Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum

Lake Boga flying boatDuring my visit to Swan Hill, for the AAAA Spring Fly-in and AGM, I took the opportunity to visit the nearby Flying Boat Museum at Lake Boga, about 10 kilometres south of the town.

During World War II, Lake Boga was a major centre for military flying boat maintenance – it was outside the range of enemy aircraft and, long before the days of satellite surveillance, was well away from prying eyes. The facility serviced over 400 aircraft during its short 4-year life and about 1,000 RAAF and WAAF personnel were based there.

Catalina MuseumUntil recently, the main attraction – a complete but alas un-flyable Catalina flying boat – was parked outside, with other exhibits displayed in the underground communications bunker. However, in 2012, after many hours of work by the Lions Club of Swan Hill, the Catalina was restored and moved into a newly constructed hangar, which now also hosts a large collection of memorabilia and photos.

The communications bunker has also been restored to look as it did in the 40’s, using plans and photos from the time.

All the service hangars and personnel quarters have now disappeared, although the three main slipways, where the aircraft were towed out of and into the water still remain. The 3 miles long by 2 miles wide lake is tranquil and, on the day we visited, sunny and warm with families picnicking on the grass banks.

Well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The entry charge includes a 20-minute video about the base, from its origins in 1942 right up to the present day, as well as access to the communications bunker. At $10 a head or $20 for a family of 4 you can’t go wrong

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.