The sky doesn't get much bluer than this.
There's not a cloud in it. Pilot's dream, I reckon.
Pretty good for a passenger too.
Everything is gonna be in view today,
from Rockhampton down to the Old Station.
This is really different to when we flew in too.
We had all that scattered cloud, but that's all blown away now.
So we've got a good day in the skies coming up.
Well, I've had some really special experiences in Rockhampton
and now we've just taken off for the Old Station.
And ATC have just given us instructions
to follow the Fitzroy River.
No complaints from us. It's looking beautiful today.
These views are spectacular, aren't they?
Fitzroy leading out to the ocean there.
Look how aqua that is out there.
This is incredible.
And Yeppoon just a little bit further north up on the coast.
CATHERINE: Charlie Yankee Foxtrot at VFR as we approach 1,500.
MAN OVER RADIO: Charlie Yankee Foxtrot, frequency change approved.
-See ya. -See ya.
Thanks very much for your help. Charlie Yankee Foxtrot.
So we're out of his hair now, leaving Class D airspace around Rockhampton,
and we can change our radio frequency over.
And we should also remember at the same time
to change our transponder code
from 3,000, the code for Class D airspace,
to 1,200, the code for a VFR flight in Class G airspace.
Very important to remember to do that.
We're now VFR, so we can follow the river here if we like.
We could follow any of these tributaries. It's up to you now.
I just think it's funny how well stocked we are.
You know, now we've got our macaroons and our jelly beans
and our water and our sandwiches and everything
and we're going all of 20 minutes down the road.
'-(LAUGHS) But you never know.
Yeah, you never know.
If we had to put down there, might be a while before somebody came.
-Might want some food for the crocs.
-It'd be quite a picnic down there.
CATHERINE: Seriously, though, especially if you're on a long nav,
always take a survival kit with you -
water, rations and clothing and any protective gear
appropriate to the terrain that you'll be flying over.
PETE: We're on our way to the Old Station today.
It's located in a scenic valley near Raglan, Queensland,
just a 15-minute flight out of Rocky.
The Old Station has been owned by the Creed family since 1869
and is still a working Brahman cattle station.
CATHERINE: To the north at 1,700 and inbound,
and estimating the Old Station at time 2-2.
Charlie Yankee Foxtrot.
And on arrival, we will be conducting
a precautionary search and landing at the Old Station.
-Charlie Yankee Foxtrot.
-MAN OVER RADIO: 2-4.
-Have a look at all this smoke haze.
You can see they're burning off down below.
You get a lot of burning off at this time of the year up in the north.
Very often it's notified in the area forecast
that our visibility will be reduced due to smoke haze.
Always important to note that in your area forecast
and be prepared for it...
..because it can take the visibility on your planned route
to below the levels required for VFR flight.
-Oh. Alright, OK.
And if you get to the stage
where you have less than 5km of forward visibility,
then you shouldn't be flying.
-PETE: That's a game changer.
-Yeah. It certainly is.
What we do, first of all,
put out a stage of flaps,
we get the plane slowed down to about 60 knots, then we time.
And I'm seeing it's a pretty good and flat strip.
Everything is looking great to me.
CATHERINE: Except for the fact that animals are up this end.
PETE: We do have animals up one end.
Now, I'm going to land down at this end
because even though it's going to be a long taxi up,
it's always better to use as much of the runway as you possibly can.
Well, land as short as you can
because you never know what's gonna happen.
If anything were to happen - one of those cows were to come out -
I'd want the runway to be able to then take off again.
-CATHERINE: And do a go-around.
What do they say?
There's nothing more useless than the runway behind you.
-And the air in your tanks.
This is your typical grass strip, huh?
CATHERINE: This is your typical grass strip indeed.
We had a lot going on coming into the Old -
well, you did - coming into the Old Station.
CATHERINE: There they are over there.
-PETE: There's our cattle.
-Our 4-footed friends.
PETE: Our 4-footed friends that were just on the strip a moment ago,
that were hurriedly cleared off by the owner.
That was a good thing.
CATHERINE: It was a bumpy ride, though, wasn't it?
PETE: It was, yeah. A few bumps today.
We've just arrived at the Old Station on the outskirts of Rockhampton.
This place is beautiful - rolling hills, lots of forest,
lots of birdlife around as well.
This is fifth-generation cattle station out here,
and these guys really have their work cut out for them
'cause it is a really big property,
so aviation is pretty important out here.
And Ron, the helicopter pilot, he loves anything aviation.
Anything that flies in the sky, this guy loves it.
