World champion loops over backwards for flying club

Matt Hall will be putting on an aerobatic display on Saturday 3 September at Ballina. Image: © Joerg Mitter

There will be aviation entertainment for a good cause when Red Bull Air Race World Champion pilot Matt Hall gives an aerobatic display at Ballina next Saturday as a fundraiser for the nearby Northern Rivers Aero Club.

The club, based at Lismore, lost its entire fleet of aircraft when the town was flooded on 28 February by what the Sydney Morning Herald called ‘the biggest flood in modern Australian history.’ Twenty-seven aircraft that had been parked on a flood mound higher than the previous record high water level were washed away. One was found in a clump of trees 5 km away ‘like it had been parked there, with hardly any damage,’ Club president Wally Soward says.

The club also lost priceless items of memorabilia and almost everything in the hangar and clubhouse. ‘The only part of the club that was still visible was the apex of the hangar roof; everything else was under water,.’ Soward says.

The water had not long receded when a phone rang: it was insurer QBE, with the suggestion that Matt Hall help with a club fundraiser. ‘I said we would grab that opportunity with both hands,’ Soward says.

Hall’s aerobatic display over the river in Ballina, commences at 4 pm on Saturday, 3 September. It will be followed by a fundraising function at the Ballina RSL Club, with a keynote presentation from Hall, who speaks just as well as he flies. There will also a briefing about the club’s recovery, raffle draws and an opportunity to meet and greet Hall.

Further information and tickets for the event are available through the Eventbrite page, with all proceeds from ticket sales (less booking fee) going towards the club’s flood recovery. There is also a Northern Rivers Aero Club Flood Appeal GoFundMe campaign.

‘The simple fact is that every donation, no matter how small, will go a long way to help rebuild this historic club and allow it to continue teaching new pilots long into the future,’ Soward says.

With the Bureau of Meteorology this month declaring an alert for the possibility of a third wet ‘La Nĩna’ year in 2023, Soward says the club is already developing its flood response plan. ‘The chances of it happening again are pretty slim but next time, we’ll be taking our aircraft out and going about a kilometre up the road to a hill where we can park them. We’re negotiating with council about that now.’