The excitement was at full throttle in Candelo, a small town in the Bega valley which is in the far south coast region of NSW Australia, not too far from where I live. Word was a number of vintage bikes were to pass though, and so I just fueled up my BSA and grabbed the camera. Here’s the treat for you…There were around 200 vintage and classic bikes on a reliability trial covering some serious miles. Candelo was a lunch stop and they were heading up over the coastal range then across the tablelands into the snowy mountains, pure joy on a bike at this time of year. This was the second leg of the day’s journey and would be another 150-200 Miles depending on their route.
My Great Uncle Walter Preston, joined the Royal Flying Corps during WW1 after spending 1916 on the western front as a machine-gunner with the Australian infantry. He flew a few different types, this, in the picture is a BE2. He flew 70 night bombing missions with 101Sqn flying FE2s ending the war with a meeting with the King of England, who personally presented him with a Distinguished Flying Cross. Pic: A more professional lean on the wing, Walter Preston.
Walter’s brother Arthur Preston followed him into the flying corps he also flew in WW1. Arthur lived in Sydney after the war and I met him as a boy, he did not consider flying safe. Arthur flew artillery spotting with a Morse key strapped to his leg and compass and map with coordinates on his lap. With anti-aircraft fire and enemy fighters it was a hazardous job for him and his observer.
Trying to pose next to the bi-plane like my great uncle almost 100 years before. This beautiful old aircraft is a Boeing stearman 75, powered by the Continental R-670, a seven cylinder four-cycle radial aircraft engine produced by Continental displacing 668 cubic inches (11 litres) and a dry weight of 465 lb (211 kg) Horsepower varied from 210 to 240 at 2,200 rpm.
These aircraft were used by the United States and Canada as a primary trainer during WW2. We were cruising at 94MPH and I saw 130MPH as we descended to 500feet over the summer surf beaches of north Wollongong. Seven cylinders of 1930s style aero engine in pristine condition, it sounded beautiful.
This was the day I was to take to the air in a 1930s designed Boeing stearman, a 40 minute joy flight as my sixtieth birthday present. courtesy of my five loving children and their partners. Surprise was the word ‘aerobatic’ printed on the flight pass!!
Learning about the one piece of safety equipment from the flight crew. We would be flying over the ocean and I could think of no good reason I might need an inflatable life jacket. I was hoping I wouldn’t need it. The plane was meant to stay in the air and I wasn’t planning on getting out.
Three of the grandchildren excited to be allowed to sit in a small plane.My eight year old grandson Dominic, a keen aviator and history buff. The kind lady of the air crew was telling him about this particular aircraft; built in 1942 and used at the Tuskegee air training base in the United States during WW2.
Dominic added, ‘flown by the Red Tails’ ‘The famous black American fighter pilots who flew P51 Mustangs in WW2, also known as the Tuskegee airmen.’ Anything you want to know about WW2 fighter planes or the Bismarck Dom’s your boy. I told you.
Preparing for takeoff. We used the grass next to the runway. The radial engine sounded like a big V8 and we were in the air effortlessly in a very short distance. We climbed to fifteen hundred feet and headed north across a bay then along the coast toward Wollongong. Being midsummer it was good to be up in cooler air with a 90MPH breeze. What a delightful experience.
Yours truly’ in the hot seat taxiing out, thank goodness there was someone in the machine that knew what he was doing.
Forty minutes later the gentle tranquility of gliding in with the old engine just ticking over. However, a little previous to this were the words from my pilot; ‘Would you like to try some aerobatics?’ I was not likely to be up here again and if I say no my great uncles would likely frown on me… ‘ok’ The nose of the plane whipped up vertical and the world span, a great force was pushing me towards the floor and the ocean and beaches were above my head. ‘Do you want to try something else or just go back? ‘ ‘ Oh might just go back’ Flying gently along again and I was feeling like a chicken, ‘What else have you got?’ ‘We could do a barrel roll’ It sounded harmless ‘ok’ said I. ‘ok hang on’ said my pilot ‘just lifting the nose’ Up we went vertical again big ‘G’ forces pushing all over the place as everything spun, looking out the side wasn’t much help there were surfers on boards above my head flashing past, the world was twisting and turning, the meter on the dash said we reached three ‘G’s. The oil gauge was steady on eighty PSI and we were cruising gently again at 94MPH. Swoosh! It was a flight
Descending gently motor idling, what a fun experience!
Have a news story, an interesting write up or simply a suggestion? Write to us at email@example.com