The romance of aviation first gripped Michael Smith as a child when he stood on the viewing deck at Tullamarine airport watching planes take off.
30 - Years that cinema owner Michael Smith has been an RACV member
57,000 - Kilometres Michael flew as he visited 25 countries in his circumnavigation of the globe
It’s a fascination that’s led the 30-year RACV member on a six-month, 57,000km circumnavigation of the globe in a tiny Searey amphibious plane Southern Sun.
Michael retraced the route of the Qantas Empire Flying Boat that hopped from Sydney to London in 1938.
Now, back at his Sun Theatre, the art-deco cinema complex in Yarraville, he has stories of heart-thumping near misses, of soaring over deserts and ice floes, and of frustrating bureaucracy.
Michael had been warned that Pakistan was dangerous but when he became stranded in a village outside Karachi, a local thought nothing of driving him the 90-minute round trip back to his hotel.
“I’ve found kindness time and time again when I’ve been flying in outback Australia and I wondered: are there better-hearted people? Well, guess what? They’re all over the world!”
Michael’s journey, a first solo circumnavigation by amphibious plane, took him to 25 countries.
“We needed to secure permission to fly in the airspace and permission to land. Japan and Russia were particularly difficult; Japan took three months, Russia took several months and in the end we avoided it, as we didn’t get permission.”
After days and, sometimes, nights at the controls, there was little rest when he landed. Michael wrote a blog, booked movies for his own cinemas in Yarraville and Bairnsdale and visited 68 more cinemas as research for his Masters thesis on cinema’s community value.
Flying “low and slow”, he says, reminded him that he was a minnow.