'It's hard to describe in words, you have to see it to believe it'

Outback helicopter pilot's tale from the air

Life & Style
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There's so much to see in Australia and helicopter pilot Jamie Henderson says there's no better view of the changing landscape than from the air.

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Bird's-eye view of a goat muster in the western division. Photos: Stock and Station Aviation

Bird's-eye view of a goat muster in the western division. Photos: Stock and Station Aviation

He's watched in awe as the sun's golden rays pierce the shimmery horizon over the ancient rocky landscape of the Mutawintji ranges.

He was there at the exact moment much-anticipated floodwater washed down the parched Darling River for the first time in years.

He's flown over some of the state's most remote country - a harsh and arid landscape pockmarked with salt bush, mulga trees and woody weed.

And he's watched as the same landscape turned from red dust to green as rainfall replenished life on the rugged terrain.

But for Jamie Henderson no words can do justice to what he sees from the air when he watches the ever-changing landscape of Australia from the cockpit of his helicopter.

"It's hard to describe in words, you have to see it to believe it," Jamie said.

"That's why I take photos, to show people what it looks like from the air, a picture says a thousand words as you know, but it still doesn't do it justice."

Jamie Henderson, who runs Stock and Station Aviation at Broken Hill, says mustering goats had kept his business alive just as much as farmers.

Jamie Henderson, who runs Stock and Station Aviation at Broken Hill, says mustering goats had kept his business alive just as much as farmers.

Jamie runs Stock and Station Aviation with his partner Nikki Fowler, which covers all aspects of aerial work including contract mustering and scenic flights based at Broken Hill.

He's been a bush remote helicopter pilot for many years, having spent six years in the western division of NSW.

But it was at his hometown of Clermont in central Queensland, where he grew up on a cattle and grain growing property, that his love of helicopter flying first started.

"Mum and Dad always used helicopters at home for mustering or pest eradication and I went on my first ride when I was five-years-old," he said.

Jamie said the scenery he had seen from the air over the years had been indescribable, from working in Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and NSW.

"Seeing the transformation of the country is amazing," he said.

"There is no doubt drought has been tough in the western division but from the air it brings a certain beauty.

"And every time it rains you see change, especially the colours of the landscape.

"It will start with a green tinge . . . there are so many different colours of green then, when it dries off, the colours of leaves go to blue then it goes to yellow with the feed haying-off."

He said it had been tough in the western division where his main role as a contact musterer had been de-stocking or mustering goats on large tracts of land.

"Goats have been the biggest job for the last 18 months and it has kept our business alive just as much as farmers," he said.

"Without the goats we wouldn't be out in the western division."

His job as a contract musterer is to locate the goats then once they are spotted from the air direct those on the ground to their location.

More recently when he flies over the western division, he said there was green tinge from the rain, which had "changed the mood" of pastoralists who had been doing it tough in the prolonged dry.

"People out here are resilient but it has lifted the spirits wholly and solely, people have a spring in their step and they are positive," Jamie said.

"They are not feeding as much, sheep are spreading out and goats are mobbing up again. They are not in survival mode."

Jamie said it was also good to see water back in dams and creeks as well as see the Darling River run again.

"Just recently I watched it go down towards Pooncarie," he said.

"There is a lot of country that has missed out on rain but for those that have, each flight you see the gaps are filling out."

Jamie has also gone through his fair share of dust storms in the past year where he's had to fly around a couple or land to let them pass over.

"Dust storms have been a common occurrence, sometimes they turn up out of the blue while you are mustering and you have to land straight away because the sky goes black," he said.

But back up in the air Jamie said there was no feeling like it.

'It's my happy place, it certainly makes you feel at peace," Jamie said.

"There are many different landscapes that offer different things whether it's water running down a waterfall or whether it's a dry landscape or big rocky outcrops with escapements.

"There is so much to see in Australia, the landscape changes from week to week, nothing is ever the same, it's ever-changing."

It's hard to describe in words, you have to see it...that's why I take photos to show people what it looks like from the air, a picture says a thousand words as you know but it still doesn't do it justice. - Jamie Henderson

The story 'It's hard to describe in words, you have to see it to believe it' first appeared on The Land.

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