have arrived at your destination.

“Aviation is not in itself inherently dangerous, but, like the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any incapacity or neglect”

I am reminded of this as I write whilst house minding at Old Bar near Taree on Saturday 1st October, 2011.

At around 10am a light aircraft, a two seater Cheetah S200 with two men on board collided with a Ferris wheel located at one end of the Runway. I arrived on the scene just as a rescue operation was beginning by the Police and Emergency Services. The Ferris wheel had two young children on it at the time. No one was injured. I think of the statement above as to the cause of the accident, which is subject to a Workcover NSW and CASA investigation at time of writing.

The Light Plane at Old Bar in 2011 with two POB, OK and two children behind and OK.

I am only guessing as to cause of accident, at this time, but at the time with rain and 10 -15 knot cross winds in the area at the time, and given the way the aeroplane impacted the Ferris wheel, what was the pilots short field landing and takeoff experience like? It does not matter what the situation, when you are on downwind, base and on short or long finals it so very important to first have the correct aspect of the runway in view and then the landing sequence and position on the runway for a touchdown. It does not matter if you a flying into a bush strip or a sealed ALA (Authorised Landing Area listed in the ERS. What would have happened if he had gone around earlier or undertaken an emergency landing on takeoff, what would have happened if the pilot had put n another notch of flaps to clear the Ferris wheel? The location of amusements, pine trees and a surf clubhouse at the end of the runway was also noted. Thank God no one was injured, truly a miracle!


While Alexandra did not take to the air with some enthusiasm, my wife, Fiona and son, Jordan did. In the first instance, their arose the occasion in 1977 before I was married, when I needed a lady to accompany me to an air show at Bankstown one weekend in November 1977 and it just happened that Fiona was willing to accompany me. Needless to say we only got as far as Katoomba before I had to turn around and track back to Mudgee due to bad weather over the mountains. I had only known Fiona for a short while at that stage later Fiona did accompany me on other occasions, to an air show at Dubbo in 1979, a night flight to Dubbo in July 1979 and on a honeymoon trip after our wedding on 11th November 1978 to Keppel Island off Rockhampton via the Gold Coast (Coolangatta). Jordan initially was a little bit worried about flying but after some hesitation he took to the air with some enthusiasm I can recollect- that he came on a night flight to Mudgee in a PA 28, VH – BAC and a TIF (Trial Instructional Flight) trip to Lue one day in a C172, VH – BAC in 2007.


Night flying offered possibilities of leaving on a long trip in the morning before dawn and returning home without the limitation that one needed to be back landed before last light. It is an endorsement definitely worth a Private Pilot getting.

Night flying allowed, weather permitting, flight takeoff before dawn when temperatures were cooler and flying smoother which usually I found to be the best time to fly. I can recollect a few trips that involved considerable travel distance, a tight time schedule and the benefit of pre dawn departure. In winter of course one had to be ever watchful for the likelihood of fogs causing diversion to another airport and have time and sufficient fuel for diversion.

10: A TYPICAL FLIGHT in 1998

By 1998 after a considerable amount of administrative change through the 1990’s, some of the preparation and planning needed to conduct a typical flight VFR, Bathurst to Cowra and OCTA (Outside controlled Airspace, Sydney), then to Canberra OCTA , except for Canberra return to Bathurst night VFR, goes as follows;

1: Day before; confirm with business contact will still be flying to Canberra. Check weather at Canberra and on TV again Day of Flight: Obtain ARFOR (area forecasts) and TAF (Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts) for Canberra, Orange (alternate for Bathurst) and Bathurst. Obtain any relevant NOTAMS Telephone contact at Canberra to finalise business and double check weather at Cowra, Canberra, Orange and Bathurst on TV and by personal contacts. All weather reports the day before flight indicate trip is good to go the next day and also on triple checking on the day of the flight with
further telephone calls

2: One hour before flight put in flight plan and check aircraft.
Preferably fuel up the day before.

2.1 Check Aircraft: Allow at least 30 minutes. Fuel tanks full, water check in fuel, Oil check, no birds or rubbish in or around engine, check all external surfaces, check ailerons, flaps, rudder, control tabs, check radios and nav aids, tyres, brakes, windows clean, first aid and water on board, check propeller for integrity, check tacho time, check landing, taxi and navigation lights, everything else appears okay, check maintenance release, all okay, sign maintenance release.

Then double check aircraft handling notes, read again if necessary. Weight and Balance calculations have been done and are okay. Check flight bag for its contents and should contain all essential gear and information, particularly FISCOM, ERC, Canberra VEC, WAC, ERS, etc.

