Last Friday, an aircraft touched down on the grass airstrip at Atherton, here in far north Queensland. Keen eyed observers might have noticed the 1966 Piper Cherokee carried a British registration – G-ATYS. It has been flown all the way from London by two private pilots who have managed to combine a grand aviation adventure with raising money for charity.
Andy Hardy and Sam Kidd left London in September on a 10,500 nautical mile journey called the Cherokee Challenge Flight, that will end in Sydney this coming weekend. Now they could have chosen to travel in more comfortable and much faster fashion, aboard the Boeing 747s and Airbus A380s that operate regular passenger flights from the UK.
But Andy says he prefers to travel this way, despite the limited room and lack of a dunny aboard the single engine Cherokee. It flies closer to the ground, and you stop every few hours, affording a stronger sense of connection with the nations and communities along the route.
Andy left Australia 24 years ago, and he’s long dreamed of flying himself home in this way. And he’s raising money for charity along the way. He started out with a goal of raising at least one pound for each nautical mile flown, giving the proceeds to Oxfam. He’s already well ahead of that target.
The stop-over at Atherton has given Andy time to explore some very old connections. He’s never been to FNQ before, but his family has a long history here, going back about 150 years. So he’s spent the past few days immersing himself in the family story, including a visit to a local museum where he was able to see his great grandmother’s tea set.
If you’d like to support Oxfam through the Cherokee Challenge flight go here
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Or Twitter @andyhardy or #cherokeeflightchallenge