The Pilot Base

From South Africa to Antarctica and Beyond

March 01, 2021 Pilotbase.com feat. Ben Hall & Dave Rogers Season 1 Episode 7
The Pilot Base
From South Africa to Antarctica and Beyond
Show Notes Transcript

Kat McSeveney is a South African helicopter pilot who has operated all over the globe, from the frozen islands of Antarctica to the jungles of Malaysia. Kat has flown a myriad of different types of operations, including medevac, tracking stolen cars, and ship resupply and is now instructing new pilots for the eSwatini defence force.

Ben Hall:

Hello, and welcome to the pilot phase podcast. I'm Ben and I've been a pilot for over a decade.

Dave Rogers:

And I'm categorically not a pilot.

Ben Hall:

Every Monday we'll be chatting to both pilots and non pilots with amazing aviation stories from all around the world. You can find all episodes of the pilot based podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, subscribe to our channel and leave us a review.

Dave Rogers:

In Episode Seven We meet Kat McSeveney, a rotary pilot for over 10 years she began in Africa. She's been to the Arctic Circle, the jungles in Borneo and plenty of other places in between. She talks us through some of her favorite adventures, the machines she's fallen in love with, and some of the obstacles she's faced along the way. Yeah, hello, welcome to the pilot base. Great to have you here. Where in the world are you? Because I'm in my bedroom. It looks pretty drab. It looks a lot more exciting where you are.

Kat McSeveney:

Thanks Dave and Ben, it's great to be here. It's an honor. Thank you so much for having me. I'm in the kingdom of eswatini, which is a country in southern Africa neighboring on South Africa and Mozambique,

Dave Rogers:

the kingdom of eswatini day.

Ben Hall:

Have you ever heard of that country? before?

Dave Rogers:

I is it? Is it formally known as Swaziland or if I just made it myself in public,

Kat McSeveney:

you are 100%? Correct. It was previously named Swaziland. And then on its fifth year of independence, it changed its name to eswatini.

Unknown:

Amazing, but

Ben Hall:

it's because there's a TV show called pointless. And he's 14 is always a pointless answer because nobody knows this change.

Kat McSeveney:

Oh, wow. Really? I was unaware of that. A lot of people don't know I'll be changing names. And often I'll have to refer back to Swaziland.

Dave Rogers:

Yes, to the locals get frustrated where it's when it's referred to as far as he lands internationally.

Kat McSeveney:

You know, the locals are very peaceful, very kind, quite disciplined and obedience crowd. So no, I would never find them. I would never think that they would get unhappy if you had to call it

Dave Rogers:

discipline and obedience. And we haven't even said hello to you yet. Ben, how are you?

Ben Hall:

change location slightly because I've been kicked out of the office but by the wife. Yeah, we just wanted to show off your expensive paint, didn't you? Okay, yeah, so

Dave Rogers:

you've got bearable paints in your lovely house, and you've just been shown up by cats. Absolutely stunning. But so is that your is that your garden? We can see

Kat McSeveney:

if you can actually see, take this up and you can see that's beautiful. We actually are on the 17th fairway. So we've got a beautiful view of the fairway and the clubhouse. And obviously the Swasey mountains. So very beautiful country.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, it looks absolutely incredible.

Kat McSeveney:

To be in COVID

Dave Rogers:

Yeah. It is a beautiful country to many people visit, obviously, in different circumstances when when the tourism industry exists. And the aviation industry exists. Do you get many, many visitors many tourists?

Kat McSeveney:

If so, the tourism is quite a big industry. And so as you land, we do have a lot of people come visit. But as of the past year and a half, our borders have been opened and closed quite regularly. And it's in very quiet.

Dave Rogers:

I can imagine Do you like the quiet?

Kat McSeveney:

I do enjoy it. It has been a peaceful year and a half that I've been home. And I knew that at the time. So it's been good to get home recuperator births and I'm finding myself full of life at the moment.

Dave Rogers:

I'll tell you why. That is a fantastic cooking tease there. Because now in this podcast episode, we need to find out why you needed the break up. First of all, let's talk to me about flying. How much are you doing? How much have you been able to do and how much is your career been affected by the last 12 months.

Kat McSeveney:

You know what I had already decided at the end of 2019 to take a bit of a break from aviation. So to be honest, it was quite a blessing, the timing COVID happened and I managed to get some some time for some self care and some healing and so on. And there's not much aviation going on. So I didn't come back intending to do huge amounts of aviation. However, as we'll discuss later, I am getting into aviation.

Dave Rogers:

Very good. Now, Ben, in this episode, we're talking to another one of your incredibly cool pals, aren't we? So give us a little bit of background? How did you and cat first come across each other?

Ben Hall:

Yeah, I feel like I pick up my ex coursemates from Africa quite often. But I think we were just like, really lucky with it with the little cohort we were training with at the time. So I did my training. I think I might have mentioned this. Previously, I did my training in South Africa, back in 2008.

Unknown:

I think it was

Ben Hall:

a long time ago now. So I was obviously doing fixed wing training. And cat was doing rotary training at the same time. So we knew each other. And then we just kind of kept in touch ever since. Cat came to visit when I was in Abu Dhabi, on the way to Malaysia.

Kat McSeveney:

Alright, because on the way from Malaysia to the United States, Expo in 2014.

Ben Hall:

Yeah, so this is the beauty of the aviation world, right. Everybody, you know, lives all over the place and does some crazy stuff. And it's great that we can meet up halfway around the world and catch up. So it's good to see you.

Kat McSeveney:

It's very nice to see you too big

Dave Rogers:

to Safi, let's get back to it. So let's take it back to 2009 or the run up to 2009. Then your rotary training. What was it that brought you to that point? Why did you decide that you wanted to be a helicopter pilot?