2.2 Flight Plan preparation and submission: The main changes to be aware of since the period 1970 – 90 were preferably have two radio’s and monitor both, be aware of position, level, estimates, cruising levels, VMC minimum, traffic- only IFR to IFR, VFR you look after yourself, no full reporting but you could still nominate a SARTIME, No flight plan necessary unless you go into Controlled area’s or levels greater than 10,000 feet.

3: Passengers on board, clear prop, start engine, turn on radios, transponders set and navigation equipment – check all working, check fuel, taxi asap to run up area, avoid propeller turning on loose gravel areas,

4: Run up area: check both magneto’s at idle and high rpm, check free and full movement of stick (control column), 10 degrees flap set, all seat belts on and secured, doors latched, fullest fuel tank selected, mixture rich, check carburettor heat, trim set, all clear, broadcast intentions

5: BTH – CWR leg BO50 (below 5000 feet; CTAF broadcast “all stations BTH, Piper Warrior, BAC taxying for CWR, RWY 35”.
Dept BTH, outside 5 miles, “SYD and all Stations BTH, BAC deptd. BTH for CWR, climbing to four thousand five hundred, request area QNH”
SYD “BAC, area QNH …, Traffic is – if any is relevant to your trip…”

At CTAF’s , it is necessary to make a taxi call and inbound call at 20nm out, clearance in CTR airspace can be obtained direct from ATC, at MTAF’s Taxi and inbound calls are mandatory. These changes simplified the paperwork associated with flying, however I always found it best to prepare a proper
plan and monitor progress in flight to make ETA’s etc easier, even if the Plan is not lodged with DOT.

Weather was simply a matter of using a telephone or fax and put access code in etc. The newer flight plan needed to be filled in front and back compared to earlier flight plans that fitted all details on one page.

Track to Cowra is established over the top of Bathurst or by extending downwind leg of RWY 35 and within 5 miles Bathurst, on climb to cruising altitude.

A pilot has to be aware of and be ready to communicate Bathurst traffic inbound or otherwise, particularly Airlines and maintain separation. At 20nm north of CWR, broadcast “all stations CWR, BAC a PA 28 is 20 nm north, at four thousand five hundred feet, overflying CWR for CN”, you can nominate time you will be over top if you like.

6: CWR – CB
Once out of Cowra CTAF go to 124.19 Check on VEC and at 5.5 thousand feet, tell SYD what you are doing.
* Obtain clearance direct from CB approach after getting ATIS.
* NB Transponder code required for CB
* At Yass, inbound reporting point, call up Canberra approach and request clearance.
* Canberra Approach will take you into the circuit and at 15nm you will get any further instructions by radar vectoring or visual fix.
On landing you don’t need taxi clearances.

7: CB – BTH (Night VFR) assume weather and cloud forecast ARFOR AND TAF is good to go. After start request taxi clearance and airways clearance.

After takeoff and at 500 feet, say “CB Departures, BAC turning onto heading say heading, climbing through X level for Y level.

Return leg is Night VFR rules. NB: When going by night VFR, it is important to do daily check and make sure all lights are working before dark. Start up and run motor 5 minutes before takeoff. After doing the cockpit check it is important to turn a check that the artificial horizon and directional gyro
are working and correct whilst turning. If wind direction is suitable, select a runway towards lights, in a town for example, in case of artificial horizon failure. Aircraft is lined up on centreline and compass and DG checked. When clear of runway, landing lights are turned off. If in cloud turn off rotating beacon to avoid disorientation.

Cancel SAR at BTH CTAF boundary or on landing.



Without a doubt it was a somewhat hesitant and tentative, but none the less an excited student pilot that went solo 13th May 1972 after 5.5 hours of dual training. On a calm, sunny autumn morning in May at Bathurst, the Flying Instructor, John Cale after 35 minutes of dual circuits and landing on RNY 35 at Bathurst in C150, VH- RZP, hopped out after a landing and said “off you go!”

(The Cessna 150 was a two seat (People), gentle, all metal, tricycle gear, aircraft that suited training. Cruising at 100 knots it was a bit slow on cross country training, so faster 4 seat aircraft where often preferred.)

This caught me by surprise without a doubt, and off I went after first back tracking to the end of RNY

Then run up, to 1800rpm, check mags at 1800 then idle engine, fuel right, radio set and onto 119.1 (most CTAF’s were119.1 in those days), check magnetic compass and set Directional Gyro to same, flaps 10 degrees, check carbie heat, trim set, controls full and free, check wind sock, look about for any other traffic and next broadcasting my intentions, line up on centreline and say “All stations BTH, RZP is departing RNY 35 for, C/L”

Then full throttle, reach 60 knots then, gentle back stick and aircraft flies off ground. Climb straight ahead on runway heading 350, brakes on to stop any wheel spin, trim for climb, throttle back, turn left at 500 feet onto cross wind leg, then turn downwind at 1000 feet;

On downwind, check doors are secure, fuel on fullest tank, mixture rich, seatbelts are secure, airspeed right, check windsock, handbrake off, and rudder free and working.

