Passing the baton

This article has photo gallery Published on Ms Dallas McMaugh (author), ABIS Sarah Williams (author)

(l-r) Female pilots, Lieutenant Sally-Anne Malone, Lieutenant Natalie Davies, Lieutenant Tammie Lee Moffatt, Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston, Ms Shelley Ross, and Ms Catherine Fitzsimons, with the Relay of Flight commemorative baton, in front of the delivering Cessna 182T aeroplane. (photo: ABIS Sarah Williams)
(l-r) Female pilots, Lieutenant Sally-Anne Malone, Lieutenant Natalie Davies, Lieutenant Tammie Lee Moffatt, Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston, Ms Shelley Ross, and Ms Catherine Fitzsimons, with the Relay of Flight commemorative baton, in front of the delivering Cessna 182T aeroplane.

Lieutenant Sally-Ann Malone is one of 70 pilots to participate in the inaugural Women Pilots’ Relay of Flight, which aims to celebrate women in aviation while raising funds for the Cancer Council along the way.

The relay took off from the Avalon Air Show in Victoria on 2 March and will continue on an 18,000 km counter-clockwise route around Australia before finishing in Tasmania on 22 April.

Commercial pilots Ms Catherine Fitzsimons and Ms Shelley Ross flew the baton in a Cessna 182 from Moruya to HMAS Albatross where they handed it to Lieutenant Malone.

Ms Fitzsimons said it was very exciting to land on the Albatross airfield.

“I’ve flown over it so many times before so was very pleased when the tower asked “What are your intentions?” and I could say “We’re going to land!”

“It’s great to be here, I have so much admiration for the Navy pilots and this opportunity to learn a little more about what they do increases my belief and understanding of how diverse aviation is and how many different ways women can be involved,” she said.

Ms Fitzsimons and Ms Ross were welcomed by Commanding Officer, Captain Simon Bateman, personnel of the Fleet Air Arm and local high school students who had completed one of Albatross’s aviation vocational programs.

Lieutenant Tammielee Moffat, a pilot with 808 Squadron, said engagement with the younger generation was an important aspect of the relay.

“I really believe that you can’t aspire to be something if you can’t actually see it. I started flying at 16 but didn’t have a role model until I got to the Fleet Air Arm and met Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston who was a real inspiration for me. It was a pivotal turning point when I saw someone doing what I wanted to do so I really want to be that person for someone else.”

Lieutenant Malone delivered the baton in a Squirrel helicopter, flying in company with MRH90 and Seahawk helicopters to Bankstown airport via Sydney Harbour.

“The timing of the relay is perfect”, LEUT Malone said.

“It coincides with International Women of Aviation Week and also International Women’s Day so it’s a great opportunity to get out and show what a career in aviation has to offer women and raise money for a great cause.

“The level of energy and enthusiasm from everyone involved has been amazing - the goal was to raise $20,000 for the Cancer Council and we’re already half way there and still in the early stages of the relay which will only gain momentum as it continues on its route," she said.

Lieutenant Commander Natalee Johnston said she particularly enjoyed the opportunity the relay provided to talk to other female aviators.

“One thing the Women Pilots' Association does extremely well is introducing women, especially younger women, to mentors and support networks as they’re coming through aviation to show it doesn’t have to be expensive hobby, it can be a substantial career and a day like today,  with Navy involved, shows how Navy supports females within aviation community.”

“Everyone’s very excited to be involved”, Lieutenant Commander Johnston said.

“It’s very satisfying, we’re doing something we love in support of the Cancer Council while we raise awareness of aviation as a career option.

“As the baton travels, as more people get involved, the message will also travel that it doesn’t have to be a dream, for some girls it can actually become their future and I’d advise any girl considering aviation as a career to give it ago, 20 years ago that’s exactly what I did and  I’ve never looked back.”

Follow the relay at http://womenpilots-relay.blogspot.com.au or on Facebook (Women Pilots’ Relay of Flight).

Imagery is available on the Navy Image Library at http://images.navy.gov.au/S20150543.