Just leaving Longreach now for Lake Keepit via Charleville.
And what an amazing place Longreach has been -
the Qantas Founders Museum,
all those incredible aircraft,
the DH.50, the DC-3, the 747-200,
You don't need to be into aviation to appreciate
what those early pioneers achieved all those years ago.
It's a real eye-opener.
Longreach, just put it on the bucket list. Good place.
-(INDISTINCT RADIO COMMUNICATION)
-There's a lot coming through isn't there.
CATHERINE: Yep, there's a lot going on.
Busy area 'cause a lot of fly-in, fly-out activity
happens around here.
-Of course they're going for the Birdsville Races.
It makes things busy this weekend as well.
CATHERINE: Be mindful of the fact it's not only the ones we can hear.
There are probably people out there who don't have radios,
who don't have to have radios,
so we've gotta keep our eyes very wide open here.
PETE: Have you got a scanning technique, Catherine, that you use?
CATHERINE: Good scanning technique is to make sure
that you cover the whole of the horizon, left to right,
and that you pause at regular intervals
to allow your eyes to focus.
Of course, you can only do this if you're flying visually
and you're flying by attitude,
keeping your three fingers to the horizon
and an aiming point out in front.
See how little time you have for looking inside the cockpit
when you're scanning properly for traffic
and holding your reference point ahead of you this way.
Oh, welcome to New South Wales.
We have not seen bugs like this on the windscreen the whole trip.
CATHERINE: No, we've been very fortunate.
We're coming into an area of very dense agricultural activity,
a lot of grain.
Cotton farming goes on in these areas
and, of course, that attracts bugs and birds.
And they're here in their hundreds and thousands
and we've collected a fair few of them.
This many bugs on the windscreen is very fatiguing for the eyes.
It becomes difficult to pick out
the objects that you're looking for on the horizon.
It also makes it difficult for you to see
other aircraft in the air.
Keeping a very disciplined scanning technique
as you peer through them is very important.
Yep, not pleasant, not pretty,
but as soon as we get to Narrabri we'll refuel and clean the windscreen
and then we should be fine going into Keepit.
We've been absolutely smashed by bugs,
or more like we've smashed them.
Happened real quick too, you know - I was actually looking at the map
and then I looked up and they were just all over the windscreen.
And it's probably because we were heading over these crops -
they're absolutely thriving, they're so green -
coming from Queensland into New South Wales.
And Catherine was also saying that because of the high-pressure system,
the bugs, they're loving the crops,
but then they're being kept down by that air being forced down as well.
So we hit them at about 3,500 feet
and we did not miss them.
(LAUGHS) They are absolutely everywhere. Look at them.
I've noticed a lot on this trip, Catherine,
you've used charts and maps and stuff.
Do you often use electronic flight bag?
CATHERINE: I'm very fond of my flight planning software.
I use it on the ground for planning purposes.
I rarely use it in flight.
I use charts and maps
and the in-built navigational equipment that we've got,
the GPS and our radio nav aids.
They allow me to keep my eyes outside and maintain situational awareness
while I'm flying.
The risk of the EFB is that if it's not properly used,
the eyes will be inside and down when they should be outside and up.
They are very, very useful as an aid to situational awareness
or a back-up for navigating,
but your primary means of navigation has to be something else,
has to be traditional charts and maps, radio nav aids,
dead reckoning, with GPS as a support.
Welcome to Lake Keepit, near Manilla in New South Wales.
I've been excited about this.
Here is the home of a very special club,
because we are about to double the wingspan and lose the engine.
(CHUCKLES) Welcome to Lake Keepit Soaring Club.
(LAUGHS) And we're up.
Oh, this is amazing!
PETE: What is it about it that you loved,
say, the first time you ever did it?
Do you remember what that experience was like?
MAN: Being off the ground and it's quiet
and you can see for miles and it's just an extraordinary feeling.
And I don't think you ever lose it.
Why is it one of the best places in Australia to soar?
-Not glide? Soar? Glide?
Gliding's when you don't gain height.
Soaring is when you can gain height and travel cross-country.
It's location - it's in a wonderful location scenically.
As you've probably seen flying around the place, it's just beautiful.
It offers a great variety of scenery.
We have fabulous weather -
we have about 340 days of the year where you can fly.
This is the last full-time gliding/soaring club in Australia.
PETE: So how high did you take these things?
When the tug pulls you up, what sort of height are you at
and how long can you stay up?
Talk me through some of the mechanics behind...
..or lack of mechanics behind it.
IAN: In a normal training environment,
we would take an aerotow behind a tug
to between, say, 1,500 to 2,000 feet above the ground.
On good summer's days when there's plenty of thermals around,
from 2,000 feet it's quite easy to stay up
for basically as long as you like.
You can stay up for all day essentially.
And around here, heights of 15,000, 16,000 feet in thermals
are not uncommon.
But we do need to go onto oxygen at 10,000 feet.
It's a CASA regulation.
How many of your pilots on the radio?
Are they on the frequency? Do they all have radios?
At Keepit, yes, it's a club requirement
that we carry radios and use them.
What do you suggest they do in terms of their calls to each other?
If you adopt standard procedures and standard phraseology,
you can limit your radio calls to essential traffic.
We do have a chat frequency where you can get on
and talk in plain English and have a chat about how things are going
and what thermal's working here and what thermal's working there.
-And so on.
But when you're on the CTAF, use standard phraseology
and everything's sweet.
PETE: I was amazed with what I saw this morning in terms of distances.
How far do you guys go?
IAN: The absolute world record's 3,000km
and that's in the Andes in South America,
and they got into a phenomena called wave -
wave clouds in the sky
which are similar in concept to waves in the sea.
