TEN kilometres to the west of Werribee lies a small airfield that’s home to an unusual aircraft. While a Jetstar Airbus flies overhead, inbound to Avalon, a small engine roars as a strange-looking cart with two people on board moves forward, attached to a large parachute that fills with air. Inside, pilot Steve Conte is introducing potential student Darryl Deller to the joys of flying an Aerochute.
A short run along the bumpy runway and the cart, which looks ungainly on the ground, lifts off and heads skywards, suddenly gaining a smooth grace like a soaring bird.
Conte has been operating from the strip for 15 years, teaching people to fly the Aerochute aircraft his company builds in Coburg. “We get a lot of people who just want to have a try flying in something that’s different. It’s an unusual, but very safe, way to get into the air,’’ Conte says. ‘‘It’s a lot of fun and very easy to fly. You can’t stall them or spin them, and if you have an engine failure you just parachute slowly down to the ground.”
At the end of his half-hour flight, Deller agrees. “It’s fantastic. You get up there and have the wind in your face. You look down and realise there’s nothing between you and the ground except the seat you’re sitting on.
“It’s certainly very adventurous. I’ve never done anything like this before. Steve’s a great pilot. He let me take the controls, which I didn’t expect.”
Another potential student, Jodie Wood, of Bonbeach, was equally impressed with her Aerochute experience. “It was like being on a flying motorbike just above the ground. My favorite part was watching the kangaroos as we flew above them.
“It’s definitely a thrill, but a very comfortable thrill. The seat is like sitting in your lounge chair.”