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Pioneer woman pilot Dr Dorothy Herbert dies

written by australianaviation.com.au | September 1, 2014

Dorothy Herbert AM was not just a pilot and a doctor, but an inspiration for all aspiring pilots and doctors everywhere.

Herbert died on Wednesday, August 27. She was 91.

An active pilot for 50 years, amassing 2,200 flight hours in powered aircraft and a further 300 in gliders, she caught the aviation bug in her teens thanks to another aviatrix, Jean Batten, who made the first direct flight from England to New Zealand in 1936 at the age of 25.

A love of aviation endured throughout her life, with Herbert even heading to England to serve as a wireless operator during WW2.

It also endured through her quest to become a doctor and she spent 20 years as a GP in Charleville where she worked with the Royal Flying Doctor Service as a locum.


Herbert not only treated patients all across the outback, she flew out there herself in a Cessna 182 that she purchased in 1963.

It must also be said the Cessna, VH-WAM, and the subsequent Piper Comanche, not only allowed Herbert to treat sick people, deliver babies and handle all sorts of medical situations in remote communities, it also let her explore new destinations far and wide.

A December 2012 profile in the Australasian Society of Aerospace Medicine (ASAM) newsletter records that in 1971 she flew to Bali with another woman pilot and a male steward in the first light aircraft to land at Denpasar’s then-new international airport.

There were also other trips around Australia to Australian Women Pilots’ Association (AWPA) conferences, and a chance to sample the arts in the big city.

“If I saw the Russian ballet was playing in Adelaide, I would hop into my Comanche and be there in three and a half hours. I would come back feeling on a high for some time,” Herbert told the ASAM newsletter.

Her last flight was in 1996, when aged 75 she flew a Skyfox to the AWPA conference at Longreach.

Herbert was made an honourary life member of ASAM in 1997, was a foundation member of the AWPA and was made a member of the Order of Australia in 1999.

Herbert’s memorial service is on Wednesday, September 3 at St Mark’s Anglican Chuch, 1073 Waterworks Road, The Gap, Brisbane, at 1330.

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