Kat McSeveney:

So aviation runs in the family? not to the extent that I have any commercial pilots and the family but my father and his brother all flew helicopters fixed wing was a little bit of the Wild West, I think back then, he asked, you know, why do you have to write exams, just get into the aircraft and fly. So he did his license licenses while we were growing up, and I flew with him of it. And I actually started flying when I was 14, so that would have been 20 years ago.

Dave Rogers:

So Young

Kat McSeveney:

2000. I started with my fixing license, I was at school in Pietermaritzburg, in kwazulu Natal, and shortly after I started, I actually changed schools, and I was halfway in between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. And that's a little bit challenging for me to go back and forth from the airport as I was at a boarding school. So stop flying finish school a couple of years later, and it was a little bit lost for a few years, I didn't know what I wanted to do. Strangely enough, the parts that I went down a very different I did mechanical engineering for a year decided I didn't want to do that. Then I wanted to fashion design. Yeah. Afterwards, definitely not for me, I have no, I have creative streak, but no drawing abilities. And I think I did that for about four months realized I can't do this. And then I decided to get back into aviation. So I went to 4030 school and put offered which is where I may have been an enrolled in helicopters this time.

Dave Rogers:

So why helicopters

Kat McSeveney:

I just always found them a lot more exciting and much more specialized operations. So ones that I wanted to follow such as five by saying emergency medical services, that kind of operation as we I wanted to hit.

Ben Hall:

Helicopters always seem a bit more sort of hands on a bit more practical and aircraft. I don't know why. Because when you're flying sort of lighter, smaller aircraft, it's kind of same deal, but to the pilot says, you know, really heavy stick and rudder, whereas airplane pilots more of relaxed, just flying straight line.

Kat McSeveney:

Yes. However, I'm very interested in doing my thing, and we'll hopefully at one stage, the opportunity to do so.

Dave Rogers:

Is that because you see is a little bit easier. I mean, I always think about one of the very first episodes of this podcast that we recorded with Suzy McKee, who was cabin crew and then got the got a pilot's license and is hoping to build a career flying commercial and she I'm accused of being no more than a video game player flying is a

Kat McSeveney:

take off autopilot, read the newspaper have a little sleep. No, not at all. I think I find that as I'm getting older. First of all, I would just like, obviously, to try it out and to be multi disciplined in aviation, then I think it's as I'm getting older, it's almost seems like a more stable line to go down with the airlines where you have a more structured life with helicopters. It's all over the place. It's crazy hours, I noticed the same in airlines, but at least it's a little more structured. So possibly to have a more stable life. I'm a massive adventure junkie. So I love to travel all over the world fly crazy machines do amazing operations. But at some stage, I know that it might not be suitable for life forever. Yes. Well,

Ben Hall:

that's a fixed wing for for a job. And then rotary just for play on the weekends. Right?

Kat McSeveney:

Exactly. Yeah. Or just you just say helicopter to fly to the airport to jump on.

Dave Rogers:

Oh, my goodness, mate. All right. So you've got your, you've got your qualification, which is, which is where you and Ben met. And I've got a very, very brief career background here. But I'd like you to talk me through it and some of the adventures you went on. So in 2009, when you got your qualification, what were the sort of first job or first couple of jobs that you have?

Kat McSeveney:

So I actually enrolled and started my flying on helicopters in 2009, but only obtained my commercial pilot's license in 2011. Okay, post that it was quite difficult getting a job. But in 2012, I started flying for a company called netstar in Cape Town doing stolen vehicle tracking on that.

Dave Rogers:

We could stop. Oh, my goodness. So is that is that as obvious as it sounds? There's a report of a stolen vehicle. So you do you call it scrambling a helicopter? No, completely,

Kat McSeveney:

I would definitely describe it as scrambling.

Dave Rogers:

So you're on call, you get the call. And you quite literally chase stolen cars in a helicopter

Kat McSeveney:

100% it's not really as adventurous or exciting as it sounds.

Dave Rogers:

Oh, come on. I've seen the Fast and Furious films.

Kat McSeveney:

I wish it was a little bit more like that. But actually, what we found in Cape Town is most of the call outs I got were at night. I lived about 30 minutes from the airport. So I get the call at two o'clock in the morning, jump into the car race through to the airport, single pilot single crew operation so it was just me and smooth female pulling out the aircraft getting everything ready. And then one of the trackers would come and meet me at the airport. And most of the time would find would take off and would track the stolen vehicle in one of the townships or just across the highway from the airport. Third ended up being quite a long mission for a very short flying time. Often two and a half to three hours to actually get to the airport, pull the aircraft off by myself, get back, no land, refuel, pull the aircraft into the hangar by myself. And as I said would take off and fly or 0.2 or 0.3 in the logbook and find find the stolen vehicle in the township with kind of orbits around and wait for the ground teams to come in and came back the stolen vehicle. No.

Ben Hall:

Only thing you want in the first couple of jobs is to build your your hours, right you don't want to do you just want to build hours. So doing all that work for like naught point two hours.

Dave Rogers:

Ah, so did you ever have any? Did you ever have any cases at the highway? Anything? Anything even remotely exciting happened?

Kat McSeveney:

Not at all actually. One of the spectacular things about Nate Stein katanas when I was there that 100% track record for finding and tracing cars. Yeah. But they are only two main roads out of the city. So the car was either one or the other. And most of the time it was in the township Yeah.

Dave Rogers:

That does sound like an incredibly expensive way of tracing stolen cars by the way.

Kat McSeveney:

It is I believe, but due to the equipment that they have it's the best way to locate the vehicle is jealousy fly? Use the usual the tracking one of the crazy things that happened while you were flying. And yeah, I had a tracker there with this massive aerial that he had whacked me in the face. But yeah, but there was successful and finding the cars. And then once we obviously i'd located the cause we would seem the underground crew to retrieve the car. Amazing. So

Dave Rogers:

that that was your that was your first job. That was your

Kat McSeveney:

that was it. She is.

