Around the World at 80 knots; in a Searey.
Solo circumnaviator Michael Smith to appear at Airventure.
The plan wasn't to fly around the world, it started just as a trip from Sydney to London; to retrace
the old 1938 Qantas flying boat route. It was very much an international journey: Michael Smith is
an Australian/British dual citizen pilot, with a US FAA land and sea private VFR licence, he flew in a
US built and registered Searey amphibian, christened the Southern Sun.
In 2015 over a seven month journey Southern Sun circumnavigated the world, visiting 25 coun-
tries, 80 cities, across 32,000 miles, with 480 hours flying.
“I had spent the better part of 10 years researching the late 1930's Qantas Empire Imperial flying
boat route from Rose Bay, Sydney through to Southampton, England; via Asia, India, the Middle
East and Europe. It was the Golden Age of flying, luxurious and romantic, I wished I could have
done the trip back in 1938; but I was born in 1968. 30 or so years too late. I either needed a time
machine, or a pilots licence and a flying boat. I looked at second hand planes available, all
decades old with glorious names such as Gooses, Widgeons and Albatrosses; Buccaneers and
Renegades; even the Seabee. In the end, I was realistic about my experience and budget and
bought a second hand Searey to build some hours and lots of water landing experience. 10 years
later and with only 450 hours under my belt, I had a new Searey built for this trip, the Southern
Sun, with 13 hours worth of fuel tanks built in, and up to 21 hours range in maximum ferry mode -
ready for an adventure.”
The route closely followed the 1930's cities where politics and the range of the plane allowed. A
westbound journey, leaving Australia through Asia, across India to the Middle East, through Eu-
rope, then London. Crossing the Atlantic was via Ireland, Scotland, Iceland, Greenland and Cana-
da, before landing on the Hudson River in New York. Continuing across the US via Florida and the
length of the Mississippi, before Seattle, Alaska and then across the top of the Pacific via the Aleu-
tians, onto Japan, more of Asia then back to Australia.
It is a historic flight, being the first solo circumnavigation in a Flying Boat and/or Amphibian. World
records were set along the way (awaiting ratification) and a westbound circumnavigation diploma
and badge has been awarded by the FAI. The Searey has long been recognised as a great adven-
ture plane, with many personal trips of note, particularly Richard Bach and Dan Nicken’s flight
across the United States featured in Bach’s book “Travels with Puff”. Smith’s trip in the Southern
Sun really highlights the versatility and reliability of this popular little plane from Florida.
Michael Smith Bio: Smith, 47, is a British / Australian national from Melbourne, Australia. A cinema
owner and documentary film maker, operator of the popular Sun Theatre / Cinemas in Australia.
Having grown up around boats and competed in Yachting internationally, when he started flying,
seaplanes seemed the natural environment. He recently completed his MBA, with a research
project into cinema undertaken during the round the world flight.
Smith is appearing at Airventure 2016 and will give an audio visual presentation on the journey of
the Southern Sun on Wednesday afternoon in Forum Stage 7and a Q and A discussion on Thurs-
day evening at the SPA Corn Roast at the Seaplane Base.
Wednesday, July 27
4:00 PM - 5:15 PM 8:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: Forum Stage 7
Thursday, July 28
8:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: SPA Corn Roast stage [ home ]