Accessible outback travel by air
Has Accessibility always been a problem when you think about travelling to the Australian Outback?
Australia is a HUGE country. It can be difficult to get around, and it’s not the most accessible place. We’ve got more than 34,000km of coastline. To drive from one side to the other (Perth to Brisbane) takes more than 45 hours. We’ve got massive expanses of desert, mountains and dry lakes than stretch as far as the eye can see. On many days during summer, Australia is home to the top ten hottest places on the planet. It’s a pretty intense place out there in central Australia.
But despite all this, travelling the Australian outback is more accessible than ever. Here’s why.
1. There are accessible airstrips everywhere
We’re not kidding when we say they’re everywhere. Nearly every remote town in the country has something you can set a plane down on. In some places it’s 1,700 m of sealed bitumen, such as Birdsville, Queensland. In others it’s about half that distance of gravel or clay, such at Lake Mungo Lodge, New South Whales. And sometimes it’s just a local road or clearing, like the Royal Flying Doctor Service occasionally have to use. There are more than 1,000 listed aircraft landing areas or aerodromes in the country, and countless more that aren’t listed or aren’t publicly accessible.
Aircraft can be used to get you almost anywhere in Australia, and more often than not you’re able to land directly at your destination. Remote locations often rely on aircraft to bring in supplies and assist in emergencies, so, if you’re going somewhere that’s hard to access by road, you can be almost certain it’s easily accessible by air.
2. Air conditioning
Tried living in a coastal city without air conditioning? It can be pretty bad during summer. How about in central Australia without air conditioning? It can be dangerous. Air conditioning, both in aircraft and cars, has made travelling throughout Australia not only comfortable but also safe. When the mercury sits up in the high 40s, not having air conditioning can turn vehicles into ovens. Thankfully, since the turn of the century, it’s almost impossible to purchase cars that don’t have at least a half-decent AC. That’s certainly not the case for aircraft though, and air conditioning remains an optional extra on many smaller aircraft, including Piper Navajos + Chieftains.
Kirkhope Aviation’s Piper Navajo, Chieftain and Beechcraft King Air are fitted with air conditioning specifically because we love visiting outback Australia, and we’re always keen to get the engine going so we can ‘crank her up!’ Once we get to altitude it’s typically 15-20 degrees colder than on the ground, but air conditioning keeps the first and last few minutes of any flight comfortable for both our pilots and more importantly our guests.
3. Technology in aviation
The past 30 years has seen huge advances in aviation, with satellite navigation systems such as GPS becoming a primary means of navigation for even small aircraft. When travelling through featureless areas, such as the Australian outback, GPS guidance removes the need to track via ground based navigation aids that might require a diversion off the most direct track. It also provides approach guidance at more locations, allowing landings in poor weather at even the most remote airports.
Advanced tracking systems such as ADSB, improved radio communication coverage and better search and rescue capability provides an even stronger safety net for those visiting isolated destinations. Whilst emergencies remain rare, communicating these with traffic control and dispatching assistance is quicker and more efficient than ever.
The result of all these improvements is that we can fly more direct, quicker and with greater payloads. Above all, we can do it safely thanks to dramatic improvements in technology.
4. Regional development
Successive state and federal governments have been pouring money into development of remote locations, improving roads access, telecommunications and local services. Birdsville is in the process of having a fibre link put in, William Creek now has mobile reception and only a few years back Birdsville had its airport upgraded. Although we’re all for going off the beaten track to locations that don’t have these modern conveniences (Muloorina Station being a favourite), guests and pilots alike always appreciate a well maintained bathroom at the local airport, or getting a message from home.
We can only hope that this will continue in the coming years to make the Australian Outback more accessible!
5. The people you’ll meet
The days where you had to be as rough as Crocodile Dundee to survive in Outback Australia are gone, and overwhelmingly outback locals are some of the most welcoming and hospitable people you’ll come across. Our hosts at destinations go out of their way to accommodate guests, and whether its a dietary requirement or a need for special assistance, they’re willing to help. The fact that they’re a long way from anywhere else doesn’t stop them from ensuring that you have an amazing stay.
The outback really has become a place where anyone can visit, no matter their age or ability.
Think you’ve got a reason we missed? We’d love to know about it – we’re always discovering new things in our own back yard, even after 40 years of air touring.
Ready to pay a visit yourself? Our Taste of the Outback Tour is the perfect introduction to travelling in Outback Australia!
Hans was an absolutely terrific pilot, and we were very pleased by two wonderful flights! The journey back down to Melbourne today was particularly special, what a morning to fly!! Your service has been excellent, and I have no hesitation to use and recommend you in the future.