Dave Rogers:

And did you get it? Did you get? Did you get the rush? And I suppose you did to begin with? But yeah, that whole two o'clock in the morning. And just knowing that you're gonna have to do all that graph. Look,

Kat McSeveney:

as a yes. As the small female pulling the chopper out or pushing it back in was?

Ben Hall:

Yeah. So this is like pulling it on? Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Dave Rogers:

I mean, I don't, I don't want to speak out of turn here because I'm not somebody with a pilot's license, either fixed wing or rotary. But I think it would be fair to say that nobody goes into piloting have any description for the hard graft?

Kat McSeveney:

You know what, I actually don't mind the hard graft, okay. The hard work is okay for me. But it sometimes does help if they're one or two other people that you can say, can you help me push the aircraft out that kind of thing. And obviously, because it was quite time sensitive, it was quite a rush to race to the airport and get the aircraft out. And once I landed back, I was it was quite easy to just take it slow. Afterwards, refuel the aircraft, push it back in, do the paperwork and get home sort of thing.

Dave Rogers:

Maybe I'm just projecting then because you've got such soft hands and such manicured nails. They've not seen a lot of grass. Give them how to push your own vehicle in and out of the hangar. Have you

Ben Hall:

pushed the plane into a hangar in a long, long time?

Dave Rogers:

So what was the next job after the vehicle tracking then? And were you were you actively looking for the next step while you were in that first job?

Kat McSeveney:

No. So this was actually my big break that happened next. And to go back a little bit. After I attained my commercial hours for my commercial license, I called it a designated examiner. The very well known john pokok, who I actually own my whole career too. And he came in did my flight test for me. And I asked him, How do I get a job now, and he had kind of indicated to me that the best way to get a job is to harass Iran so much that they want you to give you a job.

Ben Hall:

top tip to everybody listening.

Kat McSeveney:

So what should I do? I turned around and I did exactly that to him.

Dave Rogers:

Amazing.

Kat McSeveney:

And in 2012 while I was flying for netstar. And then I actually managed to juggle both jobs. And both companies were happy for me to sit and work and kind of operating between the two. And john gave me a call and he said that the pilots of Titan helicopters were struggling to do all the work involved in firefighting. So with the firefighting, they were doing single pilot operations, you obviously have the pilots flying the machines, monitoring the instruments, they're flying low, talking on the radio, counting the drops all of us work that they were doing as a single pilot, and they said that they felt the workload was too much. So they asked me to come in as an extra set of eyes. And I looked at it in the camera helicopter. The camera is an amazing Russian aircraft. It's a counter rotating coaxial machine. That means that it has two counter rotating blades on top of the aircraft and no tail rotor.

Ben Hall:

How that works is a mental machine.

Kat McSeveney:

It is it's really it's really something special. It has the capabilities of lifting five tons on an external load. So when we're doing firefighting in that machine, we could obviously drop 5000 liters on the fire and most of the other aircraft used in South Africa for firefighting is the hueys who is can drop 800 liters so it's more than seven drops. In one day, they came up with an amazing machine for the operation. As I stated, it's, it's a relatively quite big aircraft, it's got the counter rotating coaxial blades, one on top of each other they counter rotate and how that works in terms of an anti talk. So your tail rotor is it works on a differential of torque, and there's no tail rotor on this machine. Amazing. The amazing thing I learned about this machine while I was flying her was that she didn't require much pedal input for power changes, which is obviously usual and the norm and helicopter flying but However, during forces in the tune, you would need large amounts of pedal. But without having the tail rotor. It actually makes her a very stable and precise flying machine and she's not as sensitive to changes in wind force and direction. Very interesting machine it's I think, just shy of 12 meters long. The fuselage die rotor diameter 15 meters and it seats three crew and 16 passengers.

Unknown:

Why?

Kat McSeveney:

Lovely machine? Yes. She's actually my she stole stole my heart right at the very beginning. And so yeah, go back to what happened. They called me in as extra set of eyes. And within two weeks, they decided that they wanted to give me the rating and for me to play with it. So I was very lucky. Yes. Now Tyson, we're operating in Cape Town. From the harbor, they actually had the ship ship service base, and they were doing firefighting for the city of Cape Town, as well as ship service. So they would fly out to the vessels coming past either for maintenance or for resupply, or did one or two MIDI backs with the National series q Institute's. And, and along with that, I also did a barren Island voyage and an Argentine Antarctica voyage.

Ben Hall:

The photos from that is absolutely quality.

Kat McSeveney:

I was very spoiled. And so fortunate to have been able to experience that, especially at such a young age.

Dave Rogers:

And these were all in the these were all in the helicopter that you just told us about.

Unknown:

Correct and the cameras.

Dave Rogers:

So you just got to experience all of these incredible places in this machine that you were completely in love with.

Kat McSeveney:

So that the Marin Island voyage we sell down on the Dallas one. I actually was also lucky enough to go on the final Voyage of the Dallas one because they've been upgraded to their Dallas to which I'm hoping to sell on one day. Yeah. crazy thing about Marian. Its location of the sea and the southern Arctic. To get there, you have to sail through the roaring 40s which is a latitude in the ocean in which the sea swells and the wind gusts are just out of this world.

