It helps to have friends in high places, as high as 35,000 feet in the troposphere, especially if you are seeking a special guest to officially open the Clare Aerodrome.
Luckily for the Clare Valley Flying Club they have a friend in Richard Champion de Crespigny,
Captain Champion de Crespigny is the Qantas pilot who successfully landed QF32, the Airbus 380 that blew an engine on route from Singapore to Sydney in November 2010, and was hailed a hero for saving the lives of all passengers and crew with his skilful and calm flying during the emergency.
As a passionate pilot and aviation enthusiast, he said he was privileged and honoured to be invited to share in the opening of the Clare Aerodrome, and be a part of the facility’s history.
“It is a tribute to the (Clare Valley Flying) group that amongst insurmountable odds they co-ordinated and built one of only two privately owned aerodromes in Australia in the last 50 years.
“Airstrips are expensive to build, and almost all have been built and administered by government, but if you do (construct one), tourism, commerce, improved access to health and security will follow.
“Flying is risky business, building airports is risky and outside the scope of most, which makes Clare Valley all the more remarkable for what they have achieved.
“This has put the Clare Valley on the aviation map and will bring opportunities for future generations – Clare Valley has come of age,” Captain Champion de Crespigny said.
The public often took the benefits of aerodromes for granted, and may not appreciate the benefit they receive from it especially if they did not fly, he said.
The Clare Aerodrome would offer improved ability for the CFS to respond to bush fires using the airstrip’s facilities for refilling water bombers, and already there have been reports of pilots and their passengers flying around Australia on holiday and stopping off in Clare for a few days, simply because the region had an airport.
Unlike grey nomads towing a caravan, visitors who fly in require accommodation and on-ground transport, and so tend to spend more dollars per day in the region than visitors who arrive by car or campervan.
Richard Champion de Crespigny’s love of flying and all things aviation was contagious, and those who spoke to him during his visit were swept up by his enthusiasm for life.
He said a pilot’s life was one of passion and hard work – it was physically and intellectually challenging.
Aviation was constantly advancing and being a commercial pilot required continuous training to remain up to date with technology.
But for Captain Champion de Crespigny, flying was most of all about people and social interaction with his crew and passengers.
On each flight, once he safely has his aeroplane at cruising altitude, the Captain takes a walk through the cabin and talks to the passengers.
Richard Champion de Crespigny’s presentation during the Saturday evening dinner was described as the most inspiring talk ever heard, by those lucky enough to obtain a ticket to the event.
Using audio and visual effects he held the audience spellbound for an hour with his extraordinary tale of landing the damaged A380 in Singapore.
He shared the limelight over the weekend with his wife Coral, who he described as the “wind beneath his wings”, and his father Peter Champion de Crespigny, an equally inspiring octogenarian, who swims three kilometres a week, continues to fly regularly, snow skis, and at 88 has recently had his pilot’s licence renewed.