Solo Flight. Chapter 10. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, November 26, 2017


The Real Outback.


Day Two. Longreach - Mount Isa - Barkly Homestead. 



The alarm clock buzzes right on time as one expects but secretly hopes otherwise.

I throw my legs over the side of the bed, start the laptop and ‘flick’ on the kettle. Everything from the cup of tea to my clothes is in order from the night before; ready and set to go. The weather still looks faultless along my route, so I send through the flight details over the wonder of the internet and begin to get my gear together. I have organised an early breakfast and a lift to the airport with the good folks at the Jumbuck and I’m on my way before I know it. The sun is only just breaking the horizon although it seems to rise more quickly in this part of the world.


Despite the early hour, I call my sister Pamela and recount the incredible coincidence of Dad’s ‘Red Baron’ song being played the night before. We agree that neither of us have heard it since about 1969 and recall Dad’s out-of-tune gusto in singing the song and his emphasis on the word, “Bloody”. She wishes me luck and I hang up with a smile on my face, ready for the day ahead.


The Dash-8 is still parked on the tarmac from the night before as I pre-flight the Jabiru. I had fuelled the aircraft the night before, but a thorough going over is still needed at the beginning of each day’s flying. I remove the engine cowling and what lies beneath is as clean as a whistle. The engineers have fitted a small bottle to catch any oil that vents overboard to both keep the aircraft clean and monitor my oil usage. That container is empty and the oil quantity dip-stick confirms the fact that the Jabiru hasn’t used a drop on the first day. A reassuring thought as I am about to set course over the remote reaches of western Queensland and the Northern Territory.


Preflight Inspection.

I farewell Longreach and the bloody Red Baron to an escort of birds emerging from the grass just as I lift off and set course to the north-west. Mount Isa, my first port of call, is about three hours away but a great deal of history lies between here and there. This region was the early stomping grounds of both QANTAS and the Royal Flying Doctor Service and I will be retracing many of the air routes of those early days as the Jabiru skips along its way.


The aircraft cruises along smoothly and I cannot help but smile to the point of singing. There is not a single cloud in the sky or a ripple of turbulence. My calculations have me benefiting from a tailwind and destined to be ahead of schedule. It is absolute perfection in the context of light aircraft ‘visual’ flight. As a consequence, I am relaxed and enjoying every minute and mile as they pass. I stretch over, grab a Muesli Bar and enjoy some fine dining in the skies. This is living!


My first turning point is Winton. I was once told that QANTAS was conceived in Cloncurry, born in Winton, but grew up in Longreach. If that was the case, the airline’s maternity ward now lies dead ahead. I had visited there once before when my Dad and I had driven to Kununurra together. My strongest memory was of the humble monument on the site of the first QANTAS office, so significant to our aviation history, but so easily passed without notice. For a moment I recalled standing at the edge of the paddock where Houdini had first flown and another moment in history oft overlooked.


Similarly Winton passes beneath my nose at two-miles-per-minute and is gone in a moment, but not forgotten. An hour later I overfly Julia Creek and another forty minutes Cloncurry is ticked off the flight plan. In my modern cockpit they are mere waypoints, but in reality Julia Creek was the destination and Cloncurry the origin of the first official flight of the Royal Flying Doctor Service.


John Flynn had previously experimented with the concept of an aerial inland mission having witnessed the tragedies that had befallen the outback’s pioneers for lack of medical care. In time his experiment grew and in 1928 he had the finances to launch the entity that would ultimately become the globally-renowned Royal Flying Doctor Service. One of his supporters was the QANTAS founder, Hudson Fysh, and the first aircraft was also supplied by the airline. These two quintessentially Australian organisations were linked from birth and even today the QANTAS Foundation supports the work of the RFDS.


For a lover of aviation and history, these miles beneath me are golden. I can almost see the ancient DH50 biplane leaving its trail of dust below as it lumbers into the sky on another selfless mission of mercy. I can hear the roar of the engine and see the pilot in his open cockpit weathering the elements while his precious human cargo remained shelter within the cabin ahead of him. I tip my hat to those who had the courage to see their vision through to reality without any of the creature comforts that we enjoy today.


From Cloncurry I set a westerly course to Mount Isa. For a while I share the company of a mining train that is seemingly endless with its carriages full of ore. ‘The Isa’ is far more familiar to me having flown here only weeks before, albeit in a Boeing 737. From a good distance out I sight the chimneys and the ridge line to the west of the airport. Isa is a thriving mining town with regular jet services and all manner of light aircraft launching for smaller outback stations. I monitor the radio carefully and co-ordinate my arrival with the comings and goings of this busy airport.


