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AVIATION VETERAN IS FLYING HIGH IN BOONAH

BOONAH’S rolling green hills and spectacular mountain range make it an aviator’s dream.

Pilots and flying enthusiasts have long been drawn to the town’s rural airfield.

Now there’s another drawcard that’s attracting aviators from around the world to Boonah and the Scenic Rim.

Nigel Arnot is a former Australian Aerobatics Champion, a pilot and a man who has salvaged and restored some of the world’s most historic aircraft.

From his enormous hangars on the edge of the Boonah Airfield, Nigel, his partner Melanie Perkins and their team of staff at Ultimate Aero breathe new life into an incredible fleet of aircraft.

The couple also runs Flyboys Australia, a business that offers joy flights to corporate groups and passionate enthusiasts.

 “I’ve been in aviation for 35 years, I was absolutely hooked from the day I was born,” says Mr Arnot.

“I started the business in Camden Sydney in 1993 and moved to Brisbane in 1998. We bought this land – 18acres of industrial land - in 2008 and moved here in 2012. One of the main reasons for the move was the lovely country atmosphere and also we were able to buy freehold land right next to the airport.

“Land like this is usually only available for lease and your tenure is quite insecure. Why would you invest $1-million building hangars if you only have a 10-year lease? “

Mr Arnot qualified as a pilot aged 16. He hoped to work as a commercial pilot but his red-green colour blindness prevented that. Instead he trained as a builder and flew in his spare time.

But it was his reputation as a perfectionist that soon had fellow pilots coming to him to service their planes.

He continues to do that today, as well as salvage and restore historic planes from around the world.

“I’ve imported planes from Russia, Germany, the Czech Republic, America – everywhere.

“Some of the old planes are hard to come by.”

Flying has taken Nigel all over the world, as has his work salvaging historic aircraft.

He tells amazing stories about walking through remote paddocks to locate former war birds.

Over the years his fleet has boasted a WACO, Tigermoths, a Boeing Stearman, a Soviet Yakovlev YAK 9 and a Korean Sea Fury, which he flew from Brisbane to Wanaka and back.

Some of the planes in the Boonah hangar are owned by other plane fanatics, who aren’t qualified to fly. When they want to go up they ask Nigel to take the controls and they know they’re in good hands. The former Australian aerobatics champion says if you’re up for the thrill he’ll happily roll out the tricks.

“We offer joy flights to corporate groups and individuals,” says Nigel.

“Groups come out here and we organise catering at Bunjurgen Vineyard or at Kooroomba. “

Mr Arnot is also an avid glider pilot and says there’s nothing more spectacular than gliding high above the Scenic Rim.

Boonah boasts a strong gliding club with about 180 members.

“I have flown all around the world and there’s nothing like this,” Nigel said.

“It’s just beautiful. The ranges, the colours … they’re just amazing. This region has so much to offer and yet is so close to Brisbane.

“I’ve flown all around the world and what we have here in Boonah is totally unique.”

When he moved his business to the rural community Mr Arnot wasn’t sure how he would find staff.

But he says all but one of his four staff were living locally.

“Our chief engineer is a licenced aircraft maintenance engineer who had previously worked for Ansett and Boeing. We also employ young school kids to come in on weekends and after school. We have a big issue here in Australia where there is a lack of aircraft engineers.”

Hear Nigel talk about his flying career and his plane collection