Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

One young pilot's journey from the dunes of Dubai to the Australian Outback

Long-term UAE resident Michael Alcock traded in the city’s skyscrapers for Kununurra’s stunning waterfalls

Michael Alcock, 24, is about as far from the life he knew in Dubai as he could get. He no longer spends his days four-wheel-driving through the desert dunes in the UAE or knocking about the city surrounded by towering buildings and an incredible range of cultures.

Instead, the young Englishman, who spent his formative years in the Emirates after relocating from the UK with his family, is making a name for himself in the Kimberley region of Australia, one of the country’s earliest settled areas. The place can lay claim to having Aboriginal history that dates back more than 40,000 years and an environment that ranges from semi-desert lands to rugged ridges and coastal fringes.

“I moved to Kununurra because I was offered the chance to fly the Cessna Caravan with Aviair,” says the young pilot who has previously spent time in Perth and Broome. “Many pilots move to the remote regions early in their career to build hours and experience.” The Cessna Caravan is a prop jet aircraft that is built to endure a rugged environment, but provides comfortable transport for up to 14 passengers.

Kimberley has an environment that ranges from semi-desert lands to rugged ridges and coastal fringes. Courtesy Aviair
Kimberley has an environment that ranges from semi-desert lands to rugged ridges and coastal fringes. Courtesy Aviair

Unlike Dubai, which boasts a population of more than three million people, Kununurra has 7,500 locals and nowhere near as much glitz and glamour. “Dubai is centred around incredible skyscrapers, modern buildings and tests the limits of human engineering, whereas Kununurra and Kimberley are based around agriculture and tourism, with the biggest attraction being the natural landscape,” explains Alcock.

As different as the two cities obviously are, there are some similarities, too. “Even though both places have had an influx of newcomers, their original cultures are at the centre of everything. Even though Dubai is very westernised, the Middle Eastern culture is evident throughout, and similarly, out here, the indigenous culture is one of the biggest influences with regards to the town’s growth and development.”

Life in Kununurra is easy-going, but during peak season, which runs from May to September, tourists flock to the town in their thousands to see the attractions. Alcock’s parents have visited regularly since their son moved there. “They love it up here,” he says. “They did the Gibb River Road for three weeks with a bunch of their friends, visiting places like El Questro Wilderness Park, Home Valley Station, Mitchell Falls and Drysdale Station. They were so impressed with the landscape and the vastness of the place and, of course, the gorges.”

Alcock’s family has been living in the UAE since 1996; his father still lives in Dubai, working as an engineer. Alcock grew up in the UAE, and it was the trips back and forth to the UK during school holidays that initially ignited his passion for flying, eventually leading to him seeking a cockpit career Down Under.

“I will always remember flying on the Emirates 777 as a kid, going into the cockpit, meeting the pilots and getting my photo taken,” he says, admitting this was all it took to become “instantly hooked” on flying.

Some 20 years later, the Aviair staffer spends his days piloting flights over Australia’s Unesco World Heritage-listed Bungle Bungle Ranges and Purnululu National Park, which is best known for its beehive-like sculptured rocks and sandstone towers. Not to mention Lake Argyle, the largest freshwater reservoir by volume in Western Australia, and some of the best aerial views of the Argyle Diamond Mine, the largest diamond producer in the world by volume.

“I was incredibly lucky to be given a chance with such a professional company,” he says. “Down the track I’d love to fly for a major carrier such as British Airways, Emirates or Qantas, but for now I’m loving what I do and don’t see myself leaving any time soon.”

Michael and his sister Lucy in the Dubai desert as kids. Courtesy Michael Alcock
Michael and his sister Lucy in the Dubai desert as kids. Courtesy Michael Alcock

When he’s not clocking up his hours behind the controls, he’s out exploring local waterfalls, hitting the gym or hanging out with his Aussie friends. As for where he ideally sees himself in the years to come? “Australia is now my home and I’m very happy here, but I’d be more than happy to move back to the UAE,” he admits. “I guess anything can happen and I’m approaching everything with an open mind.”

One thing is for sure, Alcock is living the dream – not only does he get to enjoy the best Australia has to offer, but he is also able to spend at least a month in Dubai every year.

“I still love Dubai,” he says. But he also enjoys where he is now. “The things that make this place so amazing are the people, the weather, the beaches and the quality of life.”

Updated: August 15, 2019 02:28 PM

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