The Jabiru with my other ‘office’ in the background at Mount Isa.

A strong wind is blowing down Runway 16 as I line up for the landing. There is a little convective turbulence bouncing me around as the day warms up, but mostly I am struck by my slow speed over the ground as I approach to land. Gradually the runway draws closer and finally I arrive over the bitumen where I hover onto the surface with just a trickle of forward speed. I keep the power on a touch and accelerate towards the next turn-off to clear the runway for the inbound aeroplanes I can hear chattering on the radio.


Friendly folks and family at ‘The Isa’.

As I pull the Jabiru up to the fuel bowser there is a small gathering of people. Most are from the local base of the RFDS, on hand to give me a welcome, and the other is a reporter from the ABC. It is always touching to be met by welcoming faces no matter how far from home you may be. My website and the media tells me that people are following the flight, but the chance to stop and chat and put faces to the ISP addresses is so much more. After a brief conversation, it emerges that I am related to one of the RFDS staff; my father and her grandfather were cousins!


They had shared a rather ‘Tom Sawyer’ upbringing on the Darling Downs during the 1930s. It was the hard times of the Great Depression and drought on the land and yet these young boys made the most of their childhood. Undoubtedly their tough upbringing served them well as their manhood was destined to be overshadowed by a world at war hurling them to all corners of the globe. Here I was, miles from anywhere and yet again Dad has poked his nose into this flight around Australia.


I am given the grand tour of the RFDS facility and their Super King Airs, whose interior aeromedical kit-out is particularly interesting to me as both a pilot and a former paramedic. The good people even have a cake to mark my visit to Mount Isa and I could spend a lot more time here chatting about family and flying. However, by the time I have completed the media interviews, the clock is ticking loudly and the trusty Jabiru is ready to take me across my first state border.


For the first time a real sense of isolation struck me. With Mount Isa’s chimneys shrinking to matchsticks behind me, very little lies ahead. The road and rail line roughly parallel my route to serve as a comforting back-up to my navigation, but otherwise there is only mile upon mile of vast expanse. One by one the bars indicating the signal strength of my mobile phone drop away until the phone is little more than a camera and an inert box of circuitry. Still it continues to hunt for some trace of communication with the outside world. Searching, searching....


The towering clouds ahead begin to dump their watery contents in a series of rain showers that are too opaque to penetrate. As I skirt the edges, the occasional spray reaches the Jabiru as if to wipe its face and quench its thirst with the temperature climbing into the thirties. All around me the green tinge continues to colour the outback and usually dry creek beds boast water and billabongs. This rain is obviously not the first of the year.


Downtown Camooweal.

Camooweal and its population of a few hundred people emerge from behind a shower with the Barkly Highway running into it like a yellow brick road. My GPS, map and the world outside are in total agreement as the clock ticks over right on time. I had mentioned Camooweal in my live radio interview back at Mount Isa, so I take a few moments to lazily circle the town in a gentle arc. Sure enough people emerge from their homes and looked skyward at the little Jabiru overhead, waving the occasional tea towel. It was a heart-warming moment that didn’t end when I rolled the aircraft level and continued on my way to Barkly Homestead.




 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.




Solo Flight. Chapter 4. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, October 16, 2017

 Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D


Chapter 4. Growing Wings.



Armed with a clear vision I took a deep breath and sent off proposals to various aircraft manufacturers and distributors, humbly requesting the use of one of their aeroplanes. Some replied very quickly, others never replied at all. In the end there were three contenders, but one seemed to perfectly fit the flight’s ‘mission statement’ of an affordable Australian-based venture. The Bundaberg-based Jabiru.


I had visited the Jabiru factory in Queensland some months before when I wrote a story on their J230D aircraft. Physically capable of carrying up to four people, it would be an ideal choice for the solo flight. With only me on board, an amazing amount of equipment could be uplifted while still filling the tanks to their filler caps. It would cruise at my desired two miles per minute and give me a range of close to 600 miles with ‘reserves’. Furthermore, the aeroplane was Australian-designed and built and had a purchase price about the same as a four-wheel drive motor vehicle.


Sue Woods is the daughter of the Jabiru founder, Rod Stiff, and was amongst the first to reply to my request for the provision of an aeroplane for ‘There and Back’. From day one the relationship with Jabiru seemed right. Their enthusiasm and vision was identical to mine. They obviously had a passion for aviation in this wide brown land and together we had the opportunity to spread the message to the greater public, not merely the niche of aviation enthusiasts.


Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The logo of ‘Jabiru Aircraft and Engines’.


I could hardly contain my excitement knowing that the last major component of the foundation had been established and now the job was to build upon this. With Jabiru’s commitment made public, very quickly other companies came on board; Hawker Pacific and David Clark, ‘Spidertracks’, Champagne PC Flight Planning, Australian Aviation and Global Aviator magazines. Through the supply of critical equipment and increasing media coverage, There and Back’s pulse became a pounding heart-beat.


As Rob Brus brought the new website to life, Hayley Dean from ‘Me Marketing’ began to liaise with media outlets. Radio stations, TV networks and newspapers were all interested in the fact that this was an all-Australian affair marking an Australian centenary. However, for the moment, the general response was “Fantastic!.....please contact us closer to the date”. I only hoped that there would be time “closer to the date”.


Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

A Jabiru J230D off the coast of Bundaberg. (Photo: Jabiru)


I now had solid performance data on a real aeroplane to work with. I sat down with my charts to one side and the new computer flight-planning software to the other. I confess to being a Luddite in some ways and carefully drew my pencil lines with their 10 mile markers across forty maps. Once I had done this in long-hand, I then entered the flight route into the computer as a second line of defence. Fortunately, everything matched.


There were so many places on my ‘to-see’ list. Longreach, the home of QANTAS. Tindal, Australia’s northern fighter base. Darwin, where the pioneer aviators first touched down on their flights from England. My old stomping ground of Kununurra in the beautiful Kimberleys. The pioneer aviators’ graves at Murchison Station. Woomera and its space heritage. Point Cook, the spiritual home of the Royal Australian Air Force. Toowoomba, my family’s original hometown and my father’s final resting place. The list went on and on. 8,000 nautical miles and a continent full of wonder.


I continued to draw more circles and rub out lines as either fuel availability was an issue, or there was no accommodation left in town. In the end a circumnavigation of sorts was etched out, as much defined by history as geography. Unfortunately, there were people and places that would be bypassed, including my own sister in Cairns. Nevertheless, the route that emerged filled me with anticipation as I finally stepped back from the charts and looked at the miles that I was destined to fly. I couldn’t wait for the next six months to pass.


Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The Original Route of ‘There and Back’.

Of all the wonderful equipment provided by the sponsors of the flight, one particular piece took my interest. It was provided by Rob Brus in his role with a company called ‘Spidertracks’. This inconspicuous black box was not much larger than a television remote control and plugged into the aircraft’s “cigarette lighter” outlet. Sitting on the dashboard, this aerial used satellite technology to beam my position back to a nominated web-address, allowing people to track my flight on their computers. Even better, Rob had designed a ‘phone app’ for portable tracking.


Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

A Spidertracks display as followers would see the flight on the internet.


Every six minutes my position, ground speed and altitude would be beamed across the internet. Additionally, in the case of an emergency, I could hit a button for more rapid updating of my whereabouts and an ‘alert’ would be sent immediately to nominated phone numbers. The Spidertracks system was a great device to have on board for both safety and connecting with the public. It also reminded me that although I was flying ‘solo’, I had the internet on the seat beside me. So don’t mess up!


As I busily went about my planning and emailing, the Jabiru team had decided to build a new J230 especially for the flight. It was exciting news and the thought of flying a brand new aeroplane around Australia gave the entire project a very shiny new edge. However, with Christmas looming, I wondered if there would be sufficient time to build and entire aircraft by the departure date in May. And not just build the aeroplane, but equip it and have it flown enough to ‘bed’ the engine in.


I needn’t have worried as an email arrived from Sue Woods showing the aircraft laid out on the factory floor. Like a massive Airfix model, the bare white components were arranged in an orderly manner, eagerly awaiting assembly. Over the coming weeks these pieces would morph into a sleek looking aircraft, resplendent in the markings of ‘There and Back’.


Owen Zupp. Jabiru J230D

The Jabiru J230D. Ready to take shape.


For now the aircraft, like the entire project, was a maze of components needing to be put together in the right order. And just like the Jabiru, if it was to be completed in a timely fashion, more than one set of hands was needed. I was fortunate to have a team behind me attending to the details as I made the broad brushstrokes and focused on the flying. There was no doubt that this was a significant exercise in logistics, but the romance of the flight was never far away either. Furthermore, an unforeseen mystery and disappointment was lurking just around the corner.


