In 1973 and I obtained my Private Pilot’s Licence at the Rockhampton Aero Club and then in May 1973 purchased at a 1957 model, straight tail, Cessna 172 VH-RDP from George Campbell at Mudgee in NSW, for $4,300. George Cambell was a renowned ex WW2 flight instructor and had also given flying lessons to my father and mother in old Tiger Moth aircraft when I was very young. VH-RDP had previously been owned by Owen Capper, a wool classer, and previously to that, by Rodney Shannon, a grazier of Longreach and the call sign was then VH-RDS.
Initially RDP was used to commute between Rockhampton and the property “Clovernook”, west of Moura.
One day, at “Clovernook”, I loaded a heavy Southern Cross EFD Diesal pump engine into the back of the Cessna to take it to Rockhampton for repairs. I then took off alone, with no other passengers, other the engine in the back, and found to my dismay that although the aircraft could carry the load the airstrip at 2,400 ft, was far too short, and the weather probably far too hot, to effect a safe take off and I was soon only just clearing the tree tops at the end of the strip and had to follow the creek down at tree top level for some time before gaining a safe height. The engine was brought back from Rockhampton by vehicle.
Later it was used at Gregory Downs, north of Mt Isa for cattle spotting and commuting to town.
We used to get RDP serviced in the Longreach Qantas hanger, now museum, back in the ’70’s, the engineers name was Kerry Charlton. There was also Fred Bird, brother to aviator Nancy Bird, who also owned a taxi, who worked on it once when it had a burnt valve. He got the valve out without taking the head off.
In August 1975 VH-RDP was due for a major service so was left at Longreach for a couple of weeks and I returned to Gregory Downs. By good fortune, or God’s grace, I was able to get a lift back to Longreach with the Salvos Flying Padre, Lionel Parker, in his Cessna 180-G (VH-DJS). Lionel was based at Longreach from 1971 to 1977 and later in Darwin from 1982 to 1992, He has since written a couple of books on his experiences.
We used to fly down from Gregory Downs and stay in the old timber Commercial Hotel, since burned down.
In the 1970s, whilst training for my Commercial Pilots Licence at Bob Tait’s flying school at Ingham, we landed RDP on the beach at Zoe Bay, Hinchinbrook Island, a couple of times. On one occasion a small yacht in the bay had seen us land and as they thought it was a forced landing the couple immediately came ashore to see if we were alright. Both of them were topless. Now days you can not fly below 1,500 feet within 1,000 metres seaward of the beach.
In 1976 it was sold to Brian Rutledge of Moble, Quilpie for around $7,500. It is now parked up at Dalby having not passed a SIDS structural inspection for aged aircraft, probably due to the cost benefits and value of the aircraft rather than actually failing an inspection. Brian Rutledge sold it in 2016 with a total time of 11,800 hours.
From Brian Rutledge: “We retired RDP in 2016 after owning her for 40 years and 4 weeks and about 6,000 hours. The new SIDS Maitenance just too much for the old girl. Sold engine and prop and Hull for $20k. However the young LAME at Dalby is rebuilding back to a 170 tail dragger.”
RDP was also used by Brian, with doors off, to put out about 10 ton a year of dingo baits.