Broadcast, “All stations BTH, C150, RZP turning left base, runway 35”. Look around for any other traffic, all clear, turn after runway is just behind left shoulder and throttle back and put stick forward, trim is set to descent of 80 knots.

Runway aspect looks good, Turn onto short finals, gradually throttle back to 65 knots, check windsock for wind direction and strength. Now over piano keys on runway, gentle back stick to flare aircraft at 60 knots, then taking into account any fine adjustments of rudder, gradually more backstick after washing off more speed.

Landing is made with stall warning blaring. Then roll along runway, take up flaps, gentle breaking and direction needed on runway. Then broadcast, “RZP landed and backtracking RNY 35 for full stop”

It is the case that those who first solo, must shout the bar back in the clubhouse. Since it was early in the morning and no bar open or anyone else about, it was time to shout the Flying Instructor John Cale a cup of coffee.


This was an eye-opener in some ways.

In VH – DZR a C177, a 4 seat, spacious aircraft, that cruised at 100 knots, the Bathurst Aero Club had a very nice aircraft. I was later to fly a retractable wheeled version of this aircraft, out of Cessnock that gave an extra 20 knots of cruising speed.

Mother, brothers on board, the first challenge came heading north, after clearing the Liverpool Range, around Quirindi ,I was not sure of my position; what to do? Ah, ha there is an ADF on board, and quickly found where I was in relation to Quirindi. This was important for next fly over was Tamworth with Primary control procedures. From then on I became a great fan of Radio navigation aids. The next quantum leap came with GPS use in light aircraft in aeroplanes in 1994 I think. (in the first case with VH – BAC).

After a quick small bounce on flaring out whilst landing on the runway 04 at Goondiwindi (where I fuelled up) in gusty wind conditions I quickly decided a go around was the best policy and on second go at landing I nailed it and from then on, for that matter! Lucky one of the aspects of training is “go around’s” that is drilled into us in training. VH – DZR had its entire tailplane one piece so you had to be very careful with handling the tailplane, particularly at flare on landing.

VH-DZR at Bathurst in 1973

On approaching BU, I was confronted with thick smoke due to sugarcane burn off fires between me 30nm out, blowing to the south west of BU, and directly in my path. What to do? The Bundaberg Control was a Secondary (like Bankstown today) so I had to be accurate with ETA and position.
Telling BU where I was and ETA, I decided to track along the edge of the smoke towards the airport until the ADF pointed directly abeam of BU and it was only 10nm to circuit area. Into the smoke I went and I was able to navigate by reference to ground with the reassuring ADF pinging out the right BU Morse code frequency.

After leaving my mother and brothers at BU with other members of my family, it was then onto Brampton island off Mackay and Great Keppel off Rockhampton where I met up with a school friend from my James Ruse days.

For a young man Queensland had it all; it was paradise for the flyer. All the islands, (Keppel, Brampton, Lindeman, Hamilton, Dunk) just off the coast, with runways for light aircraft, beautiful climates, beaches, scenery and accommodation.


The Piper, Cherokee Six, DUF was kept on a farm at Oberon. My first flight in DUF was endorsement in July of 1973.My last flight in March of 1996. In the intervening23 years there was a love affair with an aeroplane that offered so much, comfort, room, particularly roominess, for it being a six seater also with great baggage space front and back and an engine of 260HP that provided a speed of at a Cruise at 120 knots.

VH-DUF at Keppel Island in 1984

I went everywhere with DUF and that contributed greatly to my understanding of flying. Into and out of bush strips on farms, Primary and secondary control Zones (that provided Radio experience). However, one day I did get told to shut up (“no further transmission required”), in so many words whilst in the Coolangatta circuit!), There were also trips throughout Queensland and onto islands, throughout NSW and night flights. On the endorsement day back in 1974, I can remember that it was loaded up with six adult people and I had no worries about “greasing” it onto the Runway 35 at Bathurst. Later in 1976, it was again evident that I could “find the deck alright” when I undertook a Night VMC Test and passed with a DOT Examiner of Airman during my night test for the night flying
licence. VH – DUF, being kept at “Nestlebrae” a farm at Oberon, meant I became adept at short field take off and landings at an altitude of 3600 feet, techniques associated with going into and out of bush strips and dealing with livestock on the runway.

