Antique Aeroplanes at Echuca

AAAA Echuca 2016This weekend sees the annual Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia (AAAA) national fly-in at Echuca in northern Victoria. Has yet another year passed so quickly?

My partner and I will be flying from Tyabb on Friday in the Interstate Cadet. The main day for the show is Saturday 16 April with many pilots/owners (including me) starting their journey home on Sunday morning.  There’s a dinner at the Moama Bowling Club on Saturday evening – last year the food and entertaining speeches (thankfully brief!) were most enjoyable.

I’m sure there will be plenty of wonderful old planes to see and Echuca is only just over a couple of hours’ drive from Melbourne, so it would make a great family day out – there is no entrance fee, you can just come along and soak up the atmosphere.

Hope to see you there – come and say hello!

Event reminder – AAAA annual fly-in at Echuca

AAAA Echuca 2015If you’re an old aeroplane enthusiast, here’s your once-a-year chance to see dozens of them all in one place – Echuca Airport, on the Murray River, north Victoria, on Saturday 28 March.

The Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia – AAAA – is holding their 39th National Fly-in over 27-29 March 2015.  Aircraft will start arriving on Friday 27th and departing on Sunday morning, 29th. In between, Saturday should see a wonderful array of old flying beasts on the flight line (as well as their aircraft!).

On Saturday evening, AAAA is holding its annual dinner at the Moama Bowls Club across the river – tickets will be on sale on Friday and Saturday.

The last time this event was held at Echuca in 2011, I flew up from Tyabb in a SportStar with Mike Rudd, who made a couple of great videos about the show. You can click here for part 1 and here for part 2.

Apart from the flying, Echuca is a great place to visit at this time of year, with paddle steamer trips on the Murray River as well as a great selection of cafes, shops and restaurants. Echuca is under a 3-hour drive from Melbourne, and less from Albury-Wodonga, Wagga Wagga, Bendigo and the like, so even if you can’t fly-in, the location makes it a reasonable day-trip.

Fingers crossed for good weather and I’ll be taking the Interstate Cadet to join the festivities. Hope to see you there!

International Aircraft Services – buyer beware!

Cadet door damage 01Now, I’m usually a very positive person, generally looking for the upside to most problems but occasionally I reach the end of my tether…what follows is not a whinge – just a warning to would-be aircraft shippers.

As regular readers will recall, last year I bought an aircraft from the USA – an Interstate Cadet – and shipped it to Australia. I used a company called International Aircraft Services LLC, based at Hayward Executive Airport in California, to disassemble the aircraft and pack it into a container and arrange shipping to me. They did this well, even helping to fix a problem with one of the seats, which was broken during the ferry flight from Idaho.

But there was one important exception. They didn’t shut the upward opening pilot door properly and during the travel, somewhere between Hayward and Melbourne, the door came open and, aided by its gas strut, the door contacted the side of the container, which damaged the bottom edge.

Cadet door damage 03No problem – I thought. I’ll claim on the insurance for the A$1,500 or so it cost to fix – I’d already paid International Aircraft Services for the insurance, which was a specified item on their invoice.

To cut a long long story short, I have been unable to get any insurance money to cover the cost of fixing the door. Not because the insurance company refused the claim but because International Aircraft Services will not tell me who the insurance cover is through and how to make a claim. They do not return my calls and emails (over two dozen documented at the last count) asking for the details of how to make a claim. The person I dealt with is Ed Therrien, who I believe is either the owner or a senior person in the company.

So, if you’re thinking of shipping anything via International Aircraft Services, particularly an aeroplane, learn from my expensive experience – get the insurance details in writing before going ahead. Or don’t use International Aircraft Services.

UPDATE – in mid-December 2014, after emailing International Aircraft Services of my intention to post this blog article, they asked me to send them my bank details for a payment – which I did. They said they would make a wire transfer – which after over 7 weeks they still haven’t. Cynical or what?

Fly with Kent Pietsch in his Interstate Cadet

Kent Pietsch RenoThere are hundreds, if not thousands, of internet videos of Kent Pietsch performing his flying routines in the ‘Jelly Belly’ aeroplane. Kent is famous for his ‘dead stick’ and ‘landing on a recreational vehicle’ (RV) displays in his 70+ years old Interstate Cadet. However, this one is a favourite of mine – riding along in the back seat during his ‘comedy’ display. View it full screen and I guarantee you’ll be feeling a little queasy by the end!

There’s everything here, some of it in fast-motion: stall turns, spins, steep turns, low level. It includes Kent throwing things out of the window (which is open for much of the display) including an old tyre. What fascinates me is that the pilot door always looks like it’s going to come open but somehow doesn’t. It’s also worth keeping an eye on the throttle lever (bottom left of the screen) to see when he uses power.

It looks like he isn’t wearing a seat belt the whole time but sharp-eyed viewers will, near the beginning just before a cut, see him reaching down with his right hand  to pick up the lap belt-end; the original Interstate only had lap belts, although many have been later modified to add shoulder straps too.

The aircraft is an almost stock standard S-1A Cadet with a 90 hp engine and no electrics (you can see his hand-held radio attached to the left side windshield strut). I believe the only mod to the aircraft – apart from the jelly bean paint job – is to enable him to jettison an aileron early in the routine, which demonstrates how manoeuvrable the aircraft is, even with half its roll equipment missing!

You can see the routine from outside the aircraft by clicking here.

PS – I know the title of the video should say ‘aerobatic’ pilot, not ‘acrobatic’ pilot but I guess we have to make allowances for our non-aviation friends…

PPS – For more about the Interstate Cadet, you can click here.

Antique Aeroplane spring fly-in at Swan Hill

Swan Hill AAAA

Interstate & Ercoupe, Swan Hill 4 October 2014

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the AAAA Spring Fly-in and AGM at Swan Hill in Victoria.

