LIFE LIVED: Sir Graham McCamley presents four copies of his novel Roads in the Sky to Rockhampton's regional libraries,
LIFE LIVED: Sir Graham McCamley presents four copies of his novel Roads in the Sky to Rockhampton's regional libraries, Meg Bolton

Cattle baron lands malfunctioning helicopter by ear

FLYING his helicopter at 100 feet in the air, Sir Graham McCamley smelt smoke a matter of seconds before he lost all power.

In the next few minutes the Central Queensland cattle baron relied on his 8000 hours of flying experience to tame the helicopter.

Sir Graham had to rely on his instincts.

Sir Graham McCamley in 2018 by the river that runs through his property Tartrus.
Sir Graham McCamley in 2018 by the river that runs through his property Tartrus. Kathleen Calderwood

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"I had to do it all by ear. There were no instruments to tell me," he said.

"I knew the sound of the chopper and I could hear this engine over revving.

"I'd nearly get it close to the ground and then it'd go up again but finally I managed to get it shut off."

Landing the helicopter was no mean feat, but it wasn't an isolated incident.

In his 56 years as an aeroplane pilot and his extensive experience in helicopters, he escaped many near-death experiences.

"I've managed to get out of all sorts of terrible things. I should have died, I should have crashed," he said.

These experiences now help fill the pages of his book Roads in the Sky, which he presented to Rockhampton Regional Libraries yesterday.

Sir McCamley's book can be purchased by donation to the Lady McCamley Memorial Foundation. Sir Graham McCamley with his late wife Shirley.
Sir McCamley's book can be purchased by donation to the Lady McCamley Memorial Foundation. Sir Graham McCamley with his late wife Shirley. Contributed

One book will be kept at each library, giving community members an opportunity to learn about the region's history.

Cr Rose Swadling said it was vital the books were preserved and maintained.

"There's a lot of history for them in the region and that's why the story should remain here in the region so generations can come and look," Cr Swadling said.

Cr Swadling has experienced Sir Graham's flying experience firsthand - she was his first unofficial passenger.

He said he picked up a 16-year-old Rose Swadling from a rural property and offered to give her a lift via the sky.

"There was no radio, no one would've known where we were if we went down," Sir Graham said.

He also used his flying experience to help locate the then premier of Queensland's son, John, son of Joh Bjelke-Peterson, in the 1980s.

Sir Graham took to the skies in search of John, adding to the efforts of police patrolling the ground.

But his book is not just about flying, the novel also gives an insight into his work in the cattle industry.

Information was taken from his annual diaries that span 66 years to summarise how the industry has changed.

All books are available by donation to the Lady McCamley Memorial Foundation, which was set up by Sir Graham to honour the legacy of his late wife, Shirley.



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