Another technique I started to use on the longer trips into “unchartered waters” so to speak was to use binoculars to see landmarks more easily and be able to see further. This made pin pointing position easier and reassured oneself that you were on track and that the airport was ‘x’ nm ahead.

Some trips away in DUF included the following:

11.3.1: TO THE CENTRE 1974

Travelling to Gold Coast, Archerfield, Mount Isa, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Oodnadatta, and Broken Hill with my parents and bothers on board. The leg, Bathurst to Coolangatta usually took around 3 hours which is just about the right time for refuelling on a cross country flight and to allow for a fixed margin in the flight plan of forty five minutes plus a small extra time allowance as well a pit stop to go to the loo. At Mount Isa, where my Sister and Brother in Law resided, we travelled by car out of town to the site of Trilobiite fossils,( a marine dwelling crab like creature, a bit like a Balmain Bug) and collected a few. At Alice, I travelled to another site of Fossils where I was able to obtain samples of Blue Green algae i.e., Stromatalites, the oldest evidence of life at 3-4000 million years old.

VH-DUF with Family ready to depart Bathurst in 1975 for inland Australia

I was undertaking a part time Degree at Macquarie University at the time and the fossils were collected for a Geology assignment. At Ayers Rock, later to be called Uluru, after a fly around of the world’s largest monolith, a spectacular red sandstone rock that is seen quite clearly from afar, and
rises dramatically from the soil there was also an opportunity to tale in a flight over the nearby Olgas and Mount Olga, another spectacular group of reddish coloured sandstone conglomerate smooth domed rocks nearby. One can only marvel at the geological processes that took place during their
formation. Then back to Uluru for lunch. Laden down with rocks containing the fossils, a shortened dirt runway due to rain and full fuel, I had to employ short field take skills on takeoff. Then onto Broken Hill via Lake Ayer, this lake and other lakes nearby, which was a sight to see, full of water and wildlife, particularly birds after much rain. The desert everywhere was also blooming with wildflowers after excellent rainfall. We overnighted at Oodnadatta at the pub. Oodnadatta was definitely a long way from anywhere and there was not much happening on the day we arrived and overnighted. At Broken Hill, like Isa a visit to the mine highlighted the wealth in minerals that existed in Australia. I can also remember seeing a film version of Jesus Christ Superstar and how my young bother was affected.

From Broken Hill it was a relatively easy leg back to Bathurst. I found the WAC charts that VFR pilots navigate with, excellent and there was no worries navigating in the desert, with sand ridge areas clearly defined and rivers and creeks additional landmarks to navigate from. When close to towns, I found the ADF more useful depending on flying height, at about 30 – 100 nm out from a destination station depending also on signal strength. Cruise for trip was generally BO50 (Below 5000) in beautiful weather. CAVOK (cloud and visibility OK) all the way.


Keppel island off Rockhampton was a great destination for all sorts of reasons. The island was relatively undeveloped and not spoilt like other more touristy destinations. It was located off the coast, east of Rockhampton, easy to get to in two hops, usually 4.5-5.5 hours depending on winds, after refuel at Coolangatta.

Additional safety equipment that needed to be carried over water flights were life jackets. When EPLB were mandatory in later years, it was also carried. Over water flying was allowable for a VFR pilot (with limits of course) and was usually smoother flying, compared with land flying with greater chance of turbulence. There was no chance of being unsure of position as there were radio nav aids and plenty of landmarks to identify
precise location. Once when returning from Keppel during December Holidays and the wet season conditions prevailing, I had to go down to 500 feet above the water to remain clear of clouds. I managed to get as far as Brisbane (BN) before weather set in again. At BN The Approach and Tower
had me enter finals at 1000 feet. As I went along Runway eventually I got a “clear to land” with just enough runway left after descending from 1000 feet above the runway!

Another time on return to BTH, from CG to the Hunter Valley I was over sea in order to remain VFR, whilst in and out of rain. Over the Hunter I got clearance to climb above 5000 feet and whilst I had no visual refence to land for the leg CSK to BTH, a hole in the cloud miracously appeared over Cullen Bullen, so I was able to confirm I was bang on track and time.

The runway at GKI went uphill and this was the preferred direction for a landing. Only once was it a tricky time when I had a brisk tailwind blowing and it was a faster than normal approach and landing to make the aircraft stick and stop in time on the runway.

Another time on return from Honeymoon, when backtracking, door open to provide cooling, I gave the WAC chart to my new wife.