Dave Rogers:

That sound like a positive thing. But it does not sound like a positive thing. It's

Kat McSeveney:

really enjoyed the experience. But I must say it was quite interesting. When we were on the ship. I remember thinking of it as a five day voyage on a sailing. I remember walking around thinking this just nobody here There must be like 12 people on this voyage. Little did I know everybody was seasick. And they were actually quite a few people on the voyage. So the main purpose of both of these voyages were resupply of the scientific research stations that are based in these locations. They have a overwinter crew that stay for 12 to 14 months. And then we would go down and resupply the bases with fuel for the generators, medical supplies, food, whatever they kind of need as well as something that I used to use a lot right now in clubbing or to the menus to ask me what to do I say on the garbage disposal dry because we used to take the garbage away from Ireland doctor to be sitting there for you.

Dave Rogers:

Very, very good. Amazing. So you moved on after that you did that. You did that for a couple of years. And then you you moved on to the next thing. That sounds like the kind of thing that one might want to stay in forever. So So how did that come to an end does it

Kat McSeveney:

Actually what happened was we did the Marion Island trip in 2012. In 2013, that was with the South African National Antarctic program. In 2013. I was again, very fortunate because our company, our contract actually ended with Santa. And I was desperately wanting to go to Antarctica. And in 2013, just as our contract ended, we ended up having the Argentinian government ask us to do a voyage for them. This voyage was something spectacular. And they were, there was a variety of things that went wrong with actually went very wrong very quickly. But we managed to obviously safely do the operation and to get everyone back home. Well, we, it was the first time the contract has actually been taken away from a company that did the Complete Whole voyage. So they had the vessel that went down at the helicopter, the crew, that all went down together, and then each other and the operation and had done it many years. This was the first year that decided to take a helicopter company from South Africa, a shipping company from Amsterdam, from Holland, and Argentinian.

Ben Hall:

Right. recipe for success.

Kat McSeveney:

Yes, completing you. I think that the first thing that obviously one of the major things that were withdrawn was the delay in our departure. So normally, when you go down to Antarctica, it's it's a December January truck, that's almost 24 hours of sunlight down there, the best way that you can get some good flying conditions. But our whole voyage was delayed and we left South Africa in February, if I'm correct. from South Africa, we actually had to my crew in the mechanics had to dismantle the aircraft flight across to Australia and Argentina, and rebuild it on the other side, which the team again on said, This team is just the most spectacular team I've ever worked with, and got across the ribbon for aircraft, and then we headed down in March. So you can really see from December to March, the way that's changed quite a lot. It's quite temperamental with the hours of sunlight, we're probably maybe seven hours of sunlight today. So really, there were those problems that we were facing. And we got down there did a whole bunch of flying. There were one or two other matters that we had issues with such as the communication problems and obviously the the breakdown of the different groups of people that were flying, we were told me good land, the aircraft and the background of the ship and roll it into could be kept, you know, in the hold overnight. But when we got there, we landed on the front deck, Winton spoke to the captain or realize the background couldn't actually hold the weight of the helicopter. Now the aircraft had to sit on the front day, you know exposed to icing and all the weather conditions that we were experiencing the captain of the ship, it was his first voyage down to Africa. As far as I'm aware, he was put under a lot of pressure to take only the amount of fuel that was required for this. So got down there started, started operating as the first base and then the wave that came in. So we ended up moving quite a lot between the different bases as the way they came in as we move from one base to the next the way they would move. And on top of that the captain of the ship had thought that he would be able to obviously go to one day stop anchor to angels or and from there. Wait until the operation was done and move on. When we got down there though, she's way too deep. So you couldn't drop anchor and see what's up and they were icebergs everywhere so you keep the engines on and be alerted all times for icebergs that could possibly smash into the shop. Oh, this sounds

Dave Rogers:

stressful.

Kat McSeveney:

So yes, post that we managed to get quite a bit of flying done and then we ended up having a failure in one of our engines.

Dave Rogers:

On the on the on the helicopter on the ship

Kat McSeveney:

on the helicopter. So now we were down in Antarctica. It must have been August now March, April sort of thing and struggled to get struggled to get an engine flown and but we did manage to get one from the Chilean base. So we actually ended up having to do all the logistics of getting a new engine from DJI and having it sent in and flown into the Chilean base. From the we ended up obviously, installing this new engine, and at this stage, the ship was running out of fuel. So we ended up having to go back up to Cheyenne, which, by the way, is something that's quite special about this why it's the most southern city in the world, and it's in Patagonia. So we got to spend some time there. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful scenery and mountainous regions,

Dave Rogers:

and the only place outside of Wales where they speak Welsh, in particular. Yeah.

Unknown:

To No.

Kat McSeveney:

Yeah, so after a whole bunch of logistical problems, we ended up selling backup refueling the ship coming down to Antarctica again, and finishing off the voyage and the resupply operations that we needed to However, on the last day, some something also quite crazy and crazy experience to go through. And artica has a 1414 day period of which the oceans completely freeze over. And we will actually get stuck there. And that time, captain of the ship made a very good call. And he said, it's time to go now, like we're leaving, we're heading back up. And on the way out, we got stuck in the ice that accumulated over the ocean. So from there, we started to make contingency plans who were going to fly off to what basis we call the Russian icebreaker to break us out and the captain of the ship has decided he's just going to reverse the ship and smash it into the ice over and over. Yes, so he did that. And I remember going to sleep that night and waking up at one stage and the ship was at the slight tilted angle. Well, I have like 45 degrees. And when went back to sleep, woke up the following morning and he had managed to smash his way out.

Dave Rogers:

I've gone Oh, sorry, I was gonna stop this instructional DVD that I could send him. It stars, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Oh,

Ben Hall:

no sound like some sort of 19th century expedition voyage where everything's going wrong. The captains just like, smash through be fine.

Kat McSeveney:

So then on the other side of things, I was very proud to have stayed here that we ended up coming back. I think it was May or so. So from a usual trip being done in December, we were there almost half a year later. The weather was it was freezing. I think the coldest day we had was minus 54 with the windchill factor. Like cold weather.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah. Good. This man had

Kat McSeveney:

a great team. They're really, really good team. I had my captain that I was flying with it was myself with three Russian engineers. And we're actually it was two Russian engineers, one South African engineer and then our ground crew guy. And they were honestly just so lovely to me that I was the only female I don't know if I mentioned this the only female on the ship or 49 men and myself for three and a half months.

