Checking out potential flyaway destinations

Overflow Estate Winery – Figtree Country Retreat – Toowoomba

On 14th March 2022 I wanted to do a short flight in Cirrus MSF to brush up on my skills prior to leaving on a long trip to Victoria and South Australia. I asked Mike Cahill to go with me and we decided to use the flight to check out a couple of potential destinations for club flyaways. The first was a winery called “The Overflow Estate” located north east of Boonah, while the other was a small resort called Fig Tree Country Retreat, near Pittsworth. We decided we’d land at Toowoomba after overflying the two “targets”. I’d fly the leg to Toowoomba and Mike would fly from there back to Redcliffe.

Our route to Toowoomba

I elected to fly my leg VFR so that we’d have the opportunity to divert and orbit as required to get a really good look at our two targets. We headed off to the south west from Redcliffe, passing to the west of Mount Coot-tha and to the east of the Amberley restricted airspace at 2200ft, to remain under the Brisbane controlled airspace. This was the same route taken on my CPL practice flights to Boonah but this time we’d stop short of Boonah.

Passing Spring Mountain we skirted down the eastern flank of the Amberley RAAF restricted area and arrived overhead Bromelton. The Overflow Estate winery is located on the shores of Lake Wyaralong just west of Bromelton. It’s on a finger of land that juts out into the lake.

The airstrip is on another finger of land just across the water, seen on the right below.

We wanted to check out whether the airstrip would be suitable to land on. On closer inspection we decided it looked a bit too rough and that we’d probably give it a miss for now.

We now needed to traverse the Amberley restricted airspace, that was active, so needed a clearance. I also noticed a few clouds between us and Toowoomba so decided to change to IFR so we could climb through them to a safe height. I listened on the radio for the ATIS then called up Amberley Clearance Delivery and requested the clearance and an upgrade to IFR. “Remain outside controlled airspace and standby for clearance” was the reply. After orbiting a couple of times I asked whether we’d been identified. ATC responded that we had been identified. Before we had time for another orbit we had a transponder code, our clearance IFR direct to Toowoomba at 6000 ft, and told to contact Amberley approach.

Traversing the Amberley airspace was uneventful and as we approached the western edge of the restricted airspace I requested a descent to 4000ft to remain below the clouds and a switch back to VFR. Granted. Soon we were outside their airspace and could then track direct for Figtree.

On the western edge of Amberley airspace, south east of Toowoomba

Now Figtree airstrip is only 400m long so not easy to spot, especially as it’s in a well mowed field adjacent to the “resort”. We used our best VFR map reading skills to find our way out there as we listened to all the Qantas Academy pilots taking off and landing at WellCamp not far away. As we looked to the west the flat plains of the Darling Downs stretched away to the horizon.

Turning around we spotted the Figtree strip right where it should be! The airstrip looked very inviting but at 400m it was a bit short for the Cirrus so we’d have to return in a different aircraft someday.

Figtree airstrip and accommodation

From there it was a simple flight back over the top of Wellcamp Airport to Toowoomba where we joined downwind for a RWY11.

After a short break Mike took control and we took off again towards Redcliffe. This time IFR.

Climbing out past the Toowoomba CBD

Passing over the Lockyer Valley in between the clouds we saw some of the damage caused by the recent torrential rainfall.

River erosion near Murphy’s Creek

Further on we passed over a very full and muddy looking Lake Wivenhoe.

As we approached Redcliffe the Pine Rivers Dam also looked at capacity.

After touch down in Redcliffe we agreed that MSF had performed admirably and was ready for the big trip down south.

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