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Outback Air Race - Thanks! (warning - VERY photo heavy)

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Firstly, let me apologise for the image-heavy nature of this post. Hopefully you'll think it's worth it!!

You may remember that a few weeks ago, I posted on this forum to thank both Orbx and Flight Sim Store for their kind donations to the RFDS in support of an event that I was taking part in - the 2012 Outback Air Race. If you do remember that, you may also recall that I promised to provide a bit of info about the trip once I returned, so here it is!!

I will try to keep the words brief since the pictures should paint 1,000 words (and besides, I'm doing a full write-up for the Jan/Feb edition of Australian Flying Magazine).

On Sunday 15th September, we arrived back to a busy Jandakot airport, having almost circumnavigated Australia with 18 other aircraft in the race. In all, we travelled over 11,000km (roughly equivalent to London to Singapore) and landing at a range of strips from 2km long international airport runways to worryingly short, narrow gravel strips with nasty crosswinds, windshear and downdrafts. The race itself was from Ceduna, SA to Darwin, NT and our GPS track for that part of the trip is shown below. We're based in Perth, WA, so we also had to fly the aircraft from there to Ceduna and from Darwin back to Perth.

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We met some fascinating characters along the way, including retired RAAF and British Airways pilots, farmers, lawyers, business owners and entertainers. Our route, and our trusty Cessna 182T (VH-JNE) took us over endless salt lakes, gorges, rivers, deserts, farms, forests, cities and mountain ranges at all levels from 500ft along the coast to above the clouds at 9,500ft. I flew with a friend of mine, Peter Kneale. In the photo below, Pete's on the left and I'm on the right. We shared the flying 50:50.

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(credit to Alan Hill for this photograph)

Whilst the trip was a lot of fun, we were also there to raise money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Thanks to Orbx and FlightSim Store's donations (along with those from a few other kind folks), team Superfly (Pete and I) sailed through our target of AU$12,000 and the race participants collectively raised over a quarter of a million dollars for the RFDS.

To top that success, we also won!! The race winners are awarded for locating and flying the closest to the nominated visual start and finish points, and travelling from start to finish as close as possible to your estimated elapsed time – see the picture below of aircraft crossing a start point (Langlo Crossing - the bridge over the river, near Charleville, QLD). The competition was stiff, with many of the participants arriving within a few seconds of their estimated time over 2hr legs!

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So, once again thanks to everyone that supported us, and here are the pics!

Day 1 - everything seemed to be going really well. We packed up the plane, said our goodbyes, jumped in and turned the ignition ... nothing happened! A quick jump start of our flat battery was required!! A bad omen?

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We departed Jandakot into fairly gloomy skies. The forecast was for deteriorating weather, so we were pleased to get things going and get out of there!

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Having dodged showers across the Perth hills, we headed out into the West Australian Wheatbelt where the weather started to clear and the clouds started to lift.

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Being the first leg, and a rapid transition from civilisation to desert, this felt like the most adventurous part of the trip. Leaving the Wheatbelt, the landscape turned quickly to salt lakes and scrub.

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Finally, arriving in Kalgoorlie on day 1 and looking down into the SuperPit in the circuit, we really felt like the adventure had begun.

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Across the Nullarbor, it was a little rough under the clouds and they were broken enough that we could get a positive visual fix on the ground every 30 mins, so we scooted up on top into smooth air at 9,500ft.

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Forrest Airport. I think this was the most amazing place we visited. It's in the middle of the Nullarbor (middle of nowhere) and is apparently maintained as an emergency landing site for the major Australian airlines.

Seemed a bit odd to find such a big airport serving a 'town' with a population of 2!

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This is Forrest at ground level.

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And as you can see, there's not much traffic!

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Forrest 'town' - supplies arrive by train once a week, but apart from that most of the visitors here are pilots travelling across the country and looking for somewhere to stop for the night, or somtimes just to refuel.

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As you can see, there's not much to see over the Nullarbor...

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Until you get to the coast!

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We flew at low level for a little bit along the Great Australian Bight, but saw hundreds of whales so popped back up to a more 'neighbourly' altitude. This is Pete flying.

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Coming into Ceduna, the weather was again not great - a bit of weaving around the weather and we only got caught in the rain once!

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At the start. One of the RFDS PC12s happened to turn up just as we were all getting ready to head off on the first leg, allowing us a bit of a group photo opportunity.

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South Australia was spectacular, as we crossed first several of the large salt lakes west of the Flinders Ranges, this one being Lake Gairdner.

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The lakes were closely followed by Wilpena Pound, a natural rock amphitheatre, and a very busy airspace with our 18 aircraft orbiting 'the Pound' as well as local sightseeing flights and a bunch of gliders nearby.

