Pilot Profiles



Air Force Pilot. It’s a job title just about every kid has dreamed of, up there with astronaut, movie star and superhero. It’s a select few that get to actually do it and fewer still get the opportunity to join the Roulettes; the Royal Australian Air Force’s prestigious aerobatics team. Flight Lieutenant, Aimee Heal is one of those few and it all started flying Jabirus around Bundaberg, QLD.

Currently posted at RAAF Base East Sale in Victoria, Aimee’s job as Roulette Seven has taken her across the country and internationally, performing at airshows, major events and military functions. After grabbing a coffee in preparation for night flying training later that evening, Aimee sat down with SportPilot Magazine to tell us about her journey in aviation.

Aimee’s first flight was unlike most. Where the typical pilot tells of wonder and awe, Aimee recalls being mostly terrified. Only about 4 years old, her dad had taken her for a joy flight in a helicopter at Agrotrend, an annual agricultural show in her hometown of Bundaberg, Queensland. “I just remember being really petrified. I was so scared because the helicopter had no doors!” Aimee said, recalling the experience. Afraid she was going to fall out, Aimee couldn’t wait to be back on the ground. It wasn’t long though before she was determined to give it a second try.

A couple years later at the same show, Aimee asked her dad to take her up again. This time, the aviation bug had bitten her. “I remember coming back and dad saying ‘Wow, that was completely different to last time’,” she recalls, having pressed up against the side of the helicopter to see as much as she possibly could. Any fears she previously had were gone, and Aimee was set on becoming a pilot.

Having been enamoured with aviation ever since that flight, Aimee took the opportunity to visit the local aero club for the first time in grade 6. Established in 1935, the Bundaberg Aero Club has inspired countless would-be pilots to chase their aviation dreams in its 85-year history and Aimee was quick to join its ranks. Flying Jabiru J170s around Bundaberg in the early mornings before school, Aimee was always on track to do her first solo as soon as she was old enough.

“You can’t ever forget your first solo,” said Aimee, reminiscing on that exhilarating moment. “I remember being out at the club on school holidays and my instructor saying, ‘Okay, stop here. I’m going to let you go solo now. I’ll get out here and you can go and do a circuit on your own’”. Heart pounding and adrenaline pumping, she set off down the runway for the first time by herself. In the air, Aimee remembers looking over at the empty seat beside her thinking, “Oh well, I’ve got to land it now. I have no choice in the matter!”. Confident but nervous, she completed the circuit and brought the J170 in for a smooth landing, cementing her career direction once and for all.

Continuing to fly with the aero club throughout high school, Aimee considered a few different career pathways before settling on the Air Force. “I actually applied for an aviation degree through Griffith University, as well as my application to the Australian Defence Force Academy,” she recalls, but she was focused primarily on what would get her working in the cockpit the quickest. “I knew the expense of getting a Commercial Pilot’s Licence through civilian means. I didn’t really know, but with the Air Force it seemed you could apply and they’d pay for training and everything,” she said. Of course, stories from her grandfather who served in the Air Force during World War II might have also had an influence on her decision. Upon finishing high school, Aimee was accepted into ADFA and headed to Canberra to begin her military training.

The first night in Canberra, Aimee remembers feeling nervous, unsure if she’d made the right decision. “I told myself I wanted to get through the first six-week block, after that I could say I gave it a good shot. But the first six weeks came and went, then the first year… and here I am 11 years in!”. After three years at ADFA, Aimee graduated with a Bachelor of Science under her belt and went on to pilot course. During her time training at RAAF Base Pearce in Western Australia, Aimee flew in formation for the first time. Having complete responsibility for herself, with other pilots trusting and relying on her, she likened the momentous feeling to that first solo in the Jabiru J170. “It’s the most awesome confidence booster when you have yourself to rely on and you fulfill what you set out to do,” Aimee said. In July 2013, Aimee graduated from pilot course, once and for all completing her dream of becoming an Air Force Pilot.

Since graduating pilot’s course, Aimee’s career has been a whirlwind of different RAAF bases, operations and aircraft. Originally posted to RAAF Base Townsville, Queensland to fly the King Air 350 in a light transport role for 12 months, Aimee then took the opportunity to join No. 33 Squadron at RAAF Base Amberley, Queensland. Here, she was tasked with flying the Airbus KC-30A, a Multi Role Tanker Transport plane responsible for aerial refuelling and long-range transport. After four years flying all over the world and working with countless coalition partners, Aimee was ready for a new challenge.

At the start of 2020, Aimee became the newest member of the Roulettes, transferring from the massive KC-30A to the aerobatic Pilatus PC-21. Now posted at RAAF Base East Sale, Aimee’s role as Roulette Seven is unique. Whilst the other Roulettes members are flight instructors during the week, Roulette Seven is responsible for co-ordinating and preparing the team for their range of events; anything from ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day to airshows, motorsport events and countless others.

Flying as low as 250ft, hitting speeds of up to 370kts and experiencing up to 6 times the force of gravity, flying with the Roulettes is a far cry from Aimee’s days in Bundaberg yet she still carries the same mindset as she did at the aero club. “It’s about the sphere of influence,” she explains. “I had really supportive parents and people around me that never questioned that I could achieve what I wanted to achieve”. From her first solo to Roulette Seven, Aimee’s always known the value of having a supportive group of friends and family.

A quiet year thanks to restrictions and lockdowns, Aimee and the 2020 team managed to fly at Tyabb Airshow and a handful of other events before things began to drop off. All sights are set on Avalon though, with the 2021 airshow set to culminate in centenary celebrations for the RAAF, no doubt featuring the Roulettes in all their glory.

The future is clear for Aimee. From her spot as Roulette Seven, she intends to follow Roulettes One through Six in becoming an instructor. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I think by teaching someone else how to fly, it will improve my skills just as much as it will someone learning,” she said. “Being able to give someone that sense of joy and confidence to be able to take-off, fly and come back in a high-performance aircraft like the PC-21, it’s just awesome”.

It’s been an incredible journey for Flight Lieutenant Aimee Heal. From that first helicopter ride to her first solo at Bundaberg, her entry into the Air Force to her joining the Roulettes, Aimee has taken every challenge head on. “I’ve flown the largest aircraft in the Air Force and the smallest aircraft in the Air Force. There’s been hard times and there’s been easy times, but the experiences I have gained being in the military is second to none. It’s been phenomenal,” she said

Favourite place you’ve flown to:
Northern Western Australia. The land out there and the contrast is just amazingly beautiful.

Dream place you’d like to fly to:
I would love to go to Antarctica. Hearing some of my friends’ trips to Antarctica is just amazing.

Favourite aircraft you’ve flown:
The KC-30, because I got to take my family out flying with me and let them experience refuelling in the flesh.

Dream aircraft to fly:
A hot air balloon!