Record-breaking temperatures and severe drought have fuelled some of the worst bush fires in Australian history, with over 30 people killed and hundreds of homes lost. While many in the general aviation community have been involved in rescue, assistance and recovery, there are those who remain asking, ‘what can we do to help?’
Social media has been quick to respond, with a hashtag and Facebook page called #emptyesky. Empty Esky is a movement supporting local businesses affected by bushfires and drought. In an initiative to take food to those impacted by bush fires, the movement encourages people to fill their eskies as donations. On the back of this initiative, the empty esky idea has widened to those pledging to visit, as tourists, the affected towns and villages, spending money by staying in hotels, eating in restaurants and visiting local attractions in an attempt to restimulate devastated communities.
The idea for this article started with a post on the Facebook page Pilots’ Lounge Australia, when AOPA member Doreen Newman suggested the group compile a list of bush fire and drought affected flying destinations that pilots can visit in support of towns rebuilding their communities.
“Lakes Entrance and surrounds has suffered really badly economically,” said Doreen. “The roads either side have been closed on and off since New Years Day and all those that didn’t need to be there were advised to leave on the 29th December. It’s a great destination – easy driving distance to Bruthen & Buchan which were both badly impacted by fires.”
Aircraft owners and private pilots are often seeking places and reasons to fly. Why not make your next $100 hamburger a trip to an affected community? AOPA Australia invites its members to comment, make suggestions and let us know what your regional aviation community needs. The list below is no means exhaustive, but exists as a suggestion of places to fly in order to re-stimulate fire and drought-affected communities.
Of course, it goes without saying, check NOTAMS regarding fires, smoke and haze before flying this season.
East Gippsland, Victoria
A four-hour drive from Melbourne, Lakes Entrance could affectionately described as the ‘Tweed Heads’ of Gippsland. It’s known for its spectacular beaches and lakes, budget-friendly 1960s esplanade motels, mini golf attractions, paddleboats, fish and chips, and ice cream shops.
Bairnsdale (YBNS) AVGAS available 04/22; 1100m 14/32 850m, both bitumen. AvGas and JetA1 available. AD Manager 03 5152 3158
Lakes Entrance (YLKE) – 08/26 1030m grass. Prior permission is required for landing at the field and $10 landing fee. There is a cafe 200m from the strip. Contact Clem Smith on 0417 574456.
Great Lakes (YGRL) 08/26 1180m bitumen; 13/31 670m gravel. Prior permission is required for landing at the field and a landing fee of $15.00 per 1000kg MTOW. Contact Volucer LTD on 0438327435
Orbost (YORB) 07/25 1140m gravel. The Marlo pub has a courtesy vehicle and will come and pick you up. Contact 03 5154 2944
Mallacoota (YMCO) 18/36 1028m bitumen; 07/25 gravel 880m. AvGas and JetA1 available. The airfield is 3nm NE of the town. Contact 03 5154 2944
Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Kangaroo Island is one of the world’s great nature-based destinations, with 509km of coastline – 155km from the east coast to the west coast. With native bushland, wildlife (particularly seals and penguins) adventure & exploring and where pristine beaches, local wines & sunsets are on the doorstep.
Kingscote (YKSC) 01/19 1400m bitumen; 06/24 1130m red gravel; 15/33 1160m red gravel. No fuel available, nearest fuel Aldgina (YADG). Contact
Vivonne Bay (YVOB) 05/23 950m unsealed. Prior permission required, landing fee charged. Check for white crosses indicating airstrip is u/s. Contact the manager on 08 8559 4232.
American River (YJOH) also known as Johnson Airstrip. 03/21 820m grass; 16/32 960m grass; 07/25 860m grass. Prior permission required, contact Dean Johnson on 08 8553 7367
Penneshaw South (Y0V3) 03/21 950m. Contact Glen Willson on email@example.com
NSW South Coast
The South Coast is a region in the Australian state of New South Wales, stretching south from Sydney to the border with Victoria. Its many national parks contain beaches, lagoons and rainforest, and are known for camping, outdoor activities and wildlife. Between May and November migrating whales are visible from land, or on boat trips from places such as Eden and Jervis Bay.
Shell Harbour (YSHL) formally known as YWOL or Illawarra Regional Airport. 16/34 1820m bitumen; 08/26 1330m bitumen. AvGas and Jet A1 available. Contact 02 4221 6116.
Jasper’s Brush (Y0B0) also known as Berry. 06/24 740m grass; 13/31 750m grass. No fuel available. Contact Anthony Boucaut on 0415787223.
Moruya (YMRY) 18/36 1520m bitumen; 05/23 820m sealed gravel. Landing fees apply. Ultralight and parachute ops at field. AvGas and Jet A1 available. Contact 02 4474 1000.
Frog’s Hollow (YFGS) also known as Bega. 01/19 1000m grass; 10/28 650m grass. Lovely club strip in the Bega Valley. Prior permission required, contact Eric Johnston on 02 64949733.
Merimbula (YMER) 03/21 1600m bitumen. AvGas and Jet A1 available. Kiosk open 7 days – best rock cakes in NSW. Contact 02 6495 4211.