by Jamie Brown
THE growl of radial engines and the whistle of wind over wings heralded the start of the annual Great Eastern Fly-In at Evans Head over the weekend.
According to organiser Gai Taylor, who has led the volunteer effort for the past nine years, last weekend’s event was one of the biggest, with grand weather to match.
The free event, run solely for the satisfaction of aviation enthusiasts, is a rarity in today’s world and Ms Taylor said she hoped it would continue in that vein.
“This event brings together a fantastic group of people, from warbird enthusiasts to amateur flying clubs, and we don’t want it to change,” she said.
“This format excludes no one. It is about promoting aviation and the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome.”
Rural Fire Service volunteer Brian Bennett, who was collecting a gold coin donation at the gate for the North Zone Support Brigade, said this year’s fly-in was the busiest he had seen.
“There is more to do this year,” he said, citing the expansive market stalls as another way to keep people entertained.
The highlight of the day was watching the amazing acrobatic performances of Pitt Special pilots Paul Bennett and Glen Graham, from Maxx-G Aerobatic Services, duelling with Cameron Rolph-Smith aboard his Yak-52.
The pilots wove a trail of smoke into intricate patterns against a blue sky while down on the ground 1000 stunned spectators gazed to the heavens with their mouths wide open.
Cameron has filled the shoes of his father, legendary aviation enthusiast Kim Rolph-Smith, who was grounded for the weekend with a bad hip and wasn’t able to fly his beloved Trojan in wide, graceful arcs.
“I am having withdrawals,” he admitted.
“But it doesn’t look very professional to hobble out on the tarmac with a bad hip and struggle in and out of the cockpit.
“And besides, it is painful.”
His son Cameron, meanwhile, is making a name for himself restoring old warbirds, and has already recreated a dozen of the intricate machines.
He is now involved in a 20,000 hour rebuild.
“This year’s event is the busiest ever,” Cameron said.
“And I love the flying. I can’t get enough of it.
“The view from up there is just incredible.”