Interview by Australian Financial Review

Traveller | Tony Kirkhope

PUBLISHED: 13 Jun 2013 00:45:57 The Australian Financial Review

Interview by JASON MURPHY on the travelling preferences of

First, business or economy?

When I travel overseas on long haul flights of eight hours plus, I fly business class. Economy can get pretty cramped after an extended period. I have flown first class but don’t see a huge difference in the levels of comfort and service over business class.

Worst place you’ve been lost

I have luckily never been lost while in the air, but once when travelling in our own aircraft back in the ’70s there were occasions where we were unsure of our position. In those days we navigated by dead reckoning as there was no GPS and remote Australia can have few landmarks. Technology has dramatically changed aviation in the past 20 years.

Most memorable dining

I am not a fussy eater so always try and eat the local cuisine wherever I go. When I visited Antarctica a few years ago, we had a barbecue on an ice-covered deck at night. We were on a Russian ice ship with 30 guests travelling from South America to the Antarctic Peninsula, eating barbecued food with glühwein. The ice, glaciers, snow and blue seas created an unforgettable background.

In the suitcase

Not much! On our holiday charters, we have a limit of 8 kilograms per person for 14 days so I’ve had to learn to travel light.


Travel regularly, particularly within outback Australia. I have always loved the remote, dusty outback since my flying career began back in the 1970s and I never cease to be amazed by the landscape and how it changes from year to year. Upmarket bush safari camps like those of Africa are becoming popular around the country and these are often in remote locations which are difficult to access by regular airlines. The variation of the landscape, the colours of drought and flood are always changing.

Best purchase

My most recent aircraft was bought in 2011 in Florida, a Beechcraft Super King Air, an 11-seater. It is a turbine, twin-engine pressurized machine that suits the corporate market as it travels faster than our other aircraft and at greater heights above the weather. A trip from Melbourne to Sydney takes 1.5 hours in the King Air. Not only can it act as a corporate aircraft for business reasons, it can also land on dirt and short runways so it is quite suitable for outback air tours.

Best tale

Flying the King Air out from Florida to Australia in eight days with two other pilots. We flew up through Canada to Greenland, Iceland then across to Sweden, over Dubai to Oman and then to India, the Philippines, Broome [in Western Australia] and finally Melbourne. Flying through the fiords to land at Greenland was unbelievably spectacular. The experience of traversing through Europe and India and having to haggle for fuel was a challenge. Cash was the only answer, in crisp clean US dollar notes.

Top gripe

Security is the biggest pain. Not only on international or domestic flights but also with our own operation. Throughout Australia the biggest problem is getting into and out of remote airports that are also subject to extreme security.

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