Graphic: Michael

From childhood dreams to RFDS wings

Date published

08 Feb 2024

As a boy, Michael Urquhart was fascinated with planes and clouds and still vividly remembers his first flight at the age of nine in a Piper Cherokee at Hervey Bay.

Today, he is the RFDS Flight Standards Pilot in Bundaberg, responsible for the induction of new RFDS pilots and for their ongoing training and certification.

Michael’s childhood passion for aviation led him to join the Air Cadets and to sign up for his first lesson with a flying school at Archerfield in 2006. Since then, armed with university studies in maths and physics and excellent aviation skills, his career has covered the spectrum from aerobatics and charter flights to work as a safety officer and trainer, and clients ranging from tourists to skydivers.

His career has also taken him to locations as varied and different as Queensland’s Darling Downs, Karratha in the Pilbara region of Western Australia, and William Creek on the remote Oodnadatta Track in South Australia.

That skill set and breadth of experience, together with adaptability, proved invaluable in preparation for work as a RFDS pilot when he joined the Service in 2017.

“When you land on an airstrip in the bush for an aeromedical retrieval, there are no markings to guide you – you have to rely on your training, skills and experience to get the best possible outcome for the patient,” said Michael.

“But the great thing about RFDS is that you have the backing of a large, highly skilled team. It might only be you and the nurse or doctor in the plane, but everyone involved in a retrieval, from the engineers to the communications and aeromedical staff back at the base, is committed and ready to adapt to the constantly changing environment we work in.

“I may have the qualifications and experience to work with any airline in the world but working for the RFDS provides me the opportunity to do the best that I can as a pilot and as a person. When I go to work, I know that what I do matters to someone, and that drives me to be better in everything I do,” he said.