Flying runs in the Criddle family. Growing up watching his father perform at airshows, Stuart knew one day he’d follow the same flight path.
A flight-enthusiast from a young age, our Chief Pilot, Stephen Byrnes, has been flying for more than 20 years.
The iconic view of Uluru at nightfall has never been more spectacular, thanks to artist Bruce Munro’s stunning installation, Field of Light.
The role his father played in the Royal Australian Navy made a big impression on Stuart and led to an interest in flying. By the age of 16, Stuart had started flying solo. He achieved his commercial pilot’s licence in 2000 after completing an Associate Diploma of Applied Science with Aviation.
For the next 17 years, Stuart accumulated experience flying a range of aircraft. His expertise covers shark patrol, search and rescue, aerial survey, aeromedical, executive charter operations, adventure flights and ex-military attack jets.
“I like varied work,” explains Stuart. “I really like flying into a 580m private strip on the South Coast of NSW. It’s very challenging, and there’s no room for error. It’s real flying,” he adds.
As the former Chief Pilot of Australian Aerial Mapping, Stuart was instrumental in gaining and maintaining the company’s Civil Aviation Safety Approval certificate.
“I’ve also written a range of air operations manuals for different aviation organisations,” says Stuart, revealing his depth of knowledge in the industry. “They include safety, risk and quality systems for different organisations; from aerial survey and corporate charter, through to higher risk historic and replica adventure flights, also known as ‘warbird operations’.”
Although Stuart has only been with Agile for 12 months, he’s enjoying the variety of flights and passengers. “We fly into quite a few private and unlicensed airstrips,” he says. “Which can be more cost-effective for the client, and enjoyable for the pilot.”
Private airstrips, found on farms or mining sites, mean the pilot can land the aircraft closer to the final destination, reducing travel costs. But they can also be unregulated, making landing and taking off dependent on skill and machine.
With its ability to take off and land on shorter runways and a range of terrain, including gravel and grassland, the Pilatus PC-12NG makes flying in and out of unique locations a breeze.
“That’s one thing I love about flying the PC-12,” says Stuart. “The avionics software is incredible and it’s the most versatile aircraft I’ve flown – and I’ve flown a few!”
After two decades of flying, it’s refreshing to hear of Stuart’s passion and devotion to the craft. But it looks like this, too, runs in the family – his father still flies.
“Dad’s been a Qantas captain for almost 30 years,” says Stuart. “He’s 65 and he just won’t stop.”