Red Baron flyaway to Milawa, Victoria

To celebrate our Chief Flying Instructor’s big 4-0, a group of pilots and planes from Red Baron went on a flyaway to Northern Victoria’s Wangaratta wine region over the weekend.

Three aircraft flew down on Friday afternoon and I joined the rest of the team on Saturday in VH-TPL, the Piper Cherokee that I’ve been using for my Night VFR rating over Winter.

My flight down went smoothly and, apart from the slight 10-15Kt headwind all the way down, the weather was fantastic. I tracked from Bankstown to Camden, then towards the Yass NDB as shown on the ADF in the cockpit view below:

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After Yass, it was on to Holbrook NDB flying abeam Tumut and Blowering Reservoir. It was here that I got my first glimpse of the snow on top of the Snowy Mountains – one of the few times I’ve seen that under my own command in an aircraft which was a pretty cool moment. You can just see the Snowy’s in the background under the cloud in this photo, and that’s Tumut in the foreground:

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After Holbrook I got clearance through Albury Class C direct to Milawa Airstrip. A 3.1 hour flight on the VDO and one of two long flights this weekend that saw an important list of milestones ticked off in my flying career… but more on that later.

Milawa Airstrip is in a great spot – it’s an 820m strip directly outside the Lindenwarrah Hotel and a 2 minute walk from the popular Brown Brothers winery. So you can basically land, shut down the aircraft, and have a glass of wine in your hand before the engine has started to cool, so I did that.

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Red Baron had 4 aircraft at Milawa for the weekend. Below you can see VH-MIG (Cessna 182) in the foreground, with VH-ZXY (Robin 160A), then VH-PIQ (General Avia F22), and finally the Cherokee I flew, VH-TPL, in the background.

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As mentioned, across the road from the airfield is Brown Brothers winery which has wine tasting, cellar door sales, a great restaurant, and an outdoor area where you can sit on the grass to enjoy a drink or play giant chess or just lie there, relax, and do a whole lot of nothing.

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Instead of doing a whole lot of nothing, we hired some bikes from the hotel and toured round a couple of other wineries before the sun started to set over the hills. The photo below was taken a few kilometres from the airfield on a dirt road that lead from John Gehrig Wines (who make a Chenin Blanc you have to try) back to the hotel.

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And here’s John Gehrig winery and one of the locals taking an evening stroll through the vineyards:

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It’s a great part of the world, and for us was just over a 2.5 hour flight from Sydney. If you’re looking for a weekend getaway and enjoy wine tasting, I’d thoroughly recommend checking out Milawa Airstrip. Book a room at the Lindenwarrah Hotel and grab lunch or dinner at Brown Brothers. Definitely visit John Gehrig Wines and say hi to the geese.

So, the milestones:

Yes, as mentioned this trip marked several milestones for me, namely:

  1. Longest ever solo non-stop flight: 3.1 hours
  2. First time flying myself into another state: NSW -> VIC
  3. First time landing solo on a grass airstrip
  4. Logging my 100th hour as Pilot In Command

Now milestone 4 is not just a nice round number, it means that I’ve completed all the PIC flying hours required for my Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) test. I still need to log a few more Instrument hours, which I intend to do with our CFI over the next few weeks, but after that I’ll be ready (on paper at least) to take the checkride.

Now stop reading this and start organising your flight to Milawa…

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