On a high after touching down

Mike Smith returns the RAAF Ensign to Wing Commander Rob Gill, Commanding Officer of 21 Squadron. (Duncan Fenn) 408604_01

Cade Lucas

After more than a month spent flying solo around the country, Michael Smith’s feet are on the ground, but his head is still in the clouds.

“I’m on a bit of a high,” said the pilot and adventurer the day after landing in Point Cook, ending his 44 day circumnavigation of Australia.

The owner of Yarraville’s Sun Theatre and 2016 Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year, Mr Smith’s flight around the country was to commemorate the 100th anniversary of wing commander Stanley James Goble and flight lieutenant Ivor Ewing McIntyre becoming the first people to circumnavigate Australia by plane.

“I feel elated,” said Mr Smith of how the recreation turned out.

“I’ve spent five years working on this. A good adventure starts early with an excel spreadsheet and lots of planning and to then actually do the trip and have it deliver exactly what I was hoping for, was exceptional.”

So exceptional that Mr Smith arrived back at RAAF Base Point Cook on Sunday afternoon at the exact time his predecessors did a century earlier.

“I wanted to be over Point Cook at 2.10pm because I wanted to arrive 100 years to the minute which put a lot of pressure on, but I did pull it off.”

It capped off a journey that Mr Smith kept as close to the original as possible, departing and arriving at same place on the same dates, following the same anti–clockwise route, and stopping at the same places along the way.

However, this was where his and Goble and McIntyre’s experiences began to part.

“I would land on the water where they did a 100 years ago to the day, but whereas they then had to stay on the beach for the night and refuel, I would then take off again and land at the local airport,” said Mr Smith whose amphibious SeaBear L65 aircraft dubbed ‘Southern Sun’ afforded him more flexibility that Goble and McIntyre’s Fairey Mk III D seaplane.

The vast difference in communications was also something Mr Smith appreciated.

“They were so isolated. Once they were gone, they relied on other people seeing them or arriving at their destination to know that they were okay,” he said contrasting it the radio, mobile phone and satellite technology that tracked his journey.

Despite flying up to seven hours per day, Mr Smith said it wasn’t hard to stay focused.

“There was no chance of getting bored because outside my left window was the Australian coast in all its glory,” he said of the landscape just 500 feet below.

“It’s like the difference between driving the Great Ocean Road and driving the Hume Highway. Your senses are heightened because of the surroundings,” said Mr Smith who

nominated the Kimberly and Great Australian Bight as the highlights.

For now, it’s back to running the Sun Theatre for Mr Smith who estimates it’ll be another five years before his next adventure takes off.

“I have some ideas but I’ve got a lot of work to do in the meantime.”

For more information and footage of Michael Smith’s journey, visit: www.southernsun.voyage/