 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.



Solo Flight. Chapter 2. By Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Thursday, September 28, 2017



Chapter 2. Solo Around the World?



They say that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. My journey began sitting down.


The credits were still running on the documentary about Ewan MacGregor’s motorcycle trek when I turned to my wife and suggested that I should fly around the world solo. Yes, alone. Unstartled, her measured reply was that maybe I should start with flying around Australia. And so the deal was struck.


This exchange with my wife occurred many months before my wheels would leave the ground, however the genesis of such a flight was even more deeply rooted in my past. As a young charter pilot I had driven with my father to the far side of Australia to a new job in the Kimberley township of Kununurra. Each day as we set out on that week-long drive, I was increasingly overwhelmed by the raw, expansive beauty of the land. Horizons too far away on which to focus and bounding kangaroos too close to my car for comfort.


Unloading freight in the Kimberleys


To this raw, red dirt backdrop, my Dad and I agreed to fly across Australia together one day. We had already shared a cockpit many times over the years, including those hours when he had taught me to fly. There had been many memorable moments: words of wisdom aloft, informal lunches in the shade of a wing and the odd quiet word between a father and son. Aviation had been the common thread between us from the time I was a boy when he had hoisted me up to peer into cockpits through cupped hands. It had been a common language throughout my teenage years that had meant our communication never suffered. He then mentored me until I could fly in my own right, and now it seemed like it was time for us to share the sky across Australia as peers. But that day never came.


Within a year, cancer had my father in its vile grip. The old warrior who had never walked away from a fight had finally met an enemy that he could not best. He fought each battle with the knowledge that ultimately his war was lost. He was a hero to the end, until that dark morning when his chest rose for the final time. He gasped, and then relaxed into the longest slumber.


Dad in his fighter jet during the Korean War


Twenty years later, his loss seemed so far away and yet still so vivid. I now sat in my own home with the fire warming the room and my own children beside me. Part of me felt selfish for wanting to disappear for a few weeks and soar through the skies without them, but something had been stirred inside me and I knew the time for the flight had come.


It was 2009 and the following year would mark the centenary of powered flight in Australia, when the visiting American escape artist Harry Houdini had slipped the handcuffs of gravity and taken his frail flying machine into the skies. So, 2010 seemed to be an ideal time to celebrate the event by flying around Australia. The first box was ticked. However, other boxes started to emerge at a startling rate. Accommodation, fuel availability, route selection, emergency equipment, and so on. Not to mention that I might also need an aeroplane.


As I looked at the sea of charts unfolded on my dining table, I sought to select the most appropriate route for May the following year. That month presented the best chance of favourable weather and advantageous winds. Geographically, there were certain aviation-significant places I wanted to visit, as well as landmarks from my own life and career. In the time frame available, I wouldn’t be able to crawl around the entire coastal strip of this island continent and anyway, so much aviation history was connected to the remote inland. I circled towns, drew lines and measured distances.


Piece by piece, the flight began to take shape. Now I stepped back and looked at the pencil lines that circled my nation, and for the first time it struck me that this was quite a journey, even for someone with thirty years experience. I was acutely aware of safety as my first priority and considered the route in terms of terrain, water crossings and what equipment I would need to cater for all contingencies. If I couldn’t execute the flight safely, then it couldn’t be done at all. As they say, “Mission First. Safety Always.”


Charts, flight plans and crumpled paper


My head began to spin. Would there be media coverage? Should I have a website? Should I give the flight a name? There were so many secondary issues beyond the act of flight. In fact, taking to the skies seemed like it would be the easiest aspect of the undertaking. I knew that preparation was paramount, and I had to focus on the core priorities. I set about a strategy to have everything in order from the ground up, for the success of the flight operationally would hinge upon the work in these months before departure.


With a basic route drafted, I could now grasp what was required of an aircraft to undertake the journey. My own little Piper Tomahawk was sitting in the hangar, but it didn’t seem to be suited for the task. It was 30 years old and only cruised at about 95 knots, or 175 kilometres an hour. Furthermore, its endurance was such that the longest sector it could manage would only be about 4 hours before a fuel stop would be necessary. On a 7,500 nautical mile-journey, all of these operational constraints excluded the Tomahawk from being considered.  


