I knew since I was 13 years old I wanted to be a pilot. In my last year at high school I achieved my ‘first solo’ flight, and three years later I qualified as a Commercial Pilot and Flight Instructor. I spent the following six years I working as a commercial pilot, flying instructor and air-ambulance pilot.
I took maternity leave in 2007, and spent ten years away from the work force raising four daughters, being the stay-at-home mum, and only flying occasionally.
In August last year my husband and I swapped roles and we moved our family to Papua New Guinea, where I took up a role as a pilot with Mission Aviation Fellowship, flying light aircraft in support of isolated communities.
Describe a typical day...
My day starts with coffee and my Bible, and I enjoy the short quiet time before my family joins me at 6am. Then it’s breakfast, a quick shower and we’re all out the door by 6.50am.
At work I check the aircraft, look over the planned programme and the weather, and discuss any necessary changes with the programmer, and complete the required paperwork while the aircraft is loaded. Each flying day is different from the last, we could be flying building materials, produce (coffee and peanuts), trade store goods, school supplies, teachers, health workers, or it could be a medical evacuation. We serve over 200 remote communities in Papua New Guinea.
At home we always sit down as a family around the table for our evening meal so we can talk together. Spending time chatting with each of my girls as they’re tucked into bed, and I usually like to get in a board game with my husband before bed too.
I’m incredibly proud of my family – my husband Jonny who has been my biggest supporter over the 13 years we’ve been married, and our four beautiful daughters. Raising kids has been the hardest but most rewarding things I’ve done in life – I took ten years off work to be at home with them when they were little, and wouldn’t change this for anything. Now I love seeing them grow, make friends and adapt to living in a completely different culture.
What's in your handbag/ satchel?
Here in Papua New Guinea everyone – men, women and children carry colourful string bags called ‘bilums’. I don’t leave the house without my phone, wallet, a bottle of filtered water, and a packet of wet wipes. If I’m out with my 3-year-old, I’ll have a notebook and coloured pencils for the times we have to wait anywhere and a change of clothes (for her, not me).
What are your ambitions in life?
Both my father and father-in-law passed away before their 60th birthdays, and that’s helped me realise that life is short and we need to make the most of each day. As a Christian, my faith in God is important, and I seek to live my life using my gifts and talents serving God and others around me.
What do you wish you'd known at the start of your career you now know?
Love what you do, but there is more to life than flying aeroplanes!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years' time?
We’ve committed to be here in PNG for the next four years, and after that we’ll have to wait and see. We are confident we are in the right place now, and unless something changes we’ll still be here helping make difference in the lives of the people we live alongside.
What advice would you give a budding pilot?
Firstly, I can’t think of a better office view - it’s a magical world up there and gives a unique perspective of the world. Secondly, go take a trial flight at your local Aero Club today! It can be hard work getting your first flying job, and the training is expensive, but if you’re passionate about it, go for it!
What do you wish you'd known about motherhood before having kids?
Make the most of the life you are living rather than spending time and energy wishing it looked different, forget the ‘ideal’ and accept the ‘real’. I love the quote by Jill Churchill “There’s no way to be a perfect mother, but a million ways to be a good one”. As mothers we are often too hard on ourselves and on other women around us. Let’s support each other in all the unique ways we do mothering.
Finally, happiness is...
Happiness for me is found in contentment, having an attitude of gratitude, and looking for the good in the everyday.