JODIE: By the Seat of Her Pants

PHOTOS | HELEANA GENAUS

When I heard about Jodie, she was described as this mystery aerobatic pilot who is really young and very nice. Given the seriously low representation of women in aviation at large, I assumed her place in that world was hard earned, so naturally I couldn’t wait to meet her. Expecting a tough lady who doesn’t get pushed around, I was really surprised (and somewhat relieved) to have been greeted by a gentle, friendly, happy voice on the other end of the phone. Jodie's journey into aerobatics came naturally to her and without any real resistance from the industry nor herself. She is humble yet ambitious and very motivated to earn her stripes in order to compete at the advanced level so she can travel the world and fly planes. 

While studying a multi-media degree, Jodie would head to a nearby airport to unwind, finding inspiration away from her daily life by watching the small planes come and go.  She eventually became a familiar face to the airport owners, naturally her curiosity led her to inquire about flying. However, it wasn’t until the owner encouraged her to get her license that she realised this is something she could actually do, rather than stand by and watch.

Sometimes all it takes is a little nudge and with that, she bought the required text book, read it cover-to-cover in a day and booked in to get her recreational pilot's licence the next.  Interestingly, she decided to tell no-one about her aviation pursuit (including her family) until she was successful, afraid they would voice her own hesitations with pursuing it. Needless to say she was successful and seemed to "get" flying really quickly, so much so that while she was half way through obtaining her recreational licence she started pursuing aerobatics.

In aviation there are two types of flying; “Fly by Attitude” and “Fly by Instruments”. The former relates to the attitude of the nose [of the plane] in relation to the horizon, it’s more creative, free flowing also known as “flying by the seat of your pants” of which Jodie prefers for the freedom and self expression. “Fly by Instruments" is achieved by looking at your speed gauges and levers which is how large passenger planes are flown, and not her preferred choice.

Flying by the seat of her pants through life as well, she established a flying school with her partner in life and business in Victoria and where the youngest co-founders of a flying school in Australia. While he taught the lessons, she managed and ran the business, during which she also was able to build her skills and hours in the air. It wasn’t too long before she was competing in aerobatic events across the country always ending up in the top three of her category earning her motivational speaking engagements, all this before her thirtieth birthday!

While her relationship and involvement in the business has ended, her ambition and drive to re-enter competitive aerobatics has never been stronger. She packed up her life and moved over 1,000km away to run the business side of Matt Hall Racing (Matt competes in the Red Bull Air Race) to maintain her exposure to aerobatics. Flying is an expensive business, when things like fuel costs over $AUD3/litre, it’s not for the semi-committed. Jodie has her sights firmly set on the horizon to be able to work toward competing at the advanced level in order to do what she loves.

The feeling of freedom is what everyone in gasoline culture says they love about their machines, for Jodie this sense of freedom is another level. As she explains “it’s the only time you see the world fully, in a car you only see left to right, but in a plane you see up and down while all your senses are ignited… it’s a sensory overload”. Navigating a plane she has to account for winds, weather, clouds and even temperature changes as it all impacts the power of the engine. Then there are the positive and negative G-Forces moving you from the inside out, which for Jodie there is no other way to experience this freedom. 

On the ground, I got the sense behind this sweet, calm, organised and focussed person was someone who knew there is so much more to see of the world, whose adventurist creative spirit waits for those moments in the air where she can “become one” with the plane and the air around her. She is one to watch in the aerobatics scene, a positive role model for any woman or girl wanting to pursue their dreams.

Heleana is a force of nature. Our Editor in Chief, the founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.