Welcome to my blog.

In 2008, I received a trial flight in a light aircraft - a flight which changed my life. After a mere thirty minutes in an asthmatic old Cessna, I decided I would become a pilot. It was love at first flight. As Leonardo Da Vinci famously said - Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

However, like any relationship, there were highs (and there were puns!) and there were many moments where I thought I would never grasp this new skill.

After fifteen instructors, six flying schools and enough tears to fill a dam, I became a private pilot. And, because of a strong masochistic streak, I decided to study for my Commercial Pilot's Licence.

This blog is a working narrative of my time as a pilot, through my personal writing, my round Australia trip and my career as an aviation journalist, magazine editor, customer engagement manager for AvPlan EFB and aircraft salesperson for Cirrus Sydney.

Aviation has changed my life: through learning to fly I have discovered a part of myself that is resilient, organised and capable of great joy as a result of hard work, setbacks and learning.

In the words of Socrates, “Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to email me with advice and suggestions on


Monday, February 29, 2016

Marvellous Mount Gambier

I'd like to begin this post with a gush alert: ALERT, ALERT! I LOVE MY JOB! WHAT FOLLOWS WILL REFLECT THAT IN SPADES.

And now, with that disclaimer laid down, let me tell you about the most marvellous weekend I've had since Hamilton Island.

Having recently taken delivery of the most beautiful Australis in the country - VH-FIF, or FIFi, as she's now lovingly known - I've begun the most exciting part of my job: showing her off to pilots and potential pilots all over my territory. So, when OzRunways' Bas Scheffers mentioned he'd be at Mount Gambier Aero Club for a masterclass, and that I might like to come along and demonstrate the new SR22, I hopped (well, flew) to it.

Firstly, of course, I had to get those landings up to speed. Having not had a demo aircraft since the sale of ZZD, I had become rusty, to say the least. With my transition training completed in Avia's SR20 VDR, I hadn't landed a 22 since Tasmania in November. I booked in a few sessions with CSIP Nige Clark and hit the Bankstown circuit. I'd forgotten so much about the power differences between the SR20 and SR22 (nearly a THIRD more horsepower in the 22) that my right leg was aching after an hour of training and I went to bed that night dreaming of yaw dampers.

The very patient Nige Clark
After a few hours of re-training, Nige declared me ok to go. So, with Graham Horne along to assist, and OzRunways pilot Dean Sewell as passenger, we loaded up FIFi for the very first demo visit of the year: to Mount Gambier. With the still-new-smell of leather seats and the cupholders loaded with water (no coffee in my new bird!) we loaded up the Perspective with the plan for Mount Gambier, and I applied my newly taut right leg muscles to rudder pedals for take-off.

Team Cirrus!

Oh what an amazing machine the SR22 is! While I dodged the clouds (instrument rating this year!) on climb, we whizzed up to 8500, where everything was smooth and calm. I set up the autopilot, leaned the aircraft and settled back to a smooth and comfortable 61% power, with a TAS of 168kts and a fuel burn of 12.6USG. The flight time to Mount Gambier tracking via Canberra and Melbourne was a minute over three hours, with a 26kt headwind! I spent the rest of the flight taking the opportunity to familiarise myself with some of the more sophisticated features of the Perspective, with Graham setting me challenges such as adding an extended centreline, locating end of daylight information and customising the panel with my own options (I like the man's voice telling me what to do; by that I mean the lovely gentleman in the Cirrus Perspective - not Graham Horne!)

On approaching Mount Gambier, Graham took over to demonstrate the IFR features to Dean, conducting an RNAV with vertical guidance, which blew all our socks off! I took over at 1000ft and managed a very passable landing (still more practice for me!) which set me up for a great evening (who doesn't let bad landings ruin their day?!)

Upon arrival we were met by the warmest reception from the members of the Mount Gambier Aero Club, with event organiser Paul Goodman and his lovely wife Sue offering us their car for the weekend. After a beer, we headed into to town for a gorgeous meal at the Commodore Hotel.

The next morning, we were joined by Cessna, showcasing their new 182 (which, suprisingly, has a 100KG smaller payload than the SR22!) and pilots from all over the state in Sportscruisers, Diamonds, Pipers and of course, Cirri, as well as a few C210s.

With FIFi parked up on the grass shining in her fullest glory, I commenced my favourite part of the job: showing people the aircraft and organising demos. With three lined up for Sunday morning, OzRunways commenced their masterclass.

Much to my surprise, Paul had asked me to present a dinner speech for the club's dinner that evening, and, strangely for me who has much room for improvement in the public speaking department, and so I went back to prepare the images and subject Graham to my speech. Having tidied up the images and tightened the speech, we headed out to the aero club and braced ourselves for the usual club fare of tough steak and sausages. Well, may we be struck for tarring all aero clubs with the one stick! Treated to a three course fare that would satisfy any restaurant goer, we feasted on fresh seafood, tender steak and magnificent cheese, swilled down with local wines from the vineyards of
The wonderful chefs of Mount Gambier
some of the club members. Oh, I do SO love aviation events!

After the first course, the crowd were regaled by tales from Horsham Aviation's Tony Brand, a natural public speaker who presented with charm and grace. During the first course, it became apparent that my images were not going to play on the club's projector, and so I sought out Paul and told him it might be better if I abandoned my speech and let people simply enjoy the wine. However, Paul was having none of it, claiming he'd made up a great intro and I was simply to get on with it.

So, with perhaps a little more wine on board than is professional, I shot from the hip and told the story of the careers officer who claimed I was too stupid to learn to fly. Thank goodness for the generosity of the Mount Gambier club members, who were kind enough to offer applause!

After partaking in the very best red the region had to offer, and meeting some of the loveliest pilots in the state, I realised I was getting a little too glassy, and designated driver Bas drove us back for a great night sleep.

The next morning, we were served a breakfast fit for any Sydney cafe, followed by Geoff's very own freshly brewed espresso; I declared Mount Gambier my kind of town. Had it not been for my beautiful demonstrator needing to be flown back to Bankstown, I might have just stayed.

Mount Gambier Aero Club, Cirrus Australia thanks you for your wonderful hospitality; you have set the bar so very high for the rest of the Cirrus Demo Tour!

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