A thousand ft, a large mob and a bronze set of wings is all Erin Weir needs to push boundaries, break stereotypes and soar above all expectations.
Written by Rowdy Travis
It’s a bloody long way from Central Queensland to the Gulf of the Northern Territory but when adventure is beckoning, no distance or obstacle could possibly keep Erin Weir from living a life 1000ft above the ground. As a young, ambitious and slightly head strong woman, Weir’s life reached a crucial turning point when sitting on her horse on the bank of a dam watching cattle being mustered by Roo’s, the name affectionately given to green station hands. With the stockwork going pear shaped, Weir made comment to her brother Nick that in order to change future musters, she needed to take to the air and become a chopper pilot. When thinking back, Weir still grins at her brother’s comment of “You won’t.” Growing up in the bush with a rural family, it’s only fair to say that Weir naturally had plenty of experience with sheep and cattle and all that goes along with handling and caring for stock. “As kids, we spent nine months droving our sheep along the road in one of the States’ worst droughts. If something broke away, it was our job to bring it back to the mob. We had hand me down ponies, a motorbike and cooked by a fire at night. We loved everything about it.”
"A thousand ft, a large mob and a bronze set of wings is all Erin Weir needs to push boundaries, break stereotypes and soar above all expectations."
From droving as a family to a stint at the Emerald Agricultural College, Weir had her heart set on a much bigger adventure and even wider spaces. An unplanned ticket North was the obvious next move and the starting point to what could be considered the best decision ever made by the then 17-year-old.
A sneaky grin stretches across Weir’s face when she recalls the letter she wrote applying for a job on a Station in the Territory and how she announced the news to her mother after dropping out of Agricultural College and jumping on a bus North a month before the fact.
For the best part of the next ten years, Weir worked her way around various mobs of cattle on different stations. A big highlight as Wier recalls, was running a Stock camp at the age of 19. “As a female, you must be confident, have great work ethic and know the ins and outs of your job. I liked things done properly and wasn’t scared to cop my mistakes on the chin. You have to watch, listen, learn and only go as fast as the slowest calf.”
All of Erin’s past adventures invitingly led her to the decision to make something more of herself, take her skills to the sky and pursue a career as a mustering pilot. “After saving up, selling my poddies and taking out a loan, I asked around and did my license through Chopperline in Caloundra. I had to complete the written test before my flight exam. “I missed the North, my horses and the people that came with it so the minute I passed, I packed my gear and headed back the very next morning.” Weir explains.
“I have been flying for 15 years now and have clocked over 9000 hours in the air. Each year, someone I know is killed in a helicopter accident. It’s a great career but it’s not all rainbows and lollipops. In a busy season, it’s possible to reach 2000 hours in the air and after flying 13 hours a day, you are mentally exhausted. Each mob you muster is different and the tricky stuff you learn with experience.” Of all the things Weir has accomplished in her time, her greatest and most precious achievements to date would undoubtedly be her children. At age 35, Erin welcomed a precious daughter Grace who undeniably shares the same zest and can-do-mindset. “At 6 months pregnant, I legally had to stop flying. My attitude to being in the air changed after Grace was born. The maternal instincts kicked in and you just don’t take the risks like you once did. When Grace reached six months I returned to flying as a second pilot.” Erin Weir’s resilience and perseverance as a new mother must be clearly noted.
When asked, Weir recalls the struggles faced as a mother living on isolated stations in the North. “At six months old, Grace put a small piece of plastic in her mouth and began to choke. I fished it out with my finger and began CPR. Being alone and knowing that you must rely on yourself to stay calm has got to be the worst feeling in the world. We have been lucky to meet some incredible people who have become like family and they have helped us out along the way.”
With the birth of a beautiful boy, Jack and an incredibly supportive partner Alex, Weir and her family now enjoy the challenges and rewards of operating a cattle property in Central Queensland. When asked about lessons learned and positives to pass forward, Erin admits, “You don’t have to kill yourself trying to prove to others that you are capable but don’t be frightened to give everything a go and always, always finish what you start.”
👉 This story excerpt is from Issue #10 of Kickin Up Dust magazine: January 2021