“WELL HASN’T IT BEEN A WONDERFUL TWO WEEKS!” said Greg Kennewell on standing to deliver thanks to RNAC Instructors James Rose and Georgia Morris on our last evening. It certainly had been, judging from the round of applause from all around the table at the “Black Sombrero” in Lismore. As the menu said “not your standard Tex-Max fare”. The food was superb and lived up to the promises made in the advertising.
The restaurant was chosen by Georgia based on a strong recommendation from her friends living in Lismore, and illustrated the extra mile she and James had put into the Safari, with their organisation efforts extending well beyond the hours of preparation they put into keeping the Safari on track and all aircraft and their occupants safe ‘n’ sound. Ground based excursions in our additional night stopovers were an absolute highlight. More about that later.
We had quite an array of aircraft and pilots of varying levels of experience and skill. From your scribe, being the least experienced pilot on the safari, through numerous levels of student pilot, PPL’s, right up to our CPL’s, aged from the twenty somethings through each decade to the seventy somethings! The diversity of pilots was surpassed only by the diversity of Aircraft.
Trekkers Trek, Hikers Hike, and Fliers Fly but what to call the group of pilots, would be pilots, passengers, and leaders on this Air Safari? As photos show we were Mexicans by the end of the night, so “Safarians” was chosen from an array of terms offered around the table at the Black Sombrero.
The first and most outstanding memory I have from the Safari, is the “camaraderie” that developed among all Safarians. The willingness of everyone to find a way to contribute to the group should perhaps not have been surprising among a stellar group of like-minded people. But my expectations were definitely exceeded.
Second, everyone will have stories to tell on their personal experiences from a flying perspective. It was an incredible learning experience for me. I loved the longer sessions of hands and feet flying, lessons on navigation, both setting headings and coastal/visual flying were enjoyable both from a piloting perspective and just seeing parts of our lovely country that I hadn’t seen before and from a unique perspective.
I also learned a lot about airmanship, a long leg from Horne Island to Cooktown in particular was well planned and executed by our two instructors. A great lesson as a novice pilot about all the things that need to continually be weighed up as a pilot; the weather, fuel, navigation, diversions and overall the need to be confident, well informed, resourceful and decisive.
Finally, all pilots were guided through controlled air space procedures, some for the first time and others for the umpteenth time, but the experience was valuable to all.
Whales were spotted from the air coming into Shute Harbour from Townsville. Lovely little airport with tricky landing for the novices.
We made the short trip on to Hervey Bay airport with more whales spotted from the air on the way in.
Ground excursions were a feature. To me the highlights were:
1. The Qantas Museum. It really highlighted difficulties and dangers of the early years of aviation, the critical role it played in overcoming the Tyranny of Distance in opening up the outback of Australia. A trip over a retired 747-200, and their first registered 707, which was reborn as luxury charter plane, were illuminating. For me again though, the highlight (among highlights) was the Catalina, which, in Qantas livery began a service from Perth to India to reopen the Air service to Europe through war torn Asia. The route averaged over 28 hours. An incredible feat of endurance by both aircraft and airmen.
2. Fishing Charter on Thursday Island.
3. Magnetic Island Moped Tour. The less said about Go-Pros and Mopeds in Queensland the better! However, at the end of the day, there was conversation among all participants that a Moped might just be on the “Fun Things Shopping list” of most!
4. Jet Ski tour of North Molle and Daydream islands. We all got wet but only a couple managed total immersion. For many it was a baptism to Jet skiing and suddenly the mopeds looked pedestrian, fun though they were. Much thanks to James and Georgia for the research in finding this fantastic day out. We also were treated to an educational talk about the reef and its wildlife, and fed sting rays and shovel nose rays, Barramundi and coral trout.
With some planes staying at Hamilton Island, others flying directly back to Maitland from Shute Harbour, a reduced contingent braved inclement weather for the flight to Lismore, giving yet more exposure to controlled airspace and ending with our final nights dining and vote of thanks to James and Georgia.
The following day we flew home.
I recommend an air Safari experience to all members. I will most certainly be doing another and have made much closer connections to fellow members of the club than I would have thought.