After heading south and over land I asked Wife for Map, did not have so it was back to Keppel and after landing there was map on runway. Somehow Wife misplaced map whilst taxing. On reflection, we did “rough it” a bit having stayed at Wappraburra Haven, a lower cost accommodation alterative. Money was a bit tight and this was the better alternative compared to the Resort. On reflection, I suppose I should have spent up big and stayed at Resort!


From time to time there arose the opportunity to go flying with family and friends. On one trip to the Queensland gulf country, first stop was on a farm
west of Rockhampton where we were to overnight. After flying most of the day, I judged that the strip was unsuitable for landing. What to do as the sun was setting? Fortunately there was another farm strip nearby that you could land a Jumbo Jet on. This was an important lesson in double checking runways for landing at destinations. After refuelling and over nighting it as onto the gulf country and back to Mudgee. At Mudgee on short final, I had an engine failure. Fortunately my approach to the runway was in order and after coming to a full stop, it was a quick tow to G.W.Campbell Aviation workshop where the problem was diagnosed as a combination of a faulty
magneto and possibility of icing up in the carburettor.

There were other trips that were again invaluable opportunities to gain experience. Trips to Sydney and its Primary control procedures and
along scenic routes, trips associated with work and night flying.

Then along came the retractable Cessna’s, and endorsements, the C182’s, VH – IVQ in 1981, in 1985, VH – EOU and in 1987 VH – WSE a 177 RG. VH – ALX a 210 Centurion in 1985 was another step up in that it cruised at plan IAS of 150 knots.


On one trip to Echuca, I was to present a paper on Drip Irrigated Tomatoes’ in 1982 At Dubbo, part of my district as a Horticulture Advisor; I had been involved in the monitoring of the first commercial application of drip irrigation in vegetables. In this case it was Processing Tomatoes. The weather for the day was a bit “iffy”, rain and showers. Anyhow after much
effort like the mail the “Drip Story” must get through and after much ducking and weaving down to Echuca and back, I returned to Bathurst.

For your average Weekend Warrior, the retractable offered more speed- this clearly was a way to go!

11.5: VH – ALX, Cessna Centurion 210

VH-ALX a Cessna 210 , Bathurst to Cairns in 7 hours

This aircraft was again a further step up and with a planned IAS of 150 knots offered faster speed and therefore greater distance for less time in the air, as well as being a six seater. On one trip to Cairns in six hours, Bathurst to Coonabarabran was low cloud and occasional shower. Having travelled most of NSW by then with my job, there was little likelihood of getting lost.

After leaving Bathurst early, it was necessary to stay low to Mudgee where I collected friends. From Mudgee on to Coonabarabran, it was necessary to find a hole in clouds to climb through near Gulgong then over the top of cloud for 20-30 mins and from Coonabarabran, on to Cairns it was little or no cloud. From Cairns on to the other side of Cape York we travelled by hire car, a four wheel drive twin cab for a week’s pig shooting. On return, we island hopped without any worry with weather.


Cessna 182 R: VH-IVQ

My employer sometimes allowed “Officer Piloted” flights on official business so long as it was cost effective and more economical than using a motor car. There were a few other pilots in this unofficial “Flying Wing of NSW Department of Primary Industries” and the opportunity to fly on Officer Piloted Business was a generous time saving situation to be in and or which I and others were able to use from time to time over the years. Most of my District Horticulturist duties were to do with clients and work related business that was to areas a considerable distance from home, mainly throughout NSW and interstate at times. There were trips away on business with such diverse crops in their production areas for wine grape, field days, sweet corn, asparagus, potato and irrigation over the years.

Places visited included Port Macquarie, Gatton, Toowoomba, Finley, Bourke, Griffith, Mildura, Loxton, Coffs Harbour and others. As motor cars became more expensive to operate and time away from home became an expense issue, the speed and economy offered by aeroplanes became greater and often was able to match or better the use of motor cars from time to time. Definitely the aeroplane was the way to go, but alas, all good things come to an end.

One could go on and on’ so I end now an interesting chapter in my life.

At a Dubbo Air show in 1978


It was with great reluctance that I had to give up flying. The education of our children was a priority. Alexandra and Jordan were going to All Saints School at Bathurst and they were the priority. I was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1999 after my last flight in 1998.

Some aspects of what it meant to “go flying” in the period 1972 – 2001, illustrates that even for the General Aviation, Private Pilot, flying, while very much an enjoyable pastime and justified on business, during a period of considerable change, the skill of aviation still required considerable care, good airmanship, training and competency. As well as the requirement to pass and undergo a medical check every two years, one had to be current with endorsements on aeroplanes used and pass Biennial Flight Reviews’, all of which made flying in my time for the “Weekend Warrior”, complex but enjoyable indeed.