LET’S FLY AWAY: Jan Smith (main picture), of Ballina, is hoping to set a world first when she para-motors from Cape York to Papa New Guinea. she is show (at left and below) practising.
LET’S FLY AWAY: Jan Smith (main picture), of Ballina, is hoping to set a world first when she para-motors from Cape York to Papa New Guinea. she is show (at left and below) practising. Marc Stapelberg

Ballina granny to para-motor across Torres Strait

LOOK up in the sky - it's a bird, it's a plane, no it's a motorised granny with a parachute.

Ballina's Jan Smith is in training for an epic journey that will take her from the tip of Cape York, across the Torres Straight to Papua New Guinea.

She believes she can island hop the 220 kilometre distance in about three days, and that she would be the first person ever to do so.

"I've been paragliding for about 12 years and para-motoring for about eight years... I grew up in Papua New Guinea and just wondered if it would be possible to do it; just go home. I've been researching the distances and the weather and so on and I just thought I'd give it a go," the 65 year-old adventurer said.

Jan is planning the undertake the trip in May when wind and weather will be most favourable and has organised a boat for her husband, sisters and some friends who will act as a support crew while she is soaring across the sky above them.

She said she can cruise at around 40 km/h, faster with a tail wind, and they plan to camp on the remote Torres Straight islands along the way.

The 80 horse-power engine, fuel, fan, navigational equipment and so on weighs up to 35 kilograms and she has to run along the ground in order to get the parachute up and get herself into the air.

She said once she is airborne, the harness is very comfortable and then "you just have to fly".

Jan has been in training for a year, works out every morning and gets up as often as she can.

She recently flew from Flat Rock to Evans Head, a journey that took about an hour and is hoping to extend to Iluka for her next trip as she gets used to different wind conditions and calculating how much fuel she will need.

She said the greatest distance from one island to the next across the Straight is about 50km.

"When I grew up in PNG my dad was a pilot and I used to spend time with him flying around in ancient old planes... It's something a bit crazy but I'm doing everything I can to prepare for it," she said.