Swan Hill is a great little town on the River Murray, towards the north west of the state. There is a good selection of cafes, restaurants and hotels/motels. I stayed at the Comfort Inn Lady Augusta in the middle of town which has recently been refurbished. The room was spacious and the bathroom new and stylish – not something I usually say about motels! During the stay, I also visited the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, about 10 kilometres south of the town – there will be a separate post about this soon. The same weekend saw the annual Swan Hill show but unfortunately, by the time we had visited the Flying Boat Museum, had some lunch and wandered the flight lines, it was getting on well for late afternoon, so we didn’t get to join some of the Antiquers who went.

Speaking as a pilot, the weekend weather couldn’t really have been much better – light winds for both the trip up and back, and high 20’s (celsius) sunny days in between.

I flew up from Tyabb in very loose formation with Jack Vevers in his Ercoupe – so loose in fact that on several occasions we completely lost sight of each other! But his ‘Coupe and my Interstate Cadet are well-matched in terms of performance, so it all worked well. It’s interesting to note that when flying such old aircraft – typically at between 75 and 85 knots – that you are happy to just chug along and enjoy the view. Not once, either way, did I wonder ‘when are we going to be there?’ The Interstate returned just on 20 litres an hour for the entire 5.2 hours of the return trip. Jack, having a smaller engine, recorded about 14 litres an hour – not bad for a couple of old timers!

The AAAA 2014 AGM was conducted at the Saturday evening dinner, between the entree and main courses. And commendably short – at around 20 minutes – it was. I like the AAAA because everyone is there to enjoy themselves, no axes to grind about ‘my plane goes faster than yours’ or ‘mine is older than yours’. Around 50-55 AAAA member aircraft were parked at Swan Hill over the weekend and around 90 people attended the dinner/AGM.

AAAA Peoples Choice AwardThe icing on the cake for me – and completely unexpected – was that the Interstate won the ‘People’s Choice Award’ at the fly-in. There are no ‘official’ awards but members fill in a small ballot paper to say which aircraft at the fly-in they liked the most. I was surprised (and very pleased) because there were some lovely aircraft there. In particular an Auster J5G Autocar, resplendent in silver and teal green paint, as well as a beautiful silver and blue Cessna 170B. Thank you to the AAAA members who voted for the Interstate – my plaque will be proudly displayed in my trophy cabinet. Well, it might be a bit lonely but who knows? perhaps there will be others. Special thanks to Nathan Eyers (also an AAAA Committee Member) of the Aviation Centre at Tyabb, who helped make sure that the Interstate was at its best for its first trip away in Australia.

Pictures of some of the other aircraft at Swan Hill over the weekend can be found here at the Foxbat Pilot Flickr Swan Hill Photo Gallery.

A small PS – I believe the beautiful Auster is for sale at a fantastic price, considering the bare metal restoration and improvement it has been given. Have a look here if you are interested: Best Auster

Date for your diary: AAAA National Fly-in at Echuca, Victoria, 27-29 March 2015.

Spring fly-in: Antique Aeroplane Association

AAAA Swan HillMy next planned trip is to the Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia (AAAA) spring fly-in at Swan Hill in Victoria. This is being held – as usual, weather willing – over the 3rd, 4th & 5th of October.

Here’s what the AAAA says on their website:

“This weekend is a long weekend in most states (except ironically in Victoria!) so should provide everyone a good opportunity to make it to this riverside town. It’s been quite a few years since the Antiquers visited Swan Hill and the local Council, Aero Club and community are keen to see us back in strength.

While in Swan Hill, why not visit the many tourist attractions including the Pioneer Settlement Village and Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum, home of the Catalina flying boat.  There will be a bus service to ensure people are able to get to and from Lake Boga. For full details about Swan Hill, visit their comprehensive tourism site at
I’m aiming to take the Interstate Cadet on its first cross-country outing since completing flight trials at Tyabb.
Come along and say hello if you can!

Oshkosh 2014

Oshkosh 2014At this time of the year – end of July/beginning of August – there’s one thing many pilots dream of doing: visiting the EAA Airventure show at Oshkosh, in Wisconsin USA. It’s on every year and is without doubt the biggest regular gathering of aircraft on the planet.

The numbers are staggering: during the week long event, typically over 10,000 aircraft fly in (and out) and more than half a million visitors pass through the gates. There are more than 800 exhibitors selling everything from bizjets to nuts and bolts.

Although I have never attended the show (what an admission for a flying nut like me!) I know there’s something there for everybody. From heavy metal civil aircraft and warbirds, current and yesteryear, to the lightest of ultralights, and even aeromodels for aspiring full-scale pilots, the show covers the whole spectrum. And not only pilots are catered for – there are sideshows of all descriptions, vast food courts and funfairs, a concert arena and a drive-in movie screen. And, of course, flying displays day & night.

You can learn to build your own aeroplane. You can buy your own aeroplane. You can attend one or more of over 1,000 aviation workshops and presentations. You can wander up and down the rows of parked aircraft, which are grouped together by type. Or you can position yourself near the main runways and watch the day-long stream of arrivals and departures. Friends who have been to Oshkosh tell me that a week just isn’t enough time to see everything – so (unfortunately!) they have to go back for another year.

I keep promising myself…next year. In the meantime, I’ll just have to make do with following along on the EAA Airventure Video site. If I put the video on full screen and dim the lights, I might almost be there….

For anyone thinking about going, next year’s Airventure Oshkosh dates are 20-26 July 2015.

Pietsch Jelly BellyPS – Interstate Cadet pilot, Kent ‘Jelly Bean’ Pietsch is due to perform at the show this year on 30 July and 1 August. No doubt YouTube will have clips of his exploits.