Flying's got to be fun, right? It's all about being comfortable, honestly comfortable, in your skin as you're established at full power on that take-off roll. If it's all a bit new to you, this feeling can take a while. The main thing is to recognise that. If you don't think you have the confidence to fly off into the great blue yonder on your own, or perhaps you're a student pilot wanting to knock off a block of nav hours in one go, sitting alongside an instructor, then you might like to think about taking a load off and joining one of our training safaris.
My colleague Catherine Fitzsimons and I specialize in running carefully tailored air adventures, with an equal emphasis on training as on the knockout scenic flying on offer around Australia.
We're both flying instructors. Catherine is based in the NSW Blue Mountains town of Bathurst where she runs WardAir Flight Training. I'm based at Curtis Aviation in Camden, south-west Sydney.
Here's a sample of what we've been up to in the recent past.
- November 2016: We took six aircraft and 13 people across the country from Sydney/Bathurst to Margaret River near Perth and return, over a two-week time frame.
- Early March 2017: Five aircrews joined us on an eight-day safari from Sydney, tracking south coastal to Bass Strait, circumnavigating Tasmania and returning via regional Victoria and NSW.
- April 2017: Long weekender! Three aircraft all headed across to outback South Australia for the Loxton Aero Club's biennial fly-in weekend.
- Mid May 2017: Queensland Odyssey. Coastal northbound to the Great Barrier Reef and the Gulf of Carpentaria, then home through the outback with 13 people in six aircraft.
- July 2017: This one was a holiday! Our annual Winter safari with friends in four aircraft, three weeks trying out some awesome new destinations including Kimberley Coastal Camp, Bamurru Plains in Kakadu and Bremer Island off the north-east coast of Arnhem Land.
- October 2017: Back to work for this one - we took seven aircraft crews on a three-day blitz on all the civil and military controlled airspace between Sydney and Brisbane. Hard work, and our flights were packed with plenty of procedural know-how, but every pilot reported they felt very accomplished afterwards!
- Sept-Nov 2017: Catherine and I headed up to Dalby in south Queensland to do some remote instructing, where we were based on the students' property, and to Coonabarabran for a week where we looked after the various training needs of a dozen or so of the aero club members there.
- January 2018: We can't get enough of Tassie, so we're heading back down with four aircrews to brush up on overwater flight regs as we cross Bass Strait, then flying around the entire coast of Tassie and coming home via Swan Hill on the Murray. We'll call in on Flinders and Three Hummock Islands just coz we can, and throw in some controlled airspace practice at Launceston and Hobart.
Think you might like to join us sometime? Drop me a line, and I'll put you on the list to receive a heads-up on our future trips. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The main feedback we get from our trip participants is the "comfort in numbers" thing, having two instructors on hand for any guidance along the way, and the fun of flying in a group. We design the itinerary, give you all the waypoints and refuelling stops, organise all the accommodation enroute, and all you have to prepare is your own flight plan, pack a bag and fly the aeroplane!
You can hire a C182 or Piper Warrior through Curtis Aviation at Camden, or a C172 from WardAir at Bathurst. Your choice whether you choose dual with an instructor, or solo hire as pilot in command. Or of course, you can come along in your own aircraft (with a reasonable TAS to suit the rest of the fleet). All our fellow travellers are like-minded adventurous souls, with whom we end up sharing many hours together, whether it's in the back of a farmer's truck, on an isolated island bush walk, or perhaps while refueling at some far-flung tiny air strip you've never heard of ... or maybe over a very nice Shiraz, supervising the sunset at an outback billabong.
Plan your own safari
Once you've done a few safaris in company with more experienced pilots, you'll be ready to launch off with family or friends, and go discovering our big wonderful country for yourself. Two or three aircraft flying together in company is a fantastic way to spend a week or two. Over on the right here, you'll see here a long list of air safaris I've done since 2005; by no means the full list, but it will give you some ideas to start planning your own itinerary. Go for it.
It's not only the pilots who love these trips; your passengers end up having the best time, and thrive on the unique situation they find themselves in, flying in a little fleet of light aircraft and stopping each day to discover a new destination. Using a dedicated radio frequency between all the aircraft, everyone on board can listen in through their headsets to pilot transmissions and conversations between the various crews and, in busier locations, with air traffic control. Your passengers will think they're pro's in no time!
So, go get your diary out and start organising that leave pass!