Beth Garrett - the First female Flying Doctor Pilot

Date published

04 Mar 2019

Beth Garrett was the first woman in Australia to receive her Australian airline transport licence in 1958 and the first female pilot for the Flying Doctor.

When she turned 21, (1947) Beth started her training and joined the Royal Victorian Aero Club. She waited till then so that she would not have to seek her mother's permission.

Beth obtained her licence in 1947 and her Commercial and Instructor rating in 1952. All paid for from her secretary salary and her scrimping and saving, walking to training, and wearing for 3 years the same smart blue uniform purchased at Myers bargain basement.

Beth married in 1953, a young TAA pilot, Martin Garrett and Martin was seconded to the RFDS in Townsville. Tragically, in October 1953 on take-off, the RFDS Dragon Bi-plane failed to lift, crashed and Martin, along with Catherine O'Leary (a 22 year old nurse), was killed. It was the RFDS QLD only fatal crash.

Beth was resourceful and got on with her life and stuck to her flying and obtained several flying positions despite her gender which worked heavily against her.

Beth Garrett in the pilot seat

In 1958 Beth became the first female pilot of the RFDS, flying the Beechcraft Queenair. Beth retired from the RFDS in the mid 80’s when she was the chief RFDS pilot in Cairns.

Are interested in following in Beth's footsteps and pursuing a career in aviation?