Dave Rogers:

Bear in mind back to the beginning of this podcast when cat was talking about possibly getting her fixed wing license for a slightly easier life. With stories like that, I can see why you might want a PC alive.

Ben Hall:

Yeah, I've never bought my aircraft on a ship that's bashing through ice in the Antarctic ocean. No.

Kat McSeveney:

No, it's been it's been. It's been very colorful and diverse. And I must say these experiences as challenging as they were while we were in it. I look back on it. And you know, there's some of the most memorable times of my life.

Dave Rogers:

One adventure, though, after you all got out of that alive. And I genuinely mean that because there must have been points during that expedition where you did wonder if it might go sideways. Perhaps you must have felt like you could do absolutely anything.

Kat McSeveney:

I definitely think I think I did feel that way. As I said I had such an amazing team that guides us to say To me. So So what actually happened. One of the other things, the challenges that we faced is, as I said, we couldn't land the aircraft in the background and roll it into the holes. So she was exposed to all the weather conditions, and would wake up in the morning and she would be covered in thick ice and adapt to certain scrub this ice off before we could fly. And so eventually, we got the idea, when it got too much to do this all the time that we would, every single night, I take the blades off and roll her down around into the cargo. So the guys used to say to me, they're really worth the sweeteners, they used to look at me and say, we can't watch your chair, your lips are blue, your eyelashes are just like frozen over, please go inside and we'll do the work. And I used to say no, I'm here to help you why ever would I leave my team I'll chair to work, I'm here to help. And they used to, they used to call the the thorn among the roses, as well as the Russian name that I was given was katusa, which is the most destructive Russian weapon ever made. So I was cut to shop.

Dave Rogers:

Got to share. Very good.

Kat McSeveney:

But so going back to what you asked, Why would I leave a position like this. But going back up to Argentina, there was a little bit of politics between who was going to pay for what ever extra expenses, the contract encouraged, and the aircraft was grounded in Argentina until they had obviously established and sorted everything else. So I went back to South Africa and one of the jobs that I've done, I've also contributed to an office role. So I sat in the office and I did a lot of operational work and Sperry kind of the company that I was with, they see that they couldn't watch me sitting in an office and they wanted me to fly. So they recommended me to the company in Malaysia, who took me for 2pm to go and fly there in the bornean Jungle.

Dave Rogers:

Wow. I mean a very, very different climate straightaway, a bit of a change there from

Kat McSeveney:

from the ice. I mean, the one base the lowest base latitude wise that we went to in Antarctica was at 68 degrees south and that's just in the Arctic Circle. So yes, going from the Arctic Circle up to Borneo, Malaysia, the Malaysian section of Borneo is at zero degrees north so quite a big jump in latitude and the change and flying in the ice to flying on the crater.

Dave Rogers:

So talk to me about that. What did you do in Borneo so so far? You have you've you've found stolen cars, you have scraped ice off what would have essentially been a death trap had you not done it in the in the pretty much the coldest place on planet earth with an incredible crew. And now you're in Borneo what on earth could possibly be taught what you've already turned?

Kat McSeveney:

I don't know if I forgot to mention that with Titan helicopters also did firefighting and some ships service. So from Cape Town Yeah, we did the the firefighting contract and we flew out to vessels class in Cape Town to either drop of food or if there was someone sick on board with their MIDI back and take them off maintenance something went wrong with either drop pots or drop a technician on board to fix the problems. did a couple of flights with the National Sea Rescue Institute as well. So already Yes, very colorful

Dave Rogers:

to thing with regards to being a helicopter pilot, you do really have the opportunity to help people who are in need.

Kat McSeveney:

Most definitely. And that's where my passion lies in aviation. I've always wanted to move into medical services. And I've been lucky enough to do it in both Malaysia and in South Africa.

Dave Rogers:

Well tell me about Malaysia then.

Kat McSeveney:

So in Malaysia, we flew the polka one to five helicopter which is a very special helicopter because it is the first helicopter that was produced there could actually perform aerobatic maneuvers. I'm not sure if you have seen the Red Bull helicopter, the one that can do rolls and deep dives like turnovers all of that good old check Aaron, and his amazing flying.

Dave Rogers:

Okay.

Kat McSeveney:

And so I was flying that machine and I was only involved in the emergency helicopter flying emergency medical, and the company I was working for so operated Flying Doctor Service. So there are a lot of really remote villages in Borneo, I would say, maybe just give you a little bit of an understanding of what the what the terrain is like, what would take us 45 minutes to fly would take them 14 hours to drive through the jungle and obviously over the mountainous regions. So the Flying Doctor Service would work in a way that for instance, once a month, they would have all the different villages and they would go village to village taking a doctor and a nurse and then go and treat everyone at all these villages. And I was involved in the Hayden's part of it which is the helicopter emergency medical service. So it would have been snagged by pregnancies, obviously any sort of fatal disease or anything that was happening. I did a very interesting case color for liquids while I was there, which is as far as I know, it's a little disease non existence on this planet. And that and that was the kind of flying that we would do so because it would take them so long to drive into hospital because of the remoteness of the location and the terrain to get there. We would fly and bring them through to the hospital in the case of an emergency.

Ben Hall:

I must have been so amazing flying in the jungles

Kat McSeveney:

really was yes it was a beautiful terrain, lovely rivers it was gorgeous. The weather was sometimes quite temperamental, obviously being mountainous as well as tropical, so quite unstable here. But some brilliant flying really, really some some very interesting flying and some beautiful scenery. Obviously Borneo is the only place in a world that has a range of things.

