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Former pilot guides Knights into the future


For 40 years Don Campbell took to the skies as a pilot in general aviation, corporate and aeromedical operations. Today he has his sights set on ensuring the Knights of the Southern Cross continue to fly high and proud, as he begins a two-year term as State chairman.

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Working underground at the ZC-NBHC mine at Broken Hill, a young Don Campbell always loved the end of a shift when he could return to the surface and look to the skies, a place that he hoped would one day become his ‘office’.

His interest in flying began as a young boy growing up in Wilcannia, where he was educated by the Josephite and then Mercy Sisters. After school he worked as a station-hand and then moved to Broken Hill to take up employment in the mines. Following his conscription and serving in the Army for two years, Don returned to the mines but decided it was time to pursue his passion and began the journey towards obtaining a pilot’s licence.

It was a decision he never regretted and for the next 40 years Don sat in the cockpit of fixed wing aircraft, initially in general aviation and regular public transport operations, then as a corporate pilot for ZC-NBHC, before moving to the Royal Flying Doctor Service (South Eastern section) as its chief pilot and aviation manager. In 2000 Don and his wife Denise moved from Broken Hill to Adelaide and he took up a position with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

“What did I love about flying? What didn’t I love?” he said.

“I loved the challenge of flying. With the RFDS you never knew where you were going to be, how far you were going to go and when you were going to get home. CASA was really good too, during which I became endorsed for multi-crew aircraft and licenced on hot air balloons.”

With feet now firmly planted on terra firma and four years into his retirement, Don reflected that perhaps one of the greatest “lessons” he learned from his time as a pilot was his introduction to management and work with professional people. This is something he hopes will be useful as he embarks on a his role as State chairman of the Knights of the Southern Cross.

Despite the busyness of his work as a pilot, Don said being a Knight – initially as a member of the Broken Hill and then Dernancourt branches – had been an important part of his life and Catholic faith for the past 45 years.

When he joined in 1973, Catholic laymen like himself considered the KSC as a way of enriching their faith and serving the Church. The Order promotes the vocations, provides financial support for seminarians and assists with the implementation of projects in the local parishes. Within the wider community, the KSC has a history of having assisted the aged, infirmed and youth through financial and non-financial means.

At its peak, the KSC had up to 2500 members in SA, but like most service and community organisations, numbers have dwindled in recent times to 330 members across 17 branches in the State.

It comes as no surprise then that membership is the number one priority on the new chairman’s ‘to do’ list.

“As with any organisation we’re looking at different ways to address the membership and new strategies that we can employ. And it’s not only about getting new members, but creating awareness about what the Knights do in the community,” Don explained.

“Another big focus of mine will be to try and ensure that what we have at State level is communicated to the branches – it’s so important.”

Expanding on the communication theme, Don is also keen to ensure the KSC keeps up with technology and said a recent revamp of the website had been a good start.

With 2022 marking the centenary of the Knights being established in South Australia, Don said engaging a professional writer to prepare the history of the Order was another priority for the coming few years.

“I also know we need to be more involved with the youth to try and keep them in the Church,” he said, adding that the Knights offering to help at the recent WYD Adelaide event was a great way to start building this rapport.

With plenty of plans afoot and a good team to work with, Don is looking forward to his time ‘at the controls’ of the Order.

He said throughout his involvement with the KSC one thing had been constant – the friendship and support offered by fellow Knights.

“Over the years I have enjoyed the camaraderie with the other local members at branch level, then the people who you come across at State level, they become your friends too. I’ve found you’re never short of friends here.”

For more information about the Knights of the Southern Cross go to




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