Now I had a rough idea of the route to fly and what was required of the aircraft. What was becoming increasingly apparent was that the project consisted of two main components; the actual flight as distinct from the maze of associated activities. As pilots are prone to do, often to the ridicule of their nearest and dearest, I made a checklist.
- Execute a safe solo flight around Australia.
- Select a suitable aircraft for the journey.
- Define the route, considering points 1 and 2.
- Support a charity.
- Source an aircraft.
- Establish a website.
- Name the project.
- Promote awareness of the upcoming flight.
The list was not definitive, but it was a start and gave me some direction.
From the outset, I knew that the flight needed to stand for more than just a pilot wending his way around Australia. I wanted to raise awareness of the work done by one particular Australian institution, the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Established in 1928, the RFDS is quintessentially Australian and had served outback communities for more than eighty years. In keeping with the Australian centenary of flight theme, the Flying Doctor seemed a logical choice, so I contacted them to gain approval to raise funds on their behalf and beneath their banner.
A Royal Flying Doctor Service ‘Super King Air’.
I was very clear with the Royal Flying Doctor Service that I wanted to be one step removed from the fund-raising. All donations were to go directly into an online charity website, so that every dollar raised went to the RFDS. I would fund the flight out of my own pocket and if I was lucky enough to secure sponsors, then that was great. However, under no circumstances would funds raised for the RFDS go towards my operational costs. The Flying Doctors agreed entirely and without hesitation approved their association with the flight. Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting even signed a shirt to auction online. Another box was ticked.
Now I returned to the pressing issue of finding a suitable aircraft. I had been very fortunate to fly a variety of aeroplanes in my duties as an aviation journalist and any number of them would have undoubtedly performed admirably. In fact, the availability of a large twin-engine turbo-prop machine loomed, but it really didn’t conform to the profile that I had decided upon.
So I drew yet another list. This time the list was of potential aircraft suppliers who I would approach about using one of their aeroplanes. I was somewhat shy and reluctant at first, although with enough media coverage this flight would undoubtedly provide a good dose of advertising for the chosen machine. Even so, I felt a little embarrassed about asking for something, for seemingly nothing.
As I hesitated in posing my request, I received a major boost in support from out of the blue. It came in the form of Robert Brus, a former Australian sailor and paratrooper with a creative entrepreneurial streak. Rob had seen service from the Middle East to Timor and was also an aviation enthusiast. He was keen to assist in any way possible and that’s exactly what he did. He set about drafting a proposal to send to aircraft suppliers while creating a brand new website for the journey. He insisted that a web-presence was needed as soon as possible and both the website and the flight needed a name.
A few names had come to mind. Ewan Macgregor’s motorcycle journey was called the ‘Long Way Round’, but as I was cutting inland and Ewan’s copyright lawyers would undoubtedly be very proficient, I searched for another title. It came to me straight away, short and simple; ‘There and Back’. Rob loved it too, so we registered the domain name and I asked the wonderful Juanita Franzi of ‘Aero Illustrations’ create a logo.
In my brief, I requested an Australian theme centred on the boomerang, which also flew there and back. I wanted the colours of both the blue Australian sky and the tones of rusty ochre to represent the outback. Juanita provided a number of options, but one stood out from the pack and it promptly became the registered trademark of the ‘There and Back’ around Australia flight.
The ‘There and Back’ Logo.
The adoption of a logo and a name had a profound effect. It provided an all-encompassing identity for what had been the varied strands of a concept. Now when I spoke to aircraft suppliers, media outlets or potential sponsors, I wasn’t Owen Zupp. I was ‘There and Back’. This undertaking was always destined to be far more than any individual could represent. It was a project for all to share, near and far. I was merely at the steering wheel and giving the flight a human face.
My wife Kirrily had been integral to the flight from the outset. She was on the phone calling motels and drawing up tabulated forms where only my hurried notes had previously existed. However, this was a substantial undertaking and more than two of us would be needed if we were committed to getting this absolutely right.
Rob’s impact had been immediate and it taught me very quickly to trust and delegate beyond the family resources. Shortly afterwards, Peter Buscall and Hayley Dean would join the team to provide flight support and media and marketing savvy respectively. ‘There and Back’ was now beyond the point of no return, its momentum was too great to halt and my magazine editors were equally excited by the concept. The low mumble began to form words and those words began to spread. Our new website was being hit constantly and the emails and phone calls started to flow in. The level of interest was overwhelming.
Just a moment....I still needed an aeroplane.