Pilot Profiles


Most of us can only dream of adventuring through the outback on a daily basis, taking in the vast beauty of Australia’s red centre from the air and touching down in some of the most remote parts of the world. For Chartair pilot and registered nurse Trish Curry though, it’s all in a day’s work.

Currently based in Kalgoorlie, Trish’s role as a Line Pilot sees her at the helm of her Cessna 208 Caravan as she transports passengers, cargo and mail all across the outback. Trish has been flying for Chartair for over 2 years now, but she recently sat down with Sport Pilot Magazine to discuss her journey in aviation that began when she was a kid, growing up in West Papua, Indonesia.

Having a father that worked in the mines, Trish was used to frequent travel early on. She lived in a West Papuan mining town, where she found her spark for flying. “There was quite a lot of aviation [growing up]…primarily into remote villages in the highlands”.

She had been up in helicopters before, but the spark turned into wildfire when she was chosen to personally deliver school supplies her class had been collecting for the remote villages. Climbing into an aeroplane for the first time, Trish was instantly fascinated as she rose above the tropical rainforests and alpine grasslands of the West Papuan highlands. She recalled how the thrill of that first flight set her on her aviation journey, “We got to go flying into a village with a very short dirt airstrip, on the side of a mountain… that’s where I thought ‘This is really cool’”. When she returned home her mind was set; she was going to be a pilot.

The love for aviation continued into high school, when Trish’s family moved to Darwin. Family holidays saw continued exposure to flying, not just on commercial airlines but on light aircraft as well. “For me it was all about the light aircraft,” Trish tells us as she describes a flight to a ski lodge tucked away in an American mountain range.

Joining the Defence Force became Trish’s main focus throughout high school, until a change of heart came in year 11. The medical world was calling and Trish was quick to answer, refocusing her efforts in year 12 and finding herself enrolled in a nursing degree upon leaving school. For a while, it seemed like aviation had been left by the wayside, but the spark was soon to re-ignite.

In her final year of her nursing degree, Trish went on holiday to Byron Bay where she took a flight in a WWII-era de Havilland DH.82 Tiger Moth. Instantly, Trish was transported back to the wonder of those first flights, thinking to herself “I’m in the wrong career, I need to be back into flying”. Just like back in West Papua, when Trish came back home, she was on a mission.

While her parents were supportive of her sudden change in career path, they encouraged Trish to complete the nursing degree that she’d nearly finished. Agreeing, Trish set about earning her degree while learning to fly part-time. With a nursing degree under her belt, Trish began working at the hospital in Darwin. Determined to follow a career in aviation however, she packed up and moved to Brisbane after only a few months in order to train full-time. Toward the end of her training, Trish headed to Alice Springs as part of a joint program with Chartair, which led to her landing a job with the company as a junior pilot, achieving her dream once and for all.

Securing a position at Chartair saw Trish become postie to the outback, delivering mail to remote communities in a Cessna 210. Taking on a mail run that stretched from Alice Springs all the way up to the Top End allowed Trish to explore the country in ways that few people get the opportunity to do. Touching down in some of the most ruggedly beautiful places on earth, she quickly came to appreciate just how important aviation was to Australia’s most remote communities. “I don’t think I realised the rapport I built with so many people,” said Trish as she described all the ways aviation affects these communities. “It’s not just mail, we’re transporting kids that are going to school, political figures who come to check out the communities, supplies for the local clinic and so much more”.

As Trish progressed, she took on new roles, including passenger transports to and from remote Aboriginal communities. Moving up to a Beechcraft Baron, Trish would primarily fly out doctors and nurses to communities with very limited medical services, as well as charters for officials from the Department of Health or the Department of Education.

Today, Trish takes the reins of a Cessna 208 Caravan, flying Chartair’s regularly scheduled runs. Most of the time, this involves bringing the residents of outback communities to and from regional centres like Alice Springs or Kalgoorlie, while also carrying freight and Australia Post mail. on occasion, she’ll do a freight-only run in the event of a community being cut-off due to flooded roads or other natural barriers. In this case, Trish becomes the only access these communities have to important supplies, bringing groceries and medical equipment to outback citizens in need. With her job taking her all over NT, WA and SA, Trish is always meeting different people and taking on new challenges. From delivering mail to outback stations to transporting ‘The Honey Badger’ Nick Cummins from Birdsville to Alice Springs, a new day is always a new experience for Trish.

So, what’s next for Trish? At the moment she’s still loving bush flying, but she does have some goals that she hopes to achieve. Trish has kept her nursing qualifications up to date, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service seems to be in her sights, “The RFDS is something that really appeals to me. You’re doing medevac, you’re flying and even though you’re not nursing you’re immersed in the medical world”. Another ‘bucketlist’ item for Trish is to return home to the highlands of West Papua, flying into the same communities she experienced as a kid. “It’s still lingering,” she said of the itch to fly over the mountains and rainforests in Papua once more.

No matter where she goes, one thing is certain; when Trish Curry sets her mind on something, she’s certain to achieve it.