The Flight4Life project has passed what team leader Mark Jennings-Bates believes was the most critical part of the trip.
Jennings-Bates, from Peachland, sent that hopeful message from Western Australia last week, as he and adventure expedition partner parajet pilot Glenn Derouin, of Vernon, were about to head through the Nullarbor desert of Western Australia.
“Perhaps we are witnessing global climate challenges as we endure the strange weather patterns on this flight,” Jennings-Bates said, as the Nullarbor has recently recorded its hottest temperatures in history.
“Regardless of the weather, I believe we are past the crux of the trip. We have figured out some maintenance routines that are assisting us, battled through changeable winds and record rain storms and arrived at a point where the whole team believes we can see this through to the end.”
Derouin has been flying the parajet solo since Jennings-Bates endured a prop strike that curtailed his personal world record attempt.
For Derouin, the rigours of daily flying in strong thermals are starting to take a toll.
“It certainly is not easy, day after day to get in the air knowing that you are going to get kicked around by strong thermals and dust devils for three hours at a time” stated Derouin, who has been flying for up to seven hours per day. The ground crew have also played a critical role in getting the team this far as they have endured road side repairs in searing heat and kept the Parajet motors and expedition vehicle in good shape for the outback adventures.
Budd Stanley, of Kelowna, and Craig Greenwell, of Perth, Australia, both volunteered to help get the pilots safely to their destination.
For Jennings-Bates, the end is in sight, but he does not discount the many challenges that lie ahead.
“The heat in the Nullarbor is going to be different to what we have experienced already and the winds, while they historically blow in our favour will blow stronger and that means that Glenn will have even more active flying to do.
“With a little good fortune we will get to the end, I know that many people are cheering for us.”
The purpose behind the Flight4Life, however, is more than to acquire a new world record. They are also raising funds and awareness for two charities, the Rally4Life foundation which is an international development agency; and the Royal Flying Doctor Service which provides a very valuable rural medical and emergency evacuation program across Australia. Jennings-Bates, who has a personal objective to raise $4 million for charity with various adventures, is excited by the project and has already seen more interest in their activities.
“At the end of the day, if we can raise funds for the charity, but we fail to claim a world record, I will go home happy. If we do both, I will be ecstatic”
Supporters can follow the teams progress live on the Internet with satellite tracking provided by HELIOS Global Tracking. To follow, log into their website at www.theflight4life.com.