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And then we arrived at Arkaroola. This was the trickiest strip of the trip, at 650m long, gravel and uphill. Of course this was also the only day we had a 15-20 knot crosswind and rough thermals on short final! Several people elected to land elsewhere (Balcanoona) but we were able to get safely into Arkaroola.

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The next three shots are of Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary, which I highly recommend visiting, and their ridgetop 4wd tour is fascinating, if perhaps a little precarious.

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Each day during the race, we were given a morning briefing with information about that day's weather and destination. This is the briefing for Innamincka.

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En-route to Innamincka, we crossed the Strzelecki Desert. These ridges are very clearly depicted on the Australian aviation charts!

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After leaving Innamincka, some of the race participants elected to visit the Dig Tree (see http://en.wikipedia....on#The_Dig_Tree for a bit of Australian History). Amazingly, there's nothing there but a tree, and an enormous airstrip!

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Some of the formations in the land around this area between Innamincka and Charleville were just bizarre - almost like they've been drawn onto the landscape.

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This is also Channel Country, so named for the numerous rivulets that criss-cross the region.

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Luckily (or perhaps unluckily) for us, we won the leg from Innamincka to Charleville. When you win the leg, you actually win a leg. It's a hollow mannekin's leg that has been painted gold and dressed up, which you are obliged to have on your person at all times until the next leg winner is announced. The leg is used as a receptacle for donations, and whichever team collects the most whilst the leg is in their charge is awarded at the end of the race. This leg almost caused me to be arrested in Charleville, but that's a another story!

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Another interesting riverscape:

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As you can see, we were not short of technology! Including our mobile phones, I think we were carrying 7 GPS devices in total. Amazingly, whilst airborne we had good 3G mobile phone coverage for the entire route with the exception of the Kimberley coast in WA. It's fascinating where you can access Facebook from these days!

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After Charleville came Longreach, and you can see here all of the race aircraft crossing the finish line (the Ilfracombe Racetrack Grandstand) at various altitudes, some more accurately positioned than others. The start and finish points were a variety of visual points, including a few homesteads and mining camps - I can't help but wonder what the people living in those places thought as 18 aircraft flew over in short succession.

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Those who read my posts on my virtual FTX journey along most of the race route might recognise this. It's the Qantas Founders' Museum at Longreach airport. OZx have done a great job of this strip, including the static 747 and 707 displays.

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As you can see from the next picture, not all of the arrivals into Longreach were exactly 'standard'!

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Some folks took a 747 'wing walk' at the Qantas Founders' Museum - not something you can do in too many places.

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I got my moment in the 747 captain's seat, which put a smile on my face. It was a slightly different perspective looking out of that window to that which we got out of the 182 window on the ground - apart from that, very similar really!

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The landscape started to become more rugged as we continued up North toward Cloncurry. In Cloncurry we had an amazing reception from the locals, who put on a charity auction for us in their newly constructed community precinct.

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... and onwards up over the Barkly Tableland after leaving Cloncurry.

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Adel's Grove was a pretty spot. A typical arrival involved putting the planes to bed, and then trying to ferry almost 50 people to their accommodation. On some days this process was very quick, but on others it could take quite some time.

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Most of us chose to swim at Adel's Grove, despite the warnings! We were well within the tropics and so the water provided a welcome reprieve from the tropical heat.

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Leaving Adel's Grove, we made a fundamental mistake - we forgot to turn our race GPS on! The race GPS devices logged our position every second, providing the information required to score the event. So, 30 minutes into the flight we made a few fuel calculations, did some quick re-planning, and flew back overhead Adel's Grove to start the leg again!

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The 'Great Wall of China', according to our charts:

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We stopped in Booroloola for fuel, and just as we were turning crosswind on departure we were lucky (or again, perhaps unlucky) enough to witness one of these 4,000ft high dust-devils.

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From Booroloola we decided to follow the Gulf of Carpenteria coast up to Mataranka, rather than take a direct inland route. The race rules allow diversions for sightseeing, as long as you take it into consideration in your estimate. This whole area was spectacular, and very remote. Pictures don't really do it justice, but here are 4!

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From the coast into Mataranka were some large bushfires, with visibility forecast to be below VMC at times.

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We were fortunate not to have less than about 8km visibility. However, a few of the other racers reported having to u-turn on instruments after losing sight of the ground. Not a good position to be in.

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Fortunately, everyone made it through OK and we were treated with a spectacular sunset in Mataranka!

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One thing I realised is that whilst much of the country is spectacular from the air, some places are even more spectacular seen from the ground. This is Katherine Gorge, between Mataranka and Darwin. I kayaked through the gorge several years ago, and I have to admit that in some ways that was more of an amazing experience than flying over it.

