Wilkins’ love of flying and his adventurous spirit is somewhat paralleled by my father’s flying adventures, which inspired this song. My father, Frank Tayler, was a Royal Australian Air Force pilot during WWII. Twice shot out of the sky over Egypt, he survived and was rescued in the desert by the Allied Forces. Returned by the RAAF to Australia, his job was to fly new planes from Sydney to Perth before the planes were shipped to the war zones in Europe and Africa.
On their nine-day cross-country passage, the group of about six planes would stop each night in small outback towns to re-fuel and rest. Inevitably, the townsfolk would turn on a big party and dance for these RAAF celebrities, and the next morning, the pilots would again take to the skies, often somewhat hung-over. No aviation authorities to bother them then! These journeys across the Nullarbor, heading westward into the endlessly setting sun, were perhaps the happiest time in my father’s life. In later years, he would describe with great animation his love for flying.
My father and I did not see eye to eye on many things, but on the occasion of his 80th birthday in 1995, with a large gathering of family and friends, I sang this song for him. He was extremely moved, and the song went a long way towards healing the rift that had divided us for years—the power of music and song!, Some years later as he lay dying, I held his hand and sang this song to him one last time.