St Ge­orge’s 23-year-old liv­ing the dream as a pi­lot

Warwick Daily News - South West Queensland Rural Weekly - - Front Page - AN­DREA DAVY An­drea.davy@ru­ral­

HE’S only 23 years old but Jack Po­plawski has seen parts of Aus­tralia most peo­ple never will.

Like Wal­lal Downs in Western Aus­tralia’s Pil­bara, where the out­back’s red dirt meets the crys­tal-clear aqua wasters of Eighty Mile Beach.

Or the strik­ing white salt flats at Lake Carey.

And then, there are vast vis­tas of agri­cul­ture in ac­tion, like 8000 head of sheep be­ing yarded at shear­ing time on the Nullar­bor.

The he­li­copter pi­lot, orig­i­nally from St Ge­orge in south­west Queens­land, was amazed with views like this.

In the hopes of shar­ing some of the magic he sees from the air, he cap­tures pic­tures and shares them to his im­age platform, Whirly­bird Pho­tog­ra­phy.

This week, Jack, who was en­joy­ing days off on the Gold Coast be­fore the mus­ter­ing sea­son ramps up again, caught up with the Ru­ral Weekly to talk fly­ing, pho­tog­ra­phy and what his fam­ily thinks of him be­com­ing a chop­per pi­lot.

On May 6, 2016, Jack re­ceived his he­li­copter li­cence.

He calls him­self lucky as he picked up work fairly quickly un­der Wel­don Percy at Fortes­cue Heli­copters, based at New­man in Western Aus­tralia.

It was his mum, Denise Po­plawski, who sug­gested he learn to fly.

“Mum asked me what I wanted to do when I was in Year 12 and I didn’t re­ally know,” he said.

“So she said ‘why don’t you go and get your he­li­copter li­cence?’

“I have never looked back. “I think she might kind of re­gret it though,” he joked.

Mov­ing just about as far west as you can go, Jack’s work­place last year spread right across the Pil­bara and down to the Nullar­bor.

“I was on War­rawagine, Mulga Downs and Lime­stone – that’s just to name a few. I had nu­mer­ous jobs over there,” he said.

He said it was hard to put into words what the best part about his job was but he said fly­ing made him feel “free”.

“You get to see so much land – hid­den and re­mote parts of Aus­tralia a lot of peo­ple will never get to see – and you meet so many peo­ple. Ev­ery­one has a dif­fer­ent story so you meet some in­ter­est­ing peo­ple.”

He said the most chal­leng­ing part of his role was en­sur­ing a clean muster.

The prop­er­ties Jack worked on in school holidays around St Ge­orge were up to 24,000 hectares (about 60,000 acres). In Western Aus­tralia, he is in charge of mak­ing large aerial cuts of places big­ger than 404,680 hectares (1 mil­lion acres).

“I just got back from Rawl­inna on the Nullar­bor. It’s 2.5 mil­lion acres,” he said.

The pho­tog­ra­phy started af­ter a nudge from Jack’s dad, Eddy, who prompted him to buy a de­cent cam­era.

“I stared tak­ing photos with my iPhone when I started fly­ing and then it just pro­gressed from there,” he said.

Nowa­days Jack gen­er­ally has his Canon 5D safely tucked around his neck, and if the mo­ment presents it­self he shoots a pic­ture from the air.

How­ever, a few things have to line up be­fore that can hap­pen.

“Ob­vi­ously safety comes first, and live­stock comes first as well... so, if I can, I quickly snap a photo and put the cam­era back down,” he said.

With the in­cred­i­ble land­scapes Jack floats over, and his nat­u­ral knack for shoot­ing pic­tures (he is self-taught) he has built him­self a solid fol­low­ing on Face­book and In­sta­gram.

“My part­ner (Monique Wil­liams) said I should make a cal­en­der, so I did for 2018. I ended up sell­ing just un­der 400 copies,” he said.

“Apart from that, I get re­quests from all over. Peo­ple buy images for photo frames or can­vases, for birthdays or Christ­mas presents.”

The strik­ing photo of Wal­lal Downs, where the bush meets the beach, is one of Jack’s favourite lo­ca­tions to pho­to­graph.

“Ob­vi­ously I am a coun­try kid, but I love my ocean and fish­ing, so it’s kind of a two-in-one pack­age there,” he said.

“I haven’t seen a croc­o­dile but there are sharks and giant stingrays.

“About the time I took that photo there were tur­tles lay­ing their eggs on the beach; this is just some of the stuff you get to see when you are fly­ing around.”

Jack said it was im­por­tant to him to con­tinue show­cas­ing Aus­tralian agri­cul­ture, to show what the in­dus­try is all about and has to offer.

En­ter­ing the in­dus­try came with a fi­nan­cial bur­den of pay­ing off the fees for ob­tain­ing his li­cence.

Jack was thank­ful he was able to get a fam­ily loan from his dad, which he has paid back, but his ticket to fly didn’t se­cure his first job. It can be a chal­lenge for some pi­lots to find work.

“I have got mates who did the li­cence with me and they have gone back to uni,” he said.

“For one thing, they didn’t get a job, and an­other, down the track they were wor­ried they wouldn’t at some stage pass the med­i­cal, which we are re­quired to do.

“But for any young guy or girl who is look­ing to do their li­cence, I would say go for it. It’s the best thing I have ever done.”

Jack was well aware his job was renowned for be­ing dan­ger­ous.

“Mum al­ways wor­ries. Ev­ery time I leave home she tells me ‘make sure you come back’,” he said.

“It hits home when she says that. But we take pride in our work and our ma­chines. They are al­ways up to scratch and run­ning at 100 per cent. We would never put our­selves or any­one else in dan­ger.”

Search Whirly­bird c Pho­tog­ra­phy on Face­book to see more of Jack’s work.


Jack Po­plawski DE­TER­MI­NA­TION: day skies ev­ery takes to the land he loves. cap­tur­ing the


Yard­ing 4000 merino ewes and lambs for shear­ing at Rawl­inna Sta­tion, Nullar­bor, Western Aus­tralia this year.

Lime­stone Sta­tion’s black an­gus, Mar­ble Bar, last year.

Mov­ing 8500 merino ewes and lambs into the laneway at Rawl­inna Sta­tion.

Pi­lot Jack Po­plawski, the man be­hind Whirly­bird Pho­tog­ra­phy.

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