In the eternal struggle to put a Vegemite sandwich on the table occasionally, I have begun leading Around Australia flying trips for Mal Shipton’s GOANA Flying Safaris. Mal has been extremely successful in this operation and now owns 16 Cessna 172’s which this year will do no less than 25 tours with mainly American pilots at the controls out of Redcliffe Airport.
The tours comprise of 6 to 10 aircraft each flown by its American pilot who has an Australian licence issued to him by CASA as a reciprocal arrangement with the FAA. Aussie pilots, of course, can also get a US licence just by fronting up to any GADO (General Aviation District Office) airfield in America and flashing your CASA licence.
It was while sitting there behind the herd of 172’s rocketing across Australia at 100 knots that I thought about how well Mal had organised these tours to create the maximum interest in the minimum time. In that same thought process came the realisation that most Australian pilots had not seen or done half as much as these yanks do in two weeks. Most will go their entire life and never see as much of Australia or use their licences to their fullest extent.
GOANA have about 10 different routes to choose from and there is nothing to stop Australian’s joining one of the tours, which are a complete turnkey operation with nothing to spend except beer money for the entire trip. Of more interest to our members would be to organise their own individual trips and see Australia as the Americans do. Many of us have overseas pilot friends who ask about flying in Australia. You could not go wrong by recommending they join a fly-yourself GOANA tour.
One of the best trips Aussies can do in their own planes, which entails about 30 hour’s flying over 12 days (or however many you want) and lets you see the full range of what Australia has to offer is as follows:
On the first day there is a short flight to Cherribah Resort just near Warwick. This is an “Australian Experience” opener with good motel-like accommodation and all the activities such as sheep shearing, kangaroos, horse riding and billy tea and damper picnics.
Leaving Cherribah the trip then drops into Goondiwindi for fuel before pressing on to Charleville. This creates an opportunity to visit the Bilby centre (how many people have cuddled a Bilby?), the great local museum and buy a didgeridoo directly from the best manufacturer in Australia.
The next day’s flight is a short one to Longreach where everyone does the compulsory QANTAS Founders museum and the Stockmans Hall of Fame, both within walking distance of the airport.
Mt Isa is the next stop and the very interesting Fossil Museum and mine tours are available. You can drop into Cloncurry if you would like to visit the Flying Doctor museum on the way.
The following day is a very long flight over the first real outback territory. 4 hours direct to Alice Springs where there is enough of interest to keep you going all day long for 3 days.
Right on first light the prettiest section of the whole trip is a first-light departure to be well airborne travelling west over the McDonald Ranges as the sun comes up. I have seen this sight many times and the light falling on the spectacular folds of the ranges, changing colours by the minute as the sun comes over the horizon behind you, is one of the best in Australia. This trip culminates a couple of hours later at Ayers Rock and the aircraft swing immediately into the Rock and Olgas tourist flight as laid out in the VEC for a 45 minute look at Australia’s best known natural features. The compulsory viewing of the sun setting on the Rock is done, accompanied by a bottle of wine to add to the atmosphere. Before first light the next morning, a great start to the day is to see the sun come up on the Olgas. This is much more interesting than the Rock in my opinion.
A few hours south finds us landing at the opal centre of the world in Coober Pedy. There is a great tour covering the mines, underground houses and of course, opal buying. Everybody sleeps under the ground at a first class hotel with rough earth walls in the rooms. Claustrophobic people are catered for with a few above ground rooms.
Launching out directly across the Simpson Desert and really true wilderness the crews are asked, how many rows of sandhills they cross to win a bottle of wine in Birdsville. A great stop where you will stay at the famous pub and visit John’s fantastic working museum.
From Birdsville, a refuelling stop at Windorah gets you to Avington Station near Blackall. Avington is well worth a visit as a destination in itself with quad motorbikes issued to every room in the old homestead to enable you to ride around 30 kilometres of tracks infested with kangaroos, emus , plains turkeys and a vast range of other birdlife along the banks of the Barcoo River. Allow a couple of days here.
The second last leg leads via a refuelling stop at Clermont to Brampton Island to give everyone the Barrier Reef experience. The airstrip is a spectacular sight nestled between two tropical islands and approaching over a beautiful bay right alongside the resort. All the usual self-indulgent things available at such resorts are there to fill in your day.
The last day has a stop for lunch and fuel at Gladstone before returning to Redcliffe.
Why let the yanks have all the fun? The weather outback is excellent from March to October but you can do this any time of year if you don’t mind a few bumps and heat.