Why the Piper Chieftain is our choice of aircraft for Outback Air Touring
Often I've had questions from guests before a tour about the aircraft they'll be spending time in while Outback Air Touring. They tend to fall into two categories, either they're worried about travelling on an aircraft smaller than an airliner or they want to know a bit more about how comfortable the aircraft is and how much they'll see. It's the answer to both of these questions that makes the Piper Chieftain the best choice for touring Outback Australia by air.
Concerns about a smaller aircraft
For some of those making the decision to travel with us, taking a step down from an airliner Outback Air Touring can be uncomfortable. It's something out of the ordinary, the noises are different and you'll see everything that's going on up the front. You might not of heard of a Piper Chieftain, in the same way that you've heard about a Boeing or an Airbus. Sometimes the fear of the unknown is unsettling however, with a little information on what you're getting into, easily overcome.
The Piper Chieftain is an American designed and manufactured aircraft that's been a work-horse of the Australian aviation industry for over many years. Powered by two 350hp flat-six Lycoming engines, the Chieftain's reliability is among the best in it's class. For the same reason as with larger airliners, twin-engine aircraft add an extra layer of security and performance. Our Chieftains are equipped with modern avionics equipment including satellite weather information, airborne weather radar and GPS guidance systems. It's also perfectly suited to Outback Air Touring operations into unsealed airstrips such as those at Innamincka or Muloorina Station, with re-engineered gear and flap systems to optimize performance for approach and landing in shorter distances.
Add to this your pilot up the front with many hours of flying experience and you've got a fantastic platform for outback touring. On the safety side of things, the accident rate for this category of aircraft is unbelievably small, in fact the most dangerous part of your journey will be the drive to the airport, prior to departure.
As part of every tour we encourage passengers to spend time in the co-pilot's seat, something guests tell us is invaluable in demonstrating just how safe and reliable these aircraft are. You've also got the best seat in the house, with an uninterrupted view out the front.
Will I be comfortable?
In a bit of a paradox, there's more space in our Piper Chieftain for each passenger than you'd find an airliner. Configured in club (seats facing each other) for seven passengers, you'll be able to stretch out your legs with ease. The aircraft feature leather seating along with full air conditioning and heating. Conversation is also easily conducted in the cabin without headsets. On all of our tours we tend to limit even the longest sector to a touch over two hours - just long enough for you to settle into your seat without getting restless. Whilst we might lack a dedicated flight attendant, every flight is still catered with snacks and drinks available for our guests.
Looking out of the windows, you'll notice that they are much larger than an airliner and wrap around the entire aircraft, providing a panoramic view from every seat. It's this clear view of the horizon that prevents air-sickness and provides are more comfortable experience, not to mention a perfect view of what you really came to see, be it Lake Eyre or the rugged west coast of Tasmania.
Still want to know more?
We're proud of our fleet and welcome visits to our hangar during office hours. Whether you're looking at joining one of Outback Air Tours or just want to know more about these fantastic machines, we're always happy to share a coffee, show you around the hangar and inside the aircraft. Call us on 1300 20 61 30 to arrange a visit or drop us an email at [email protected]
About the author
Nick Stobie is one of Kirkhope Aviation's touring Chieftain pilots, and loves introducing guests to Outback Air Touring and private air travel. He regularly hosts our Taste of the Outback tours throughout the year.