Challenging, sometimes exhausting, but very rewarding is how Heather Ford describes her dream job working as an Royal Flying Doctor Service pilot.
Ms Ford has been with RFDS Central Operations, based in Alice Springs, NT, for nearly 12 months, providing aeromedical assistance from Adelaide through the centre of Australia and north to Darwin.
“My work with the RFDS is better than I could have ever imagined, it sounds like a cliché, but no two days are the same,” she said.
“When people talk about the RFDS they tend to focus on our emergency aeromedical services in the outback.
“But we also provide essential primary healthcare services out to remote communities and transfer patients between country and city hospitals.
“We even transfer people interstate for life-saving surgery, such as organ transplants and heart surgery on newborn babies.”
Growing up at Ballarat, Vic, Ms Ford had always been interested in learning to fly and started her flying career in 2005, completing her training in Bendigo, Vic.
“On the day of my second lesson, a RFDS plane landed at the airport and the pilot let my instructor and me take a look inside.
“After looking through the aircraft and having a talk to the pilot, my interest in working for the RFDS was sparked.”
Ms Ford then spent the next 10 years of her career building up the requirements to become a RFDS pilot. The minimum total flying time is 3000 hours, including 200 hours of night flying and instrument experience, as well as 500 hours of multi-engine experience.
“I spent some time in William Creek flying tourist charters and doing station mustering work as we also require remote area experience, especially at night as it is pretty dark in the outback,” she said.
From there, Ms Ford was offered a position as a flight instructor and examiner at a flight school in Ballarat, where she was able to complete the remaining experience required for the RFDS.
“The flying experience at RFDS is incredible, we are operating the PC-12 as a single pilot aircraft, flying at night and in all types of weather,” she said. “I’m constantly flying in and out of remote areas, often landing on dirt or grass airstrips and that’s what makes it challenging and so exciting.
“But importantly, I also love that my skills allow me to help people. It’s about being part of a team who deliver essential, and often life-saving, services to people in remote areas.
“It’s very humbling to be part of that.”
I’m constantly flying in and out of remote areas, often landing on dirt or grass airstrips and that’s what makes it challenging and so exciting.