My trusty little Piper Tomahawk


In choosing an aeroplane, firstly I assessed what I wanted the aircraft to be capable of. Ideally it would cover at least 2 miles each minute; that’s a speed of 120 knots. It would be able to fly for more than 4 hours at that speed and land with reserve fuel still safely in the tanks. That would give me 500-mile legs if I needed them, which was at least 100 miles more than the Tomahawk could offer and at a higher speed. I would not always land at major airfields on sealed runways, so the aircraft had to be capable of outback operations. Philosophically, I also wanted the aircraft to send a positive message about aviation in Australia.


Rather than a rich man’s hobby, I wanted to demonstrate the affordability and accessibility of aviation in Australia. A business jet might make the flight a breeze, but it wouldn’t send the message that I wanted folks to receive. I needed an affordable, light aircraft with suitable performance that could carry the banner for Australia’s centenary of flight. But which aircraft would do that?


 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.



Solo Flight. Chapter 1. by Owen Zupp

Owen Zupp - Monday, September 18, 2017



Chapter 1. Solo Flight. 


Another mile and another minute passes. Uneventful and yet awe-inspiring.

Perched at altitude in my small two-seat aeroplane, the canvas below me is the vast Australian landscape. Beautifully remote, I sit in isolation with nothing but my thoughts and the task of flight to distract me from the view outside the cockpit. The instruments in front of me and the gentle hum of the controls beneath my hands assure me that all is right with the trusty little Jabiru as it cuts through air that is so very still.


It is too early in the day for the bubbles of warm air to rise and buffet me about the sky. So cool and calm, with the coastline behind me and the raw, rich reds of the inland ahead. Amidst this barren beauty a lone patch of white seems to be wafting above the terrain like a ghostly quilt. I tilt my head and alter my focus, trying to define the sight ahead, below and to my left. I nudge the Jabiru like a trusty horse and she moves her nose towards the alabaster carpet, gaining on it at an impressive rate.


Now closer, my eyes focus and see the faults in the stitching. For rather than a massive blanket, it is made up of many miniscule moving parts. Wings, like mine, but very much smaller. Waving gracefully in tight formation, this is not a renegade paddock or field, but a massive flock of birds moving south. Their graceful harmony of flight makes my man-made attempt look relatively primitive and I admire the ease with which they wheel to the left as one and continue on their way.


Geographically I am as far from home as I can be and still be flying over Australian soil. Surrounded by the country’s majesty it’s hard to decide if I am half way from my origin, or half way to my destination. I long for the familiarity of family and yet what I have witnessed as Australia has passed by will be with me forever. There have been sights as varied as the crashing waves on rocky shores to the remote stock routes threading like capillaries across this nation. Military jet fighters have rested a wing tip away and retired giants of the sky towered over me, never to fly again. Thriving cities and isolated ghost towns. Colours, sounds, sights and smells that change with every new horizon.


There is still a way to go and yet already this journey has changed me forever. This wide brown land that I call home has spoken to me in a way that can only be heard amongst the clouds and clear blue skies. And I have had to listen carefully, not distracted by the voices of others or the pressures of the day-to-day grind. To truly hear the land and understand the magic that is all around me I have had to be alone; all alone, on this solo flight.

 Listen to the Podcast of 'Solo Flight' here.

"Hustling Hinkler". A Book Review By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

"Hustling Hinkler"

A Book Review.

As some of the visitors to this blog will be aware, Bert Hinkler has long been a hero of mine. In fact, he was a central figure in my solo flight around Australia which began and concluded in his home town of Bundaberg. A new book on his life has just been released and I have had the pleasure of reading and reviewing this latest look at his complex life. I trust that you'll find this review informative.

Bert Hinkler is an Australian hero in the truest sense of the concept. Eighty years after his death on a lonely Italian peak, he is still a pioneer that is defined by his achievements rather than his headlines. Unfortunately, then as now, forging frontiers and fame can be strange bedfellows.

While the American solo conqueror of the Atlantic, Charles Lindbergh, is still hoisted onto the shoulders of an admiring world, Bert Hinkler has seemingly slipped between the cracks. However, rather than solely stemming from the tyranny of time, Hinkler sometimes slipped between the cracks at the height of his fame and often through his own choices.

"Hustling Hinkler" examines how despite his incredible achievements, the aviator never truly harvested the riches of his fame. It cites his humility, single-mindedness and complicated personal life as just some of the contributing factors that led to tensions between his task at hand, the media and authorities. At times, the very qualities that served him so well in the air, hampered his progress in everyday life.

This book is not a heavy-in-the-hand biography, but the story of a man, his times and his passions. In rounding some of the harsher technical edges, Bert is truly humanised and perhaps better understood. Additionally, intriguing family correspondence sheds new light on his very private life and the aftermath of his tragic death. Consequently, "Hustling Hinkler" will appeal to a broad audience and stands to spread his amazing story across an entirely new range of readers.

