Mount Beauty at this time of year is an absolute plethora of scenic views and fresh air.
By Andrew Gellert
On the 17th of August myself, Ricky O’kane and Terry Mann put Point cook in the rear window and headed out over the eastern ranges bound for the lovely Mount Beauty and Khancoban airstrips, under the towering eye of Mount Bogong and the Snowy mountain range. Enroute to the destination was a beautiful morning layer of low cloud in and around Lilydale and the valleys nearby. VFR on-the-top with the early morning Hot air balloon formations, was an indication that the day was taking shape to be one to remember. Ricky was snapping off pictures as we were constantly remarking how awesome the views were and how good is was to be a pilot in Melbourne.
Onwards we went over Lake Eildon, with Ozrunways pointing the way, giving us the freedom to put our attention to finding all the private strips and possible landing areas, as pilots do. It’s not so surprising when there are three pilots in the cabin all working together to raise that situational awareness when flying over “tiger country”. Well, I like to think it was tiger country however it was just nice country, pardon my enthusiasm.
Now we are approaching the famous Mount Beauty airstrip and we are thinking, “Gee, the radio is a bit quiet, where are all the aircraft?” I mean, it was severe clear, really nice weather. You know, those nice crisp sunny winter mornings that makes the aircraft perform well, just excellent. But with all the aviators in the area still at home in bed or something, Terry set up the approach and we went in with no other traffic activity in the valley or the circuit.
Landing and shutdown at the parking area was peaceful if nothing else as we were greeted with silence and cool fresh country air. Off we walk to the Mount Beauty bakery on Kiewa crescent.
Arriving at the bakery we are welcomed by a nice table in the warm sun. Although we are not really hungry yet, coffee and treats are selected that reflect the desire to sample their tempting array of yummy presentations.
Myself and Ricky were lucky enough to try their caramel muffins. Ok, now I believe it was the most tasty and rewarding muffin I’ve ever eaten, period. Now here’s the thing, how can you make a muffin moist and fluffy at the same time?? We walked back still talking about those muffins.
Climbing out of Mount Beauty, those beautiful views were filling the cockpit as head and eyes were on a swivel trying to spot other traffic and take in all the surrounds of the valley that leads to the airstrip. Its’ just awesome to do some “mountain flying”. Speaking of mountain flying, we cut the corner short and headed almost direct to Khancoban when we achieved a nice safe 7500 feet. Arriving over Khancoban I maintained the same altitude just to be with visual distance and level with Mount Kosciuszko. After getting a real good eyeful of the snow-laden mountain range, a spiralling decent to landing adjacent to the circuit was conducted. That’s an interesting way to arrive I thought and it made for another nice way to take in the views of the valley floor.
Shutdown and the hike into town was another stroll up the road in peaceful setting. I was living in hope of a kindly passer-by to pick us up like they do when you fly into King Island but alas, it was not to be. We’ll just take in the walk and the views and enjoy the sunshine. The first small pub we come across offers a spread of nice steak sandwiches and Kosciuszko beer for the non-flying pilot from there on. I recommend that if you fly into Khancoban, organise your prior permission through the email address Khancoban_airstrip@snowyhydro.com.au with trip details. Its 1500m of strip, but there is a combination of grass and tarmac. We found the grass to be slightly squishy and wet during take-off and it really does affect that ground roll when you push the throttle open.
So at this point we have enough fuel to fly on to Benalla airport and land with 50 minutes of go-juice left in the tanks. Melbourne centre takes some time trying to find me on radar approaching Albury airspace for my transit details, but that flight plan I lodged before take-off helps. With fuel taken on at Benalla, Ricky takes over to steer us homeward bound but not without an idea that has been taking shape in his mind during the course of the afternoon. Now, we all know how hard it is for a VFR aircraft to get a clearance right overhead Melbourne airspace to track direct from Kilmore to Point Cook. He asks “request 6500 direct Point Cook”, she replies ”clearance not available at this time, track via VFR route Kilmore-Sugarloaf”. Ok, it’s pretty much the norm, and we accept it after all it is a preferred VFR route and that’s exactly what it’s there for.
Undeterred, Ricky asks can we fly it at 8500, to which the response is still the same and to contact centre on
frequency xyz. So we switch over frequency and begin to assess the next plan to go over to the west and come in from the Bacchus marsh direction as fuel is not a problem and we have time. As we consider this, centre contacts us “do you still want 8500 direct to Point Cook?” Smiles all round in that cabin as we transit direct overhead Melbourne Airport at 8500 and receive gradual step downs in altitude all the way into Point Cook. At this time Ricky is absolutely pushing the nose down, trying to keep up with the controller’s directions and I’m just taking in the size of the city and thinking Geez, it’s a real big city when you aren’t looking at it from the small window of a Commercial passenger jet, just the surrounding panorama of a Cessna 172.
We land at Point Cook and tie-down. It’s late afternoon and I’m reflecting on the day thinking to myself, I’m really glad to be a pilot, no actually, I’m really glad to be a Point Cook Flying member.