-PETE: Yeah, right.
-IAN: But slightly different.
They did about 3,000km in about 15 hours,
so they averaged 200km/h in a big 2-seater.
But in today's contests, we set time limits
and essentially who can travel the furthest distance within that time.
How have technological advancements improved the sport?
In the '50s and early '60s,
they were primarily wood and fabric type gliders.
Then a little glider called the Libelle
was one of the first to be produced using fibreglass,
and now we're using carbon fibre and Kevlar
and all sorts of advancements in technology.
When we're talking glider to glider,
we have a system called FLARM, which is like a TCAS in powered aircraft.
The FLARM units recognise other FLARM units
and it comes up on a display in the glider
which will tell you if another glider is either above, below, behind
or in front of you, and how far away.
It's another aid to let you know that
perhaps another glider could be a couple of kilometres away.
PETE: And understand too that you guys can be soaring at any height.
You could be up to 8,000, 9,000, 10,000 feet.
IAN: Yeah. Yeah.
-Good to meet you, Ian.
-Pleasure. Absolute pleasure.
I hope you enjoy Tamworth and Lake Keepit.
-See you back soon.
And we can set you up for a 5-day course starting Monday.
-There you go. Perfect.
I will! Give me the paperwork.
Just fixing the GoPro for this final leg of this epic adventure.
I can hardly believe that it's come to a close.
Lake Keepit to Bathurst.
And how beautiful is this place?
And the guys and girls from the Lake Keepit Soaring Club,
they can fly those things so well
and they're so passionate about the weather,
as they need to be - they need to know all about it.
Because without clouds, without thermals, those things don't fly.
And just the distance and the height
and the aerobatics they can do with them,
I'm personally in awe of what they can do with those sailplanes.
Here we go, heading to Bathurst for our last leg.
(LAID-BACK GUITAR MUSIC)
We're just leaving Lake Keepit for Rylstone
and it's a beautiful morning for flying.
There wasn't a bump as we took off then.
Amazing country out here.
It's just so brilliant in its greenery.
It's so green here,
with these patches of yellow - the canola that grows out here as well.
Very, very picturesque.
We're just flying into Rylstone now.
We're going to meet up with Rob Loneragan who has an airpark.
A very interesting concept, isn't it, Catherine?
CATHERINE: Yes. For the serious aviation groupie.
If you really love flying, then live on an airpark
where you can be right next to your plane all the time.
But most importantly, you're close to other pilots
and you can share stories and share learnings,
and it's from learning what works and doesn't work for other people
that helps us all stay safe, so...
-PETE: What a great idea.
Rob, this Rylstone Aerodrome Airpark,
How does it work?
Well, probably the better question is, why are we doing this?
-Why are you doing this?
-Why are we doing this?
With the sale of Bankstown and Camden and a lot of the, you know...
The aerodromes around Sydney are just disappearing.
So if you're a private owner, has an aircraft at Bankstown or Camden,
they don't want to pay the rent anymore - escalating rent -
city traffic to drive out to these places,
and they're saying, "Rylstone, that's a great place.
"I can buy my own block, I can have a little weekender here
"and I can have a foot in both camps, Sydney and the country,"
and it's just a whole lifestyle, aviation change that's just magic.
One other thing, it's fairly common,
you go to the Vintage in the Hunter and all over the place, you know.
You can own a house or a condo or something on a golf course.
In the States, these airparks are, you know,
they're just all over the place
and they're a very, very well-established part
of the way people live.
We've got a much smaller population
and so, therefore, it's been slower to take hold here.
But it's, you know...it's on the way
and it's an exciting way for people to, you know,
keep their aviation interest going.
PETE: So can people just come in and radio in to you, Rob,
and come and land on your strip?
I mean, being an unlicensed aerodrome,
we always like someone to give us a call
just to check and see if we've had heavy rain,
is the grass strip OK for operation, those sorts of things.
Why should people come and fly in here and get a piece of the action?
We're working toward building a very exciting community,
an aviation community, here.
And, you know, there's a lot of news
around about how aviation's struggling these days
and this is true,
but I like to think that what we're doing here at Rylstone
is building a whole new hub, a whole new centre
for having a brilliant time in aviation.
PETE: That's quite a spectacular take-off, isn't it?
Straight over the pond.
We've just left Rylstone Aerodrome Airpark,
heading for Bathurst on what is the final leg
and enjoying these beautiful views of the Great Dividing Range,
of course Australia's most substantial mountain range,
all 3,500km of it.
And we're just enjoying our little piece of it
this afternoon, aren't we?
This is absolutely spectacular!
So anybody who is thinking about taking on a trip like this,
no matter what their hours of experience,
what would you say to them?
You know what they say - if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
-So planning is terribly important.
Getting all the information before the trip,
going on to the CASA website and using all the fantastic resources
that are available there for pilots for trip planning,
particularly flying in and out of controlled airspace.
PETE: Touchdown in Bathurst.
Well done, Captain Fitzsimons.
Oh, thank you very much, First Officer Pete.
-Oh, I've been promoted.
PETE: Another fantastic landing.
How many touchdowns have we done on this trip?
Ohh... I'll count and let you know later.
Yes, thank you. I'm a bit of a stat man.
I'll get you an accurate, up-to-date stat on that in just a moment.
That was amazing, wasn't it?
(LAUGHS) What a trip!
That was absolutely extraordinary.
This is a big, beautiful country we live in, that's for sure.
And to see it from a small aeroplane, well, it's a first for me.
Definitely one for the bucket list.
(LAUGHS) It's really an incredible journey.
Something that is for sure is that aviation in Australia,
it's alive and well
and, well, it's safe.