Professor takes flight

Published: Wednesday 12th August 2015


Racing around outback Australia in a plane for two weeks will be a change of pace from writing papers and grant applications for ACU Professor Geoff Nicholson.

Professor Nicholson is gearing up to fly from Esperance in Western Australia to Queensland’s Hamilton Island in the 2015 Outback Air Race (OAR), a time-trial based competition testing flying precision and airmanship. Including the flight from Lethbridge Victoria to Esperance, and back home from Hamilton Island the distance travelled will be around 10,000km.

OAR is a unique event that has raised over $1.5 million for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) since the first race in 1996. A GPS-based navigation time-trial, pilots nominate an elapsed time between two waypoints - receiving points for both time and location accuracy – seconds and metres count.  It is about airmanship and safe flying rather than speed.  This year 28 aircraft manned by 78 crew members will take part.

Professor Nicholson and his brother Peter, an ex-RAAF fighter and test pilot will compete as the Bald Eagles. Both inherited a lack of hair and a passion for flying from their father Keith, a former Second World War combat pilot. Peter’s wife Marie is the third member of the crew despite her full head of hair.

Team Bald Eagles is aiming to raise $10,000 from friends and sponsors to help the RFDS provide essential medical and retrieval services to Australians who live in rural and remote areas that are under-serviced by mainstream medical services.

"This will be the seventh year I've taken part in the race," Professor Nicholson said.

"I started flying in 1968 after catching the bug from father and I initially entered the race with him as my co-pilot before he took his final flight in his mid-80s.

"It's always great fun."

Professor Nicholson leads the Research Translation research stream at the Institute for Health and Ageing. His research areas include cell biology, epidemiology, clinical research and research translation, with particular interest in diseases of bone and metabolism. He has more than 200 refereed publications and has been awarded multiple NHMRC and other competitive research grants.