Dad and son flew in like angels of mercy into flood zones
IMAGINE the scenes faced by father and son chopper pilots Andrew and Simon McDermott as they descended on flooded Grantham on January 10, 2011.
Visibility was almost non-existent, as a torrent of water hammered the aircraft, obstructing anything remotely discernible. They flew side by side into the disaster zone.
Simon McDermott of McDermott's Aviation said he simply didn't have time to fathom the atrocities that lay beneath him.
"We were there to do a job and you don't stop to think," he said.
"There's so much going on in those circumstances - it's like you're a machine."
Simon and his father Andrew were formally recognised for their gallant efforts yesterday, receiving a Group Bravery Citation award.
On that fateful afternoon, their flight crews, Firebird 460 and Helitack 200, responded to the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service (QFRS) callout.
Conducting reconnaissance flights in the Lockyer Valley, the two helicopter crews completed 47 rescueswhere 12 people were hoisted from their roof.
Looking back on the two-day rescue period, Simon said his father's extensive knowledge of the area proved invaluable.
"The weather was disgusting and you couldn't see much," he said.
"The weather was so bad that when we were pulling in, other choppers were pulling out due to low visibility.,"
"We kept going because Dad had been flying in the area for over 30 years.
"His geographical knowledge of the area was invaluable as it allowed us to operate in very testing conditions."
Two years on, Simon said although he sometimes thought about his mission in the Lockyer Valley, flood recovery had become synonymous with being a Queensland chopper pilot.
"You'd think it would be daunting, and if you stop and think about it, I guess it is, but with all the rain we get up here these days, it's just the way it is," he said.
Humbled at the prospect of receiving a bravery award, Simon said knowing he had completed the mission safely was reward in itself.
"You never expect this sort of thing because it's just an everyday part of what we do, but it is an incredible buzz for dad and me."
McDermott Aviation specialises in medivac, lifting and construction and salvage operations and charter. Their sister company Machjet International specialises in flight charters including trips for fly-in fly-out miners.