Well, the early pioneers put this place on the map
and ever since aviation began,
aviators have been flocking to this iconic destination.
They have some pretty major events here.
And when they do, like the Birdsville Races,
the population swells up to several thousand.
So you really need to know what special procedures are in place.
The guy behind the bar, he's our refueller.
He's the guy with all the information.
Let's find out what he has to say.
-Hey, Darren, how you going, mate?
-Yeah, good, mate.
-Nice to meet you.
You must be a busy man running between the airstrip and the pub.
Yeah, it is quite busy from time to time, absolutely.
Birdsville Races - they come to town.
It must be a frenzy around here, is it?
DARREN: Yeah, there's people absolutely everywhere.
A lot of people start turning up three weeks prior to the event
from campers to people flying in in aircraft.
PETE: So how many people would fly in for an event like this?
DARREN: These days it's about 100-120 planes.
PETE: When there's a big event like the Birdsville Races,
are there special action plans or anything
that happen during that time?
DARREN: Yeah, look, we like to have
a steady flow of traffic when they do land.
So it is important all the aircraft get into the same flow,
especially when they're taxiing up to get avgas.
PETE: How do you feel working in such a place
at the end of the Birdsville Track?
Yeah, it's quite special, I think.
This place is on a lot of people's bucket lists,
so people spend a lot of time and money to get here.
You never know what you're going to see in this town.
Whatever your mode of transport -
whether you're on two wheels or whether you've got the four-by,
or whether you're using a set of wings -
this place is absolutely extraordinary.
Birdsville is one of those places you have to see in your life.
And with all the history around it as well -
Burke and Wills, you know, you've got Tom Kruse and the mail run.
It's a beautiful place.
It's warm too, let me tell you. It's only going to get warmer.
-G'day, Dan, how are you going?
-Great. How are you, Pete?
Good, good. This is one of the camera bags.
-Mind if I have a quick look?
-Yeah, knock yourself out.
-What else you got in here? You've got some cameras
-Oh, so here's the batteries.
I've covered the contacts and put it in a little bag - is that alright?
Yeah, that's exactly as I described.
It looks like you've done a very good job.
There's no metal exposed on any of the contacts
and the bag should stop any fumes getting out and into the cabin.
How easily could that happen?
DAN: These batteries are notorious, the lithium batteries,
for overheating and potentially exploding
and giving fumes into the cabin.
Chuck them back in - we'll just make sure we put them at the front
just in the event anything does go wrong with them
the crew - or yourself - can access them.
PETE: One of the great things on the CASA website
is the dangerous goods app Can I pack that?
They'll let you know what you can or can't take on a flight.
Go to the CASA website.
Well, we've just left the jewel in the crown,
Birdsville, at the edge of the Simpson Desert.
And we are in full swing for this outback adventure.
We're going to fly on now to Boulia and get some fuel.
And then on to Mount Isa.
(BRIGHT GUITAR MUSIC)
The beautiful place out here... in the middle of nowhere.
CATHERINE: You always want to have a plan B.
Despite what it says in the forecast,
you just never know what might come up.
There are also a number of stations around.
We've checked the ALAs en route,
got the information on all of those strips here to hand.
But alternates in case of almost anything that might come up.
PETE: Might that even influence the path that you take,
that you want to be close to where these stations are?
Yes, absolutely, so that if...
In remoter areas as well, partly for navigating purposes,
and then if you got into trouble,
there'd be somewhere to land, absolutely.
PETE: We're going to make a stop for fuel in Boulia,
which is in the heart of the Channel Country.
It happens to have the biggest camel racing event in Australia
and it's also known for the extraordinary and eerie phenomena
the Min Min lights.
We caught up with a local refueller, Ron,
and did he have an interesting story to tell.
-I'm Pete, mate. How you going?
Just the light up there in the downs country.
You know that no car or motorbike can go that fast,
'cause it's all black soil.
It's got holes in it everywhere and you can't drive that fast across it.
But when you see a light going across there that fast,
you know it's something not of this world.
I heard about it ever since I was a kid.
Couple of the locals here have seen some around here.
PETE: Boulia is a remote outback town in central west Queensland
situated on the Outback Way,
a road well known as Australia's longest short cut.
The predominant industry is beef cattle
so Boulia is a great stop to refuel for station owners, bush pilots
and general aviators.
If you're out that way, Boulia is a great strip to land on.
We rang well ahead of time just to make sure
that somebody was actually going to be there to meet with us.
Is it busy here?
What sort of maximum usage would you have in a day?
We've got Rex Airlines four days a week.
A lot of the stations and the owners, they've got their own plane,
they fly in, they fuel up here to go out to their stations and...
Do they give you much notice about that or they just turn up?
Well, we've got the phone number written
on the other side of the bowser there.
It's up there.
If you didn't phone ahead and just pull up and see the number,
ring the number, you'll get somebody.
-There's always someone around.
Next, Mount Isa.
CATHERINE: Boulia Traffic,
Charlie Yankee Foxtrot Cessna 172
three miles to the north-west of Boulia.
Departing upwind off runway 3-2.
Climbing 6,500 feet for Mount Isa.
That's a pretty big operation out there, isn't it, the Monument?
CATHERINE: It's a big fly-in fly-out operation.
I'll just let them know we're passing by
even though we're not within 10 nautical miles at the moment.
CATHERINE: Traffic to Monument.
Charlie Yankee Foxtrot, Cessna 172 in company with Echo Hotel Sierra.
PETE: There's a lot of mining activity in remote outback Australia
so it's a really good idea to check your ERSA and NOTAMs
before you fly into an area.
You really don't want to get caught out if there's blasting in progress.
CATHERINE: The time of the year that's most pleasant for flying
or safest for flying up in this area
is also the season where you get a lot of haze,
which is why it's always best to fly early in the morning
when you've got less turbulence and also less of that haze build-up.
And look - you can see we've got an inversion.
PETE: An inversion is a reversal of
the normal behaviour of temperature.
So in this case we have cooler air
trapped under warmer air,
which is a certain recipe for a bumpy ride.
CATHERINE: It's kind of bumpy here at 8,500 feet
but we need to travel an even number plus 500.
So we could go up to 10,500 feet.
We'd be above this weather inversion here.
We'd probably find very smooth conditions.
But we can't fly above 10,000 feet
in a non-pressurised aircraft without oxygen.
OK, so that's basically your limit.
Otherwise you're going to start suffering hypoxic-type conditions?
Exactly - they're insidious conditions,
'cause the problem is that your judgement is impaired.
For a pilot's judgement to be impaired
is, of course, a very serious thing.
A pilot who is a heavy smoker
shouldn't be flying at these altitudes at all.
They're much more susceptible to it because they've got a lot less...
..essentially carriers for oxygen in their bloodstream
because the carbon monoxide monopolises them.
And so a much greater risk.
In general terms, I mean, health is a big thing for pilots, isn't it?
CATHERINE: Hugely important.
And do you know what the most common
cause of incapacitation for pilots is?
Uh, no. Not carbon monoxide?
No, gastrointestinal disorders.
-Is that right?
-Yes, tummy problems.
Yep, particularly 'cause travelling,
and then eating the wrong food
and then having, you know, Bali belly or...
-Yeah, drinking the bore water.
So particularly for commercial pilots,
but something that all pilots should be aware of.
You know, be careful what you eat
because you can't take to the air
if you need to be running to the bathroom.