We’re often expected to suspend disbelief when it comes to Miss Fisher, I suppose. But honestly, the idea of a trip from Australia to England in a sporting aircraft in 1929 is beyond the pale. The first aerial circumnavigation wasn’t until 1924 and required massive preparations, and Phryne’s journey would be fully half that. Witness also the Western Australian Centenary Air Race in 1929: fastest flight times for the 4000 km / 2500 mile trip from Sydney to Perth were under 24 hours in the air, but took 10 days complete in 12 stages to allow for rest and refueling. I’m not sure which exact plane they’re using on the show, but the popular Gipsy Moth which looks similar has a range of only 515 km / 320 miles. Even assuming she had one customized with a larger fuel tank, it seems quite implausible that she’d be able to provision, land, and overnight appropriately across the Malay archipelago, not to mention put up with the Baron’s bad attitude!
It would be marginally easier to travel across the mainland colonies – but why, when there are ships or trains? I honor her as a daredevil who is hardly known for logical planning, but she’s also fond of her creature comforts – if she wants to go to England and visit family and friends, why not make it less of an ordeal? And if she doesn’t especially, it would be most pragmatic to catch her father up a day by flying to Perth, where he could probably board the same liner he was booked on. Of course, she could also just telegraph her mother and explain his delay!
But let’s say that there is a certain romance to a longer and more exotic voyage. Perhaps the show is willing to subordinate all of the logistics to the storytelling motive of sending her to England and back. Perhaps this is meant to be a bookend to the opening of the series (I refuse to believe it’s ending). Perhaps it’s all a clumsy setup for a hypothetical UK-based movie (Deb Cox has said "Phryne will fly her light plane all the way, breaking aviatrix records of the day!" – make of that what you will). Perhaps in said reality the trip and return might take much less time than is reasonable (she could hardly be away less than three months) – and/or perhaps Jack might really follow her (that's not the Jack I usually imagine). Perhaps you’re happy working within that scenario too, which is fine! For me, just learning to find pleasure in 1929 immersion, the level of creative license required isn’t sitting well.
Still, it seems unsporting to AU away the sentimental parting altogether – I do relish an occasion for love letters! This could be a much more extended epistolary tale, that is to say, but I couldn’t stand to see them separated for so long. I’ve split the difference, and allowed for significant handwaving to get Phryne to Singapore by plane (and find her father a ship or train passage that would arrive in London sooner). She’d be gone a month or two, I estimate – long enough to justify pushing up the wedding and generate some romantic angst, but not so long that I (Jack) can’t bear it. (I got only a vague sense of the canon timeline, but I figure that if Hugh and Dot’s wedding was scheduled for September 21, Phryne probably departs a few weeks before.) Basically: my little story exists to provide a platform for these disproportionate episode notes – but isn’t it more fun this way?
Tangentially, I looked a bit at ocean liners too – has anybody figured out how long the voyage from Melbourne to London would have taken? I’m approximating around a month, presumably via the Suez Canal. Supposedly trips left weekly to ensure regular mail service. The RMS Orion was a real ship, but it didn’t sail until 1934 (I was pleased with the name).
P.S. I love that Dot and Hugh staying at Phryne’s house is fanon – I’ve seen that in a couple of stories.
Edited on July 22: you'll find some further crowdsourced research in the comments. My thoughts and feelings about this scenario continue to evolve.