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A letter to:
Lee Ungerman
Operations Manager
Recreation Aviation Australia


Although you probably don’t remember, you were one of the first people I spoke to after having an “Aerochute” flight as a present, about 2 years ago.

As a former GA pilot and not having flown for some time, I had resigned myself to the fact that I could never afford to fly again. “Aerochute” once again gave me the thrill of leaving solid ground behind, with a different kind of freedom not associated with GA flying, probably the wind in your face and……. to go on is just preaching to the converted.

After talking to you, I could see the benefits of joining the RAA and one of your best tips was to seek out other pilot/enthusiasts in the area and talk to them. It wasn’t long before one contact turned into many. I didn’t realise how popular Recreation Aviation was in the area. We have Aerochutes, Trikes, and Fixed Wing, with each offering its own type of flying. I decided on the Aerochute as the aircraft that best filled my needs. First is its safety record, and next its forgiving nature when flying, with age creeping up and a bad back, the chute reduces a lot of the jarring in turbulence. Finally I don’t want to travel from A to B, but just enjoy the freedom of lazily soaring around my local area, and being able to take off from nearly any flat paddock then trying for the perfect landing. The openness of the cockpit, if you call it that and the aspect of having a parachute already there and open clinched it for me.

As discussed by Andrew Hipwell in the “Letters” section of the June issue of the RAA Magazine, I found an Alice. Well actually a Rob. Rob De Groot lives locally near Drouin and is passionate about flying Aerochutes. I can honestly say I would not have progressed to having my RAA Licence and owning my own aircraft if not for his mentoring. Rob has a passion for the sport that is infectious, as many others in our group can attest to.

Rob took me on many a joy flight, which only fuelled my desire to be able to fly again. In looking for a training school, I spoke to CFI Graeme Hutchinson in NSW, who assured me I was with a very competent and safe flyer. Knowing this I probably became a pest, and am surprised Rob didn’t throw me out of his shed/hanger. (The odd ale always seemed to help.) Just the opposite, the more we discussed flying the later the nights became. Rob got to calling when he was taking up a relative or friend, and I would go along to watch, and this led to me helping set the chute, learning all the different ways depending on the weather/wind etc, with Rob always doing the final check. The more interest I showed the more Rob put in. He would tangle the lines and show me how not to get knots, but clear them. I went over the aircraft, checking all the nuts and bolts, tyre pressures etc, and then watched Rob recheck it all again pointing out things I missed, and tell me why it was important. All this gave me a lot more confidence as I progressed towards my own licence.

Rob is now on his way to becoming an instructor, and is well suited, with an easy manner, showing professionalism in his flying which he imparts to others. Although I now have my licence, I still fly often with Rob and others in our group, and Rob still has time to give advice and assistance when asked. To have him around makes our outings, even if it’s just a 3-hour talk in his trailer as we wait for fog to lift, “and it doesn’t”, or to spend 2 hours checking lines after they came back from the factory twisted, or to test our knowledge and revisit the basics.

A lot of us have looked for a suitable field and obliging farmer. Rob set down guidelines I have followed to this day as I increase the number of fields I can use:

  • Once you have found your friendly farmer.
  • Speak to every neighbour who you will possibly low fly over.
  • Listen to their requirements, such as dairy farmers and milking times, or feedlots with cattle penned unable to see what’s making the noise.
  • To then make up your own NOTAM to be passed on to any other flyer you let onto your field. (Licensed and Registered aircraft only)
  • Remember you’re the one the farmer will blame or forward complaints to.

To our credit, by following RULES, we have not had one complaint or safety issue and the locals have shown a great interest and I think pride in that the area is home to so many different machines. It is strange when they say they saw you and waved, asking if you saw them, and I always reply “Of Course”, thinking which ant were they.

In wrapping up, I just want to say, that as we all progress and learn, we should be prepared to mentor, or offer support and encouragement to others. It is through mentoring we can all do our best to impart what knowledge we may have on to others, to help Recreation Aviation progress and ultimately to make it safer.

Thanks to you and the RAA. Keep up the good work and I look forward to the monthly Magazines.

Peter Gallus