In life and death, Bert Hinkler was a rare blend of hero and enigma. Darryl Dymock, has wonderfully and respectfully recalled his achievements and revealed new perspectives of  this quiet, complex Queenslander. "Hustling Hinkler" is a book that not only examines the daring lone flier, but helps us to understand the man. As such it is fascinating reading for anyone with an interest in flight, history or the human condition.

Author: D.R. Dymock
Publisher: Hachette Australia
ISBN: 9780733629839
Price: $35.00


Solo Flight. Australia. Day Fifteen. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Solo Flight. Australia.

Day Fifteen.

Today sees me changing plans, but still endeavouring to make it to the Darling Downs township of Toowoomba. However, the weather has some other plans in store for this solo flight. 

There's an old saying in aviation that it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air, wishing you were on the ground. Today's events stand testament to the old adage.

My original plan to depart Mittagong for Toowoomba started to look awry on Thursday evening. The weather charts and forecasts suggested low cloud and rain along the NSW coast and as far inland as my planned port of call, Tamworth. It was equally apparent that the further inland one went, the better the conditions were for flying.

So before dawn this morning I reviewed all of the information one more time and decided to head directly inland from Mittagong to Taralga and then track north on the other side of the Great Dividing Range. An early decision is generally a good decision, so I set about notifying the good folks that I had intended seeing and rearranged my charts for a trek westward. Meanwhile, the sun was having a great deal of trouble showing it's face through the fog and cumulus clouds beyond.

It was time for another cuppa and a disappointing call to my mate who had organised something special for me at Oakey in conjunction with Army Aviation. Such is the nature of visual flight and the SAFE execution of this solo flight has always been the priority. When the fog abated, I waited a little longer to ensure that the intended route wasn't concealed by a vast white blanket. Finally, I was underway.

My decision seemed to be vindicated as the weather provided few hurdles as I overflew Bathurst and Mudgee, though it was evident that there was weather afoot. Small clouds were growing rapidly, regular 'bouts of bumps' indicated increasingly unstable air and out to my right the horizon was disappearing amidst cloud and haze. My route ahead was still clear towards Gunnedah, but beyond the skies were growing darker.

I had planned to refuel in Gunnedah and used the opportunity on the ground to review the weather situation. Toowoomba had overcast at only a few hundred feet, so my destination was now out of the equation. The possibility of creeping a further hundred miles north to Inverell was tempting, but conditions were definitely deteriorating. Even the direction from which I had arrived was filling with towering clouds and low rumbles were to be heard from a number of directions.

Safe on the ground, I decided to stay that way. To continue on would have taken me towards rising terraIn and lowering weather; a rather unhealthy mix. So I tied down the Jabiru, made the necessary phone calls and headed into town.

Now in the comfort of a motel room I can regroup and re-plan. With the passage of the weather, the scheduled arrival in Bundaberg on Sunday is seemingly not an issue and I can't wait to show off the Jabiru to everyone on my arrival at the airport. Tomorrow's departure will now be simply an issue of timing.

Whatever the operation, safety MUST always be the priority. My solo flight has observed this philosophy thus far and will continue to on the home stretch. So hopefully tomorrow will bring finer weather and the sight of Toowoomba ahead.

'til then, stay safe.


Day sixteen of the flight will see me finally make it to the Queensland Darling Downs and a very special moment on this solo flight around Australia.  Make sure you check back here for more blogs in the coming days. Or subscribe to my newsletter for the ‘alert’. Thanks again and I'll see you all soon.



The full story of this solo flight will be the subject of my upcoming book.

Subscribe to learn more and be amongst the first to read it.


Solo Flight. Australia. Day Fourteen. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Solo Flight. Australia.

Day Fourteen.

Today sees me undertake some media engagements at my old home base, Bankstown. Then I will be off for a scenic flight around the beautiful city of Sydney. 