Dave Rogers:

How long were you in Borneo for I assume you were you were living there as well, that must have been culturally very different.

Kat McSeveney:

It was very different. I enjoyed it a lot. And as I've said, I enjoy that Kind of Adventurous exploration. I made many good friends there. I really did enjoy my time there. Unfortunately, it was cut short due to the fact that it was a government contract. And they were not very happy with a Caucasian woman. Yes, like a jewel problem there for them. They are they were unhappy with a Caucasian woman flying in government contracts. So I was intending on spending five years there, I'd signed a five year contract. And after a year, what they normally do is they will give a international pilot's a Malaysian license. Without this Malaysian license, you would have to return home and your base check every six months and in the paperwork, it's with your home location, go through all your paperwork in Malaysia, that's a three month process. So every six months, you're doing three months of paperwork before you can actually fly. And without the Malaysian license, it just became too difficult to continue flying in Malaysia. So my boss gave you the option of either sticking around and flying as I can, he said he would fly me back home back and forth, to do the base checks and required paperwork. But I knew it was gonna be quite an expensive task for him to get through it. And none of his other pilots were experiencing these problems. So he did, he gave me the option to stay on to work in the office could continue working in the office over that time. And, you know, obviously fly for half the time that I'm there, but I opted to, to call it and to come back to South Africa.

Dave Rogers:

I'm sensing a bit of a pattern here from the moment you've got your license, you get yourself in a position to get these these great jobs, these exciting jobs, but they all seem to have a shelf life and there doesn't seem to be a particular reason for this shelf life. Is this something that is common across the helicopter pilots industry if you like or what were you expecting to get a job for life and to be able to do that for? Well, either your career or for it to be in your control when you decided to move on to the next completely

Kat McSeveney:

obviously I was I was hoping to get settled and in a stable position and hold my hours and kind of be able to plan my life and I don't know if it's got to do with being a female. I don't know if it's got to do with the politics behind me. And I'm very blessed to have flown in places like Malaysia like Argentina and artica. Most of the time with helicopter flying species. Yeah, we find that you mostly get jobs in Africa. So the fact that I've entered our past Africa, and I was lucky enough and blessed enough to get opportunities and travel, it's it's really is quite special. But yes, I don't know if it's just been bad luck. Or

Unknown:

if

Kat McSeveney:

it's because of certain aspects of being a young female, low hours at certain times, there are quite a few politics in aviation, especially when it's government contracts. So I would hope to eventually get in a much more stable position and have a much longer lasting job. However, not to say that I'm not happy with my various diverse experiences over the past 10 years.

Dave Rogers:

You spent a bit of time in the United States as well, did you? Well, if I may speak,

Kat McSeveney:

no, I, in 2014, I was appointed on the board of directors for the world eagles, which is an international organization for men helicopter pilots. Okay. And I was living in Malaysia at the time. So some of the challenges I found with doing that position or fulfilling that role is that when we had our weekly meetings or whatever the situation, whatever was required, for me, it was two or three o'clock in the morning that I would need to be up to work with everyone in the States. And so I fulfilled the position of membership coordinator, which means I dealt with all the new members and existing members, whatever queries and problems they had and just kind of coordinated, coordinated effort for them. And then in 2014, I needed to go to the helicopter Association International heli Expo in Orlando, to be actually appointed onto the board of directors. So I went through that when I saw being I stopped in Dubai, Malaysia, Dubai, and then on and yeah, went through there and spent some time with the woman in aviation, I was actually gain one of the highlights in my aviation career. I got to meet Chuck Aaron, which is the Red Bull pilots who does all the barrel rolls and the amazing aerobatic fly, as well as 90 Livingstone, who was the oldest living female helicopter pilot and the world's full helicopter pilots ever. Female and a copter pilot?

Unknown:

Amazing.

Kat McSeveney:

Yeah, so for me, it was like between check Aaron and this lady, I was like, Who's the witches? Dylan got photographs of all of them. And I was just, I was really lucky to meet them. And I'm honored to have got that opportunity.

Dave Rogers:

So talk to me about the memberships. Then if you said that was something that that you were in charge of? I'd be fascinated to know, what was the membership like, because Ben and I, we haven't really gone into it in detail in a podcast yet. And I really would like to them. I know, we've spoken about it as something that we'd like to address, just just to have the conversation as much as anything. Because I'm sure that there's the there's the argument that you know, it's better than it used to be. And there are more women becoming pilots and more people, sort of black Asian and minority ethnic pilots and whatever. But there is still, there is still a stereotype of a pilot. And it looks a lot more like Ben than it looks like you hear so that I get it. And it's certainly not the only industry where that's the case. But in terms of the the numbers that you had as who were paying members of where the girls and in terms of the industry how you see, you've already alluded to the fact that you may or may not have stumbled over some speed bumps as a result of your of your demographic. So yeah, just start starting with starting with numbers, and then we might slightly expand the conversation. And with this episode in particular time is very much of the essence but if it's something that you'd like to talk about, I'd love to have you back on another episode to go deeper into it

Kat McSeveney:

completely. I think that the amazing thing about that illegals is, number one, it's, it's an honor to join them. And you unit, it's great networking, you meet female pilots all around the world. And it's a great support as well, you have pilots who will help you look for a job, they'll advise you on our training you need to do and they'll just generally be there for you through whatever challenges you are facing. Beyond that, they also offer some sponsorships for specific ratings or trainings annually, they do sponsorship program whereby they'll, you'll apply and they'll choose 10 goals or whatever it is, according to what they have that year. And they'll send you off to your instrument rating or to do a rating on two different aircraft or depending on whatever they've been donated or whatever they've managed to get in that year. So I think that was the big benefit for for me was mostly the networking and the support that we got from from having people in similar situation. And there really are some of the women who are involved, and especially the ones higher up, they have got amazing experience stories to tell. Vice to share. They've really, they really are very special and unique people that have injured quite a lot in the aviation industry to get to where they are.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, yes, I can only begin to imagine. But just going back to the story you told where there's a crew of 50. And you're the only woman I cannot imagine any situation where there'd be a crew of professionals where there'd be 49 women and one man, Ben, anything?

