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November 28, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                                 Flying to Fraser Island
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GETTING TO FRASER ISLAND
Most people get to Fraser Island by taking the 45-minute ferry from the Urangan Boat Harbour at Hervey Bay. But Natalie and I took the most exciting method a plane. We arrived at the Sunshine Coast airport at 7am from Noosa Shire, which is where I left off last week. The airport was completely empty except for a few workers. I didn't see check-in for Air Fraser Island (just Virgin Blue and JetStar) so I asked one of the custodians where I could find them. The man said he had never heard of them and whistled over to his more knowledgeable colleague who quipped that Air Fraser doesn't have a check-in counter. His advice was for us to just wait down by the door and that someone would come get us. Umm ... OK. I thought that was really weird.



OUR PILOT
Our flight was scheduled for 7:30am and we pulled up a seat by the window. A few minutes later, a young, blond, shaggy pilot who could've been Owen Wilson's twin, was standing behind us asking if we were the two going to Fraser Island. We nodded with our mouths wide open, Natalie's due to infatuation, mine in the hope that he was not our pilot. Don't get me wrong; the young surfer look, complete with a tattoo and soul patch was cool. He was definitely the kind of guy you would want to be friends with but not necessarily the guy you want piloting your plane.

THE PLANE
He walked us out to the tarmac and pointed to the smallest plane on the runway. The four-seater Cessna looked like a Mini with wings. My stomach dropped. "What happened to the eight-seater that's shown on your website?" I squeaked. "Ah mate, that plane wouldn't start this morning so I took this one," he said. Gulp! Earlier, I saw this thing land and I thought to myself, "Thank God we aren't on that flying tin can." I was seriously about to say that I don't do small planes and just back out. But where was I going to go? My itinerary had been pre-arranged and it would've cost a lot of time and money for us to make alternate plans. So I sucked it up and got in. The duct tape on the dashboard and the fear in Natalie's eyes now made my legs go numb. Before I could escape, "Shaggy" had already loaded our two bags in the back compartment and jumped in the pilot seat. I rode shotgun while Natalie was in the back. It was so tight up front that my shoulders and knees were literally touching the pilot's. Just before he cranked the engine so it was too loud to talk (the microphones were broken), he informed me that the flight controls were live so I was not to touch the wheel or foot pedals, both of which were two inches from my reach. I sat there frozen in fear, praying that my 203-pound body didn't pass out and fall limp.



THE FLIGHT
The pilot saw the fear in my eyes and said, "Don't worry mate, I don't want to die either." In no time we were airborne and after the first ten minutes of the ride being as smooth as promised, I opened my eyes to see the incredible, peaceful views of eastern Australia. Slowly, I unclenched my sweaty fists and relaxed my calves. It turned out to be the biggest surprise ever; this was one of my top flight experiences of all time. There wasn't one bump and we saw over twenty whales, a handful of giant manta rays, jellyfish and dolphins. As we approached Fraser Island, we could see 4x4 trucks cruising along the famous 75-Mile Beach. This is the beach that is also designated a national highway and runway! Can you believe this is where we landed? We zoomed in right over people fishing for Tailor fish and they didn't even look up. Aside from his appearance and the girl's phone number scrawled across his hand, our pilot could not have been any more professional. Flight time ended up being 55 minutes, 15 minutes longer than anticipated because he circled around to give us better views of the humpback whales, and all in all, it was too short. For more info about Air Fraser's services including aerial Whale Watching tours log on to AirFraserIsland.com.au.



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Copyright 2007 JohnnyJet, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip

 

Our Pilot

 

The Plane

 

Natalie

 

Take-Off

 

Shotgun Seat

 

So Peaceful

 

Whales

 

Runway

 

Sand Dunes

 

Eurong Beach Resort

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