Following Dreams and Reaching for the Sky: a flight around Australia’s coast in a light aircraft: Fran West

Fran West, born in Adelaide in 1952, is an award-winning pilot, adventurer, author, photographer and inspirational speaker.

In 1978, she moved to the South East of South Australia, where she learned to fly. Fran has had a private pilot’s licence as well as an ultralight licence, with endorsements for retractable gear, constant speed and tail wheel aircraft, and a seaplane rating gained in Seattle, USA.

While in her mid forties, Fran left her comfort zone of Public Library Manager at Naracoorte, took a leap of faith and followed her dream to set off ona marathon flight around Australia’s coast. She faced challenges and overcame her fears. Not bad for a pilot who doesn’t like heights or flying over water!

Her Oz Flight ’99 led toher becoming the first woman to pilot a light aircraft around the coast of Australia (mainland and Tasmania).

Her second adventure, in 2002, was Sea, Sky and Sand: a flight around South Australia’s coast and Outback. This flight was to celebrate the Year of the Outback, the 200th anniversary of Flinders’ and Baudin’s sea voyages and to raise money for the RFDS.

Not long after a memorable trek in the Himalaya, Fran’s next life challenge was surviving a head on collision in a car (not a plane, and not her fault!). This accident not only left her with multiple injuries but also impacted heavily on her emotionally and financially.

However, Fran is not a quitter and she was determined to draw inner strength from the experiences and lessons she had learned on her two aerial odysseys. To prove that no car accident was going to stop her, Fran trained hard and eventually completed the 6-day walk along Tasmania’s Overland Track. That then led to other walks in Spain and South America.

Fran’s main philosophies in life are to have a go, follow dreams (at any age) and ADD value to life by having the right Attitude, making Decisions and being Determined to follow them through.

She is the recipient of a Spirit of Adventure Award from Australian Geographic for an “inspirational circumnavigation of Australia in a Cessna 172”. The Lores Bonney Trophy, a prestigious aviation award donated by Australia’s pioneer aviator of the 1930s, has also been presented to Fran.

Her ebook, Plane Reflections: about life and a flight around Australia’s coast and Australia’s Coast from the Air DVD are available direct from  

Fran has contributed to various Australian and international aviation and tourist magazines, and academic texts and CDs. She has even been an enrichment speaker on two cruise ships. In recent years, Fran has been able to combine her passion for flying and photography by collaborating with aged care therapists to produce reminiscence DVDs for dementia patients. Her photos are available on various products from Print On Demand websites and her videos can be viewed on YouTube.

Now residing in the Adelaide Hills, Fran has decided to become both a drone pilot and grey nomad, or more precisely, a grey ‘slowmad’!