Ben Hall:

No, no. Well, this is very similar to what Dr. Kern said last week, because she got her helicopter, rotary licensing. Clinical Director, obviously, her grocery license in Canada, and apparently the low our jobs sort of up in the up in the bush. And there are no provisions for women at all. There's no sort of women's bathrooms or accommodation or anything. So it's just not at

Kat McSeveney:

all completely. No, it's it's different. Even when we when we landed on the ship, which is sailing past Argentina on its way downtown artica Wilton, and the captain of the ship said, I'm gonna put you in a room with your crew. And I said a car. I actually have no problem with that. But my captain said that he was completely unhappy with that. He said absolutely not. And they ended up asking one of the Argentinian military lieutenants to leave his room and go and share so that I could get a room. And obviously, these are the kinds of things that Michaels problems.

Dave Rogers:

And you know, if you're in a, if you're in a situation where there are people who want to want to help you out and make sure it's fair, then great, but it probably shouldn't be up to a man to make those decisions. Not at all on your behalf. Well, I'm glad we're having this conversation, but it's certainly taken it a bit of a change of direction as 100% mine cat, let's talk about what you're what you're up to, in the present day then because at the moment, you're doing some some teaching some instructing some lecturing, and tell us about that.

Kat McSeveney:

Yes, so post Malaysia, I went through to Johannesburg. And in Johannesburg, I was part of starting up a helicopter emergency medical service, there was a collaboration between a medical insurance company er 24, which is obviously a Emergency Medical Response company and to flying companies. And I did that for a while, but I was a lot more behind the scenes in the operational finance, startup, all of that. And then alongside that, I did my instructors rating. And Johannesburg. I had a few students do the couple of instruction hours in the April but also did lecturing for students doing their commercial license. So they had the background of their private license. I've now been back in Swaziland for a year. Year, just over a year. I took last year off and now this year, I've been asked to come and lecture for new students just learning how to fly and for the boot for its fortini depends pencils.

Unknown:

amazed.

Kat McSeveney:

Yes. So it's a little bit different for me because you know, it's instructing and doing lecturing before for for pilots. already had a private pilot's license, they had the background to, to work off that I could kind of extend on an add on to the students now have four hours or six hours. So it's they're really quite new into into the whole experience and finding it quite interesting, trying to, you know, trying to help them to understand because what I find a lot is I'm lecturing for the private pilot's exams, but you might focus on one subject, however, things from other subjects kind of get brought in subtly. So. Yeah, it's a little bit challenging to, to try and teach people when they don't have the background of your Lisa basic private pilot's license.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah. Is the defense was part of the military.

Unknown:

Correct? Yes. Very small.

Ben Hall:

line for the military. You enlisted?

Kat McSeveney:

I have not necessarily as of yet. We have to get approval from the kingdom sighs learned? Yeah. King eswatini. King to to enroll Swaziland? It's quite slow. So it's taken. We've it's been, we've been talking about it for about six months. And I got the approval kind of towards the end of last month. But I think and now I'm just waiting for the paperwork. And I'm hoping for enrollment as a reservist and benefit happens to be a full time position. So a possibility, yes.

Dave Rogers:

Will you get a rank?

Unknown:

I don't know.

Dave Rogers:

And the next question,

Unknown:

you have to start off with a rank,

Dave Rogers:

you have to get a rank. And also, if you're a if you're a military pilot, you might get a call sign

Unknown:

exactly how

Dave Rogers:

we we've spoken to a few minutes to pilots, and they have told us the stories about how they got their call signs. So hopefully, you'll get a call sign. And you'll get a great story as to how you how you achieve that too. But this sounds like like a really interesting job. And, and, again, we've spoken to a few pilots who ended up being instructors, and it tends to be the ones who, who really love it, who really love aviation and by the sounds of, of your relationship with with being a pilot in aviation. It sounds like the love of it has been questioned at times. But you're sort of sort of rekindling that relationship with it. Would that be a fair assumption?

Kat McSeveney:

I get the sense, I believe it's been quite a difficult part, as it is for all pilots. I would never say that my love has been questioned. I've endured some quite challenging times. And I needed a bit of a break from it, which as I said, coincided with a time in the world. That's things slow down. So I was quite lucky. I think one of the problems I had was that I was particularly spoilt, it's really early stage in my flying so no, for me, the really enjoyable flying is the adrenaline flying its emergency medical services, the firefighters, the trucks turned arteaga. And then it kind of got to a stage where it was like, Oh, so spoiled, that I must go to a charter and buy this restaurant. And I'd be like, ah, I really want to do that. So I've had to reevaluate things and realize that although I was spoiled at a young age with the flying that I experienced, it's not always it's also been a realization for me to realize it's not it's not always that you get that kind of no thrill driven, flying, it's, you know, they all times as you are going to have slightly more classes flying. And yeah.

Ben Hall:

Right, because that makes the exciting flying.

