Joshua Groth - Pilot, Founder & CEO of Sky Dance
What does a typical workday look like for you, and what are your frustrations?
Based out of Brisbane-Archerfield, Sky Dace takes its guests on adventure flight getaways around Southeast Queensland and into the Great Australian Outback. From hiking, rock climbing, and adventure travel, to romantic getaways and Outback Air Safaris, we take our guests to explore and discover Australia.
We feel privileged to be doing what we do, and we are continually amazed at the communities and the incredible landscapes that we get to share!
Our charter flights are typically done with the idea of providing the best possible experience for the passengers. We will often include some of the travel logistics and ground-based needs + accommodation for our passengers as well as air travel.
Our frustrations: Not flying or being outside on adventures enough! Our typical workday is spent online and on the phone marketing and coordinating logistics both on the ground and in the air. This attention to detail in the planning phases allows the experiences to be seamless and our guests get the very most out of their time with us. A frustration would also be communicating the nature and value of the experiences to our guests or passengers.
What led you to a career in aviation?
As did most pilots, I grew up knowing I wanted to fly! In the mountains of Colorado, I learned to fly Luscombs and Super Cubs with my family. The thing that attracted me to flying is a combination of the systems and mechanics and beauty of being able to use physics to take these big pieces of metal or wood and fabric into the sky! And when you get up there – the perspective you gain on the world and the places you can access…it is a dream! Especially so in the mountains of Colorado or Idaho where the terrain is difficult to cross, but similarly in the Outback where travelling can be hindered by the great distances.
So yeah, aviation is a way of seeing the world and accomplishing the impossible, and these concepts are often translatable to other areas of life! Appreciating a big-picture perspective in order to accomplish the micro-tasks and pull projects together. It’s great!
Tell us about your current fleet of aircraft & helicopters?
We work with a select number of operators to give our guests the very best. Our in-house aircraft is the modified Piper Chieftain-Panther and the Piper Saratoga. We also are proud to work very closely with Pterodactyl Helicopters and their now very impressive fleet of rotor aircraft… because let’s face it, every fixed-wing pilot gets a little jealous when they see the wizardry of a helicopter beating physics into submission!
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing aviation today, and what are potential solutions?
General Aviation faces a number of challenges right now.
Aging piston fleets and very few new twin-engine designs
We have aircraft from the 1970s flying around with very little in the way of technological advances. As much as we love our old faithful aircraft and our piston twins, they are aging fleets and have somehow escaped many of the technological advances (due to regulation quagmires and liability risks). Manufacturing companies have chosen not to update designs due to liability and cost of implementation. The funding and R+D are all going into gas-turbine and the next-generation of aircraft like the new VLJs and VTOL. I mean where do you even unload GA passengers at Canberra Airport in 2019? We are fortunate to work with some amazing aircraft owners, but it is not easy to keep up these days. This leaves me wondering what will become of GA in the next 10 years – where is the next evolution taking us? I think it is kind of exciting.
Over-Regulation and increasing costs
We have regulations and operating procedures that are built for airlines and larger operations, sometimes making it difficult for the “mom and pop” piston operators to conduct their day-to-day. To compound it all we have the increased costs associated of regulation, the remaining operators having bidding wars with each other – racing to the bottom of the barrel on price-point or taking loss-leads (sometimes only to go bust after de-valuing the market – lol). And while we are talking about costs, the increasing fuel prices, increasing maintenance costs of aging aircraft and their AD’s… “It’s a hard-nut life”, as they say!
What’s the best and worst career advice you have been given?
I’m not sure about the worst – but the best was being told that small business runs on passion. You’ve got to stay passionate about what you are doing and keep a clear vision of WHY you are doing it. Love it or leave it!
What has been your most memorable flight to date?
My most memorable flight was just this year actually! Flying out over the flood plains of the Diamantina Lakes, Goyder Lagoon, The Warburton River, Lake Eyre, and the incredible contrast and vastness the add to the red empty Outback. It is insatiable and captivating. Something that really stood out to me was the way that the small pictures match the large satellite images – Lake Eyre is a closed river system meaning it never reaches the sea. You can see these very small winding river systems that find their way across desperately flat expanses of sand and earth. They make these shapes in the sand even in the smallest off-shoots that evaporate into nothingness with the same patterns as a larger system – and again no matter what scale you are referencing. It is beautiful. The mathematics of nature. A Fibonacci visual spectacle. How lucky are we to be able to see the world from the sky and experience these things.
What are your three must-have travel essentials?
– Goal Zero Sherpa 100 intelligent power-bank.
– Garmin InReach EPIRB / 2-way texting SAT Phone.
– Icebreaker Merino Clothes – they are what we wear as uniforms/base layers. Nothing better to travel in and they bridge the functional adventure-clothing with professional attire.
Whats is your favourite time of year to fly and why?
Although the Cumulonimbus clouds and epic summer storms and gorgeous to watch, we like the clear/crisp winter skies. Skies are pretty gorgeous all the time though and we just love it when we get to fly – so yeah. Clear and blue is ideal.
What is your favourite aircraft or helicopter in your current fleet?
Our modified Piper Panther Chieftain is a total adventure-machine! With the Red-Gear, Vortex-Generators, Q-Tip Props, and Winglets, this thing is made for the lower-altitude outback adventure flights. We just re-fitted the interior with brand new designs so it is one-clean-flying-machine!
What’s your favourite city to fly into?
Kooralbyn – right here in our own Scenic Rim. The approach has a “blind final” as you come around the mountain and into the valley. Reminds me of Colorado – super fun! Also, the community in Boonah and the whole Scenic Rim is amazing! We feel like it is a second home for us!