Barwon Heads

Sci-Fly’s 1st Birthday across the Bay

Barwon Heads - Oct 22 (3).jpgOctober 2017 marked Sci-Fly STEM Outreach’s first birthday and was also host to two very difference programs led by Dr Zara Dennis. The first at Donvale Primary School, where it was a trial run of a Primary Science Show, some whizz bang science and tricks for the entire K-6 school. Then on Sunday the 22nd, Zara and newly qualified CPL Scott Jessett both took-off across Port Phillip Bay for Barwon Heads… or at least that was the plan!


08:00 – Cloud base 1500 ft at Moorabbin, 2500 ft at Avalon – Forecast to improve, we need to be wheels up by 11:30.

09:00 – Same, still hopeful.

09:30 – In the car about to drive towards Lilydale Airport. Cloud is now 800 ft at Moorabbin, that’s not good. Check in with people on the ground at Lilydale, visibility less than 5km and cloud estimate 250 ft AGL.

09:35 – Zara to Scott “Abort… we need to be on the road by 10:00”

10:10 – In the car heading to Barwon Heads.

12:15 – Arrive at destination in the middle of a heavy shower, visibility less than 2 km.

12:30 – Glorious sunshine and definitely CAVOK…

Typical Melbourne, and the program hadn’t even started yet!


After the very eventful morning, we are pleased to report however, that the session ran very smoothly, and as always the engagement and enthusiasm of the participants spoke volumes. What made this program particularly special however, is that it was booked for this group of Geelong based kids (part of the CHIP program, Children with High Intellectual Potential); by a parent whose daughter had attended a session at Lilydale way back in January!

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Given the high calibre of the group therefore (and they really were amazing) and that we also had repeat attendees present, the format was a blend of our tried and tested school holiday program, with some of the more advanced material trialled at Moorabbin Flying Services in September. Engaging with the super bright youngsters however, forces of flight led to a tangential discussion of the gravitational field strength on extra-terrestrial bodies, why aviation uses such a weird blend of units, and just what would happen to both the plane and human body if there was no atmosphere. These kids ask the best questions! We also had a look at control surfaces, and how each altered the net force on the aircraft altering its flight path. And as a part of this Zara had a definite favourite to demonstrate inertia; the good old pull the table cloth out from a place setting trick.

Putting theory into practice therefore to finish up the classroom session, it was on to paper plane design. But with a twist, literally… the plane must perform an aerobatic manoeuvre. Barrel rolls were the most popular choice, but most impressive was a loop plane, designed by one young lady with a canard. Particularly so, as this was a feature nobody had mentioned at all in the proceeding hour, and perfectly timed as our Barwon Heads host, Jeff Brooks arrived just in time to see the outstanding display.

Jeff’s arrival thus marked the final part of the afternoon, the much anticipated hangar tour. It’s always amazing to see what people have hidden away, aircraft that you never see when you’re on a CPL nav exercise and just touch and go, and this was no exception. The group visited two hangars, and saw some very unique aircraft. Including VH-XSK, a custom built aerobatic aircraft whose owner and pilot Peter, was on hand to answer every question, including specifics about the aircraft, how many g’s it can tolerate, and why there was a duck on the pitot tube? We then headed off to Jeff’s hangar where the very lucky young engineer who had built the looping paper plane, was given a special opportunity to sit in one of his aircraft, a Rutan Long-EZ, and pose for photos wearing his helmet. That smile did not diminish at all for the rest of the session!

Barwon Heads - Oct 22 (6).jpgWith 10 minutes to go back in the classroom, we wrapped up the session with a quick look at some maps, and an opportunity for the kids to ask any final questions. Unanimously the group agreed they had a much better understanding of flight and a definite increased interest in learning to fly or becoming involved in aviation. Including our aerobatic paper pilot, who was ready to book a trial flying lesson right there and then, and a follow-up from a Mum who wanted to book her son in for a Christmas present… We think it’s fair to say that Zara’s infectious passion for science and flight is rubbing off, most importantly however fun was had by all, and the session was once again a great success! Even after the false start due the weather.