Whitsundays to Collie in homemade plane

JULIE Hands and her partner, Ian Wells, put a plane together by hand, and then flew it from Proserpine, in Queensland’s Whitsunday region, to Collie to visit her parents, Ken and Paula.

The home-assembled Savannah travelled 3300 miles before touching down at the Collie Airstrip last week.

The trip, from their home in Proserpine, took in Mataranka, Lake Eyre and the Kimberley.

Ms Hands and Mr Wells took six months to put the plane together, completing the project in April, 2011. They took it on a number of small flights before tackling the long Collie trip.

The plane was ordered from Italy and arrived in a box.

Ms Hands said it cost $50,000 and “millions of dollars worth of labour”.

There was initially some trepidation about flying the plane, particularly because the couple had been left with a box full of parts and nowhere to put them.

Mr Wells had planned to give the plane a run along the runway, but once in the pilot’s seat could not resist the temptation to get it off the ground.

Once in the air Mr Wells was confronted with an unexpected conundrum. “I thought, right I’m up in the air, now how do I land it?”

Their motivation to build the plane followed the death of a close friend, who died of cancer contracted while working with asbestos in Antarctica in 1999.

“He had a dream of sailing around the world in a yacht, with his dog,” Mr Wells said.

“It made us rethink our lives.”

The couple said they had a number of adventures on the way to Collie.

Among them was landing at the airstrip at the Overland Roadhouse, near Kalbarri, where they found the plane’s tyres covered in thorns. Before continuing the journey they had to “very gently” get them out.

Mr Wells and Ms Hands learned after talking to other people that the ill-kept runway was infamous among pilots.

Ms Hands’ father, Ken, was taken up in the plane last Friday.

“It was incredible,” Mr Hands said. “I want one!”

Mr Wells and Ms Hands plan to leave for Albany tomorrow (Friday), although it will depend on the weather. They will eventually return to the Whitsundays.

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