The Flight4Life project has passed what team leader Mark Jennings-Bates of Peachland believes was the crux of the trip, and is soon to be headed through the Nullarbor desert for Western Australia, which has recorded its hottest temperatures in history.
“Perhaps we are witnessing global climate challenges as we endure the strange weather patterns on this flight,” Jennings-Bates said, adding, “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.”
Parajet expedition pilot Glenn Derouin of Vernon has been flying 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 British Columbia, Canada 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 domestically, the Royal Flying Doctor Service who provide 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 to start 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