‘There was no one else in the sky’: Flying during COVID-19


Radio silence was the only thing that greeted Qantas freight pilot Kate English every time she flew in and out of Sydney at the height of the pandemic.

Taxiing around the airport ready for take off with another load of cargo, Ms English, 33, said she would see nothing but a "graveyard" of passenger ­aircraft, silent and still, on the tarmac.

"It was eerily quiet up there, there was no one else in the sky … the radio is normally buzzing with flights but it was really lonely, the only other planes I heard were our own for six months," Ms English told The Daily Telegraph. "You really noticed it at the airports the most. No one was around and a million other planes were just parked everywhere, covered up with tarps or covers … it felt like a graveyard."


Ms English, who has worked with Qantas for almost 10 years, was one of the hundreds of hero essential workers who kept NSW and Australia moving throughout the darkest days of the pandemic.

While everyone else was shutting up shop to stay safe, things took off for Ms English and her cargo flight colleagues, who saw operations ramp up.

She helped transport vital medical equipment alongside care packages for families torn apart by state border closures and online shopping orders for quarantine shopaholics.

"We were flat out, it was the busiest it's ever been, we took on extra pilots who normally fly passenger aircraft to try to keep up," Ms English said.

Qantas Freight pilot Kate English: “I was so thankful to still be flying”. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Qantas Freight pilot Kate English: “I was so thankful to still be flying”. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

"We were still carrying things like online shopping parcels but there was a lot more medical equipment in the freight load, even blood ­donations and some PPE, which would normally be carried on passenger flights."

She said quarantining overnight in hotels at every stop was tough but "worth it''.

"I had to constantly check and redo travel permits so I had the right ones and followed the right COVID rules at each port. Plus being stuck in hotel rooms and not being allowed to leave was a bit of a headache,'' Ms English said.

"But I was so thankful to still be flying, our industry was hit so hard … I love my job and it makes me proud to help other people and our country while I do it."

Originally published as 'There was no one else in the sky': Flying during COVID-19