Russian Warbirds Downunder

  • Oct 16, 2013 11:14pm GMT

I’ve landed at Mum and Dad’s – jetlagged after travelling halfway around the world from St Croix, USVI to Sydney, Australia.

It’s been just over a year since I visited the country of my origins and everything is pretty much the same – except for one thing – I’m a licensed private pilot now.

So this visit to mum and dad’s was destined to roll out a little differently to how they have in the past.

When my mum said, ‘What would you like to do tomorrow love?’

I replied, ‘Let’s go to the local airport and see what’s going on.’

Dad said gruffly, ‘It’s really small what could possibly be happening there?’

‘Oh there’s usually a hangar BBQ happening somewhere on a small airport on the weekend,’ I said confidently… and proceeded to Google ‘Mittagong Airport’.

Constructed in 1944 for use by the Royal Australian Airforce in defence of the Commonwealth Mittagong Aerodrome is now operated by the Berrima District Aero Club – and sure enough, “‘HangarBBQ and a Safety Seminar by CASA’ hosted by the Berrima Aero Club” was pasted on the Aero Club’s page. CASA is the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – Australia’s FAA – I was curious to find out more about aviation standards in Australia.

The next day Mum, Dad and I headed down to the airport at 12.30pm – inside my bag was my log book, medical and pilot’s license – I was hoping to fly.

The crisp air and blinding blue sky of Sydney’s Southern Highlands was a beautiful setting for the long gravel and tar strip that stretched from one end of the gully to the other. A pristine row of forest green hangars stretched along one side and a club house with a delicious smelling BBQ smoking away was next to the car park that was filling up.

As I continued to look around and get my bearings I saw something and couldn’t quite believe my eyes… a collection of Russian war birds grouped around one of the hangars.

I was not expecting to see a bunch of Yaks here at this sleepy country airport and decided that needed investigation as soon as I had some food in me!

We headed over to where people were milling around picnic benches and introduced ourselves.

‘Our daughter’s a pilot,’ I heard my parents say proudly when asked what they were doing here at the BBQ. I swelled with a little pride – I’ve had a colorful life and career working in the entertainment industry mostly, but nothing pleases my parents more than to know that I can operate heavy machinery at altitude!

And nothing beats an Aussie BBQ, especially when the classic sausage sandwich is offered and mum and I tucked in happily and chatted with various people.

The conversation was about planes - everyone here were owners and operators - and also the safety seminar. Conversation became increasingly animated as people talked about the changes to regulations that were going into effect by the end of this year. I had a feeling the seminar to follow was going to get a bit heated when it came to question time.