In may 1994 Gary Williams visited the Pilatus site in Stans while on a trip to Europe. Neither side imagined then that this day would mark the start of a long and rich working relationship. Now retired, Gary still carries out certain ferry flights.
You are known to have plenty of experience with aircraft ferry flights. How many ferry flights have you done from Stans to Australia all in all?
I’ve done a total of 17 ferry flights from Stans to Australia, 15 PC-12s and two PC-24s. My first ferry flight in October 1995 with three other pilots was a very special experience of course. The most recent was in October of this year.
What appeals to you most about these ferry flights?
The variety, no doubt about it! Each flight brings new challenges: route planning, weather, the geopolitical situation and a different pilot in the crew each time. For most pilots, these flights are an opportunity to gain their first experience of flying abroad. It’s nice to be able to pass on my knowledge. On my first ferry flight, the route took us over Syria, which is no longer possible these days. The owner was with us on board, which led to some interesting en-route stops in Tiflis, Catania, Tel Aviv, Agra and Sandakan, to name but a few!
Do flights always go as planned?
Unplanned events are by no means unusual! The corona pandemic had a big impact on route planning, for example. Due to the restrictions in India we were unable to stop overnight on one flight, which “unfortunately” meant rerouting via the Maldives for a one-day rest stop. Our leg from Muscat to the Maldives took seven hours and 15 minutes, making it the longest of the trip. I can attest to the comfort of the new executive seats in the PC-12 NGX – a superb rest area for the crew.
How did corona affect your trip from Adelaide to Stans?
On the return flight, the paperwork required to leave and return to Australia was far more complicated than our experience in other countries. The PilAus staff had to go to great lengths to obtain the necessary approvals. Another sign of the corona world – on our flight from Adelaide to Doha in Qatar, there were only six passengers in Business Class and 30 in Economy Class.
You fly both the PC-12 and the PC-24. Which is your personal favourite?
That’s a difficult question. I’ve flown the PC-12 since June 1995 and the PC-24 since June 2018. Each aircraft is unique and exciting, and I love flying both. Living in Australia, the climate and topography are very different to most other parts of the world. The very hot summers make for difficult conditions. Both Pilatus aircraft provide the perfect support.
So, when did you catch the “aviation virus”?
I’ve wanted to fly ever since I was a child. I took my first flight in a glider at fifteen, and was hooked there and then! But I wasn’t able to start training as a pilot until I was 29. At that time I worked as a police officer in the Northern Territory. I managed to transfer to the police flying squadron and started my career as a professional pilot at age 37. I did that for three years before joining the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS). I was based in Alice Springs before moving to Adelaide. I started my training and checking career on the PC-12 with the RFDS. I left the RFDS almost ten years later to join the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) as a flight operations inspector. Over the next eight years I did a lot of work for Pilatus Australia, including pilot training, ferry flights and demonstrations.
And how did you end up working for Pilatus?
One day I got a call from Sebastian Lip, CEO of Pilatus Australia. My first thought was that he would ask me to retire. Instead, he offered me a full-time position as chief pilot. I declined at first, but when he mentioned that the post included a type rating for the PC-24, I didn’t hesitate! It was a privilege to be involved in the launch of the PC-24 in Australia. After the rollout was complete, I decided to give up my full-time job and take semi-retirement.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not sitting in a PC-12 or PC-24?
I enjoy travelling around the world with my wife. We haven’t been able to do that over the past two years, but that did at least give us an opportunity to explore our own “backyard”. In good weather I like to get on my bike or spend time at the golf course.
Dear Gary, thank you for the exciting insight into your life as a pilot.