A bird in the hand, it is said, is worth more then two in the bush, but there are exceptions to every rule. Here are two with whom any man would hold hands. For an aging Knight who loves women and planes, I, for one, was in for a treat. Here were men's women.
First up we heard of Leighan Falley, a spunky gal who has proven herself a hero's companion when the going gets tough.
Alaskan Bush Pilots have been the brave and iconic adventurers of the skies for over a century. They have tamed America's most outlandish natural landscapes thanks to their outstanding courage and one-of-a-kind gut instinct – and Leighan Falley, a Talkeetna-based pilot, is one of them.Falley is one of the very few female Alaskan pilots to continuously push boundaries in the great northern skies.
Always graceful, even when under pressure, she explores Alaska's idyllic yet raw nature with the courage of an explorer, following her instincts, while calculating risks.
“The first memory of my entire life is being in the backseat of my father's airplane,” Falley recalls. “I must have been a tiny baby, I remember feeling the airplane moving through the air and seeing the trees and the river below.”In Talkeetna, situated some 115 miles north of Anchorage on the southern edge of the Denali National Park, Falley is one of the Talkeetna Air Taxi pilots. The company was established in the 40s, the early days of Alaskan aviation, and currently runs 10 bush aircraft.
“I moved to Talkeetna about 13 years ago and the summer I moved to town I learned to fly,” Leighan Falley smiles. “The first time I flew an airplane by myself – they call it your first solo – was probably one of the most amazing moments in my life.”
In a northern wilderness filled with hazards – think blizzards and whiteouts, snow-covered glaciers, unexpected storms, heavy rains and wild rivers – raw survival skills are needed in addition to tech-savvy expertise, and Leighan Falley excels in both. “The part of Alaska that is accessible by road is very different from the one accessible by plane. The first is more comfortable, the second keeps you away from the craziness of the big city life. It's like having two different Alaskas. I like both parts, but prefer it when the road ends because this is when airplanes begin.
I like to fly the Beaver, it's my favorite Alaskan Bush Plane,” she continues. “There's a famous sign in Talkeetna which is an advertising board for the early air taxis that says 'Fly an hour or walk a week'.”She flies to the remotest locations in Alaska in order to capture the adventurous everyday life of the Great North, while bringing mountaineers to their final destination and helping those in need.
Living her dream, Leighan Falley is not only a brave pilot, but also a mother, a ski guide, an alpinist, having reached the peak of Denali Mountain six times out of twelve expeditions.“Alaska is probably my favorite place on earth,” she continues. “I've been through different continents, climbed different mountain ranges, including the Himalaya, but Alaska is my favorite. It is so big and so wild, vast and untouchable. The biosphere is intact, the animals live in their natural habitat. Mountain ranges rise from a hundred meters to six thousand meters – it's simply beautiful. In a place as beautiful as Alaska, you have to have an airplane to see all of it,” she concludes.
“Discovering Alaska and climbing its mountains is a journey that involves a lot of beauty,
I am unsurprised she favours the Beaver. The quintessential Alaska bush plane, the DeHavilland Beaver occupies a seat of honor in the annals of aviation history. Perhaps no other airplane ever built has seen such a long career, and proven to be as indispensable today as it was when developed over 65 years ago.a lot of hardship, and a lot of testing yourself mentally and physically.”.
The sturdily-built Beaver was designed to carry a lot of weight and operate effectively on either wheels or floats. Alaska Seaplanes' Beavers, for instance, all operate on straight floats in the summer for maximum payload, and amphibious floats in the winter for optimum flexibility. All their Beavers have advanced Capstone avionics packages with ADS-B real-time positioning capability.
With an ample useful load and the ability to carry up to six passengers, the Beaver is the perfect airplane for ferrying you to wilderness camping destinations—remote lakes, Forest Service cabins, islands and rivers.
It has 'reach', just like the fine gal above.
Such 'reaching' is not confined by age or to planes though. Leighan may be a modern young woman, cut from a very different cloth from 99% of her peers, but she shares a similar weave of hardiness, effort and self-reliance as several Oz ladies of a... ahem... more matured vintage. They have reached out and tested themselves too.
Lydia Burton told of three ladies of the bush, of which I shall tell of just one here. Penny Button. She and the two others that you can follow the link to see, persisted alone after tragic losses of their menfolk. And continued life in the Bush on the vast 'stations' that are found in the Oz outback.
Meet the women who stay and work the land on their own despite tragedyThree graziers, who each lost their husbands in separate tragedies, have taken on the running of enormous, remote sheep and cattle stations almost on their own.
Ann Ballinger, Penny Button and Ros Wood all lost their husbands suddenly.
Penny Button's eldest son Rodney died in a plane crash in 2003. Her husband Ian died of heart failure in 2006.Losing both within three years, she found her connection to the property and community was her saving grace.She owns Crossmoor station near Longreach, a vast 32,000-hectare property that, in a good year, can run up to 5,000 head of cattle.
"There's no truer saying than 'you don't know what you've got until you haven't got it'," she said."I just realise now the stress in running these properties and the tough side of things that he [Ian] shielded me from forever."While for some the thought of flying again is unfathomable, Ms Button said it was just part of life in the bush.
"My father was killed in a car accident, but you don't just not drive," she said."I did think about it and I don't think I did have a fly for a while. It wasn't deliberate bit I just didn't do it."Rodney was a very positive character and I think of him a lot. One of his great sayings was 'every day is a good day' and I often think of that."
Watch and listen to these woman at a video on the link above. See Penny in her plane going out to round up her cowboys.Despite the tragedies that have struck her family, Ms Button's youngest son Hugh has come home to take over the family property with his wife Amanda and young son Charlie.Hugh Button cannot imagine living anywhere else."I just love the adventure of the country life. I love the adventure and the freedom of it and getting out and about in the wide open spaces … every day is so different," he said."The support network in the bush — it just says so much about the bush."People stick together through the good times — and they celebrated the good times crazily — and when times get devastating they all stick together and get amongst it."The tale of strong women left to make it on their own is not uncommon in western Queensland.
Oz has cowboys. Many Americans see the cowboy as their own, but hey, Oz has been herding cows as long as has America. Now our lads ride choppers as well as quarter horses. They are even faster !
And Oz has buffalos too. But not like those in North America.
Planes suited for the bush are many, but some are a cut above the rest. Here are five for you to gauge and rank.
It makes one wish the bones did not creak so much. It makes one wish for an adventure away from the Tavern for a few months. Getting a bit of testing again.
Anyone care to take over the bars for a bit?
Drink to those fine ladies.
Drink to hardiness, courage and Character.