At just 16 years of age, Liam Morey is attempting to break the Guinness World Record and become the youngest person ever to circumnavigate Australia solo in his own airplane.
Liam’s Teen Around Oz project has taken him to the most eastern, northern, western and southern parts of Australia. The teenager hails from the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane. Determined and single-minded, he took on four part-time jobs aged 13 to save up for his flight training which he undertook at the Sunshine Coast Aero Club at the veritable age of 14. Unsurprisingly, he went solo the day after his 15th birthday and obtained his license five weeks later!
Aviator’s flying interviewer, Rob Brus, caught up with Liam in Bathurst while well on the way to breaking the world record. With the help of his sponsor Bristell aircraft, Liam was preparing for the final stages of his flight with just a few legs left on the trip. Liam reflected on the trip itself, the record attempt, its significance and his key message that aviation is accessible to everyone.
Rob Brus: Who’s the aviation influence in your life?
Liam Morey: There’s actually no one in my family. I think I became really good friends with my flight instructor, and he’s probably been the main driving force for the past couple of years to get through it all.
Rob Brus: Is your flying instructor a little bit older?
Liam Morey: Originally, I had the Chief Flight Instructor Tom Preece who’s quite young. He taught me so much. Then I moved on to Ivan Tyson who’s slightly older but knows more in depth about various topics. He taught me how to fine-tune my flying,
Rob Brus: Where is it all going for you? Obviously, you’re still at school. Is a career in commercial aviation on the cards?
Liam Morey: I want to keep my flying as something that I enjoy doing, primarily as a hobby, so I’d like to keep it to one side and pursue other career paths. The whole reason behind the trip is to promote science, technology, engineering and maths to high school students. That’s my motivation. I want to end up in a science or maths-based career.
Rob Brus: Tell me a little bit about the trip. How many hours have you got under your belt since you’ve left the initial departure point for your trip around Australia?
Liam Morey: I left at about 110 hours, and I’m currently up around the 180-190 mark. So I’m clocking up the hours quickly!
Rob Brus: So what was the catalyst for flying a light aircraft around Australia? How did the idea emerge?
Liam Morey: It actually wasn’t my idea at all! Being a millennial, I was doing a spot of what I call ‘Facebook mentoring’ helping out a younger guy in Sydney with his flight training. He was the one who suggested it. I said, “You’re crazy. I’m not going to do that.” Two weeks later, I had a chat with Ivan and he asked, “Is something like this actually possible?”
From that day that in November last year, we started planning, and 10 months later I was ready to go.
Rob Brus: Tell us about the airplane. What are you flying?
Liam Morey: I’m flying a Bristell light sport aircraft provided by Anderson Aviation down in Melbourne. Perfect aircraft for the trip: 120 knots cruise, really responsive, open controls, full Garmin suite, autopilot. Everything you possibly ask for. Huge thanks to Brett Anderson for that!
Rob Brus: Do you use autopilot much?
Liam Morey: It’s about 50/50. I like to hand fly especially when travelling over such scenic places that we’re lucky enough to have here in Australia. But when it’s a bit boring, I chuck the autopilot on, get some music going and relax a little.
Rob Brus: How does the Bristell handle in the circuit? Benign? Responsive?
Liam Morey: I don’t want to sound like a salesman, but it’s very much across between the two. It can do both really, really well, and I think that’s a fantastic characteristic of the Bristell. There’s not much that’s comparable in the immediate space.
Rob Brus: What speed are you crossing the fence at on finals ?
Liam Morey: 55, 60 knots. You’re looking at about 60, 65-ish on approach.
Rob Brus: I’ve seen a couple of photos that show you’re getting some great rates of climb on departure.
Liam Morey: Her four cylinder, 100 HO Rotax 912 ULS climbs excellently. She gets up and goes! Practically a rocket. If it’s just myself without too much baggage, I would easily reach 1,300 feet in a few minutes at 70 knots.
Rob Brus: Where are you climbing to? Four, five thousand feet or are you staying lower to enjoy the view?
Liam Morey: Lots of factors decide this. Wind’s probably the main one. Whether I’ll get tailwind in the climb up or knots. Turbulence is an issue too – it’s quite bumpy down below! I try and get above it so anywhere from four to nine and a half thousand feet is my comfort zone. Just sitting up there doing nothing but tracking and taking in the view. It’s wonderful.
Rob Brus: Tell me about the world record, Liam. Did you know that there was a world record attempt available to you? Or was it something that just happened along the way?
Liam Morey: Initially, it was the main driving force. That’s taken a backend seat in some respects. Being the Guinness world record, they’re very stringent on all the rules and regulations.
Rob Brus: How did they determine that you’re the youngest person to fly around Australia? Because that’s the exact record you’re trying to break, right?