The day started with a very thick fog; one of those 'can't see the back fence' fogs. I was immediately appreciative that this had not been the case on Wednesday when I'd needed to depart early in the morning. Today was a more relaxed start to the day, only needing to be at Sydney's Bankstown Airport by midday and then a scenic run back past the city to Mittagong for one more night at home.
I flew the familiar route north to Bankstown, the home of my early flying days and even paused to dawdle in the nearby 'training area'. Here I had taught and been taught the skills of piloting and my mind captured glimpses of my Dad emphasising one point or another. Instinctively, I looked back inside the cockpit to check my heading and height; just in case he was still watching from above the clouds.
My arrival into Bankstown was 'shortened up' to provide adequate spacing from another aircraft and I tracked overhead the airport to join the circuit late downwind. Wheeling back to the right I lined up to land on the very familiar black strip of tar known as "two-niner right". On the ground and heading for my parking space, I was very pleased to see the smiling faces of friends who had dropped by to say hello. There were a variety of photographers there as well as representatives of the South Eastern Section of the RFDS. These folks kindly presented me with a wonderful model of a Flying Doctor 'King Air' which has already taken pride of place in my study.
After a chat and some more photos, I was on my way again, this time encircling Sydney to the north before cutting to the coast. Letting down to 500 feet to fly the coastal corridor known as 'Victor One' is always extremely scenic. The alternating foreground of cliffs and beaches are set to the backdrop of one of the world's most picturesque cities. Below, folks waved from their boats while a couple of helicopters were operating just to the south of the great city's harbour entrance.  Further along I skirted past Kingsford Smith Airport and the beachside town of Cronulla, before returning to coastal bushland of the National Park.
Clear of the corridor I climbed back up and past Stanwell Park where Lawrence Hargrave had performed his ground-breaking work on flight using his box-kites over a century ago. Further south I clipped inside Wollongong and completed the short journey home to Mittagong. Once on the ground, I readied the aircraft for tomorrow morning and the final run back to Bundaberg for Sunday's conclusion to this solo flight. Today was relatively short when compared to some of the magical days in the west and centre, but it was rich in wonderful images. With only a little flying left before Sunday, it is hard to believe that this incredible journey is nearing its end. Check back and follow it to the finish line. And then, I wonder what comes next?

Day fifteen of the flight will take me north across the border to Toowoomba after a change in plans. But will I make it to the Queensland Darling Downs after all? Make sure you check back here for more blogs in the coming days. Or subscribe to my newsletter for the ‘alert’. Thanks again and I'll see you all soon.



The full story of this solo flight will be the subject of my upcoming book.

Subscribe to learn more and be amongst the first to read it.


Select a Cover for Solo Flight. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Which Cover for 'Solo Flight'?

You be the Judge!

Hi All,

Well, the launch of "First Solo. Australia" grows closer. Thank you for following the 'Around Australia' blog this far and subscribing for the latest updates.

I now have a major decision to make. The designer for the cover has offered up two impressive covers shown above and it is a difficult choice to make. The cover is vitally important to any book and on Amazon it has to be clear and impressive at 'thumbnail' size. That's something that the wonderful success of my previous title, '50 Tales of Flight', has shown me.

I am throwing the door open at this point and would appreciate you, my valued readers, to offer me some feedback. Simply contact me at "Contact Owen Zupp" and let me know your preference. You can do this simply by entering either 'air-to-air cover' or the 'sunrise cover' in the comments section of the Contact Page.

I'll keep you posted of the progress score and the final outcome here and on my Facebook page at Owen Zupp: Author.

Thanks in advance for your valued input and opinion.



Solo Flight. Australia. Day Five. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Solo Flight. Australia.

Day Five.

Today revisits my flight from the coastal beauty of Broome across the Pilbara and down to historic Murchison Station. Eight enchanting hours of flight that didn't end when the aircraft was tied down for the night. For the full amazing story contact me about the upcoming book, "Solo Flight".

What a day it was. The best of scenery and cause for reflection, all squeezed into one long, magnificent day.

As I departed Broome, The brilliant dawn illuminated the pristine white beaches and the crystal waters. I stowed my charts and followed the coast, navigating by keeping Australia on my left and the Indian Ocean to my right. The sheer ease of following the coastline was relaxing and picturesque in a different way to my previous day across the Kimberleys.

I refueled at Port Hedland where I had once diverted in a somewhat larger 737 years ago. Nothing much had changed although the control tower now stands empty and ghost-like. As it's Mother’s Day, only a lone brave soul was to be found at work on his aircraft, although he hurried home when I reminded him of the significance of today.

From Port Hedland I left the coast to cross the beautiful rich reds of the Pilbara with its jagged black ranges. All at once I sighted a white blanket drifting across the landscape. Far from a blanket it must have been an acre of birds flying in close and impressive formation. The red scenery rolled on until gradually the greenery of the coast began to rejoin me from my right hand side.