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Darwin, the race finish, was shrouded in smoke. In fact, visibility across much of the north of the country was very variable. The controllers at Darwin did a fantastic job getting all 18 of our aircraft in, one landing every 3 minutes on the cross runway, with both heavy civilian and fast military traffic coming and going on the main runway! Unfortunately, this was where we had our only major mechincal issue - the battery died completely and needed replacing. As it was Sunday, we were stuck for an extra night in Darwin. Luckily the race had finished so it didn't affect our ability to compete (and win!!).

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Crossing back into Western Australia from Darwin, the coastline was similar to that which we'd flown over along the Gulf of Carpenteria, but what you can't see in this photo is the mountains on the other side of the aircraft!

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The Kimberley is a very rugged and remote place. Flying through this region between the West Australian border and Broome was the only part of the trip where the only option for a forced landing was 'close eyes and hope'!! There is very little flat land, everything is covered in trees, and there aren't even any roads across much of the area.

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Home Valley Station, near Wyndham offered probably the most spectacular view from an airstrip of our little adventure. This was where the movie, 'Australia' was filmed.

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Leaving Home Valley Station, we climbed up ...

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... and decided to fly reasonably low through the Cockburn ranges, following the road to Kununurra. What a great way to get a different perspective on these mountains. For anyone who looks at any of this on a map, this was a short back-track from Home Valley Station to pick up fuel to get us across the rest of the Kimberley.

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Kununurra is incredibly green due to irrigation from the Ord river system. A little oasis in the desert.

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Across the Kimberley, we visited Mitchell Falls...

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... the coast ...

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... Mount Trafalgar ...

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(and here you can see the route of our little scenic tour of Mount Trafalgar!)

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... the Horizontal Waterfall - which wasn't really 'falling' due to the tidal range being only 1m that day instead of the 9m that it reaches at the right time of the cycle ...

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... and Cape Leveque for lunch!

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Actually, Cape Leveque was a great place to stop, with a nice long runway, a good restaurant and a short walk to the beach for a swim.

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From Cape Leveque we continued down the coast to Broome, with the famous Cable Beach shown in this shot. A fairly long day of flying from Home Valley Station via Kununurra, but worth every minute to see an area that is only accessible by air or boat.

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After a couple of nights in Broome, we departed, passed over the mangroves of Dampier Creek ...

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... and followed 80 mile beach for ...

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... well, 80 miles!

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Into the Pilbara and things changed dramatically - Australia's economic powerhouse at work!

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A challenge to you to spot these on Google Maps! Hint - they're near Karratha ...

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... and not too far from Dampier. Don't worry, not too many more pics - we're nearly back to Perth!

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Another facility along the Pilbara coast:

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Somewhere along the Pilbara coast:

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Skirting the bottom of the Exmouth Gulf, we experienced the worst turbulence of the trip. The autopilot wasn't up to the job of holding heading or altitude and we had to slow down significantly to protect the airframe (and our heads!). I'm very surprised we managed to get the horizon level in this shot.

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The Ningaloo reef (Australia's 'other' barrier reef) provided for some great water scenery over Coral Bay.

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Turning tightly to join the circuit to land and spend a night in Coral Bay. This is another great spot to fly into because you can walk into 'town' and snorkel over coral straight off the beach.

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The reef actually runs from the top of the Exmouth Cape about three quarters of the way to Carnarvon.

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As the reef narrows, the deep water ends up closer to the shore but the waves are still breaking onto the reef. This is a spot called 3 mile camp at Gnaraloo Station, a very famous surfing and windsurfing location.

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Near Carnarvon, where we had a quick fuel stop, there wasn't so much in the way of coral, but interesting patterns in the water nonetheless, made even more so by the clouds which were the first of any significance that we'd seen in almost two weeks!

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Approaching Shark Bay airport, we passed over Monkia Mia - known for its dolphins (not for its Monkeys) ...

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... and some more interesting patterns in the earth.

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After leaving Shark Bay, we followed the Zuytdorp Cliffs along the outside of Shark Bay down to Kalbarri.

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Passing Kalbarri, this unusual Pink Lake marked a change from mostly uninhabited scrub to the arable and pastoral lands of the West Australian Wheatbelt.

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After stopping in Geraldton for a final fuel stop (and of course finding that because it was Sunday there was nobody at the airport to provide us with fuel, and therefore having to pay a callout fee!), we overflew The Pinnacles, strange rock formations dotted across a very yellow (and quite small) desert.

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Finally, we passed Wedge Island ...

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... Lancelin ...

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... and Rottnest Island - our local $100 hamburger spot. Well, actually probably more like a $300 hamburger these days!

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Finally, we arrived back in Jandakot and after two failed attempts to enter the circuit due to the tower trying to manage two inbound IFR PC12s and a lot of VFR traffic, we made it home.