Kat McSeveney:

Exactly. Gotta have loads to have highs. So 100% I think in the beginning, I was full blown. All exciting, like the flying was a rush. And now I've had to realize that I can't have that all the time. I need to also do the other flying. And it's still a privilege and a pleasure to do that flying.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, I think always quite important to acknowledge that flying is a real privilege. But I wanted to ask you because you've had a you've had a pretty diverse career. Does any of this mad adventure stuff To the Antarctic or Borneo or, or Argentina or or chasing stolen cars down the highway does does any of that stuff appeal to you? Yeah. Love to

Ben Hall:

the fixed wing, it's a little bit more limited, right? Because most of the stuff that gets done is you know, you need to be able to land vertically. Yeah. things a little bit less flexible with that. A few years ago, I applied for the British Antarctic Survey. So because they've got basically aircraft with skeet, haha. And they, they go and do resupplies in the Antarctic and stuff in it. I think it's basically a six month contract and Antarctica, and then you're back at home for six months. And that's fine. I think if you're kind of in your 20s or single, you know, got really flexible lifestyle, but being married in a, in a house owner and got dog

Kat McSeveney:

downfalls of being a pilot that travels a lot and says you can't have pets. Yes.

Ben Hall:

Yeah, there's a lot of sacrifices. And I think those those more sort of fun, adventurous jobs, you've got to sacrifice a lot more of your life. So I don't think you can do it forever.

Kat McSeveney:

No, I definitely don't think it's sustainable forced waiver.

Ben Hall:

Yeah. So I'm a little bit sad that I've missed out on that kind of stuff. I'd love to done sort of African bush flying or something like that for a stint. Maybe

Unknown:

that's always for a stench.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, well, looking at looking at your career and listening to your stories, I think maybe you can look at it as a positive that that some of these things were taken out of your hands. And it wasn't up to you. When you you left them. It was like, right, this is done. Let's box it off. Let's move on to the next thing. Because imagine if you'd stayed in Borneo for a little bit too long, and I don't know, you'd started to resent it or something had gone completely wrong. As it stands now, you can look back on it as as just this this incredible experience.

Kat McSeveney:

No, definitely I agree that in many ways that actually I was quite fortunate that that happened. It also allowed me the time to experience some other exciting adventurous flying. So you know, the big thing with that we find with flying different countries and on different machines is yet to do the training onto the machine, they get bonded with time and money. And with the way it works out for me, I've just managed to somehow have between a two and a three year kind of rotation. That's kind of the flow that I've been going through. And it's been interesting.

Dave Rogers:

Well, I'm looking behind you now. And what was beautiful sunshine is now an inky dark sky. So we will not keep you for too much longer. But a few. Just a few general questions. Before we before we put an end to what has been another lovely conversation. Thank you so much. And are there any machines that you haven't flown yet that you'd really like to and how you're going to go about maneuvering yourself into a position to do that.

Kat McSeveney:

So one of the big ones is I would like to fly See I like the the workhorses, not necessarily the most beautiful machines, but the powerful ones. So I should not. Because I would love to fly a Chinook at some stage. I do like the like the most even teens as well. If I had to look at some of the nicer looking aircraft, I would like to fly there. gusta 169. And probably the Airbus h 145. would be lovely to but yes, they will all quite advanced or big aircraft that are expensive to operate. So for now, I'm just grateful that I got to fly currently at six ratings and six different aircraft and three of the six are really special APR. Hmm. And that's lucky.

Dave Rogers:

And you, you sound like you well. This this this job you're doing now with all the newbies sounds great. And by the sounds of things, there are a few things that need to fall into place. But do you still have ambitions to just be a full time pilot again, whether it's rotary or fixed wing? Is that something that in the future you can see yourself doing again?

Kat McSeveney:

Definitely 100% To be honest, instruction was never really my first choice and vectoring is not but in many ways it's a good thing. I mean, taking you from aviation and now going back into lettering. It's it's Slowly got my mind back into aviation way of thinking. And I definitely think that I would, I would like to do another Antartica trip I'd like to fly logging and I'd like to fly rigs offshore to the rigs. And these days they are differently operations that I would hope to get to

Dave Rogers:

you. You're absolutely wired Mexican to tell me like I'd really like to go BASE jumping or where a wingsuit Cliff or honestly I'd love to do

Unknown:

wingsuit diving. That's top notch.

Dave Rogers:

A few. A few things if you ever skydived

Ben Hall:

I've, I've done static Line Jumping a few times.

Dave Rogers:

My excuse was always I was too heavy, because you I think you need to be under 95 kilos to do it. Oh, rubbish. I've done that. And now I'm just about under 95 kilos. So I've got no excuse anymore.

Kat McSeveney:

I've got I've twice, but with an instructor both times. Okay, so I haven't jumped alone. And I probably would be a little bit fearful and anxious to jump on myself. But I would love to at some stage. It's you know, at the end of the day, it's linear dynamics.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, well, when you put it like that, when you put it like that, I'll just jump off the balcony. Right. And this one again, just just going back to what we were speaking about earlier. Being a woman in aviation, would you look another woman in the eye and say, you're making the right decision. This is a job that you should do and a career that you should pursue?

Kat McSeveney:

I definitely would, as challenging as it has been. And it's challenging for me into this industry. It's taught me so much joy, and I couldn't think of following any other career path. So you know, the big thing I find her pilots and you find it a lot at airports where you'll have pilots coming in on a Saturday and on a Sunday to work for very minimal pay. And they do it because it's a passion. It's not. It's not like so wait for them. That's what they want to do with their time.

Dave Rogers:

I think that is a lovely place to end this conversation. Cat. Thank you so much. This has been Ben, Where'd you find these great guests? Well, South Africa, my friends,

Ben Hall:

wonderful, long lost friends can't beat him.

Dave Rogers:

Thank you, cat.

Kat McSeveney:

Thank you for hosting me. It's been wonderful to chat.

Ben Hall:

Thanks for listening to the pirate base podcast. We'll be back next week with another great guest from the aviation industry. Don't forget to check out our new career platform, our pilot base.com and all the socials at pilot base HQ. If you enjoyed this podcast Don't forget to subscribe and rice review