On January 5, we made the 1,228 NM (1,412 SM) flight from Brisbane/YBBN to Ayers Rock/YAYE.
The weather was good and the flight uneventful other than the dramatic change in the landscape below us. From the coastal area of Brisbane, across a rainforest, and then into the aptly named Red Centre of central Australia. Other than Antarctica, I can not recall flying over a more remote and starkly beautiful landscape than the red tinted deserts of central Australia.
Being from Texas, we like to brag about how big everything is in our home state, especially ranches. Well, even the largest Texas ranches are puny in comparison to the cattle "stations" in Australia. The largest station in Australia is Anna Creek at 5,850,000 acres or about seven times the size of the largest ranch in Texas and larger than the entire country of Israel. There are around ten stations with 3,000,000 acres or more. It is hard to humble a Texan, but the vastness of Australia comes close.
The remoteness extends to aviation as well. Uncontrolled airspace (Class G) extends from the surface to flight level 180 (18,000 FT) in most of central Australia. Below FL180, IFR is cancelled and you are on your own.
The Ayers Rock airport is unusual in that it is uncontrolled (no ATC control tower), has no instrument approaches (VFR only), yet has several airline flights with large jets daily. As we arrived, an airline B737 was taxiing out for departure. Although we were more than 40 NM away from the airport, the airliner said they could not depart until they had us in sight on the downwind leg. I have never heard an airline with that sort of requirement, but I have never operated at an uncontrolled VFR-only airport with 18,000 FT of Class G airspace above that also has airline traffic.
Of course, the main objective of the stop at Ayers Rock was visiting the iconic Uluru (also known as Ayers Rock) which we did at sunrise on January 6.
We visited Uluru almost 14 years ago with our kids, but I must say it was worth the second trip and waking-up at 0430 local to see how the color of the reflected light from "The Rock" changed as the sun rose.
After two nights at Ayers Rock, we head to Singapore on January 7 with a quick overnight stop in Broome, Australia. The big excitement for the short stay in Broome is we have been offered a tour of the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) facility there. The RFDS is a most unique medical service that has a storied 90 year history. They also operate a large fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft (like our plane) and have just taken delivery of a brand new Pilatus PC-24 jet. We are looking forward to the tour.