Graphic: RFDS Pilot Hayley Wood with an RFDS Aircraft
As a teenager, Hayley Wood accompanied her dad on a trial instruction flight. Hayley says on that day all her former career aspirations perished and she knew she was destined to become a pilot.
From flying light aircraft early in her career to 12 years working with Qantas, Hayley says she has been incredibly fortunate in her vocation.
But like so many other pilots, Hayley was displaced from her role last year due to the pandemic. Fortuitously, Hayley discovered an advertisement for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section) (RFDS) and decided to apply.
“The RFDS and its ethos was always something I was attracted to. I can remember my aunty and uncle, who travel extensively in remote Australia, fundraising and telling stories about the RFDS. And I always wanted to fly for the RFDS, too,” Hayley said.
“Unfortunately, I had a bad experience when I was learning to fly — someone told me I wouldn’t be able to do the job — and that stuck with me. But, after COVID-19, I thought, if not now, then when?”
Hayley describes finding out she had been successful in her application for the RFDS as “a dream come true”.
She says the job is “more hands on” than her previous roles as a pilot.
“I am able to engage with the entire team — refuellers, patients, administrative staff — more directly and on a much more personal level,” Hayley said.
“I have more autonomy. It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle and I find it very satisfying to see everything come together to deliver the best outcome for our patients. And the variety of flying means I’m never bored!”
As for the benefits of working with the RFDS? “Helping people in need; seeing parts of the state I haven’t before; and the people with whom I work,” Hayley said.
Hayley credits many people for supporting her throughout her career, from her parents, husband and friends, to those with whom she has flown.
They include: “three amazing pilots who taught me to fly; a (now retired) check captain who doesn’t take no for an answer; a check captain whose gentle hands guided me through some rough times; and an incredibly supportive chief pilot who believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself”.
For a female pursuing a career in aviation, Hayley says she would provide the same advice to anyone interested in the profession.
“Back yourself. Never give up. Love what you are doing now, even while you are reaching for the next step. Always have a plan B. Don’t ask anyone to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself and take every opportunity that presents.”
The RFDS (Queensland Section) celebrated Women in Aviation Week from March 8 —14, 2021.