By Commissioning Editor James Kightly

On the extended weekend of the April 18th – 21st  2024, the Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia (AAAA, or generally known to the aficionados as the ‘Antiquers’) celebrated the organization’s fiftieth birthday. The fly-in event was held for the first time at the New South Wales country town of Corowa, situated on the Murray River that separates NSW from Victoria, and the event was titled the 50th Anniversary National Fly-in for the Antique Aeroplane Association of Australia.

Australia is a BIG country (equivalent in size to the lower 48 of the USA, or larger than Europe) so while the majority of the attendees were from the more local states, those made the effort to travel from south Australia and Queensland were appreciated.

Allan Chinn’s PA-11S flew down from tropical Northern Queensland, with a number of stops en-route, and collected the ‘Kevin Bailey Award for Longest Distance Flown to Attend’ award. [Photo by James Kightly]

While Allan Chinn’s Piper PA-11, the visitor from Airlie Beach, Queensland won the distance traveled prize (over a thousand miles, or 1,700km) that prize was sponsored and awarded by the regular attendee Kevin Bailey, who flew in from Perth — the other side of the continent — in his open-cockpit Stampe SV-4, an even greater, epic 1,700 miles (2,800 km).

Kevin Bailey flew his Stampe SV4B VH-BVU all the way from Perth, WA. Seen here in front of South Australian based Tim Brownridge’s Stinson SR-9E VH-ISR. [Photo by James Kightly]

Few can compete with Kevin’s distance, and he has, nevertheless been a regular attendee in one of his vintage types. Both these measures are direct line, so significantly shorter than the real distance and missing the stops required.

The subtle, special light of the Aurora Australis were seen over the field at about 5am. [Mia Keep Photography]

The other dimension, appropriately on a half-century for the organization, was a celebration of the founding members from fifty years ago, and the youth attendees of today. Rightly, one of the prizes was awarded to Borg Sorensen of Tyabb, Victoria who arrived in his own de Havilland DH.82a Tiger Moth with a twelve year old co-pilot grandson. Borg, a well known identity and master of vintage aircraft engine rebuilds is a mere 95 years young.

95 year old Borg Sorensen checks his Tiger Moth VH-DFG for the return journey into Victoria. The Sorensen family, and their Tiger Moth, were awarded the ‘President’s Choice’ Award. [Photo by James Kightly]

A special effort had been made by the hard-working committee to reach out to the surviving pioneering members, and more recent former members, with the result that the event dinner at the Club Corowa was a sell-out attended by over 350 guests.

The main event dinner venue, Club Corowa has an Australian built de Havilland Vampire A79-529 on a pole outside. [Photo by James Kightly]

At the peak, David Prossor, noted aircraft registrar at such events, counted 168 aircraft on the field, and while this included a few residents (one of which was the sole jet! See the article end for a photo) the majority had flown in for the event.

Australian designed and built homebuild, the Corby Starlet is a type well past 50 years old, and with a diverse array beyond it, and the Tiger Moths in the background. [Photo by James Kightly]

Dave, still a leader in the documentation of Australia’s aviation history, was one of the surviving original founders from 1974 along with Clive Phillips and Barry Bell.

The oldest Cessna attending, a rare pre-war survivor, 1937 C-37 VH-UZU, behind the Association banners and in front of several more rarities. [Photo by James Kightly]

All aircraft are welcome (some modern types and modern home-builds were on the field) but the emphasis is on the antique classic, warbirds and even ‘modern classic’ types.

Warbirds included VH-BOB, the recently immaculately restored CAC Mustang whose team rightly walked off with a couple of awards, three CAC CA25 Winjeels, no less than five Boeing A75 Stearman trainers, a sole Vultee BT-13 Valiant, and (somewhat unusually for Australia, where the type is common) just one Nanchang CJ-6A.

After the UK, Australia probably has the largest active, airworthy population of Tiger Moths and Austers worldwide.

Husband and wife arrivals, Di Davey in her Piper PA-11 VH-LTE taxis in after arrival with husband Phil Prap in the Ryan PT-22 VH-NEA. [Photo by James Kightly]

Careful organization by the committee was allowed most types to be grouped together, including nine Austers among a remarkable array of ‘distant cousin’ types from the Piper and Taylorcraft family.

Rare de Havilland DH85 VH-UUL flies in from the Bondi Beach, NSW area, and is seen landing with the rotating wheel fairing air brakes deployed. [Photo by James Kightly]
Mark Carr’s DH-94 Moth Minor VH-CZB was awarded the ‘Grand Champion Antique’ prize. [Photo by James Kightly]

Ten de Havilland Tiger Moths was perhaps not particularly surprising, but good to see, but three Stampes joining them certainly was a surprise.

Two of the three Stampes in attendance shot air to air by Mia Keep Photography.

Small numbers may not have seemed special, but Australia’s entire population of airworthy Piper PA-11s (two) was present, likewise the two Ryan PT-22s might not seem much but was also Australia’s entire population of the USAAC trainer.

The three Aircopes attending put up a formation flight in the afternoon. Mildly unconventional looking, the more you know, the more unusual they are. [Photo by James Kightly]

Three Erco Aircoupes were a notable grouping, and certainly the most unusual type in design terms on the field, though a Vietnam War-era Cessna O-1 Bird Dog on amphibian floats was an eyecatcher.

A Cessna O-1 Birddog on amphibian floats stands tall – this example, a Vietnam veteran was brought in by Kate and Steve Death from Albury, ‘down river’ on the Murray. The details of its wartime service were displayed on the info board below. [Photo by James Kightly]

The two Ryan PT-22s flew a formation with the sole Ryan SCW, a former event prizewinner like several other attendees, and the ultra-rare SCW was the one that had been flown in the UK for a period recently.

The Cessna 180 has been a useful hardworking ‘farm wagon’ type in Australia and 12 turned up, among a range of other vintage Cessnas, one a C-37 dating to pre-war. Likewise eight de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunks was a good turnout, doubly so considering  they type never served in military use in Australia.

The event was extended from early arrivals on Thursday, with an evening showing of the classic 1965 aviation film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines and a barbecue.

The Friday and Saturday morning were more arrivals and some pleasure flying, and departures extended through until early afternoon Sunday, which wrapped up a successful, safe and highly enjoyable event, and believed the largest AAAA fly-in ever by attendance. It is hoped that a return to Corowa can be made for the next event in 2025, and it should be well worth the visit.


The awards:

The People’s Choice Award: Mustang VH-BOB Eastgate Family

Grand Champion Warbird: Mustang VH-BOB Eastgate Family

R.G.Carey Award for Best Owner Restoration at its First Outing:
Stampe SV4B VH-BVU Kevin Bailey

President’s Choice Award:
DH.82a Tiger Moth VH-DFJ Sorensen Family

Grand Champion Contemporary:
Cessna 182B VH-BRA Steve Newing

Grand Champion Classic:
Stinson 108-3 VH-STN Steve & Jayne Guilmartin

Grand Champion Antique:
DH.94 Moth Minor VH-CZB Mark Carr

Kevin Bailey Award for Longest Distance Flown to Attend:
Piper PA-11 Cub VH-AKD Allan Chinn

Barry Bell Award for the Member Making the Greatest Contribution to the Association:
Helen Craven