Perfect blue skies greeted the pilots on Saturday morning as we left Bankstown up the VFR lane from Parramatta to Gosford. Six aircraft in total joined the flight taking off from around Bankstown and Camden. The winds were light which made for magical flight conditions as we flew past the city and up the coast towards the Hunter Valley.
Weather was so good pilots had a range of choices as they flew into the Hunter Valley, some cruised just a 1,000ft above the mountains whereas other climbed to 8,000ft to enjoy the view. All descended to the entry funnel, near Maitland, for the VFR lane north under the Williamtown control zone.
Once spotting the railway line the pilots upgraded from VFR to old but true “IFR” (I follow rails) and proceeded north in the VFR lane following the railway line through the valleys where at times the mountains alongside were above your cruise height of 1,300ft. As we started to enter the region of Barrington Tops, the Gloucester airstrip “AKA cow paddock” came into view.
We descended down for a proper precautionary search and landing to check the surface of the field plus check for obstacles, like fences and cows! All six planes made good short field landings and quickly started to set up for lunch.
The Gloucester Aero club had been very generous opening the club facilities; for cooking, coffee and even a club car “truck” to go into town. The group spread out around the clubhouse, on the grass and the benches, to enjoy a picnic lunch under glorious sunshine and the backdrop of the mountain ranges of Barrington tops. Some of the group departed soon after lunch but a group of us ventured into town to see the historic town of Gloucester and enjoy a local coffee.
Unfortunately, when we returned we found a farmer had begun to move his dairy cows across the field near our departure threshold which held up our departure but equally gave us more time to relax in the splendid environment. When the cows had finally completed their journey and the remaining planes lifted off with good grass and short field technique. Whilst the majority of the flight headed back down the VFR lane we decided to come back via the coastal route and flew past the beaches and Williamtown at 500ft on the way home.
Returning to Bankstown we reflected on the amazing day which allowed us to unlock a part of country NSW that is normally untouchable for many given the distances, whilst it only took us 3hrs of flying in a trusty Archer and even less for some of the higher performance Cessnas.
We look forward to seeing you on the next SFC Club fly-away,