I was inspired to share my story on how I got into aviation (predominately helicopters) from this story from a friend in the States, Maria Langer: An Eclectic Mind: Flying With The Mustache Kid
I was over visiting family at their then house in Tallawang, a municipality between Gulgong and Dunedoo in New South Wales, Australia. The Mudgee Small Farm Field Days (Mudgee Small Farm Field Days) were on at the end of the week I was there. We all piled into the car on the Friday morning and headed over early on Friday. We arrived at the site and got to take a look around – we checked out all the different things and met back at a relative’s site for her kennel club (Cudgegong and District Kennel Club) for lunch. While I was having lunch, I watched the helicopters taking off – I finished eating and my aunty must have seen me watching them as she asked me if I wanted to have a go…. I said I did so we went over and found out how much they were. I was A$10 short so I went back and borrowed it off my other aunty – this time, my uncle accompanied me. I went over, paid and signed the paperwork. As company policy, they required a minimum of two people so I waited (and boy, was I packing it! Anxiety does that to you!!)…. someone did end up coming over and it turns out it was another person from Dubbo – talk about small bloody world! We went up and did our flight – I can remember the first four words I said after coming back down: “That was bloody awesome!”. We all laughed and that was that – that first flight was all it took to get me hooked!
Fast forward to 2010 and my first flight in a Robinson R44 Raven II (like the one in Maria’s blog)…. I was at a vintage truck show in Dubbo and noticed a helicopter sitting at the back of our harness racing track infield. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first so I walked over and recognised it as a R44. I asked the pilot who was there how much the flights were – they were A$50 – so I started to walk away. Craig Murphy, the pilot, consulted with Andrew Pearce, who was on helper duty that day, and Andrew called me back and asked if I wanted to go up as Craig hadn’t had the helicopter running that morning. I said yes so paid and signed in – Craig got me seated in the left front seat then came around and got into the right seat and fired the R44 up. He then did all his pre-takeoff checks and we got airborne – what an experience that was! We went for a fly up through the housing area behind the showground then I noticed my work over in the distance so I asked if we could go over and check it out – he said he would but we would more than likely have traffic (yes, we did end up having a Bombardier Q300 fly ahead of us so we held back for it to go past) to contend with. We ended up flying over the plant and I grabbed a quick couple of pics for reference then we made our way back to the showground following the Macquarie River and downtown Dubbo.
2013 saw me reacquaint myself with the JetRanger through an amazing business over in Coffs Harbour called Precision Helicopters. I had an amazing opportunity to fly over the country music capital of Australia, Tamworth, in their amazing 206B-3 JetRanger III…. what an experience that was sitting “shotgun” with the forward door off. This particular JetRanger has a multitude of roles apart from doing scenic flights – one of it’s most important roles is as a “Firebird”, wearing Firebird number 276 for the New South Wales Rural Fire Service during the Australian fire season (first weekend of October to the first weekend of April – our fire season coincides with Daylight Savings). I also did flights with Precision Helicopters at the Tamworth Country Music Festival in 2014 and this year. 2014 also saw me do a Trial Introductory Flight with Precision Helicopters over at Coffs Harbour…. what a hoot!
What does the remainder of 2016 bring for me helicopters wise??? Not too sure – so stay tuned for another story from this year!