• Mike Smith is preparing his SeaBear VH-OMS Southern Sun for a circumnavigation of Australia. (Steve Hitchen)
    Mike Smith is preparing his SeaBear VH-OMS Southern Sun for a circumnavigation of Australia. (Steve Hitchen)

Serial adventurer Mike Smith is off again.

The Victorian seaplane pilot and owner of the iconic Sun Theatre in Yarraville has already flown around the world in a Searey amphibian and took delivery of his newly-acquired SeaBear twin in Russia so he could fly it home by himself.

This time, Smith's adventure is closer to home, as he prepares SeaBear VH-OMS Southern Sun for a circumnavigation of Australia. 

But this is no ordinary circumnavigation. It will leave RAAF Williams at Point Cook Victoria on Saturday 6 April, and follow the exact route and schedule flown 100 years ago to date by RAAF pilots WGCDR SJ Goble and FLTLT IE McIntyre. Those two airman flew a Fairey Mk II D seaplane around Australia in 1924. It took 20 days of actual flying, and was the first circumnavigation of Australia by air.

According to Smith, the original 1924 flight is one that needs to be commemorated.

"Like a lot of pilots, I love going on an adventure," he told Australian Flying. "I particularly enjoy historical re-enactment flights as it gives a purpose for my mission, and in reflecting upon how far we’ve come in 100 years, we also learn the positive life changing effects of aviation.

"No other mechanical advancement has combated the tyranny of distance in Australia so effectively, it’s both fun and entertaining and also a pertinent reminder when we constantly face pressures on airport infrastructure around the country.

"To think that 100 years ago it was only possible to do a circumnavigation by seaplane due to the lack of airports, but the first flight surveyed locations for landing fields and soon after land planes could criss-cross the country, opening up for health, agriculture, business and recreation."

The 2016 Australian Geographic Adventurer of the Year will follow an anti-clockwise route from Point Cook remaining as faithful as possible to Goble and McIntyre's original flight path, flying coastal at only 500 feet above the water. This includes an extended stop at Carnarvon, WA, where Goble and McIntyre needed to replace the engine.

In Townsville, Smith is expected to rendezvous with two RAAF EA-18G Growlers, which will also complete an Amberley-to-Amberley circumnavigation to mark the centenary. However, they are expected to do the journey in seven days compared to the 44 full days Smith is anticipating for Southern Sun.

By his own admission, Smith has had some work to do to plan his flight, perhaps as much as the original 100 years ago.

"Even today, it is a project of logistics, flight planning and time management," he says, "but in 1924 it was a gargantuan mission, involving military forces, grit and some luck."

Southern Sun is a long-fuselage Chaika L65 SeaBear amphibian powered by two Rotax 915 engines swinging Airmaster constant-speed props. It has a cruise speed of around 120 KTAS.

Smith is expected to close the circle with an arrival back at Point Cook on 19 May this year, before hopping over to his home base at Rothwell near Little River.

No doubt Smith will then start framing ideas for his next aviation adventure.

The journey of the Southern Sun can be followed via the Around Australia Centenary website.

Planned Route of the Southern Sun

6 April: Point Cook–Corner Inlet–Eden–Rose Bay, Sydney
7 April: Myall River
9 April: Southport, QLD
10 April: Gladstone
11 April: Townsville
13 April: Cooktown
16 April: Thursday Island
23 April: Elcho Island (Galiwin'ku), NT
24 April: Darwin
27 April: Napier Broome Bay, WA
28 April: Broome
30 April Port Hedland
1 May: Onslow–Carnarvon
10 May: Carnarvon
11 May: Geraldton–Perth
12 May: Albany
15 May: Israelite Bay
16 May: Ceduna, SA
17 May: Port Lincoln
18 May: Beachport
19 May: St Kilda–Point Cook–Rothwell Estate

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