Liam Morey: Youngest solo circumnavigation of Australia unassisted is the full record title. That means I need to be in the aircraft at all times and cross the most Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western points.
Rob Brus: When I think about the geography of Australia, I think Eastern. Yeah, that’s easy. That’s over near Byron. Northern, that’s the pointy bit of Australia. Western, that’s over near Broome and the Southern bits down the bottom of Tasmania. So, tell us about flying across Bass Strait in a single?
Liam Morey: It was very daunting to begin with but I soon settled down and once the planning had been done I was far more confident. Southbound down to Tassie, I was at nine and a half because it was kind of an okay day. Coming back, it was at two and a half because there were lots of clouds and rain.
Rob Brus: Tell me about the most southern part of Australia. I think most people would’ve been to that part of Australia only in a car.
Liam Morey: I went through Hobart, had a circle around. There was severe turbulence that day so I had to be really careful.
Rob Brus: What happens when you hit a milestone? Do you celebrate or are you too busy to think about it?
Liam Morey: It’s a secondary thing to what I’m doing in the moment. I cross the I’s and dot the t’s but it’s secondary to flying the airplane.
Rob Brus: Nice, and obviously, you’ve got a tracking device in the airplane, which makes it much easier for the folks at Guinness World to see that you’re actually doing-
Liam Morey: Exactly. Yep. I’m using one of our sponsors, Spidertracks’, units so the folks at Guiness can see what I’m doing. It’s the Spidertracks S5 which is a GPS 24-hour Iridium satellite network tracker. Every two minutes, a ping gets sent to the Iridium satellite…so my mother knows exactly where I am at all times! The general public can also see it on teenaroundoz.com/triptracker.
Rob Brus: Tell me about the airplane performing in turbulence in those parts of the world. Did you have any time on that aircraft before you left? Or did you just do some training on that before you left and then off you went?
Liam Morey: I’d done lots of training on the Bristell down in Melbourne before the trip – about 30 to 35 hours of solo flights. It’s invaluable to get to know the aircraft because once you do, you know exactly where you can push it. If I’m bounced around, I just fly the plane, get out of it and have been fine so far.
Rob Brus: Tell me, did you realise Australia was such a big place?
Liam Morey: It looked a lot bigger but felt a lot smaller flying around it. I managed to get from the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, up top around Darwin, then down to Perth in just six flying days. The weather treated me well!
Rob Brus: What sort of license do you have?
Liam Morey: I’ve got a RAAus Recreational Pilot Certificate, which allows me to fly RAAus aircraft. The maximum takeoff weight is 600 kilograms. On top of that, I have an RPL with CTA and CTR endorsements, which means I can do GA things like fly into controlled airspace and controlled airports.
Rob Brus: It’s interesting hearing all of that and ticking those boxes because that license is actually reasonably affordable when you compare it.
Liam Morey: Absolutely. It cost me $7,000 for my recreational pilot certificate; about $5,000 for my navigation endorsement and then it costs me about $1,000 for my RPL upgrade. All in all, to get exactly where I am now, it’s about $14,000. Sounds like a lot of money but when you space it over two or three or four years, it becomes affordable.
It’s a long-term investment you can use as long as you like. Being able to get out there and jump in an aircraft is amazing. I think a lot of people would get a real kick out of it if it was accessible. In an industry that’s starting to decline, we have to promote aviation as it’s an incredible experience.
Rob Brus: I think there’s many in the industry that would agree with you that aviation or GA is in decline, but RA appears to be on an upward gradient.
Liam Morey: The funny thing about the light sport market is that there are a lot more new aircraft coming out within the category than in GA. If you go to any airport like Bankstown, every single GA aircraft there is likely going to be 10 to 15 years old.
Rob Brus: As you move forward out of high school, into university and a career, is aerospace something you want to pursue?
Liam Morey: Possibly. I’m still trying to keep all my options open, obviously. There are many different routes into a science and mathematics-based career. We’ll see where I end up. I’d love to train as a flight instructor and become the youngest one in the country. I think that’d be really cool.
Rob Brus: Tell me about the support. You must have some support to organise all this. Transfers and such like. Who’s been helping you?
Liam Morey: Ivan Tyson, my flight instructor has been instrumental in logistics. He’s been sorting out accommodation, food, airplane, sponsors, everything I needed. It’s been great having an adult who knows how to deal with these things and teach me how to deal with people, like large companies for example. You don’t get taught that in school. I have over 30 destinations in all seven states and territories, and Ivan managed to find accommodation in every single one.
Rob Brus: Have you been well received when you arrive?
Liam Morey: There’s been loads media which is something I’m not used to. But it’s been and enjoyable learning curve. I guess it comes with the territory.
Rob Brus: How about the cockpit? Sitting in a small airplane for such long stretches of time must get uncomfortable?
