AOPA members Mike Allsop and Andrew Andersen met in the mid 90s while working at PA Consulting Group in Sydney. Both have owned aircraft and are travelling on the AOPA Kimberley safari in Andrew’s Cessna 182S, VH-OPA.
Mike has been a private pilot since 1970, and maintains a PIFR and NVFR rating. A member of Sydney Flying Club, Mike has served on the board for many years, and is also a member of Central Coast Aero Club. “Flying for me has always been about the enjoyment of sharing the experince with friends and family and discovering new places,” Mike says. “I also enjoy club activities such as competitions, short fly-outs and longer flyaway safaris. To me private aviation is a “professional recreation” requiring keeping well and truly up to date not only in the various aircraft and their systems but the entire operating and industry environment.”
Andrew has been flying for 40 years and holds a Command Instrument Rating. With a life-long love of aviation, he has spent the last 30 years flying for private business purposes, including, for three-quarters of that time, commuting between Bankstown and a rural business in which he was involved. But there’s also been plenty of time for flying for fun – Sunday mornings to Moruya for a swim, glorious flights down low up and down the NSW coast; holidays all over the country and last year, a trip to New Zealand and back for the IAOPA World Assembly. “I lived in the USA in the 80s and was fortunate enough to be able to fly there,” says Andrew. “There I bought my first aeroplane, a Piper Archer. So I guess you could say that flying has been a major part of my life.”
Both have enjoyed the experience of aircraft ownership, with Mike enjoying the customisation of his aircraft. “With your own aircraft you can tailor its setup just as you want it, “he says. “Anything from avionics to upholstery and paint scheme is up to you, including various engine management systems to provide a familiar environment to operate in efficiently. It is also there when you want it, and you are intimately familiar with its service history, maintenance requirements etc for peace of mind.”
For Andrew, the big-picture joy comes from successfully doing something oneself. “It’s the sense of achievement that comes from taking care of a special machine, having it ready to go when needed, and then flying it somewhere for some purpose safely and efficiently,” he says. “Private flying is all about flexibility – being able to respond to a business opportunity in a country town on short notice; fabulous holidays along the length of the Western Australian coast; or seeing Lake Eyre in a long weekend. These aren’t things you can do any other way. The aeroplane is there, waiting for you, its owner, to come up with a plan to take it somewhere.”
It was Mike who approached Andrew about the safari, and along with Mike’s wife Kerrie, none have visited the Kimberleys before. As both pilots enjoy the navigational aspect of aviation, they have already met for one planning session. “On a big trip, you tend to plan from the macro to the micro,” Mike tells me. “After seeing the general idea of the safari, you can determine whether the combination of the destinations, route, ground activities, and operating logistics are right for you and your proposed passengers. You plan leg by leg, considering constraints such as range, fuel availability, landing permissions, ground logistics etc, to say nothing of passenger comfort. The old adage of the long range aircraft with the short range pilot holds very true. It is also good to keep the flying time per day to a reasonable level. Even if the pilot or pilots are having a ball, the passengers need to be kept within their tolerance limits of journey time and general comfort. If you can reach a destination around the middle of the day you can enjoy it and not get over tired. On long trips, there needs to be non-flying days planned as well, which removes the old bugbear of one-night stands and all the logistics that go with it.”
As the owner of the aircraft undertaking this trip, Andrew puts the planning focus on maintenance. “To me, the starting point is making sure that all maintenance tasks are completed before the safari, so that there will be no (or at least, minimal) interruptions once the journey has commenced,” he says. “For me, this time, that will mean a fresh 50-hourly and casting a few experienced eyes over the whole aircraft so that anything that might cause problems on the air safari is resolved before departure. At the same time, the operational aspects of the trip need to be considered: positioning for the start and end of the safari; where fuel can be purchased; weight and balance; a review of the aerodromes and airstrips to be used; VHF coverage; flight rules; expected seasonal weather; comfort considerations, including flight times and durations, refreshments and the space.
“The great thing about this air safari is that someone else is doing organising all the mundane tasks!” Andrew continues. “Hotels, tours, and all the research that requires. That leaves the participants free to look forward to memorable time in the air, meeting and mixing with other crews, relaxing evenings and taking in the sights. Although I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Kimberley before, there are several destinations and flight legs that I have never done – so that, especially, is very exciting. Drysdale River Station, Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, the Aboriginal rock art near Kalumburu – these will all be wonderful new experiences for me, and even more so in good company with friends and aeroplanes.”
With both Andrew and Mike long-term members of AOPA, both men are supporters of the organisation’s advocacy. “I joined AOPA in 1971,” says Mike. “For me AOPA has always been the voice of general aviation in its representations to the regulator and governments in matters of concern to us as a sensible community. It has also provided interesting and relevant commentary on industry developments as they emerge as well as providing various services and information of interest. It needs the power of numbers to be heard, yet needs to present a measured, well considered and professional approach to the issues of the day. I think it is doing a splendid job.”
Andrew agrees that AOPA exists to represent general aviation’s point of view. “Over many years, the association has been prominent in its advocacy; it doesn’t always get what it wants, but the very fact that AOPA exists forces other aviation industry stakeholders – regulator, airlines, ANSP – to consider GA’s interests,” he says. “That’s a huge benefit that can only come from belonging. The other great benefit the AOPA provides is information and communication. The online magazine and web site are terrific!”
The AOPA Australia Air Safari departs in August for a 14-night adventure across the Kimberleys. While this fly-away is fully booked, there are limited places left on the Great Barrier Reef safari. Please register your interest here