Girls' day out at Rylstone
Once you fill an aeroplane with three females, the prospect of a great day's flying out to the country for lunch with the fourth great mate is probably going to tick the Fun Box fairly quickly.
Stir into that mix a hefty dose of winter fog conditions and some challenging flying and you've got yourself a day that's worth waking up for. It all starts with a phone call.
I'd been dying to get out to Rylstone - a beautifully positioned country airfield near Mudgee on the Central Tablelands of NSW. As we girls are headed out that way, it would have been plain rude not to call in on the way past.
Chief Sitting Bull out at Rylstone is Rob Loneragan, more at home on his beloved tractor than anywhere else, so I set the drums off in search of his whereabouts. "So Rob, do you reckon you might have the billy on around 10 o'clock next Thursday morning?" The drums rumbled back with an unmistakable welcome and promises of oscar-winning cappuccinos for the visiting squaws.
With the fog lifted and all girls finally assembled at Camden, we crank up one of Curtis Aviation's beautiful C182s and make a beeline over the ranges for some airwork over Bathurst to tick off the "work" part of the day.
Lucky we're not planning on calling in for a cuppa at WardAir today. As we arrive overhead Bathurst, we look down on a solid pea-souper, telling us in no uncertain terms that this little Blue Mountains bolthole is not open for business today.
No matter ... next stop, Rylstone. (See map here)
Located in a picturesque valley that instantly marches that stress level down, Rylstone is a lady in waiting. Rob's plan is to turn his stunning acreage and prime strip-side blocks into a thriving airpark - an aviation sanctuary away from the smog and high prices of city hangarage and real estate nightmares.
Looking so relaxed it's sickening, Rob & Harriet Loneragan welcome us warmly to their little slice of paradise as we join them for smoko in the sun. We bombard him with a hundred probing questions about his plans for Rylstone, and I realise his long held dream is taking some tangible shape.
The sealed taxiways, access roads and SOLD stickers on the master plan tell the story of solid progress. For me though, it is the FEEL of the place. I love the surrounding countryside, I love the grazing cattle and horses over the fence and I am comforted by those long grass runways. I am also impressed with one man's dogged determination to overcome the challenges in giving his dream some clear air.
With gorgeous views out over the valley and distant hills in just about every direction, I can see why people have started to talk with their wallets, and buying up the blocks for sale out here. Each time I talk to Rob these days, he's excitedly reporting on yet another shovel going in for a new hangar-house.
Thanks to Rob and a hard-working crew of aviator mates, Rylstone is now famous for its Celebration of Aviation open days; the last two have been a tremendous success story in terms of the sheer number of pilots and friends who have flown or driven in and spent these memorable weekends together, talking, laughing, breathing the love of flying.
We may just have found our next home away from home. Who's ready for a tree change? Bloody tempting, isn't it?