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Young pilot smashing stereotypes

FLYING HIGH: Kaddie Crosby on Isis Downs,  south-west of Longreach.
FLYING HIGH: Kaddie Crosby on Isis Downs, south-west of Longreach. Contributed

KADDIE Crosby became a bush pilot purely by chance.

The 30-year-old who works on Isis Downs, 130km south-east of Longreach, was supervising her 70-year-old dad when he went to get his pilot's licence and ended up with hers as well.

Now she's smashing gender stereotypes working as a pilot and bore person on a 163,000ha cattle property with a carrying capacity of 21,000 head.

Landing the job in June, Kaddie, who grew up on a cattle station in New England, is loving the return to country life and giving the blokes out bush a run for their money.

Her return to cattle station work comes after a five-year stint in the construction industry as a fly-in, fly-out rigger crane operator, a gig she picked up after the ban on live cattle export left her without her initial cattle station job.

Not one to stick to gender-traditional roles, Kaddie said it was her upbringing on the farm that gave her the "gender doesn't matter” mindset, which she says is sometimes a shock for others.

She is often mistaken for the governess or the cook, not the pilot and bore person, which she admits she finds quite the laugh.

"For the rural chaps who have been in the game for 40 to 50 years, it's a big surprise to see a woman in the role, but I grew up on the land and as the youngest of four girls we were all out there working with our dad and if a job needed doing, we just did it,” Kaddie said.

"We never experienced that gender difference at all as kids so for me it's just normal, but for a lot of blokes who are used to working with men, they are a bit taken aback at first.

"But once you prove yourself, and you do have to prove yourself, you're home and hosed and off you go.”

Kaddie said just like any job there were challenges, but it was all about asking the right question and being brave enough to ask the tough and sometimes stupid questions.

"I think you get into strife out here in the bush when you become a know-it-all. You've just got to be prepared to admit defeat sometimes,” she said.

"The only thing holding me back sometimes being a woman in the job is the sheer strength, but when it comes to the brains and the mechanics behind it, I can do just as well as anyone else.

"But you can call someone up and get a hand for those situations (when you need strength), other than that being a girl out here in the bush is a great lifestyle.”

She said sometimes she honestly thought girls had the tendency to be a bit more aware, careful and cautious.

"They may be more inclined to ask questions whereas some guys might just sweep it under the carpet.

"That's being very broad and blase but I think girls are great in the industry and might rub a few of the rough corners off the boys out here too,” she laughed.

Kaddie said while she was initially employed as a "pilot”, there was much more to the job title than that.

When applying for jobs, she said she was aware as a new professional pilot she wasn't going to get to fly 1000 hours in a year, she was going to get to fly 400 hours and she had to be prepared to do the ground work as well.

"I know I wanted to get back to the country and I was prepared to do some of the jobs not a lot of people want to do - you're not just going to be flying full-time,” she said.

"I am very aware of what goes on at a cattle station, having spent two seasons working on a cattle station once before, so I was prepared and aware of the fact that I'm on a working cattle station and that there are other jobs that go on.

"I'm the bore man as well as the pilot, so my predominate role is maintaining the waters here at Isis Downs and flying is an extra really.”

Ever since landing her pilot's licence, Kaddie has known the end game was to be a pilot in the rural sector, so starting work on a station was a great way to build experience, network and practise her new trade.

Funnily enough though, Kaddie wasn't ever supposed to get her pilot's licence.

"It was something my dad and I did together. My dad had a late-life crisis and he had always wanted to learn how to fly ever since he was a boy and always decided he couldn't afford it,” she explained.

"And then he said, 'You know what, darn it I'm getting old, I'm going to do it.' He was 70 and my mum was like, 'Oh John, you can't teach an old dog new tricks.'

"I went along as moral support and had a bit of a joyride and I got the bug, I was bitten. That was back in 2011, it was purely by chance.”

Kaddie said flying solo for the first time was absolutely mind boggling and it was hard to come to terms with the fact you were floating in the sky.

"I guess after 400 hours I now take it for granted, but it's not until you take friends and family flying and they're gushing how amazing it is that you have to pinch yourself and say 'hang on, not many people get to do this',” she said.

"It's amazing being up in the clouds and looking down on everything. It is absolutely surreal.”

As for what's next for Kaddie, she said she would finish the season at Isis Downs and see what was on offer there next season.

"I'll build some hours in my logbook, then hopefully I can move on to the RFDS or something similar,” she said.

But no matter what adventure comes her way, one thing for sure is she's staying out bush.

"It's quiet, there's no car horns, no sirens, it's just you and the bush,” she said.

"You can see for miles, there is no pollution and you look out and the horizon is 10km away. It's really unique.”

KADDIE'S AVERAGE WEEK

I will fly the property three times a week, generally Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

That takes anywhere from two to four hours, depending on what I'm flying over and inspecting.

On the rest of those days I'm actually going out and fixing any problems that I see and on days I'm not flying I will be doing a standard water run on the ground.

Work starts at about 7am and I'm out in a Toyota all day until about 5.30-6pm checking bores, turning on pumps.

To get through the whole property is a three-day routine.

ISIS DOWNS STATION

Nine permanent employees on the station - four station hands, a manager, administration manager, an assistant manager, cook and a pilot/bore person.

Four female employees, five male employees.

CONSOLIDATED PASTORAL COMPANY

CPC, which owns Isis Downs Station, owns and operates 16 cattle stations with a carrying capacity of more than 400,000 head of cattle across 5.5 million hectares across northern Australia.

In a traditional male-dominated industry, about 40% of CPC's employees are women, with 18% of management roles held by women.


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