With her al­co­hol is­sues be­hind her, white witch Fiona Horne is soar­ing in her new role.

WHO - - In This Issue - By Jenny Brown

Fiona Horne was 9 years old when she fell in love with fly­ing. At an air show with her adop­tive fa­ther, watch­ing vin­tage World War II planes climb into the clear blue sky above Goul­burn, NSW, her heart soared. It was a rare mo­ment of hap­pi­ness in what the for­mer Def FX pop sen­sa­tion calls “a chal­leng­ing child­hood.” “I don’t have a lot of good fam­ily mem­o­ries, but there were mo­ments. And the air shows— I re­mem­ber go­ing to three or four— were right up there with the best,” says the singer, broad­caster, au­thor, ac­tress, self-de­scribed “white witch,” fire-dancer and, as of last year, com­mer­cial pi­lot. “Dad was re­ally into World War II relics and war­birds, but we al­ways went as voyeurs. We were never in the cock­pit,” Horne, 50, tells WHO. “I found the con­cept fas­ci­nat­ing, but it never oc­curred to me that I could be the per­son fly­ing the plane.”

It took un­til her mid-40s for Horne to re­alise she could steer her des­tiny along a dif­fer­ent course, as she re­veals in her au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, The Naked Witch (Rock­pool Pub­lish­ing, $29.99). To­day the spell­binder who scored a US fol­low­ing is living qui­etly in the Caribbean, where she is most at home in the cock­pit of a Piper Aztec twin-en­gined “is­land-hop­per” plane. “Even at 42 de­grees with no air-con­di­tion­ing,” there’s no bet­ter place to be, says the one­time Play­boy cover girl, who re­belled against a con­ser­va­tive— and dif­fi­cult—upbringing in Syd­ney’s south­ern suburbs.

Grow­ing up, Horne writes that she was re­peat­edly sex­u­ally abused by a fam­ily mem­ber and bul­lied at school. Later, celebrity, di­vorce and al­co­holism left the star bro­ken be­fore she found a rea­son to reinvent her­self. “As I moved through that pain, I had this vi­sion to be­come an aid worker and some­one whose brain was able to grasp the op­er­a­tion of heavy ma­chin­ery at al­ti­tude,” says Horne. “As I got deeper into it I re­alised I wanted to leave the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try and re­make my­self as a pro­fes­sional pi­lot.”

The cat­a­lyst was a 2012 visit to a

re­mote vil­lage in Baja, California, where she was ap­palled to see “gor­geous lit­tle Mex­i­can kids with black, rot­ten teeth.” Told that a den­tist oc­ca­sion­ally flew in to help, Horne promptly re­solved to get in­volved with sim­i­lar grass­roots aid.

At that point, the for­mer rocker, who formed elec­tro-dance band Def FX in 1990—they split seven years later—was at the low­est ebb of an up-and-down ex­is­tence. Her hus­band, Jeff (she prefers not to re­veal his sur­name), a “Brad Pitt look-alike” pi­lot 16 years her ju­nior, had walked out on her for an­other woman, fame had palled and favourite pur­suits such as sky­div­ing no longer dis­tracted her. The bot­tle beck­oned. “Ba­si­cally, I was try­ing to drink my­self to death,” con­cedes Horne, who some­how man­aged to com­plete a Def FX 15-year re­union tour of Aus­tralia dur­ing her nadir. “I was de­scend­ing into a pit. Six months after Jeff left I had be­come a full-blown al­co­holic, black­ing out and com­ing to cov­ered in bruises.”

Get­ting sober in a pro­gram was the first step back. Mov­ing from California to the US Vir­gin Is­lands in 2013 marked an­other mile­stone. “I passed my pri­vate pi­lot check-ride one af­ter­noon, went to True Tat­too, Hol­ly­wood, at 8 PM and got a 1934 Boe­ing Stear­man pro­peller tat­tooed on my left fore­arm,” Horne re­calls. “With just two bags I caught the plane to the is­lands the next day, ar­riv­ing on May 1,” known as “Beltane” in the witches’ cal­en­dar, she ex­plains: “A time to burn away the past and plough the fu­ture.”

Flight train­ing proved tough: “I worked four jobs for three years, slept in my car, ate food from other peo­ple’s fridges and

“I was try­ing to drink my­self to death”

pizza left over from flight-school sem­i­nars. I spent ev­ery cent and did what­ever it took to seal the deal as a multi-en­gine com­mer­cial pi­lot last Oc­to­ber.”

The re­sult was a re­newed sense of self. On a Fe­bru­ary 2016 trip to Africa to hone her bush-pi­lot skills, Horne had to buzz airstrips to scare off graz­ing wildlife be­fore she could land, and in late Jan­uary she flew her first hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion to hur­ri­cane-stricken Haiti with a cargo of 350 chick­ens, 45kg of feed and three preg­nant rab­bits. To­day, these are the kinds of chal­lenges she rel­ishes. “So sim­ple is life now. I am living and, more pro­foundly, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing my dream.”

De­spite the ac­co­lades and fame, this sense of ful­fil­ment is new. “You know, when I was very high-pro­file there was an empti­ness in­side,” she re­flects. “I ran around chas­ing sen­sa­tion, look­ing for other peo­ple’s ap­proval, be­cause I al­ways thought I wasn’t good enough.” To­day, she has found par­adise. “I have a view of the translu­cent blue trop­i­cal water of my child­hood dreams, lap­ping up to white sandy beaches and dra­matic rocky cliffs.”

Not that she’s at­tached to that, ei­ther. “When my time here is fin­ished I will go some­where else. All I have can fit into three bags so it’s not hard for me to pack up and move,” she says, smil­ing. “I don’t miss being a rock star. I am so much hap­pier now. I don’t have a house—i live where I lay my head.”

“I am so much hap­pier now,” says Horne.

Snorkellin­g in the Caribbean.

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