Sunshine Coast local Flight Lieutenant Hayley Moulds has soared into the history books becoming the first female pilot to captain an Air Force No. 33 Squadron KC-30A multi-role tanker transport while on deployment in the Middle East.

Flight Lieutenant Moulds recently completed her deployment on Operation Okra, which is the Defence Force’s contribution to the international coalition against Daesh in Iraq and Syria. 

"My role was to operate the KC-30A through the Arabian Gulf into Iraq to provide air-to-air refuelling to coalition aircraft,” Flight Lieutenant Moulds said. 

"We work with our own E7-A Wedgetail aircraft and provide fuel to the United States, France, Germany and other nations to help them achieve their mission in the Middle East. 

"We are one tanker in a sky of multiple, but you are given the opportunity to work with numerous countries on a daily basis, all contributing to changing the outcome of the flight.

"It’s rewarding as a pilot to be given that opportunity and especially as a captain."

The COVID-19 pandemic had changed the operating environment.

“COVID-19 has crumpled the aviation industry and the route we usually follow up the Gulf has become quiet,” Flight Lieutenant Moulds said. 

Flight Lieutenant Moulds’ deployment was memorable in ways she didn’t expect. 

“It has highlighted the power of people banding together when times are tougher than expected and the resilience in individuals,” she said.

The KC-30A aircraft plays an important role in military operations. It can remain 1800km from its home base, with 50 tonnes of fuel available to offload for up to four hours.

In its transport role, the KC-30A is capable of carrying 270 passengers. It comes with under-floor cargo compartments, which can accommodate 34,000kg of military and civilian cargo pallets and containers.