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For anyone who has made it this far, thanks for coming along on the journey with me! I wasn't completely convinced that it was going to help but flying much of the route in the FTX world before leaving was actually very helpful - a credit to the fantastic work that the team has done over the last few years.

Where to next?

Ed.

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Fantastic post Ed!! Great stuff mate, wonderful photos and an informative commentary. I look forward to your writeup in Australian Flying, and congrats again on exceeding your fundraising target!

Cheers,

Derek

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Congratulations on winning! Great news to hear that you exceeded your goal in getting the donations together - and thaks a lot for this fantastic journal of your trip!

Cheers

Mallard

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Magnificent post Ed ... great to hear the race all went well, and that you readily achieved your objectives.

Your photo coverage is awesome. I have visited over the years, pretty well all of the sites you featured , and it was really good to see a lot of them from the air.

The quality of your shots is indeed excellent - brought back a lot of great memories.

I followed your virtual precursor with interest up until your computer problem ....... but the real thing was indeed more spectacular ..... must have been a wonderful experience.

Well done , and thanks for sharing.

Cheers mate.

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Fantastic photos, such a great story and for such a good cause. You are to be congratulated.

Totally different scenery than I am used to in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks,

Tom Hibben

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what a great trip, and well documented for this forum (limited space) Thanks so much for sharing this great journey with us.. any chance of zipping the pix and comments up and posting them for download? I would love to keep a copy. Teecee.

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Amazing pictures and story. Congratulations and thanks for posting.

Australia is certainly a fantastic looking place and is at the top of my list of places to visit.

I was fascinated by the SuperPit near Kalgoorlie so I went for a quick flight in FSX to find that Orbx have done an awesome rendition of it in their Australian scenery

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The typography - amazing, the splashes of color - never ending, the photos - superb. Thx for letting us Yanks have a glimps of your expansive and captivating land down there.

Clutch

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That's was, I can only assume, an absolutely amazing journey. Thanks so much for the pics and commentary and I look forward to seeing your article in AF mag. Glad FSS was able to help you get past that donation goal too. Spectacular work!

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Jay Kae said it just above! Thanks heaps for sharing these spectacular pictures. You're a lucky guy to have done this trip. Congratulations on taking part and on doing so well. It's hard to believe that some of those were photos. I knew Australia had some pretty spectacular scenery, but that's just crazy. I had a little chuckle to myself when I saw image #6, as I've been doing HEAPS of editing of photoreal areas for fsx in the past few weeks, with limited success, and that image looks like one of my attempts to cut and paste an unprocessed portion of photo onto a heavily coloured and saturated background. :lol:

Cheers,

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Thanks everyone - I'm glad you enjoyed the pics. I would strongly recommend a trip like this to anyone. When we signed up for it we had no idea how we were going to be able to afford it, get the time off work, find a decent plane to take, raise money etc. It's easy to think of reasons not to do something but once you're committed to it, you just find a way!

Teecee, if you PM me with your e-mail address, I'm sure I can work out some way of zipping it all up for you and e-mail it to you, although probably not the full size original images as the file size would be huge. If you (or anyone else for that matter) would like a copy of any of the full size pics, just PM me and I'll e-mail it.

Cheers,

Ed.

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Why am I just now seeing this? Excellent story and photos. Looks to be an amazing trip. I wish i could do something like that. I guess I'll just stick to my ORBX ! I've been meaning to get back into my AU stuff, thanks for that!

You guys sure look like you're on top of things with the electronics. Not something you'll forget soon.

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Yep.... stunning! The colors downunder are just a pallet of wonder. A trip of a lifetime. Thx for the superb photos. Some of those airports would make excellent "Orbies" down the road.

Clutch

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Yes ... I'll just repeat what everyone else has already said ...

What a great "journey" you have taken us on with your photos and captions. Wonderful, fantastic, awesome. Great stuff. It's why we fly!

Thankyou for taking the time to post those photos and provide the captions. Just brilliant!

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Thanks folks for the renewed interest in this, and I'm glad a few people read the article in Australian Flying - not sure if you noticed the subtle Orbx plug!?

For anyone who's interested in flying around Australia, you might like a a little video we put together of the trip:

Thanks,

Ed.

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Mate, that would have been one amazing trip! I would love to enter something like that when I do get my PPL, although I do not know I will be able to afford it haha.

Thanks for the pictures, really enjoyed reading through this post, and will have to go pick up an Aus flying magazine to read your article.

Cheers,

Ollie

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Fantastic Ed.........................Thanks so much for this post. As one who has never been to Austrailia, this almost the next best thing....Thanks again....Look forward to the next Journey..............................


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