Air Adventure Australia is keeping the dream of their founding pioneer Rod Dyer alive.

Story By Genevieve Barlow

When your Dad has a reputation bigger than a Brahman bull and as broad as this sunburnt country, you have a lot to live up to. But John Dyer, 27, whose father Rod opened up the most remote parts of Australia to tourists, has made a good start. Rod Dyer, 83, died at home on his farm near Hamilton, Vic, last December after amassing more hours in the air than most commercial airline pilots. Along with the likes of Dick Lang, he pioneered outback aviation tourism in Australia, running informal tours since 1977 to places such as Faraway Bay, on Western Australia’s north-west coast, to the Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland, and south to Tasmania. His small-plane group tours earned a reputation for fun, remote places and the odd possum-soup for dinner. Rod was a raconteur, food and wine connoisseur, top wool-producer, restaurant owner, debt collector, one of the earliest instrument-rated pilots in western Victoria and thrice-married. With his mate Tom Robertson he took up a lease on the million-acre (404,700-hectare) Ellenbrae Station in the northern Kimberley when the West Australian Government first offered it as leasehold in the mid 1960s. Rod and Tom subsequently brought the first drought cattle breeds to this remote region. “Dad lived 10 lives in one,” says John who, in 2004, took over as managing director of his father’s company Air Adventure Australia (AAA), established in 1985. “We miss him, but we’ll get on,” he says. “He had a good life – 10 lives actually.” Born when Rod was 56, John learned how to lead outback tours when he was a schoolboy. “Our big treat when we were kids was, if there was a spare seat, to go on Dad’s trips,” John says. “We were only allowed to go if we promised to be civil to others. I wouldn’t have been as tall as the seats at that stage. Even before he started running tours, Dad used to fly the aircraft to Mt Gambier to be serviced and I’d be real angry with him if I got home from school and found he’d gone without me. I was in Grade Five when he got our first Chieftain [a popular light aircraft that carries six to eight passengers] and he took a whole heap of my schoolmates for flights. I can remember us flying over home and waving at Mum who was at the clothesline. I remember thinking, ‘This is something really different’.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #64

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2009