A group of East Kimberley flying enthusiasts reckon their way is the only way to appreciate the region's vast landscape.
Story By Tom Dawkins
There's an explosion in the dark water below as a three-metre long crocodile, startled by the roar of the small engine passing above it, dives into a swaying reed bed and disappears into the deep green safety of the upper Ord River. The shadow of the flying machine dances across the rippling water and moments later all is once again still as the aircraft banks sharply and disappears over the walls of a deep gorge.
At the joystick is John Storey. The Kununurra mango farmer and tour guide is beaming as warm wind rushes past his flying helmet and he juts a hand into the air to point out a small creek below that is throwing itself off a vertical ledge to become a cascading waterfall. He pulls on the joystick and the machine again banks sharply and suddenly it’s apparent the waterfall is two thundering streams of water crashing into a pocket of rainforest tucked away in the red folds of the Carr Boyd Ranges.
John and his wife Ann form part of an adventure-seeking group of East Kimberley flying enthusiasts who between them own a fleet of these versatile little aircraft, known as gyrocopters. The Kununurra-based pilots own a dozen machines in varying shapes and sizes from small single-seat units to slick semi-enclosed two-seater European models. Although their machines differ considerably, their reason for owning them is the same: the feeling of unrestrained freedom that comes with flying them. The Kununurra flyers joke that the remote Kimberley outpost must have one of the country’s highest gyrocopter ownerships per capita.
Buzzing across the patchwork of fertile farms that form Western Australia’s Ord Valley, John looks as comfortable behind the joystick as he would behind the steering wheel of a car. However, there is a decade of experience behind the confident grin that seems to stretch as wide as the Kimberley landscape he’s flying over. John says he will never forget his first solo flight as a gyrocopter pilot.
This story excerpt is from Issue #85
Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2012