Evacuating koalas from bushfires and dropping supplies to flood victims are just part of Flight Lieutenant Andrew Burgess’ role as a captain on a C-27J Spartan. 

Growing up in Zimbabwe, Flight Lieutenant Burgess could never have imagined he’d find himself as the detachment commander of an overseas operation by the time he was 25. 

Moving to Australia on his 12th birthday, Flight Lieutenant Burgess saw a bright future for himself in his new home. 

“As long as I can remember I wanted to be a pilot,” Flight Lieutenant Burgess said.  

“My dad worked as a flight engineer on Boeing 747s and I knew aviation was the career for me, too.”

After studying at Redlands College in Brisbane, he made his way to the Australian Defence Force Academy to study a Bachelor of Science in chemistry and aviation. 

His childhood dream became a reality when he graduated pilot training and joined No. 35 Squadron. 

“Flying a C-27J Spartan is such a rewarding job. My role is to fly into remote locations, often to provide humanitarian and disaster relief to those in need,” Flight Lieutenant Burgess said.

“The people at No. 35 Squadron are incredibly skilled and resourceful. They are a hardworking bunch and I’m proud to work alongside them.”

His role is an important one: from evacuating citizens and local wildlife from Mallacoota during Operation Bushfire Assist, to flying food and emergency supplies into Cooper Pedy during the floods earlier this year. 

“Being able to put smiles on people’s faces in their time of need makes all the time away from home worthwhile,” Flight Lieutenant Burgess said.

He will be spending his 26th birthday away on task, making it 54 days he has been away from his home this year alone.

“It takes a special kind of person to be married to a military member,” Flight Lieutenant Burgess said.  

“I am very thankful to my wife, Charlotte, for letting me do the job I do. When I come home to her and my dog, Tilly, all my hard work feels worthwhile.”

On Operation Solania in the Palau, the C-27J Spartan pilot holds a lot of responsibility. 

When not leading his team of 21 Australian Defence Force personnel, Flight Lieutenant Burgess is flying over the scenic islands of Palau to conduct maritime aerial surveillance. 

Responsible for mission success, his task is to collect intelligence data to detect, deter and report illegal fishing in the region. 

Flight Lieutenant Burgess said the trip has been the highlight of his career so far. 

“Being here as a detachment commander is honestly my biggest highlight so far. I didn’t think I’d be here at 25, but I am proud to be here in Palau with the team, representing our country,” he said.

Flight Lieutenant Burgess is now setting his sights on instructing. What advice does he have for the next generation of Air Force pilots?

“Have a good work ethic and confidence in your ability. Believing in yourself is one of the most important things,” Flight Lieutenant Burgess said.