RFDS Pilot Brady Thrift

Graphic: RFDS Pilot Brady Thrift

Latest Flying Doctor Pilot born for the skies

Date published

19 Apr 2021

A love for the bush, a frequent-flying mother and snake bite to the leg have all led to a young pilot landing his dream job with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS).

Brady Thrift recently joined the ranks of RFDS aeromedical pilots based in Mount Isa, at the age of 24.

This makes Brady the second youngest pilot to take control of an RFDS aircraft in the state — no small feat considering Queensland RFDS aeromedical pilots require at least 4,000 flying hours, with 2,000 of those hours as pilot in command.

“I’ve been very lucky considering I’m so young and still in the early stages of my career,” Brady said.

“A lot of pilots in the industry might have families which they have to consider when looking at perspective piloting jobs. I've been lucky that when opportunities have come up, the only person I have to worry about is myself.”

Graphic: RFDS Pilot Brady Thrift

Brady’s fascination with aircraft and flying began at an early age, with his mother often taking him on business flights from his home in northern New South Wales to Sydney when he was as young as four weeks old.

“Pretty much from the time I was a newborn I was in and out of airports,” he said. 

“And as far back as I can remember I was standing in airports staring out the windows at the planes thinking ‘that'd be a cool job one day’.”

From undertaking his recreational pilot’s licence when he was only 15, to conducting his first solo flight before he held a driver’s licence, Brady went on to qualify for his commercial pilot’s licence in 2015.

From there it was off to the Gulf of Carpentaria where he cut his teeth for three years as a station pilot, before taking on roles as a charter pilot in Burketown and a night-freight pilot out of Brisbane. The latter enabled him to clock up extensive night hours which helped build his credentials to one day fly with the RFDS.

But ultimately it was time spent as a station pilot in the Gulf that truly opened his eyes to what flying for the RFDS could look like.

“Part of my job as station pilot was airstrip maintenance and runway lighting, so whenever we had an RFDS retrieval at night, I was out lighting the strip,” he said.

“That's where the initial drive to work for the Flying Doctor came from. I remember watching the King Air land on the strip one morning at about 2:00am and being absolutely awestruck.”

And then on one fateful evening at the start of 2019, Brady was brought closer to his future colleagues in a way he could never have imagined.

“I was walking around the compound just after sunset and stood on a baby brown snake, which struck me on the side of the left leg above the ankle,” he said.

“Of course, the Flying Doctor was called, and I took a trip in the King Air to Mount Isa Hospital. Fortunately, the snake hadn’t released its venom and I was discharged the next day.

“Now, here I am a few years later, having conducted some of my training in that exact aircraft!

“I recently spoke with the pilot who flew me out that night about the fact that I am working and flying the same aircraft with the same team. The same pilot, doctor and flight nurse are all here and now I'm working alongside them. It’s incredibly exciting to be working as a part of that team.”

Brady said his advice for young pilots looking to follow a similar career path was simple — to have a goal and stick to it.

“You have to have a goal, and while not everyone will have one straight away, once you do know what it is you just have to figure out how you are going to achieve it and then stick to that plan,” he said.

“Nothing comes easy, but hard work and dedication will always pay off.”