Mark Awad and his CA-25 Winjeel
Mark Awad and his CA-25 Winjeel Classic Aero Adventure Flights

Grafton gets ready to fly historic aircraft

MAYBE he's born with it, or maybe it was the lunar module built in his home town.

Sometimes there is no definitive reason why a passion develops but when Mark Awad brings his CA-25 Winjeel to Grafton, the answer may not matter.

The 63 year-old war-bird will be on show as part of the annual Wings and Wheels Open Day on Sunday, June 23 at the South Grafton Aerodrome, along with a whole swathe of aircraft.

Mr Awad grew up in Downey, California, which was at the centre of building the Apollo lunar lander and he says this may have had some influence on his passion for aeroplanes.

I grew up with friends whose dads worked on the assembly lines for Rockwell Collins and Rocketdyne,” he said.

"My dad was a test engineer for Rocketdyne where they would test the F1 engines which sent the Saturn rocket to the moon.”

While a minor eye issue cruelled his dreams of becoming a pilot in the US Navy, he maintained his passion for aircraft and finished restoring the Winjeel in 2006 after it was decommissioned in 1969.

"It is a little like being into classic cars, it is just a very unique sound and feel and experience flying in them,” he said.

"I have a real sense I am preserving and sharing history with the public and giving them an experience they couldn't get anywhere else.”

The Winjeel was used as a training aircraft for the RAAF and of 62 commissioned, only about 15 remain airworthy.

"It was an excellent trainer as it was relatively easy to fly, but hard to fly well,” he said.

"Being quite a large aircraft for student pilots and it would separate the wheat from the chaff.”

Mark Awad and his CA-25 Winjeel
OLD BIRD: The CA-25 Winjeel aircraft and (inset) Mark Awad flying the historic RAAF training plane. Classic Aero Adventure Flights

Wings and Wheels was traditionally held in August but the last few years of adverse weather had prompted the Grafton Aero Club to bring the event forward.

Secretary of the Grafton Aero Club, Kevin Wilson, said the event would bring together a whole range of vintage cars, motorcycles and even classic tractors in addition to the 30 aircraft on display.

The owners of the aircraft would also be around to talk to the public about their respective planes, including Mr Wilson who had built his aircraft himself.

"Come down and have a look and if you have never been in a small aircraft, go for a ride.” He said.

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