How time flies
Can you believe another year has already flown by and what an eventful one 2018 has been for Wing Threads!
At the beginning of the year, I moved over to Lake Macquarie, NSW, to fly with and work in the factory at Airborne Australia. Thanks to support from Airborne, I was able to build up my flying hours and reached 100 hours solo – a big milestone for every pilot.
In May, I was sponsored by the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council and an anonymous donor. Pooled with money from the crowdfunding campaign in 2017 and a donation from Dick Smith (I even got to go to his house and have a cuppa with him in his office), I was able to afford a new M4 Sport microlight that I had the fortune to help assemble myself! I affectionately call her my ‘little bird’. What a dream come true!
The aircraft was finished and test flown by early August and myself and my project manager, Phil Allen, prepared to set off on our recce trip driving around Australia with the microlight in tow to prepare for Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz, taking-off in March 2019. Our trip would allow me to get experience flying in lots of different places around the country and promote Flight Around Oz. However, three days into the trip I fractured my lower tibia while I was shifting our trailer and it fell on my leg at Caboolture airfield in Queensland!
Determined to push on so that we could to make it to Broome by September in time for the BirdLife Congress and Campout, Phil and I decided to stay an extra week in Brisbane, then skip our visit to far north Queensland and head straight to Darwin. Phil became my full-time chauffeur with me sitting in the back of the Nissan Navara with my legs up on the folded-down front seat. We met with so many lovely people and saw many amazing places on the way. Everywhere we went, people were keen to support Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz. Check out the @wingthreads Instagram feed if you like the photos!
We made it back around to Perth – the place we both call home – in late September. To say I missed flying by this time was an understatement! I took my new little bird out to White Gum Farm near York (about 200kms east of Perth) and my flying instructor, Gordon Marshall, helped me set her up in the hangar. I said goodbye thinking that I would be back in a week or so to start flying again. Little did I know this would be the last time I saw him.
After 6 weeks on the road, I was desperate to have the full leg cast off and get back into flying. I excitedly took myself off to the hospital only to find out that I needed to spend another 5 weeks in a short leg cast! Noooooooo! Then two weeks later, I slipped on the wet bathroom floor while hopping across to get my crutches and broke my right wrist. Gah! This time I needed surgery and was told I would not be able to fly until January. A plate and five screws later, I was unable to drive and laid up in Perth, house-bound with both my arm and leg in casts. Much Netflix ensued…
Things began to improve when the day finally arrived for my leg cast to come off in late October. It was then only a few weeks before I could drive and make my way out to White Gum to go flying with Gordo again. I was counting down the days. In the second-last week of November, I made the difficult decision to postpone the crowdfunding campaign until 2019 and Wing Threads: Flight Around Oz for 12 months given that I needed time to allow my broken limbs to recover fully. I rang Gordo on the Friday to let him know. Then five days later – only three days before I was due to have my arm cast taken off – tragedy struck again.
I was on the bus on my way to get coffee with Phil when I learned that Gordon had taken his own life. I was absolutely devastated. Gordon was more than just my flying instructor, he was my mentor and my friend. He believed in me from the very start and was always there for me. That he had such a huge impact on my life in only three short years says so much about the kind of person he was. I was asked by Gordon’s daughter to give a eulogy alongside his son and closest friends at his funeral. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done but I am so thankful I was able to pay tribute to him. Thank you, Gordo, for your wisdom, your support and your friendship. I still miss you everyday.
Amidst all the injury and grief, there have been many light moments too. At the start of December, I presented via video to the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership’s Tenth Meeting of Partners in Hainan, China. Special thanks to Ding Li and Vivan Fu for helping to organise this. Both of my limbs are also well on the mend thanks to physio and I am all set to be back up in the air in the first week of January. Only 14 more sleeps!!!
So what next? Well, over January I’ll be flying as much as possible out at White Gum before Phil and I head back over east in February in time for Port Philip’s Day By The Bay festivals in Mornington (February 23rd) and Point Cook (March 23rd), being hosted by Remember The Wild. I’ll also be flying in to Avalon Airshow (February 6th – March 3rd) and will have my little bird on display thanks to Recreational Aviation Australia – please come along and say hello! After that, I’ll be returning to NSW to continue flying with Airborne, who have kindly invited me back to fly with them in 2019.
There are so many people I have to thank for where Wing Threads is today and it is impossible to include everyone here in this email, but I must say special thanks to my sponsors Airborne Australia, the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council, Dick Smith, Recreational Aviation Australia, AvPlan and BirdLife Australia. You guys have been so generous and are just awesome! I cannot express enough just how grateful I really am.
I’d also like to thank everyone who has shown their support for myself and Wing Threads throughout 2018. It has been a huge boost receiving your messages, emails, phone calls, words of encouragement and condolences during what have been difficult times – you are all amazing! So it is with a full heart that I wish you all a very merry Stint-mas from Stinta Claus himself! May your holidays be full of joy and fun and I look forward to continuing to share the Wing Threads journey with you in 2019.