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On Sunday 24th October 2010, a group of pilots based in Yarrawonga Flight Training’s Hangar 19 made an impromptu decision to fly north to Urana to see the extent of the floodwaters from Billabong Creek, Wangamong Creek and surrounding areas.

It was one of those Camelot perfect weather days, which everyone actually noticed and commented upon. All day the air in the hangar was filled with the radio calls of happy pilots up in their element with the birds.

By 1600 hours Paul had driven back to Griffith, and Charlie and Willem had departed for their respective home airfields, so Neville in his X-Air, Nigel in his Skyfox, Michael in his XT-912, and Peter and Anne in their SST trike departed on runway 19. They all turned towards Lake Mulwala, then tracked north over lush green crops as far as the eye could see. That’s a long, long way in this big sky country! For all the pilots who have flown over this country on our Navex and Megafauna Fly-aways since we moved to Yarrawonga over six years ago, and wondered why on earth anyone would even try to farm this marginal land, and have only seen it under drought conditions, 2010 is one of those years of plenty which keep these farmers going… (unless, of course, the locusts visit before harvest!!)

From an altitude of 3,000 feet Wangamong Creek looked like a water channel for our first time, instead of a line of trees, dotted with occasional muddy holes. As we flew further north, some paddocks were flooded and water was laying around in low-lying areas near silos, roads, farm buildings and farm houses, and animals had headed for the banks of dams, staying there to keep their feet dry.

It is nice to be able to report that the Australian Government has not been deceiving us on the Canberra World Aeronautical Chart. There really is a Lake Urana, which, at present does have water in it! I was beginning to wonder… (Now, if all that unwanted water, just lying around waiting to evaporate, could be piped south to Melbourne, that would be a real vote catching plan!!)

Cars were stranded because of flooded roadways just south of Urana, and I heard that a driver in one car, was able to drive just four kilometres in eight hours.

The return flight, at low level, gave us a more intimate view of the aftermath of the deluge, ducks and waterbirds playing, sheep on the move to higher ground, people on outstations waving vigorously as we flew over returning their greetings. All in all, it was a privilege to be in the sky having a birds’ eye view of our wonderful country.

We hope the bonus rain and flood water from the breached dam brought more good than bad, and that the farming families benefited.

Back at Hangar 19, we put the kettle on and exchanged varying experiences of our shared, but independent flights, munching on carrot cake and drinking tea or coffee, before dispersing and re-joining the “real world” and the chores which keep us busy. But we all took with us a lasting memory of a special flight, to keep with us for the rest of our lives.