Liam Morey: It’s actually surprisingly okay. I’m 6’2, and don’t really fit comfortably into most light sport aircraft. However, the Bristell is super luxurious – thankfully! Being stuck in a tight space for four hours on end wouldn’t be fun.
Rob Brus: The Bristell has a bubble canopy, right?
Liam Morey: Correct. Full 270-degree view around you. No seams or gaps blocking it.
Rob Brus: What about being in the sun for extended periods of time?
Liam Morey: Exactly. Long-sleeve shirt always, long pants always, and sometimes putting a jacket over my torso area and just keeping my hands underneath and flying that way.
Rob Brus: You feel yourself getting dehydrated?
Liam Morey: Permanently! It’s a very real issue. I make sure I always have a water bottle within reach and take regular sips. Some days coming home I’ve been really dehydrated. It’s something I have to watch out for. Of course I also have to make sure I don’t overdo it and suddenly need a bathroom break at 5,000 feet. I haven’t had to pee in the bottle…yet!
Rob Brus: How was the weather coming around the bottom of Australia where all the frontal systems hit the land?
Liam Morey: When I departed Perth Airport, it was cloudy and miserable. I just managed to get over the mountains, east of Perth, after which there were clear skies. So I headed off to Kalgoorlie and it was blue skies pretty much from there all the way down to Melbourne.
Rob Brus: So across the Nullarbor?
Liam Morey: Yes, and it was totally amazing. An incredible landscape. I pulled up at a gas station and filled up the plane! People took heaps of photos there. which was very, very pretty, and also did you see the photo of the aircraft at the gas station?
Rob Brus: So you headed across South Australia, down Victoria, across to Tasmania, and now you’re making your way home via Bathurst. You’re on the last couple of legs. It’s coming to a close. How does it feel?
Liam Morey: It’s very sad in a way. It’s been a long time of planning and a lot of effort put in. It’s sad. It’s enjoyable. It’s exciting – all at the same time.
Rob Brus: I haven’t heard you say anything that’s been really challenging for you. Have you encountered anything that’s forced you to make some hard decisions as an aviator?
Liam Morey: Absolutely. You don’t dwell on those too much because you do learn from them, and you make sure they don’t occur again. I’ve been really lucky that I haven’t run into any serious situations. But there were definitely some hairy parts during the trip, VFR for example. You really have to make an informed decision and go with the best, safest option even if it means I didn’t reach my destination that day.
Rob Brus: Have you found yourself in any difficulty when you get to your destination and the weather is deteriorating? Or there’s been a heavy crosswind?
Liam Morey: Arriving into Darwin’s MKT Airport was probably the most difficult landing I’ve done to date. It was a 25 gusting, 35 knots headwinds that would suddenly turn into a quartering crosswind. It took me a good four or five go-rounds to get it down. Dealing with the moderate-to-severe turbulence on top of that was a bit of a nightmare.
Rob Brus: Did you have plenty of fuel?
Liam Morey: Plenty, yes, absolutely.
Rob Brus: Was it frustrating?
Liam Morey: I’d rather go around and try again and do it properly than get it down and maybe break the leg of an aircraft. It’s always a balance, I guess.
Rob Brus: And no bad weather decisions, tracking towards a destination, the weather’s closing, and you’ve had to turn around? Anything like that?
Liam Morey: No, I’ve been really fortunate in that regard. The weather has played ridiculously nicely for me so far. I’m waiting for something bad to happen.
Rob Brus: You’re flying at the right time of year.
Liam Morey: Yeah and with the best support. Brett Anderson who provided the Bristell has been an amazing help. I really can’t thank him enough. Secondly, the University of Queensland has helped me promote aviation courses and STEM to high school students around the country. I also have a number of smaller sponsors such as Spidertracks and GoFly360 with their online 360 flying lessons.
Telstra and QBE Insurance have been marvellous. Aircraft maintenance services at Caloundra with Tony Chamber and the team there, are phenomenal. Airservices Australia has helped me get the message out about how important air traffic control is in this country. KG Aviation and Gerard Kitt are superstars too. I’m so thankful for such a fantastic team of supporters.
Rob Brus: Well, Liam, as we wrap up interview, any parting comments, any parting shorts for us, mate?
Liam Morey: It’s really great to be able to go and talk to people and get the message out there. If anyone would like to find out more, all the information is on facebook.com/teenaroundoz. That’s where I keep up-to-date with most of my stuff.
Rob Brus: You’re doing an epic job promoting aviation, making it accessible and showing people how accessible it actually is. You’re an inspiration to many people in aviation already and, hopefully, some younger people will be inspired to follow in your footsteps as well.
And there you have it. Liam Morey. Only 16 years old and already making a large impact upon the world of aviation. Next time we catch up with Liam he’ll probably be a world record holder and Australia’s youngest flight instructor! Onwards and upwards.