(LAID-BACK GUITAR MUSIC)
Mate, this is an incredible helicopter
and this has got quite a history, hasn't it?
-RON: It has.
RON: Its original history is in the American army
and it was built in 1968.
RON: I assume it would've been used as a American army trainer
for training their pilots,
probably going to the heavies afterwards.
Myles Tomkins rebuilt it for us
and we just use it for around the property.
Ron, this is beautiful country out here, mate.
How did you come to own and work this land?
RON: I'm fifth generation
and, I suppose, it's been in the family now for nearly 150 years.
-RON: So it's pretty special.
PETE: So, how big is it?
RON: 26,000 acres.
How do you manage all of that?
What are the challenges for you in managing this land?
RON: Traditionally, it was always done with horses.
We were one of the first ones in this part of Queensland
to start using helicopters about 27-odd years ago.
RON: And a lot of people said to us,
"You're crazy. You're gonna send the cattle mad."
They just couldn't get their head around using helicopters or aeroplanes.
Well, I remember the first time we mustered,
we ended up with, like, an extra hundred head of old cattle
that we just thought were just gone.
-Look at this?
-Never to be seen again.
Suddenly we had all these big cattle in our yards.
And back then, they were that big and they were old
we actually got about $1,000 a head for them.
What was life like before helicopters out here, then?
I remember, as a kid in the mustering days,
there'd be...at least 10 or 15 blokes would go out on horses.
And one paddock we're in today, it would take two days -
two days to muster it before.
So they'd muster one half the first day.
They'd go back and muster the second half the next day.
And now, that same paddock,
we can cover that same paddock in about two hours in a helicopter.
And we get a cleaner muster.
-You can see so much more.
Tell me what's going on in your mind.
It's a busy job. Looks like it's a busy job.
And you're looking out for wires as well. How do you do it?
I supposed it's a natural instinct for me
'cause I've been mustering cattle since I was a kid on horses.
I've been doing it for a long time.
And, honestly, you can muster cattle with anything.
You can muster with a pushbike if you're fast enough.
You've just gotta get yourself in the right position at the right time.
It's all about timing, understanding the psychology of the cattle.
If you put too much pressure on them, you'll make them go too fast.
Or you could push them the wrong way.
And knowing when to back off them.
What are the biggest challenges mustering out here?
Well, the biggest thing in the mountains is
you're looking out for the weather.
The wind up there can be very unpredictable.
Particularly, we get turbulence around the mountains.
RON: In the heat of the day, you get up-draughts and down-draughts.
And then in the lower country,
particularly where the buildings are and other houses,
you've got powerlines as well - you gotta watch out for wires.
Wires are probably one of the biggest killers with helicopter pilots.
You just don't see 'em until you're in 'em.
But what about managing the strip out here?
Any issues? What are the biggest challenges?
RON: It's a typical grass strip.
Anyone coming in to land here, your biggest challenge will be cattle.
Particularly this time of year that the grass is very short
and it's green, and the cattle really like that.
Another thing to watch out for is kangaroos.
We do get a few roos on the strips as well.
So if anyone is coming in to land,
just gotta watch out for that sort of thing.
OK, so, if somebody's flying in, Ron, into the strip here,
what should they do?
RON: No-one needs permission, for starters.
Come to our strip - we welcome all aviators -
and just watch out for any cattle.
Or if they want to give me a call maybe beforehand
and I can make sure the strip's clear for them.
RON: And after rain, 'cause it's a grass strip, it could be a bit soft.
You mentioned the hot air and what that does to flying out here.
How bad does that get?
Are there some days that you just go,
"You know what, I just can't get out there"?
Some days it has been really hot and quite windy in the hills
and you just don't go out there.
There's no point pushing the boundaries.
You've just got to draw the line.
Just don't do it, otherwise you will have an accident.
And your fly-ins, tell me about that.
RON: For next year's 25th,
we've been raising money for the Capricorn Rescue Helicopter Service.
Mum, Leonie, she was one of the original board members.
Every year, we try and donate between $20,000 and $25,000.
-A year. Back to the cause.
And it's a very worthy cause.
And I believe this is the only air show
on the east coast of Australia.
And at the moment, it's the only air show in Queensland.
Is that right?
That cause would be close to your heart too
'cause you've needed them a couple times.
Absolutely. We've had a couple of calls.
My brother Andrew had a serious horse accident.
The rescue helicopter came to him.
And one of our employees also had a horse accident, had a broken leg,
and the helicopter got them out of the paddock as well.
-Aviation saves the day, huh
-It does. (CHUCKLES)