The Old Station is a property at Raglan, west of Gladstone. It has a 2km long grass airstrip and accommodation for flyin guests. We’ve dropped in a couple of times over the past few years and stayed overnight (see separate blogs) and owners Ron and Helen Creed are amazingly hospitable. For an operating cattle station it is a really amazing tourist destination. It’s also been hosting flyins and airshows for decades. The flyins were originally started by Ron Creed’s parents, and eventually Ron and Helen took over the task of organising them. They were being held every 2 years and I’d enjoyed visiting in 2016 and 2018 but Covid interrupted in 2020 so when the Creeds announced that it was on again in May 2022 I knew I had to go again.
Mike Cahill was keen to attend. We asked fellow Cirrus enthusiast Brett Sylvester to join us in MSF and he jumped at the opportunity. A few other Redcliffe aeroclub members also decided to go in various aircraft so it would be an “unofficial” club flyaway.
Autumn 2022 had been the wettest in living memory and there was very little flying to be had in south east Queensland from February to early May so when the flyin date at the end of May approached and the weather looked like it’d be dry and sunny you could feel the excitement building. Would the strip be too soft though, especially if over one hundred aircraft were flying in? I rang Helen Creed and she assured me that being inland they hadn’t had so much rain and the strip was perfect. The paddock that is used for aircraft parking and camping under the wing was also dry. They had heavy machinery driving over it without any concerns.
Sadly, Mike came down with a viral infection a few days before the event, and told me he may have to pull out. We had originally intended to fly up on the Friday 27th May but decided to give him one more day to recover. However, on Friday afternoon he was still not any better and decided not to go. It was just Brett and me in MSF. Brett has flown Cirrus quite a bit but hadn’t flown for a while so he was happy for me to pilot up and back.
Saturday 28th dawned clear and bright. A perfect morning for flying. I met Brett out at the hangar at Redcliffe at 7:30 and after filling the tanks we were in the air just after 8:30. It was a smooth flight direct to Old Station, about 90 minutes in all, passing over familiar territory like the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Biggenden and Mount Perry where I’d done a cross country flight during my CPL training. We flew IFR as, based on my previous visits to the airshow, I was expecting quite a few aircraft converging on Old Station and wanted a heads up from Air Traffic Control. It was very quiet however and we only passed one other aircraft, a Jabiru about abeam Monto, on the way up.
As we reached top of descent for Old Station the ATC advised that there was “no IFR traffic but a few VFR aircraft in the circuit”.
I’d noticed an inconsistency in the CTAF frequency announced for the Old Station. The Flyin website said we should use 132.2 MHz while the OzRunways guide said it should be 126.7. So I downgraded to VFR so I could monitor both frequencies simultaneously on my two radios, asking ATC for a SARTIME before I switched off their frequency. As it turned out, there was only one other aircraft in the circuit with us and we followed him in on runway 06. As we flew downwind we could see that there was already a large number of aircraft parked in the paddock and a huge crowd along the end and edge of the runway. It was a little bit unnerving on short final as I noticed that there were literally hundreds of people lined up watching every plane land. “Don’t mess up this landing” went through my head – there are too many witnesses. With almost no wind and perfect conditions what could go wrong and it was a greaser of a landing. We turned off the runway, cancelled our SARTIME with Brisbane Centre (the mobile service is not great there) and taxied towards the parking area, switching to the ground frequency that was displayed clearly for all to see. A parking assistant manning a portable VHF radio directed us to a “follow me” car that we followed to our designated parking spot at the far end of the paddock and shut down. It appeared that most people had arrived the day before and that’s why it was so quiet flying in. As a result our parking spot was quite a long way away from the runway. Never mind, at least it’d be quiet at night.
After tying down the plane Brett and I pitched our tents ready for the night while a tractor pulling competition occurred in the background. A couple of local farmers came up and had a chat about the Cirrus. They decided they’d like one too and wanted to know a few details. One of the guys from the aeroclub walk past and told us where they were parked and we headed down there for a chat. Later it was off over to the main area to find some lunch and prepare for the airshow. There were numerous stalls and options for eating and drinking as well as a display of numerous trucks and cars of all sorts.
The air show ran from 2pm to 4pm and included a number of aerobatic displays including Matt Hall and Paul Bennet and a few warbirds amongst others.
It was followed by dinner and a couple of bands that played into the night while the temperature dropped to a reasonable 12 degrees and we warmed ourselves around a few large braziers full of blazing sleepers.
We caught up with various old friends as well as making some new ones. By 10:30pm we retired to our tents and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the band playing on, accompanied by the raucous singing of some of the younger attendees.
It was a bit of a difficult night, not being used to sleeping on air mattresses in tents anymore so I woke up a few times and was still a bit tired when a loud explosion signalled first light around 6am. The first aircraft departed soon after. It was another perfect blue sky day. The sun rose over the hill and lit up the property. More planes departed as the dew gradually evaporated off the grass and the tents.
During breakfast we watched as one plane after the other took off, heading for home. Brett and I packed up our tents and were ready for departure by 10:30. By the time we taxied out to runway 24 there were not that many planes remaining. It was all very orderly and soon it was our turn to back track. We took off past the assembled crowds, using the soft field technique to lift into the air then accelerate in ground effect, before climbing away at the far end of the runway. Soon we were heading south east at 5500 feet, this time for Agnes Water. It was only a 20 minute flight and as we descended we heard a Jabiru that was also heading for Agnes. He was ahead of us though so we let him do a straight in approach while we passed overhead then did a 500ft overfly to inspect the runway. After all the recent rain I wanted to be sure there were no ruts and also no kangaroos around. All was good so we did another circuit and landed. As we shut down the Jabiru pilot approached and offered us a lift into town. How could we refuse?
After lunch at the Holidays Café at the beach we caught a taxi back out to the airstrip for the trip home. It really was a perfect day as we lifted off and followed the coast all the way back to Noosa Heads at 3000ft.
A somewhat nervous sounding Jetstar pilot who told us he was from “down south” was taxiing at Hervey Bay and wanted to know our location and intentions as we flew past. Eventually after a few exchanges the air traffic controller assured him that as we were at the southern end of Fraser Island we were well out of the way of his climb out to the south.
We rounded the lighthouse on Double Island Point and marvelled at the number of cars on the beach.
Passing through the Sunshine Coast controlled airspace we had a great view of beach side communities and had to pass behind a landing 737.
After passing over Bribie Island we were back at Redcliffe again. Another greaser landing and the weekend was over.