Carnarvon provided another stop to replenish the aircraft and myself to the backdrop of 6 air force scarlet-red PC-9 trainers. A chat with the refueller another interview with the local press and I was on my way again to Kalbarri and historic Murchison Station. The miles ticked over and the wind strength picked up creating quite a bit of turbulence as I approached my destination. Buffeted and bullied by the gusty air I made my approach to land in rather difficult circumstances. Allowing for a strong crosswind, my arrival must have provided some entertainment for the Skywest airliner waiting to depart, because it sure kept me entertained. A wave from the airline crew and it was the end of nearly eight hours of flight time for me today.

I secured the Jabiru against the elements and climbed aboard the truck that was to take me to historic Murchison Station. The late afternoon provided some moving moments by a graveside, wonderful company and a much-needed meal. The graves were those of pioneer aviators and compatriots of Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, their deaths were amongst the first in Australian commercial aviation. A I stood there in silence, the crash site was only metres away, although the scrub has long since grown over it. But more of that tomorrow, for now I sit in my old world shearing quarters, void of internet connection and a fading battery on this laptop. I doubt the blog will make it to the newspaper in time, but nevertheless, this beautiful isolation is all part of my solo flight around Australia.

Day six will take me further along Australia's west coast to the State's capital Perth and a much needed rest day and a special rendezvous. Make sure you check back here for the next blog in the coming days. Or subscribe to my newsletter for the ‘alert’. Thanks again and I'll see you all soon.



The full story of this solo flight will be the subject of my upcoming book.

Subscribe to learn more and be amongst the first to read it.


Solo Flight. Australia. Day Four. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Solo Flight. Australia.

Day Four.

Today revisits my flight across to Australia's rugged and wondrous Kimberley region and onto the coastal beauty of Broome. For the full amazing story contact me about the upcoming book, "Solo Flight".

It was still dark when I made my way to the Jabiru this morning. The first light of dawn had not yet peeked above the horizon, yet the airfield was a hive of activity as the shadowy outlines of young pilots readied their aircraft for the day ahead. and so did I.
The Kimberley region is often quoted as being Australian beauty at its very best. The landscape is both varied and relatively untouched; rugged yet vibrant with colour. As a young charter pilot I criss-crossed the region and  never tired of its amazing diversity.
Now, more than 20 years later, I have had the chance to revisit much of the region on today's leg of my solo flight. Tracking south from Darwin towards Port Keats it was not long before I was over familiar territory. The beaches and outcamps, the remote airstrips, the colours; it was as if I had never left and a great sense of nostalgia came about me. Memories of J.D, Spud, Li'l Andy, M.J, Ronny and the rest of the Kununurra boys from the '80s. They were good times and we didn't have two dollars between us. We were just young pilots doing what we loved.
Past the fertile crops to the north of Kununurra and onto my old caravan site at the Hidden Valley, I joined the circuit and landed into the east. As I taxied in it was obvious that the airport has grown significantly, but there tied down to my right was my old machine, Cessna 310R, VH-TWY, or "Twiggy" as we all called her. Obviously a few coats of paint have been applied over the years, but there she was.
From Kununurra, it was down the Ord River and along the edge of the enormous Lake Argyle. Rounding the ranges to the right I passed by the Argyle open cut diamond mine (see title image above) and set my heading for Mount House, Derby and ultimately Broome. For 3 hours the best the outback has to offer slid beneath my wings in forms ranging from jagged ranges to snaking rivers, charged by recent rains. So many beautiful hidden river bends that begged me to land and roll out a swag for the night.
The wide open spaces ultimately gave away to the growing presence of mud-flats near Derby and the first glimpses of the west coast. And then the unmistakeable colours of Broome's pristine waters loomed large ahead. Preparing to land, the waters of the monster tides are absolutely distracting with their amazing shades of blue and green, edged by white sands.
Parked, packed up and scavenging for a taxi, it was hard to believe that so much beauty had be crammed into a day's flying. There was even time to dawdle down memory lane a little. Undoubtedly, the best vantage point is aloft in an aircraft like the Jabiru. Not even I had imagined how extraordinary it could be to simply fly solo around Australia.

Day five will take me along Australia's west coast over the rich reds of the Pilbara to the history Murchison Station and the site of a long-forgotten tragedy. Make sure you check back here for the next blog in the coming days.Or subscribe to my newsletter for the ‘alert’. Thanks again and I'll see you all soon.



The full story of this solo flight will be the subject of my upcoming book.

Subscribe to learn more and be amongst the first to read it.



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