Although Lou Oldfield only moved to Birdsville in 2009, her immense passion for the channel country suggests that love for the area has quickly seeped into her blood. This passion is perhaps what has made her own company, Central Eagle Aviation, so successful.
During her first year in Birdsville, Lou was the sole pilot offering scenic flights from Birdsville, flying for Australasian Jet. When she met her now-husband Clayton Oldfield, the manager of Pandie Pandie Station on the Birdsville Track, Lou realised that she would be staying in Birdsville for a lot longer than intended.
With a long family history of involvement in Aviation, it was only natural that Lou should buy her own aircraft and start Central Eagle Aviation, named after a British aviation company founded by her grandfather in the 1940s.
Lou says that the best part about running her own company is showing travelers the land from the air. “I always hope that they enjoy it and see the country as I do,” she says. “Flying really allows you to see the world from a completely different perspective. This area is absolutely spectacular from the air, particularly at the right time of day when a lovely light crosses the dunes. It’s out of this world!”
Central Eagle Aviation provides a number of flight options including the Simpson Desert, Lake Eyre, the Birdsville Track and the remote settlement of Innamincka. Every flight reveals secrets about the outback that aren’t shared with the people on the ground.
“You can see things that you would never know existed on the ground,” says Lou. “For example, you can drive the entire Birdsville Track and you’d never know that you are paralleling the most amazing river systems. You never really see the water on the ground even though it’s only a few sand dunes away.
Lou is adamant that Birdsville is the best starting point for a flight to Lake Eyre, the spectacular salt lake in central South Australia. “You can appreciate how the rivers come down through the channel country and just how far the water that goes into Lake Eyre travels,” she says. “It gives you a far better appreciation of the landscape than just seeing the Lake alone. Also, the channel country is always full of birdlife, wild flowers and animals.”
Like so many people, Lou has fallen in love with the Birdsville area and now lives happily on the 1.6 million-acre Pandie Pandie Station. She brings this unique perspective to her flights and can genuinely explain what outback life is really like.
While she raises her young twin boys, she has enlisted the help of pilots who are enveloped in the Pandie Pandie lifestyle and who share the same passion for the outback as Lou. “It works well with the station,” she says. “They are part of the team here, too, which gives them an increased knowledge and understanding of the country, vegetation, weather, birdlife, cattle industry and history.”