Reflections on a journey

It is now a day or so after the big flying adventure concluded, and it is time for some reflections on the experience.

The trip has certainly left a strong impression in my heart and mind that is unique in my own life experience.

It has been an exercise in viewing the world at a different scale – an intermediate scale – relative to the interactions I have previously had when travelling internationally.

Like many people whose work has involved travel, I have tended to blast across the world to the USA or Europe and have largely ignored the spaces in between.

Country boundaries drawn on a map, places described in geography lessons back in school, places depicted on the Internet here and there (generally when things go wrong), country names winding past on the entertainment screen of an A380… these are all one dimensional abstract things, or mere statistics, until you’ve actually been there.

The Pilatus PC-12NG sits in the spaces ‘in between’. It flies much higher and faster than the sort of small, ‘light’, aircraft most people fly privately if they fly privately at all. Yet it flies lower and slower than passenger jets, in an airspace that provides a better view of the terrain you are passing above.

Using such an aircraft, and engaging in international hops of the order of around 1800-2400 km’s at a time, we have stepped across Europe, the Middle East, India, Asia, south into Indonesia and then back home to Australia.

We have seen how the habits and patterns and societal rules of people and their governments blend and cross pollinate across country borders, while also evolving progressively at each such transition point.

We have seen and flown above areas that have otherwise been (for me) the abstract realm of geography books… Crete; the Sahara desert; Egyptian Pyramids and the Nile delta; The Taj Mahal; Thai markets; The Ho Chi Minh Reunification Palace, and much more.

In the process, we have ridden camels, and we have (surprisingly) avoided food poisoning… these and so many other life experiences have been packed into a very short period of time.

There is also a sense of mild disconnection with reality – of unreality – that I am experiencing right now. It is like jet lag, but it is perhaps more a form of reality lag.

Each day, my brain has been assimilating some small aspects of a country just departed, while landing in and starting to experience another one. Again and again, day by day, until the details start to blur into each other somewhat.

This has been one motivation for writing these blog posts, each day, as it happened – as a form of modern day diary, and for the same reason diaries have always existed; to capture the moment before it fades. To record a little of our life experiences in a manner more permanent, and less apt to waver, than our own (often fallible) senses and memories.

I’m back home again now, taking kids to school, hanging out with my wonderful family, collecting bills from the letterbox, and enjoying a mild and sunny day here in Adelaide that is a huge contrast to the hot and humid conditions prevalent over much of the journey.

I am a changed person. These life experiences are quietly insinuating themselves into my memories and my ways of seeing the world. The perspectives gained are proving the old adage that ‘travel broadens the mind’. It most certainly has done that for me.

I’ve had the privilege of living a long term dream, in that I’ve been able to do such a trip not only at my own pace, but in my own plane.

I believe I have been able to safely and yet rapidly make the leap to flying quite a large and definitely a very powerful aircraft by building on the seeds of more than three decades of flying gliders.

That pursuit that has ingrained, in my hind-brain, the fundamental sense of how an aircraft works and how to work with it. The principles that keep a little wooden single seat glider flying about between thermals on a summers day are the very same ones that keep an A380 flying between continents.

I began my flying in gliders, and I still fly them today.¬†If you (or your kids) find an interest in flying, I’d strongly recommend going to a gliding field and going on a ‘trial instructional flight‘.

If you happen to be in South Australia, I can recommend the Adelaide University Gliding Club, the club that taught me to fly, but there are many great gliding clubs around the state and around country.

Flying a glider (also known as a sailplane) is a flying experience that involves being absolutely in tune with the atmosphere and with the sights and sounds of the world.

It shows you, in the most direct manner, why and how the wings of aircraft give humans this incredible capacity to ‘slip the surly bonds of earth‘.

There are also times and places when things can be far easier than they can be later on.

In my case, I learned to fly gliders when I was a student – when I had the time and the inclination to spend the (many) hours needed to do that. This made the rest of my flying to this point possible, and able to happen in and around what has since became a very busy life.

Oh, and the chocolate… well, that did great on the trip over, after all. Even the boxes left in the plane have somehow survived in good order. I’m busily handing out boxes of it as visitors turn up :)

Some statistics from this journey:

  • 16 days: 5 days to get there and prepare to depart; 9 flying days; 2 rest days
  • 9 flights for a total of 49.1 flying hours to get back, covering well over 10,000 nautical miles
  • 2,300 photographs taken to obtain around 300 half decent ones to edit and post into these blog posts
  • 35 gigabytes of high definition flight video footage (still awaiting editing into some sample clips)
  • Faults or damage over the course of the journey: Zero
  • Total bill for Jet-A aircraft fuel: “Significant”
  • The life experience: Priceless

Later this week, I’m sure I will be hopping into the plane and going flying… somewhere. That why its here :)

My thanks to those who have followed along with this journey for your comments and your interest along the way.

I look forward to future adventures, including travelling to many and varied places with my family and friends, in this amazing piece of Swiss engineering, for many years.

5 thoughts on “Reflections on a journey

  1. Simon, we have never met and possibly never will .. although I have met many people unexpectedly. I don’t recall how I came across your blog for this journey now, but I am grateful that I did. I too am a private pilot but I have’t flown for years. I was in Lucerne and Stans only a month ago and looked enviously at the Pilatus factory and airfield, never thinking that I’d be following the fortunes of someone I’d never met as they ferried their prize acquisition home, here to Adelaide. I have thoroughly enjoyed your adventure and you’ve sparked my flying bug. I think it’s time to slip down to Parafield.

    Again I thank you for awakening the adventurer in me.

    Steve Howell

  2. It’s been a real pleasure following your “There and Back Again” adventure (albeit with less Hobbits) :) Sounds like the perfect way to see the world.

  3. Yes what a wonderful experience for you, and it was great to be able to share a little bit of it. In my case it reminded me of various incarnations of Flight Simulator I used to enjoy in my “spare time” between circa 1979 and 1995. For some reason I used to like flying “long distance” and navigating with the actual VOR frequencies (mainly in North America). Then to find a particular airfield (with scenery data pre-loaded) and land on it was particularly satisfying :) Although I never really mastered the Learjet. The Cessna was much easier – or a WW1 vintage Sopwith Camel !!
    I tracked you for a while before your arrival into Broome, and fyi there were 5 other PC12′s in the air at the time – VH-YDR flying NW towards Darwin, -JMU and -OWG (?) over the Nullabor heading W towards Perth, -VAT heading NW towards Adelaide and -FWE in the opposite direction SE towards Melbourne. I guess some or all of these would be RFDS aircraft.
    Maybe one day you’ll fly yourself (and your family) over the ditch. I’m about 20km from Paraparaumu airport :)
    see http://www.kapiticoastairport.co.nz/Pilot-Information.html

    Regards, Neville Watkin

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