Fun And Flying In The Outback.....
What are your backgrounds?
Darrell was a Firefighter in the Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade for 30 years. Lyn was the Administration Manager at a Transport Company.
How did you find out about the job?
Darrell is a pilot, and always knew about Forrest. Three years ago, we called in to Forrest on our way back from an outback trip. We met the managers at the time, and something just told us that we were right for this job.
Why did you do it?
We are both country people at heart, our careers kept us in the city far too long. We feel we are too young to sit around, and that this would be a perfect way to start our “retirement” (lifestyle change).
Had you been in remote Australia before?
Yes, we have travelled extensively in the outback. We love the colours, people & the atmosphere, and have always talked about living in a remote area.
What did your roles entail?
Our primary role was to maintain the airfield, and be available to refuel aircraft. We also had to maintain the whole town, (which consisted of 6 houses and a railway workers rest house), and provide dinner, bed and breakfast for pilots that stayed over. We had generators, vehicles, machinery and a desalinisation unit that needed to be operated & maintained, lawns to mow, postmaster duties, along with all other aspects of running a small town.
How often is the airport used?
We averaged 2 planes a day, sometimes we did not see anyone for a week, then we might have 6 in one day – very weather dependant.
How many hours a week did you work?
We needed to be on duty 24 hours a day, not unusual for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to need fuel for an emergency in the middle of the night. Some days we worked from 5am to midnight, depending if we had guests or not.
Where did you socialise?
Our social life was all in Forrest. I guess you could call it socialising when we had guests, as we ate dinner with them, and had many great conversations around the dinner table. We got to know the railway workers, and became good friends with some of them. We were very fortunate that quite a few of our friends and family were able to come all that way from Victoria to visit also.
How far was it to the nearest shop?
We lived 127 kms NW of Eucla, (a 3 + hour drive on a 4X4 track) & 640kms E of Kalgoorlie. Too far to travel for a pizza!
Was there anything you found difficult to manage?
We managed to do everything that was needed. Electrical repairs were difficult at times.
What were the good things about the job?
We loved the solitude & the excitement. You never knew what the day would bring. The mottos were “expect the unexpected” and “be careful what you wish for”. (We wished for a pizza once -and a helicopter pilot delivered 13 of them!)
Were there any ‘not so good’ things?
Some days the wind would get us down. Also it was quite stressful for us when we were getting low on AVGAS. It was delivered by road train from Kalgoorlie, and could be up to a month before delivery, due to weather. Small planes and helicopters depend on Forrest as a refuelling stop to travel across the country, so fuel availability is crucial.
What were the temperatures like?
Our hottest day was 47 deg in November last year, with a howling NW wind. That day we had about 40 planes to refuel, a fuel delivery, 20 people for lunch, and 34 people stay the night. Turned out the best day of our lives! Summer temps were in the 40’s constantly, but a dry heat, and the evenings were much cooler. We would work in the morning and late in the arvo, but stay inside with the aircon during the day. Winter was generally in the low 20’s, lovely days.
Did you meet some interesting people?
We met the most wonderful people from all walks of life, including doctors, barristers, farmers, and people famous in the aviation industry. One of our favourite nights was spent with the Anglican Bishop of Bunbury and his wife – what characters they were. Also Greg & Margaret Mortimer, Greg was the first Australian to climb Mt. Everest. All our guests had interesting tales to tell, and we learnt so much.
Did you feel isolated?
Not at all. There are between 50 to 70 trains go by every week. Most times they would toot, and sometimes drop off a paper. You never knew when a railway worker would turn up, or campers, or planes. If we got lonely, all we did was sit down on the couch for a rest - and someone would come! Even if no-one was about, we loved the peace and quiet.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely. It would be really interesting to see another season. The place changes so much with the seasons, and it would be great to see if the same insects, birds and animals returned.
What's your idea of retirement?
We think we will find it difficult to stop “work” altogether yet. Darrell plans to build an aeroplane which will keep us busy, and we are loving our life after moving into our new home. There is fishing, golf, bike riding, and an airfield,all the things we love and need, but we have discovered that there are many places out there like Forrest, where you can live andwork in an interesting environment in the country. We are both fit and well, and enjoy a challenge. We plan to go back next year for 6 months, and then ?????????