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Cessna makes a difference in wine executive’s busy life

WHEN time is money and getting from A to B is a necessary evil, business people involved in rural enterprises consider access to an aircraft as important as having a mobile phone.

And the cost and time benefits are even greater for those who are able to fly themselves.

Western Australian winemaking executive Mike Calneggia took up flying in 1996 because he found driving the long distances to his South West vineyard taxing on his mind and body.

Mr Calneggia, who is executive chairman of Australian Wine Holdings, bought a new single engine Cessna 182 in 1999, cutting the time to Margaret River to less than an hour.

“The Cessna 182 is really the Holden Kingswood of the air. It’s the sort of aircraft that you can land anywhere,” he said.

“I can land it in paddocks and take off from the vineyards. To buy one, however, still means parting with around $500,000, however the planes tend to hold their value better than a car does.

“I find that flying is easier and less stressful. You have things like autopilot, which allows you to switch off a bit.”

Mr Calneggia said he found it far safer in the air than on the road.

“It really is an ‘EBT’ for me – an essential business tool. At least that is what I tell my wife,” he said.

“If I wasn’t involved in a rural pursuit I wouldn’t be flying. I don’t get involved in an aero club or anything like that. The amount of time I fly for pleasure is limited to only once or twice a year.”

In October Mr Calneggia plans to take his family up to the Kimberley and in June next year Ayres Rock is on the cards.

However, the benefits for the Calneggias go beyond the odd flight up north.

Mr Calneggia said being able to cover large distances more quickly meant he could spend more time with the family.

 “I try to make sure I get home as often as I can to be with the family. After all, there is not much point in what we are doing without the family,” he said.

Statistics from the Australian aviation body, the Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia, show a steady increase in the number of aircraft registered in Australia each year. The number of aircraft in the Australian civil aircraft register has increased from 10,250 in 1992 to 11,788 in 2002. In 2002 the number of new registrations increased by just 0.73 per cent.

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