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The parched centre of Australia might not seem like an ideal place for a seaplane.

But for pilots Bob Priddle and Bill Handley, the outback sky has a magnetism that's not found on the coast.

All that's needed for landing is a small stretch of water and a few friendly locals.

"Given the right conditions, you can land in 400 metres and take off in 800," said Mr Priddle.

"The principles of flight are the same, but, generally speaking, water flying … it is another world to land-based flying."

Bob Priddle and Bill Handley often head out together on seaplane adventures.

Bob and Bill create a splash

Bob Priddle and Bill Handley often head out together on seaplane adventures.

Supplied: Bill Handley

Mr Handley said flying a seaplane was a unique experience.

"I've flown many different aircraft, even helicopters," he said.

"But I find that the seaplane offers much more than the land-based aircraft or even the helicopter.

"The helicopter's great, but a lot of people don't like the noise of the helicopter and they're not received well when you go to different places.

"The seaplane's different. You land a seaplane somewhere and everyone wants to come and look.

"It just has a different feel about it."

RAAF boats with landed Catalina

RAAF personnel assist a landed Catalina (AWM 009452).

RAAF boats with landed Catalina

RAAF personnel assist a landed Catalina (AWM 009452).

Supplied: Australian War Memorial

The Sydney-based aviators were in Lake Boga in north-west Victoria on the Labour Day weekend for the event, Splash, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Lake Boga Flying Boat Base.

The base was built during World War II as a secret maintenance facility for amphibious aircraft and flying boats.

Since 2012, the site has operated as the Lake Boga Flying Boat Museum and houses a restored original RAAF Catalina PBY5.

Lake Boga also has special significance for Mr Priddle.

"As a young person, my dad was involved with aviation, so I was fortunate enough to get that kick-start," he said.

"Then I came down here to Lake Boga in 2013 and got a ride in a Lake Buccaneer seaplane and that was it — 'I've gotta have one'. So that started it."

Now Mr Priddle and Mr Handley, who both fly Lake Buccaneers, use their love of seaplanes to fly — and splash — their way from one end of the continent to the other.

Their dream journey is the flight to the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Fill 'er Up!

Bob Priddle fills up his Lake Buccaneer.

Fill 'er Up!

Bob Priddle fills up his Lake Buccaneer.

ABC Rural: Cherie von Hörchner

"Our typical route would be up through the centre," said Mr Priddle.

"The first stop would be out towards, say, Narromine, to refuel.

"Broken Hill's a good place to stop, sometimes overnight there. Then Lee Creek and onward to Alice Springs or William Creek and we work our way up to the top."

Mr Priddle said flying the breadth of the country by seaplane was a great way to discover not just Australia, but Australians.

Outback view

Pilot Bob Priddle says the hospitality of outback communities make long journeys worthwhile.

Outback view

Pilot Bob Priddle says the hospitality of outback communities make long journeys worthwhile.

ABC Rural: Cherie von Hörchner

"Generally speaking, in the outback and those sort of remote areas, Australians are the best that you'll find anywhere," he said.

"People pick you up, run you into town, offer you the use of their car, and they won't accept any money for it.

"They're the real souls of the Earth. One of the reasons light aircraft are great is that you can get around these areas quickly and you can meet and involve yourself with some of these wonderful people."

Love for outback flying

Pilot Bill Handley heads out bush in his helicopter.

Love for outback flying

Pilot Bill Handley heads out bush in his helicopter.

Supplied: Bill Handley

Mr Handley agreed, but added that certain outback myths could get the better of even the most adventurous flyer.

"I once flew a helicopter on that route," he recalled.

"I actually went up through the Tanami Desert and into a place called Wolfe Creek.

"Before I left, my kids asked me 'Have you seen the movie?'. I said 'No', so they showed me the movie the night before I left.

"Subsequently, I pulled up at Wolfe Creek, shut the engine down, looked around and thought 'No, I'm not staying here, I think I'll go'.

"I ended up at Halls Creek pub."

Nevertheless, Mr Handley recommends the seaplane to anyone daring enough to take the plunge.

"Go for it, but do the land-based plane first and then move on to the seaplane," he said.

"It opens a whole new world."

Original Article

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