Looking back, there was never going to be anything 'small' about this trip.
This was the fourth and final of our Training Tours for this year, and what a way to finish! With my great mate and partner in crime Catherine Fitzsimons, who runs WardAir at Bathurst, we always knew an itinerary labeled "Red Centre" was going to be popular .... well, ain't that the truth.
After tons of hours of juggling routes and destinations, (and lots of requests for some red dirt navigating!) we decided on a ten-day safari which covered a big chunk of the best our outback can offer in that amount of time.
It brought 19 people and eight light aircraft together for a pretty unforgettable odyssey through those wide open spaces in the middle of Australia.
Interestingly enough, one of the most popular day's flying we had, according to the various pilots, was flying over the virtually featureless terrain of the Simpson Desert.
As the trip progresses, we try and incorporate as many 'tips and traps' into our briefings to crews as we can. It's not a classroom, but we try and share as much useful info as we can, particularly for pilots inexperienced in flying the outback.
After some brilliant scenic flying on day two, we had a great night's stopover in Birdsville, where we gathered at the Birdsville Bakery for a breakfast briefing on our next flight which would take us into Alice Springs. That's through controlled airspace, so we just brushed the crews up on the various procedures to get them safely and legally through the airspace and onto the ground with a minimum of fuss.
Half way through the trip, we called in to Ayers Rock airport for fuel, and took the opportunity to fly the scenic pattern around Uluru and Kata Tjuta. It takes a little time to read up on the published procedures, but it all makes a lot of sense once you're airborne, and is actually a simple pattern to fly. And the views you're rewarded with are so very worth it. Check out my Uluru Gallery here.
You can see our route on the map above, so here's what our accommodation was along the way:
Night 1: Comeroo Camel Station, NSW
Night 2: Birdsville Hotel, QLD
Night 3: Ross River Resort, NT
Night 4: Devil's Marbles Hotel, Wauchope, NT
Night 5: Erldunda Roadhouse, NT
Night 6: Comfort Inn Coober Pedy, SA
Nights 7 & 8: Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, Flinders Ranges, SA
Night 9: Warrawong on the Darling, Wilcannia, NSW
I'll get around to giving you some nice links to updated pics on all the above places when I come up for air .. in the meantime, start having a think about why you wouldn't start planning a trip like this for you and your mates. We only get one crack at this life ....