The day began at 1am with that annoying sound of the alarm, except this time it wasn’t just to wake up and work on flight planning…It was to wake up and begin a flight around the world!
After crawling out of my nice warm bed and taking a shower, I had a light breakfast (I wanted to save room for all those great muesli bars I was going to enjoy on the way over) and packed the last essentials such as chargers, toiletries and any other last minute things.
Then it was time to say goodbye to my home for the next 8 weeks!
Jumping in the car just over an hour after my alarm went off, mum and I made the 15-minute trip to the airport where we were greeted by the rest of the team. We made our way through security and into the international terminal of Sunshine Coast Airport, and then I went onwards to my plane, the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast.
It was only at this point did everything suddenly become real, there had been ceremonies, formalities, media and lots of preparation but only when I walked out onto the tarmac on my own did it really hit me that ‘Wow, we made it. I’m about to fly around the world!’
From 2:40am – 3:15am I had some time to myself to organise the aircraft and ensure the equipment was ready to go.
Some of our very dedicated supporters began arriving by 3.15am, braving the cold to do so. I enjoyed some last few moments with friends and family before clearing customs and jumping into the Spirit of the Sunshine Coast at 4am.
Minutes the powerful IO 550 engine of the Cirrus SR-22 roared into life, I entered the flight plan in the navigation systems and prepared for departure. When all my checks had been done, I taxied away from the terminal for the trip of a lifetime, moving out onto the dark runway (save for runway lights) that I had all to myself, no line to depart, no incoming traffic. Just me.
Hurtling down the runway is always an exhilarating feeling but today was extra special as Wings Around the World was now a reality, more than ever.
My plane thrived in the cold, dense air and carved its way through the sky up to 9000 feet where I levelled out and set it up for the cruise to Fiji.
As the east coast of Australia disappeared behind me, my next job was to hand off from the VHF (short range radio) system to the HF (long range radio) system. A bit off fiddling (a mix between a fine art and a lot of luck) was required to reach Brisbane over HF, however, communications were finally established and we were underway for the flight over the Pacific Ocean to Nadi, Fiji.
As I reached New Caledonia, after about 5 hours, I had a brief chat with the French/English speaking controllers before being transferred back to Nadi Radio. The HF radio system isn’t known for being extremely reliable and at a couple stages throughout the flight I actually had to relay messages to Nadi through some jets flying above me. The aviation community always looks out for each other and it’s a great thing to be part of.
Upon reaching Nadi I descended through a layer of cloud and popped out underneath to some breathtaking scenery of the outlying islands.
After successfully placing the cirrus onto the runway and taxiing in to my handler in Fiji, Sunflower Aviation, the conclusion to a successful first leg of the journey had arrived.
Overall, it was a great start to the trip and I can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead in the coming weeks and kilometres. Stay tuned everyone!