Maybe airline flying can wait? Part 2

Bristol Groundschool student, Jess Dettmer, discusses her aviation career and flying experience in the Australian Outback.

The post on this website that Matt Hayes wrote ‘Maybe airline flying can wait‘ really spoke to me as it covers exactly what we need to remember in these hard times, especially as many of us have been fortunate to have only seen the previous extended up cycle of the ever-changing aviation industry.

Europe is a very unique place where many inexperienced pilots with a bare CPL can gain entrance straight into the airlines. This really isn’t the case for most other places around the world. As Matt mentions it really is worth looking at different types of jobs to realise there will always be a demand for future pilots.

My previous experience is only from the outback of Australia and it is very different to what is the norm over here. Many pilots see the airlines as the end goal after years of working within the general aviation industry. Flying in the Australian Outback may not be the luxurious job most people think of when they consider a pilot career but honestly what it lacks in comforts, it more than makes up for in adventure. It’s a huge vast diverse world with so many different types of flying to build those necessary hours.

There are options like Station flying which is a common initial job. It involves flying staff and supplies to the remote cattle stations in Australia, which often are the size of small European countries. These jobs often entail gaining a mustering rating to be the air support when herding large numbers of cattle and also flying the perimeter to check for fencing and waterhole maintenance. Another “foot in the door” for many is scenic flying. Living in a country with such vast natural beauty the best way to see it is from above, so air tours and air safaris are extremely common. Furthermore, having large mines scattered in very remote locations allows for big markets for Fly-in-Fly-out, with smaller business jets, as well as large airline style jets. For most large countries, not only Australia, airfreight is extremely viable and important which enables many smaller charter and freight companies to operate large areas.

Flying view from an aeroplane of a remote cattle station in the outback of Australia
Remote cattle station

A photo of an outback passenger terminal in Australia
Outback passenger terminal

Looking back, it was a lot of hard work and long hours but honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. The aviation skills I learnt have become invaluable. The people you meet are so unique and places you see so untouched you felt like a real pioneer and adventurer. The strongest memories I still have are the wide-open skies, unpredictable weather and memorable sights-on the ground and in the air.

My personal career started off door knocking (yes literally) throughout the north and north west of Australia. This is where some of the most remote countryside is and therefore aircraft are extremely vital transportation. I was lucky to land a job in a remote down in the Northern Territory ferrying aircraft (and helping in the hanger) for an Air Maintenance company.

Airstrip in the outback of Australia with steel shed, car, fence and hills in the background  - used for small planes and flying
Typical remote airstrip

Airstrip of an airfield in the Australian Outback with a plane and Kangaroo
Wildlife on the runway

Working long hours and always on call to ferry whatever aircraft they needed was some of the most challenging flying I did, as I was still so fresh to it all. After proving my determination to stick around and work hard this soon led into some flying for their charter and scenic company.

The following season I was recommended to Wrightsair, an outback scenic flight company. They are based in the William Creek, one of the smallest “towns” in Australia and one of the remotest pubs of the outback. Here I also learnt a flying job didn’t always mean flying.

Our duties as company pilots included learning to drive a fork lift to be able to help with fortnightly food deliveries, to painting the towns houses and guest accommodation, to flight and maintenance scheduling of aircraft and to even helping out in the pub when big bus tours were flown in. I found out I wasn’t just hired for my flying experience, (apparently many applicants had the same hours) rather for my previous non-aviation experience in customer service I gained in tour-guiding and hospitality. After two seasons here and gaining invaluable experience and hours on all of the different types of company aircraft I realised it was time to move on to the next challenge.

My last flying job before moving across the world was a variety of work which included transport of students from communities to schools in major towns, mail runs, transfer of medical staff, water sample testing, pipeline surveillance and basic charter flights.

My favourite part was probably when each week, we would fly from community to community along a route stretching thousands of kilometres just to deliver the mail, medical freight and other essentials. I finally felt like here I was working for a mini airline with an actual dedicated operations team. However, here too pilots didn’t just fly. On non-flying days, we were rostered on for checking people in, loading freight, prepping planes for our colleagues, running office errands in town and washing aircraft every so often.

Remote airstrip in the Australian outback  - used for small planes and flying
Another typical remote airstrip


Jess Dettmer, a Bristol Groundschool student, stands in front of a small passenger aircraft used for flying in the Australian Outback, wearing a Santa hat
Work all year – even Christmas