Chopper boss cuts it fine to help sick kids
A surf-loving mate of the late Shirley Strachan, with a passion for helping pull people out of tight jams, has got himself into another close shave.
McDermott Aviation owner John McDermott has made a career out of giving others a lift and has a history of being in the right place at the right time for exceptionally good causes.
There was no better example of that than last weekend at Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club when he was delighted with the roll up for the 1500m Shirley Strachan Memorial Swim he has steadfastly supported.
"We've been doing that for 18 years because Shirl was friend of mine," Mr McDermott said.
"Our common interest was basically helicopters and surfing," he said.
Mr McDermott started out in aviation as an aircraft engineer with Ansett Airlines.
He took up flying aeroplanes for a hobby in 1976.
"I was backpacking through Europe in 1977 and I watched a helicopter spraying grape vines along the Moselle River and I said that's what I wanted to do and that's how it started," he said.
He met Strachan after the late Skyhooks lead singer Strachan moved to Noosa.
Strachan had been flying a Bell 47G helicopter near Mt Archer in August 2001 when air turbulence caused his fatal crash.
"The swim is an exercise we put together each year to recognise and encourage distance swimming for the surf club," Mr McDermott said.
He said the ocean swim out past Little Cove and back to Main Beach also recognised the late event organiser Bruce Warren, who passed away with a heart problem.
"He's on the plaque as well now," he said.
Mr McDermott and his team, who operate the largest privately owned helicopter company in Australia, have a proud history of helping people in desperate need.
They have tackled raging bushfires, flown flood victims from Lockyer Valley homes and raised funds for charity.
"We're major sponsors for Make a Wish Foundation for sick kids and we do a lot of fundraising at our facility," Mr McDermott said.
"We give helicopter rides or aeroplane rides for kids from time to time."
This Saturday morning Mr McDermott and keen staff members will be lining up to have their locks shorn for World's Greatest Shave for the Leukaemia Foundation at their Machjet International air base at Sunshine Coast Airport.
"One of the ladies who works with us, her kid was diagnosed last year with leukaemia and they're going through a bit of a battle during his treatment," Mr McDermott said.
"When it comes close to home you become a lot more aware of it.
"There's quite a few us getting a clip, I think as a company we've raised around $13,000."