Australian Pilot editor Mark Smith reviews a documentary that should inspire even the most jaded aviator, with a story of one pilots dream to recreate history in a small aeroplane.
Voyage of the Southern Sun is a film about a real boy’s-own adventure detailing the round-the-world flight of cinema owner Mike Smith in his two-seat, single-engined flying boat.
While other pilots have made the same trip in single-engined aircraft equipped with the latest electronic navigation systems and autopilots, Mike’s Searey is a purely stick and rudder affair, with hand flying the order of the day. The 7 ½ month odyssey followed visual flight rules the entire way around the world.
The original seed for the trip was Mike’s fascination with the Qantas flying boats that flew the first Australia to England passenger services in the 1930s. Adding to the allure of the trip was the opportunity for the entrepreneurial cinema owner to visit theatres in as many different countries as possible.
Mike’s initial goal was to follow the same route, ending his trip in the United Kingdom. Once he touched down at Southampton at what he thought was the end of the trip, he had the urge (and support of his wife) to keep going across the Atlantic and beyond – all the way back to his home port of Williamstown, Victoria.
Voyage of the Southern Sun is told via a combination of interviews with Mike cut with vision from cameras mounted on the aircraft. It’s obvious there was never a plan to make a film about the trip given the relative scarcity of footage from along the way, but this is actually a good thing because at times documentaries about such undertakings become overburdened with yet another shot of an aeroplane, yacht or car simply travelling.
The great thing about Mike is how simple and down-to-earth he makes the whole trip seem. There is none of the over-the-top cliff-hanging drama and melodramatic recreations of dangerous situations that are seen in other documentaries about long distance flying trips, just a matter of fact description of the journey and his experience. His planning was meticulous, with the goal being to enjoy each place he stopped at.
It’s amazing to note that Mike didn’t seek any sponsorship for the trip and in fact kept what he was doing a closely guarded secret; so much so that his first stop after taking off from Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay was at his mum’s home at Raymond Island in the Gippsland Lakes to tell her of his audacious plan.
This is a must-see documentary for anyone who enjoys flying and adventure.
To arrange to have the film screened at a cinema as an aero club event contact firstname.lastname@example.org