We have just taken delivery of our 2 brand new twin-engine Diamond DA42 aircraft here in Melbourne. They were built at the Diamond Factory in Canada. After that, international ferry pilot Stuart Caling flew them all the way to us here at Moorabbin Airport.
The journey involved flying from Canada to California first. The next part involved island-hopping across the Pacific Ocean to the Gold Coast. And then, flying south to Melbourne.
As you could imagine, the role of a professional ferry pilot is a very interesting one. We caught up with Stuart for a chat about his career.
Tell us a bit about your flying background, how you became a ferry pilot, and what the role is like
I got my CPL in 1998, and my early pilot career involved flying charters in Queensland. During this time I also built up close to 5,000 hours as a flight instructor. I learnt about the role of ferry pilot through legendary Australian aviator Jim Hazelton, and flew my first ferry role from Italy in 2010.
I’ve now logged over 3,000 hours as a ferry pilot, and have lapped the globe probably 14 times.
The ferry pilot job isn’t easy, and requires an intimate knowledge of aircraft engineering and mechanics, particularly relating to weight dynamics. Many pilots see it as a fairly straight forward job and a way to build hours, which isn’t the case. You’re flying long distances without a break, sometimes over large bodies of water. So when problems occur you need to know how to handle them on your own.
What do you love most about the ferry pilot job?
It’s definitely not a monotonous job, being able to see so many different locations around the world. Having the opportunity to learn about and fly so many different types of aircraft is also great. I love seeing the factories where the aircraft are produced, as well as the engineering side of the role.
What is the best/most unique aircraft you have flown so far?
The Vulcanair A-Viator AP68TP – a 10-seat twin-engine aircraft powered by Rolls Royce Nomad engines. I flew this aircraft from Avalon Airport in Melbourne to Germany, and am currently the only Australian pilot endorsed to fly it.
If you had the opportunity to fly any aircraft in the world, what would it be and why?
The Hawker Sea Fury FB11, or the Lockheed P38 Lightning. I have had the opportunity to fly some warbirds including the North American T28 Trojan.
What is the longest distance you’ve had to ferry an aircraft?
The longest overall journey was probably ferrying a Beechcraft Baron from Perth in Australia to West Virginia in the USA. The leg from California to Hawaii is the longest single over-water leg in the world, at close to 2,300 nautical miles – which is one of the legs I flew taking the Diamond DA42 to Melbourne.
What is the most exotic destination you’ve been to on a ferry flight?
Kiribati Atoll is an extremely unique place, sitting in between Hawaii and Pago Pago (American Samoa) in the Pacific Ocean. It is an Australian territory, and was once a nuclear testing site, but since the 1990s it is primarily a launch site for satellites and ongoing monitoring of spacecraft.
What are some of the craziest experiences you have had in your role as an international ferry pilot?
Flying over the Persian Gulf on a ferry flight from Iran to Pakistan, I had a pair of US FA/18 Hornets escort me, which was pretty amazing. I have also experienced aircraft-related issues such as an engine fire near Thailand, and engine warning lights coming on during a long leg over open ocean.
How did you find flying our Diamond DA42s to Melbourne?
They are very easy to fly, and very spacious and comfortable – especially when taking into consideration the long Pacific Ocean legs. The first ferry flight I did in a Diamond DA42 was from Jordan (in the Middle East) to the Gold Coast in Australia, which was a pretty long haul as well.
What’s your next international ferry pilot role?
I’m flying a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander aircraft from New Zealand to Fiji, and then I’ll be heading to the Diamond Factory in Austria after that for more ferry flights in Diamond aircraft.
We’re thrilled to have our Diamond DA42 aircraft here in Melbourne, and very thankful to Stuart for delivering them safely to us. It was great hearing about some of his experiences as an international ferry pilot, and amazing to see some of the images he captured during the trips – including the below one with our DA42 in front of a pair of USAF F-22A Raptors in Hawaii!