Marvelling at the iconic Ningaloo Reef through a microlight
According to Chief Flight Instructor and microlight pilot, Gavin Penfold, taking a ‘Birds Eye View’ of the renowned and world-heritage listed Ningaloo Reef is the best and only way to experience the beauty of this growingly popular tourist hot spot.
The company, fittingly called ‘Birds Eye View’, is the first microlight operator to be licensed by CASA to use microlights for commercial aerial spotting. Tourists who flock to this pristine stretch of coastline in WA, are offered a rare and exciting vantage point with Gavin’s microlights, being able to soar sky high as they marvel at the Whaleshark and Humpback Whales, as well as being able to take in the spectacular sights of the world’s longest fringing coral reef. Gavin explains where his passion of microlights came from and his exciting future planes to extend the business into waterborne operations.
Gavin, can you tell us a little about how your love of flying began?
I started flying gliders/sailplanes at Beverly in 1991 at the age of 10. My old man bought a microlight from Airborne in 1996 and I was lucky enough to learn to fly it and obtain my licence at 15 years-of-age. Hang gliding was also a new-found passion at the same time and I was lucky enough to be taught the art of hang gliding and microlighting from Shaun Wallace and Andrew Humphries from Airsports flying School. In 2000, I decided there was no career path in trikes so I did my commercial pilot’s license at The Aeroplane company and Ad Astral aviation at Jandakot and Perth airport. Whilst travelling up north of Australia looking for my first commercial flying job, I accidentally stumbled across the Ningaloo Reef - which is one of the most beautiful flying destinations I’d had ever seen. From that moment I made the decision to pursue my own flying business in this beautiful part of the world in exchange of the airline dream.
What do you love about the microlight and are they growing in popularity?
The microlight is one of the most amazing aircraft ever created. It mixes the sensations of hang gliding but also has the same capabilities of a small Cessna. You will never see a passenger buzzing after a flight in any other aircraft like you do in a microlight. They are just so much fun to fly, and the view is simply breath-taking.
What makes your flying school so unique?
Our location is the most unique part of our flying school. We are also the first microlight operator, licensed by CASA to use microlights for commercial aerial spotting. For eight months every year, we engage in Whaleshark and Humpback Whale Aerial Spotting for the tourism industry. We also offer full time flight training for those that would like to complete their pilot certificate in 2-3 weeks instead of it dragging out over longer periods of time.
What are your future plans for ‘Birds Eye View’ in terms of waterborne operations?
The idea of landing on water makes a lot of sense to me, considering that we are surrounded by water. I have flown a few different types of waterborne trikes and the Ramphos is my favourite. I hope to get these registered with the SAFA and open up a whole new world of flying in these type of aircraft.
We are currently doing over 1000 flights per year and we hope to achieve 2000 flights per year by 2020. We are also working on a Cadetship to enable kids to get more involved in this type of flying and make it realistic for them to consider as a profession.
What’s your hopes for the sport moving forward?
It is an exciting time ahead for the sport, we are seeing a lot more interest recently and we hope this continues to grow into the near future. This is our busiest year by far for flight training and new student inquiring - more than we have seen over the past 5 years.