2016 Birdsville Races

Back when Aero Circus was known as Aero Magic, we decided it would be a good idea to organise a flying tour from Brisbane to Birdsville to coincide with the annual Birdsville Races. In this series of articles and videos, we explore the whole stupid idea from conception, through planning and dubious execution, to the inevitable conclusion and post-mortem when it was all over, and we had to – somewhat unwillingly – resume our normal lives.

In The Beginning…

Way back in early 2016 the idea was first floated to fly ourselves to Birdsville for the upcoming race day in September that year. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we had formed a group of pilots and magicians with the intention of taking a couple of small Cessnas from our home base in Brisbane, all the way out to Birdsville, and if were still enthusiastic, all the way back again.

Straight to the Pool Room with this one!

In our first article – The 2016 Birdsville Odyssey – A Cunning Plan – we explore the underlying motivation for the trip as well as some of the issues and considerations that were discussed, debated and decided.

With the philosophical issues sorted, then came the flight planning stage. After finally reaching the conclusion that we would not be able to visit every city and town in outback Queensland on the way to Birdsville, we agreed on a list of the chosen few. The second article – The 2016 Birdsville Odyssey – The Flight Plan – we look at the final itinerary and some key events on the lead-up to departure.

Once we knew where we were going, someone decided that it would be good to get some publicity. Flyers were printed and distributed and emails were sent. Because one of our principle aims was going to be to raise funds and awareness for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, someone suggested that we arrange for a radio interview with one of the team to help spread the word.

We found a radio show in the USA who were silly enough to talk to us and this interview was recorded.




The John and Heidi Radio Show – Aero Magic Interview


The Day of Reckoning

Finally it’s “D-Day”. With enough luggage for a world cruise we crammed 5 bodies and all their worldly possessions into a Cessna 177 Cardinal and a Cessna 172, both 4 seat aircraft. Rather than try to write about what went down, here are the videos we produced each day detailing our experiences on the ‘high seas of the outback’.

You should be aware that at the time we had little or no experience with film-making or anything associated with it. We did everything in one take with little more than the cameras that came with our mobile phones. We weren’t aiming for perfection, and we sure kicked that goal. Our main aim was to have some fun and give others some idea of what they could expect should they ever decide to embark on a plane ride with a group of slightly deranged pilots and magicians.

Day 1 – Archerfield to Roma

Highlights include departing Archerfield, a short stopover in Chinchilla, Dave & Fabrice performing magic in a pub on a very quiet night in Roma.

Day 2 – Roma

We spent a second day and night in Roma, but sadly could not make our scheduled trip to the Carnarvon Gorge. Instead, we had another great night out in beautiful downtown Roma. We shook the tin a bit and managed to raise a couple of hundred dollars more for the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

Day 3 – Roma to Charleville

After a tour of the LifeFlight rescue helicopter, Day 3 saw the Aero Magic team depart Roma for Charleville.

Day 4 – Charleville to Windorah, with a surprise detour

Today we awoke to grey skies. The weather forecast gave us hope that we could make Windorah today, but the clouds had other ideas. So close and yet so far.

Day 5 – Longreach

After diverting to Longreach to avoid the nasty weather, we were grounded once more by rainy skies. Time for some magic to entertain the locals.

Day 6 – Longreach to Rolleston

Blue skies again! With Birdsville still under water, we started Day 6 with a tour of the Qantas Founders Museum, then packed up and headed for Rolleston near Carnarvon Gorge.

Day 7 – Rolleston to Bundaberg

After a night sleeping under the stars around the campfire, we headed for the coast and stayed the night in Bundaberg. This turned out to be the historically significant day that the Mile High Magic Club was created.

Day 8 – Bundaberg to Archerfield

The last day of our trip! Before heading home, Dave had a flying lesson and we got a new perspective of Fraser Island, which looks much different from the air.

Cultural Learnings from an Aerial Adventure

Once we came back to earth (which occurred on the Monday on physical plane, but much later on the mental plane), we reviewed and analysed the trip to try to learn from what just happened. What things would we do again? What would we avoid at all costs? And how do we get these smiles off our faces?

In the final article in the series – The 2016 Birdsville Odyssey – What Just Happened? – we will pull the journey apart, find out how it works, change the oil, and put it back together again, hopefully with only a few bits left over.


Aero Circus - Clowns at Play