With Australia’s aviation industry still significantly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic, some pilots are adapting their niche skillsets to new industries.
Meet two pilots lying low in Adelaide’s hospitality scene
When he was a youngster, Kris Dunstan was very familiar with the inside of a passenger plane.
Kris was the child of mine workers and grew up in Papua New Guinea.
Find Baker Boys’ pop-up coffee shop and Espresso Martini shack in the northern end of The Garden of Unearthly Delights.
His parents’ work meant lots of travel, which eventually led to dreams of swapping cattle class for the cockpit.
“For as long as I can remember I have been travelling,” Kris says.
“I have been lucky because my parents are in mining so we travelled a lot when I was growing up. It sparked that from an early age.
“We went to a lot of South East Asia – so Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines and throughout PNG as well.”
These early interactions with the air travel industry eventually led to a job three years ago at one of the world’s leading flight schools at Parafield, training airline cadets from Hong Kong, Philippines and India.
But with COVID lockdowns shutting off international borders, the work dried up. Kris and his colleague Lachlan McInnes were forced to take leave from their jobs.
Now, a month before they both return to work training domestics and university students, they have taken jobs working for Josh and Jacob Baker’s espresso martini stall at the Garden of Unearthly Delights.
“There have been some redundancies, but we are on a stand down period at the moment,” Kris says.
“I worked at Little Creatures in Perth for five years, and so it’s nice to get back to working on my feet instead of sitting on my arse.”
Lachlan, of Mawson Lakes, was a lawyer before making the switch to aviation. He’s a third-generation pilot.
“My family were pilots and flight attendants and worked for Qantas and Ansett, and back in my grandfather’s day there was a fair bit of glamour in the job,” Lachlan says.
“I knew the career progression in aviation would be quite quick, but then COVID came, and for the better part of four months I was trying to get a job.
“Through Kris, I got introduced to the Baker boys and took it on.”
Kris says for many pilots finding work outside of the industry is tough.
“Flying is such a specialist field, and people have spent their whole careers flying,” he says.
“Because of Covid, they can’t transfer their skills to anything else, so it makes it really difficult for people in an industry that is so specialised and where you have to prioritise safety, you’ve got to know your shit back to front, makes it difficult for people to get jobs.
“But the thing is there are a lot of skills that are transferable in terms of work ethic and foundational skills.”