Flying high after living
top-gun dream

Video/image: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

Video/image: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

Air Force aviation camps are where dreams of flying can come true. For UQ graduate Kristi Grafton, they also open a new world of opportunities.

The crowd holds its breath as the FA-18 Super Hornets scream across the Brisbane skyline.

A collective sigh follows as the fighter jets change course at the last moment, narrowly evading buildings and flying off into the sunset.

For many years, UQ alumnus Kristi Grafton (pictured) watched on in awe as this high-octane stunt heralded the start of an impressive fireworks display during Brisbane’s annual Riverfire celebrations.

“I’ll never forget the feeling of watching those jets perform the dump and burn past my house every year when I was younger,” Grafton recalls.

But the young IT professional never imagined she would one day get the chance to fly the same route herself.

Grafton (Bachelor of Multimedia Design ’16) lived her childhood dream in July this year, on board a Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft as part of a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Aviation Camp for Women at RAAF Base Amberley.

“It was amazing to experience this first-hand in the C-17 Globemaster and it is something I’ll never forget," she said.

"It’s not often you get to be a passenger in the back of one of those aircraft and watch the Brisbane landscape pass by with the rear cargo door open.”

The camps have been running since 2013 as an initiative to increase female participation in aviation, engineering and technical roles, where women represent fewer than 15 per cent of the workforce.

"It’s not often you get to be a passenger in the back of one of those aircraft and watch the Brisbane landscape pass by with the rear cargo door open.”
UQ graduate Kristi Grafton

They have produced positive results, with 76 per cent of participants going on to actively pursue Australian Defence Force (ADF) careers.

Participants from around the country were selected based on their strength of application, interest in aviation, interest in maths and science subjects, and leadership qualities.

While on camp, they experienced a range of aviation roles, as well as the day-to-day routine of a military air base. Activities included the C-17 Globemaster flight, jet flight simulations, hands-on training with RAAF technicians and engineers, as well as fitness assessments and conditioning sessions.

Participants also had the opportunity to meet senior ADF officers and attend mentoring sessions with female pilots, mission aircrew and controllers, and engineers and technicians.

Since graduating from UQ in 2016, Grafton has worked in technology operations at Vodafone Hutchison Australia and has experienced many aspects of the corporate IT environment, such as project management, web development and app analysis, since joining the company in 2017.

“I chose to study an IT degree at UQ because I wanted more hands-on experience, while also learning key technical skills that I could use in my career,” Grafton said.

“And I’ve always had a keen interest in aviation. I visit aviation events whenever possible and I hope to gain my pilot’s licence soon.

“Attending the camp expanded my experience with and knowledge of the Air Force, including the diversity of the roles on offer – from humanitarian support and disaster relief, to serving on the frontline, and everything in between.”

Do you have what it takes?

Visit the Royal Australian Air Force website to learn more or apply for upcoming aviation camps for women.

Image: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence.

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