Scenic Flight Bunbury
My tummy is churning and my palms are clammy. I’m a wimp. We are going on a truly exciting one hour scenic flight across Bunbury then on down the coast to Cape Naturaliste. I should be counting my blessings, instead I’m an advert for How to Be Pathetic.
In the hangar outside the club room at Bunbury Flying School are tiny planes that I think look like models, fit only for hanging up in bedrooms, and as my tummy lurches again, thoughts of my own soft, still warm bed waft back on the wings of a prayer about wind speeds and thermals. “Please don’t let there be too much turbulence,” I beg to any Deity that might be listening.
Not much chance of that though because outside the wind is ramping up. In the clubhouse we’re invited to have tea or coffee or even some lovely looking chocolate cake. CHOCOLATE CAKE! But this morning it’s the last thing on my mind as I see myself in one of those tiny flying objects waiting out in the hangar. Names like Cessna, de Havilland and Fuji rumble through my mind as I picture old black and white war movies with courageous pilots risking their lives.
“Do you fly?” I ask the office administrator as I watch the orange wind socket dancing in the breeze outside.
“Oh yes!” She enthuses with a big smile. “You can’t work here and not play with the toys. I especially love aerobatics.”
Crikey. I hope they’ll not be any of that over Cape Naturaliste this morning.
We are going to be flying in a Piper Cherokee, a low wing, single door plane. We clamber in over the wing, Dave first, then the pilot and lastly me. There’s enough room for four people, including the pilot and I’m sure if you were on a longer flight the only luggage you’d be allowed would be socks or jocks – not both.
Our pilot is professional, as well as young and good-looking. He seems like someone who knows what he’s doing, someone you’re going to feel safe with.
As we taxi off down the runway I go to slam the door shut, but he calmly instructs me to leave the door open.
I do as I’m told, and try counting backwards from 100 to calm my nerves.
“Umm, shall I close it now?” I ask as he starts revving the engine – or whatever revving is in pilotey terms. “Not yet. I like a bit of a breeze,” he says cool as a cucumber, and I begin to wonder if we have Captain Chaos flying the plane. “It can get a bit stuffy in here,” he continues, and secretly I wonder if perhaps punters, ahem, ‘let off’ with fear as they’re about to take off.
Anyway, I think I’d rather a bit of stuffiness than watch the door flapping in the air at 10,000 feet or whatever, but there you go. I’m not in charge. And as we are about to jet down the runway he calmly leans across and closes the door with a satisfying thud.
Up in the air over Busselton Jetty
“Headsets on?” He asks. “Oh and by the way, you need to practically eat the microphone in order to be heard.” Point taken. I decide that the little microphone will see my tonsils if I need to say anything important – like, ‘Can we go down now?”
“Seatbelts on?” We nod. I have strapped myself in rigidly and am now gripping my camera so tightly that I think I might be claiming on the insurance Monday morning.
A rush of adrenaline sweeps through my veins as we motor down the runway, faster, faster and then whoosh, we’re airborne like a little gnat being buffeted about by the wind. I pretend that I’m with the kids and imagine it’s a Disneyland simulator ride, but I’m aware that I have absolutely no control and no way of getting out, and I know this is really for real and the earth really is dipping away from us very rapidly and that they’ll be no hostess service or glass of wine to ease my panic when we reach cruising height.
The view from the sky is nothing short of amazing. I guess you get used to it if you fly in a small aircraft time and time again, but the perspective is astonishing. We fly along the coast to Busselton and then dip down low over the 1.8km timber jetty which from the air looks like a thin strip of ribbon cast out to the ocean. At Dunsborough expensive yachts bob in a turquoise sea and we soar over Bunker Bay where the pilot reliably informs us that a surfer was chomped by a shark a few weeks ago. I begin to look out for large shadowy swimming objects, just in case we end up in the drink.
Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and Sugar Loaf
I become entranced with the views, taking photos is a priority and lo and behold my mind slowly lets my body relax. When we fly around Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse and Sugar Loaf and the gorgeous cliffs and beaches around Yallingup, I realize that I’m not sweating anymore and my breathing is quite normal. Not, that I would do this for a living you understand, but I begin to enjoy the experience – especially because …ok I have to say it – because we have turned for home.
Now I’m being really brave. Snapping pics here, snapping pics there. Even moving around in my seat a little, reassured that I won’t be the one to tip the plane and thus descend into an out of control loop-the-loop. I also manage to have a little chat into the microphone without munching the whole thing. The sky is blue, the sea is aquamarine, the scenery is amazing. This is actually super cool fun. “Look, there’s our house!” I exclaim. “Oh, and the airport, it’s just over there. Wow, this is incredible. Oh no, look at the time, it’s all going way too fast!”
Within a few minutes we are descending like a mosquito with wheels until we gently touch down on the runway. Too easy!
I resist the urge to hug our pilot, but he can see my delight in the Cheshire cat grin that is spreading from ear to ear. And he’s a gem. “Sorry about the turbulence today. You did very well. Some people can be nervous or feel sick,” he says kindly. Did I detect a wink?
“Me nervous? Buahaha!” I fib. “Thank you. It was a wonderful experience.”
Yip, I have to admit. A scenic flight sure is a great way to spend a Saturday morning.
Bunbury Flying School is based at Bunbury Aiport and has nine aircrafts in the fleet including Cessnas, a Piper Arrow, Vulcan Air Partnavia, and the Fuji Subaru or Nanchang-Warbird which are approved for aerobatic training – if your idea of fun is to do loops and rolls and wing-overs over Bunbury.
Scenic flights start at around $40 per person (based on three persons) with a thirty minute trip around Bunbury, and longer flights heading south start from around $90. You might choose to have a trial instructional flight or even regular flying lessons and go on to obtain your GFPT licence which would cost about $4045 with a minimum of 20 hours flying time required. If you’re just interested in planes, then the Friday night barbecue at the clubhouse is a good way to meet like-minded people.
For further information call (08) 9725 4145 or visit www.bunburyflyingschool.com