Safety topic from Episode 5

Planning your route

When planning any outback flying route, always start with the big picture. How far can I get in the time available? What’s my budget? How much time do I have? 

Once you’ve figured out where you’re going, here are some more aspects to consider:

  • Weather - have you chosen a stable time of year for the regions you intend flying over?
  • Fuel availability – have you double-checked that adequate fuel is definitely available at your proposed fuel stops?
  • Terrain – are you happy with the height of the en route terrain (low cloud base) and given due consideration to any “tiger country” (possible engine trouble)? 
  • Length of each leg – your fuel endurance may be adequate but are you and your passengers going to be comfortable in the aircraft for that long?
  • Scenic value – are you giving your passengers the most scenic route possible, without adding on unreasonable mileage to your route?
  • Hemispherical flying – remember even below 5000ft, you should try to adhere to correct levels, i.e. for VFR flying 000-180 degrees, fly “odds plus 500ft”; 181-360 degrees “evens plus 500ft”.
  • Accommodation – ensure your bookings are made early to avoid disappointment, and arrange those transfers to and from the airstrip.  
  • Food supplies – have you taken enough food and water per person to cater for any delays?
  • TIP:  To call a cab anywhere in Australia – 131008 

If there’s a definite destination you’re heading for, then that’s one choice you don’t have to make. However if you’re looking at a map of Australia and searching for great places to fly to, then there are some fantastic publications and websites to inspire you. Always consult the ERSA first – that’s the bible!  Updated every three months, it’s an Airservices publication containing procedural information vital to your planning, emergency procedures and in-depth pre-flight briefing information.

If you’re interested in researching destinations not listed in the ERSA, then grab yourself a copy of one or both of these publications.  

AOPA National Airfield Directory  

AOPA Pilots Touring Guide

There are also plenty of General Aviation magazines with ideas on destinations and suggested safari routes around the country with first-hand accounts from pilots of their experiences. 

Ordering maps

There’s an order in which to go about this, making it a really logical process.

Use your flight planning software or else draw your route on your PCA (Planning Chart Australia). This will immediately show you what WACs you’ll need; the coverage of each WAC being outlined by a black border. Be mindful of the possibility of your route needing to change due weather or other circumstance, leading you onto an adjoining WAC you may not have originally thought you’d need. 

You’ll need Enroute Low charts for your radio and navaid frequencies, the location of controlled airspace and PRD areas. And of course, never leave home without your ERSA. Check the validity of your old WACs, and make sure you order all your required maps well ahead.  These are all available from Airservices Publications, either online at or phone 1300 306 630.

Remember that you may not always have internet reception in the outback, so you may find it easier to phone through your flight plan. So pack a few blank flight notification forms, or else good luck trying to remember the order of all those boxes and the required phonetic alphabet as you reel off your flight plan over the phone. Doing it this way, you get to talk to a “real” briefing officer. It’s so easy and there’s just something reassuring about hearing that confirmation from an actual person. And don’t even think about not lodging a SAR time if you’re flying alone!

Flight Notification forms can be a little daunting. If you feel you’re not up to speed with phoning through your flight plan, grab your instructor for a refresher.