The small town of Esperance in Western Australia came alive over the weekend as 26 light aircraft brimming with pilots and their passengers gathered for the start of the 2015 Steadfast Foundation Outback Air Race (SOAR), a two week flying challenge raising money for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS).
The event, which runs from Sunday 23 August
to Friday 4 September
resembles a car rally through remote and outback Australia, the significant differences being that the planes are all in top mechanical condition and the distance covered is far greater. Many of the planes will cover almost 8,000km over the two weeks and in total churn through more than 27,000 litres of fuel.
Amazingly, however, the total distance covered by all 26 planes from start to finish during the two weeks of the Race, around 208,000km, will amount to less than three average days of flying for the RFDS.
The RFDS is one of Australia’s most recognised charities, both domestically and internationally. In 2014 Financial Year, the RFDS made a daily average of 773 patient contacts, 148 patient transports and flew 72,358 kilometres. Last year, it ran 16,096 healthcare clinics, operated 63 aircraft, 22 bases, 5 health facilities and had 1,144 full-time equivalent staff.
It has provided a ‘mantle of safety’ for rural communities for 86 years. In this important work the RFDS is funded by the Federal Government. However, despite growing demand for services, RFDS funding levels remain significantly unchanged since 2006.
2015 Steadfast Foundation Outback Air Race Manager, Rowan Hill, said, “This will be the ninth triennial Outback Air Race, since its inception in 1996 and we aim to raise over $300,000 for the RFDS to add to the event total of $1.5 million raised over the last 20 years
“It has taken our volunteer committee, spread all over the country, over 18 months to pull together the complex logistics of our fantastic itinerary flying from Esperance to Forrest, Yulara, Alice Springs, Birdsville, Winton, Karumba, Cooktown and wrapping it all up with a grand finale on Hamilton Island
”, he said.
“The Outback Air Race, which began as a joint concept between the RFDS (Western Division) and the Royal Aero Club of WA (RACWA) 20 years ago, has gone from strength to strength. It is now being recognised as an important platform through which community focused corporations can support this iconic, uniquely Australian charity. This year Steadfast Foundation, Summit Fleet Leasing and The Classic Safari Company are the event’s naming and major sponsors with several other organisations also supporting “leg” sections of the race along the way
”, said Mr Hill.
Teams, totalling almost 70 people, from across Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia have spent the past six to 12 months preparing for the race and hosting all manner of fundraising events in a bid to be the most successful fundraising team.
The race attracts a broad cross section of entrants flying in a huge variety of planes which this year includes five home-built RV aircraft to Mooney, Cessna, Socata types and even an Eclipse jet.
“But the real test and race winner comes from piloting skills rather than he who is fastest
”, says Don Rechichi, the official Race Safety Officer and Enroute Race Director and otherwise Commercial Pilot, Flight Instructor and Dentist. “Aircraft are scored based on their ability to predict their time taken to fly between each leg (down to the second) and accuracy at flying over visual start and finish points
”, he said.
You can follow the progress of the race on the SOAR website: http://www.outbackairrace.com.au/
The event is still open for anyone to support and sponsor and this can be done online through the Steadfast Outback Air Race Everyday Heroes Event account:
or by contacting Fiona at email@example.com