Graphic: Rod McRedmond

'Rocket' Rod signs off after 34 years

Date published

09 Nov 2015

From meeting the late British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to the first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, Pilot Rod McRedmond has had a fair few adventures in between during his 34 years with the RFDS.
With a career spanning over 18,600 flying hours - 16,000 of them with the RFDS Central Operations - Rod 'Rocket' McRedmond has decided to hang up his wings.

Aside from his brushes with fame, Rod says the most amazing people he's met during his time with the RFDS have been his colleagues: the medical professionals, pilots, engineers and administrative staff.

"The countless friendships that I have formed with these wonderful people are very special to me," Rod says.

"Flying all over Australia has also given me the opportunity to enjoy friendships with some extraordinary people in the outback including the late Tom Kruse, the outback
mailman. The people who live and work in the outback are unique."

Rod was among the first pilots put on the RFDS Central Operation full-time roster at Port Augusta Base in January 1981 while in the two years prior to that he'd been
flying as a contract pilot for the RFDS with Williams Aviation.

In those days, RFDS had one Beechcraft Baron and one Piper Navajo Chieftain.

Rod then worked at RFDS Alice Springs Base and then in later years the Adelaide Base – and squeezed in secondments at Wyndham, Western Australia, and Broken Hill, NSW – and has seen some magnificent scenery.

"I have seen Sturt Desert Peas flowering on Tarcoola airstrip, hopped over a mother emu followed by a line of chicks crossing a runway and watched the whales whilst flying along the coast to Cook on the Nullarbor Plain," Rod says.

Graphic: Rod McRedmond

In all of his outback flying, Rod has only hit two kangaroos – both of them on the same flight!

Once he had to land on Lake Gairdner salt lake which was being used as a track for an American who was injured attempting a world speed record on a motorbike in the 1980s.

For those late night emergency evacuations, Rod was often having to explain to station owners how to light up their airstrips using Milo cans filled with sand-soaked kerosene and petrol to use as flares.

"On one occasion I suggested the station round up all the toilet rolls that he could find and make flares by soaking them in the kerosene and petrol mixture. On another, I enlisted truckies in the area to light up a dirt strip near the Stuart Highway at Marla," Rod says.

"It has always been a privilege to be able to help in some small way with medical emergencies whether it be comforting parents or holding a drip."

RFDS Central Operations CEO, John Lynch, paid tribute to Rod, saying he was an exemplary staff member who was always heavily committed to the RFDS and its service delivery,
taking enormous pride in his job.

"His other outstanding trait was his role as a family man. Judy and the boys are the apple of his eye and now that's shared with their partners and grandchildren," John says.

"Whatever life has in store for Rod and Judy they take with them our best wishes for the future and an enormous vote of thanks for being who they are and giving so much for the benefit of others."

Rod signed off on his final shift with RFDS Central Operations on Sunday 27 September and plans to spend more time with his family and tend his orchids.

But he hasn't entirely lost his passion for flying which has followed him since childhood.
He'll continue to give flying lessons as an Air Force Cadet Instructor on a weekly basis in the World War II Link Trainer based at Torrens Parade Ground in Adelaide.