Double Life, Darren Froggatt

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Darren Froggatt of Island I.T. is not only at home piloting a computer system (and maintaining them) but he’s also at home in the cockpit of a plane too! Darren is able to draw parallels between operating both types of technology – computers and aircraft; he’s the go-to guy if you need a skilled pilot.

Hi Darren. Where are you originally from, and what brought you to Port Macquarie?

Quite a long story that one, so here’s a summary. I made my home here in Australia back in 2004 after growing up (some would argue that) in the U.K. I was categorically sold to by Home and Away and Neighbours – and maybe Paul Hogan a bit. Something about a shrimp.

Seemed like a very nice place to live and so, I formulated a master-plan to head to a land of surf, sun, sand and establish myself in the world of aviation and I.T.

I landed in Melbourne and built a business down there specialising in Apple Mac and began working on transferring my aviation training from the U.K to Aus. After over 10 years down in Melbourne and a new introduction to our family almost two years ago, we made the decision to move up to Port Macquarie to complete some important training on new aircraft and relocate my I.T skills from the big smoke to the not-so-smoky, far more family oriented Port Macquarie.

We’re quite impulsive and fun as a family – it didn’t take much to convince us that we wanted to make life here. Even the first four weeks of so much rain plus the back end of Cyclone Debbie didn’t deter us, and despite only being here for two months, we love it.

You have a history with Apple computers that stretches back a fair way. When did you use your first Apple product, and what was it?

Yeah, I guess it started at uni. Apple was the “new guy” on the block. Always being a great fan of supporting a product or idea based on its merits rather than advertising, financial backing or some preconceived idea that it is good or it is bad because someone told you so, Apple had something going on that was special. Going up against the PC giants was brave. But Apple had a simple vision that resonates in every facet of business and life – that’s simply that if you know it’s good and you’re passionate about it, totally committed and dedicated to success, that’s what’s going to happen.

I was around at the very beginnings of the first Macs, and they were truly amazing. Although affording them was an issue for a uni student, I somehow got my hands on a Mac Classic – and did my degree on that little beast. And here’s a thing – I still have it, and it still works perfectly well.

Why do you help people with Apple computers in particular … what do you most respect/admire about this brand?

I help people as I both understand what they are trying to achieve on almost every level with their Mac – and of course know how to do it – but probably more helpful to everyone I work with is the fact that I have installed and worked with and on almost every single Mac that has ever been released. That sort of knowledge really cannot be taught. It’s one of those things that has to be acquired, because those products do not exist anymore.

However, having worked with them all, you not only gain that huge experience, but almost like an “observer” you get to see the entire progress of technology over time and why so many awesome ideas didn’t work and why so many not-so-awesome ones did. How ideas became reality and how demands of the market continually change what we do and how we do it on so many levels, with companies like Apple working tirelessly to find out what “we” want next and trying to fill a void that we don’t even know exists yet. I think most people see that a level of passion in anything – even I.T., which most might find a bit nerdy or boring – can be infectious in the right hands!

On the respect front, you probably get the gist from the last question on that one – an amazing journey with amazing products. Apple have been responsible for making new markets for products no one thought about and making very brave decisions to have a crack at changing the design of things we are so used to so successfully, over and over. Continually copied, imitated and varied by others, but never resting on their laurels; Apple are not perfect and sure, as with any company they have their ups and downs and make bad decisions, but overall, who would argue that their stuff is very, very cool. I mean, I wouldn’t camp outside an Apple Store to get the very latest iPhone (it’s far too harsh on tent-pegs), but the fact that some do is perhaps testament to the kind of frenzy that surrounds Apple product releases.

What’s been the most challenging issue you feel you’ve ever helped someone overcome with a computer system, and how did you resolve it?

The most challenging in the last couple of years was dealing with a highly respected and well known coach during a very important international event, whereby his clients’ data, critical to his job at that event and ongoing, was accidentally deleted. He’d been operating by storing files in his trash can – he wasn’t aware of that, but had been running a Time Machine backup.

After “emptying” his trash for the first time in a year or so, things didn’t seem to work anymore for him. He called me up. I knew who he was and arranged to meet, immediately understanding the severity of the issue.

I quickly deduced what had happened and explained that his data would not be backed up due to the software in Time Machine (Apple backup software on all Macs) not backing up the trash. I spent days finding these files on his Mac’s hard drive and very old backups prior to him moving those files to the trash and recovered pretty much all of them. He was quite happy. I was quite tired, after almost one continual week of data recovery, but the result was worth the determination.

You’re also a pilot. How often do you get to take to the air these days?

Most weeks I’ll do some work out of Port Macquarie Airport here. I fly lots of different types of aircraft, but the one I’ve been doing recent training in here frequently is a new aircraft type for me that’s much bigger, versatile and turbine powered. I like to fly as much as I can, and in whatever capacity. Having moved here recently, I’m always looking for aircraft availability for private or commercial owners needing a pilot to fly them or their friends wherever they like!

What category of pilot’s licence do you currently have?

I hold a Commercial Pilot’s licence with various additional ratings and endorsements. These are basically additions to a licence that allow me to fly different types of aircraft – for example, twin engine, turbine powered, or ratings such as instrument rating, which allows me to fly anytime, day or night and in any weather, which is kind of important for any type of commercial flying. Aerobatic – which is one of my favourites, lets me have a lot of fun in different aerobatic aircraft – something I like to do as much as possible.

What’s your favourite aircraft (and why)?

That’s a tough one, as I love everything I fly for totally different reasons. Certainly the most fun relating to planes that have an engine (as opposed to gliders) and I have flown myself, was in a small military jet trainer called an L-39 Albatros. I flew it for about 30 minutes and gave it some. The power, sound, responsiveness were all amazing. But hey, not something I get to fly a lot!

One of my other far more useful and real-world favourites is a PAC750 – a turbine powered aircraft used for parachute and cargo operations worldwide. It’s not the most beautiful thing up there, but it’s solid, it’s super-versatile and gets the job done every time, plus can carry a heap of cargo or passengers. You’ll see one flying in and out of Port Mac daily – looks kind of like a seagul-ish!

Gliders, on the other hand, are just amazing. No sound, just yourself and the sky with no other way to get up other than finding rising pockets of warm air – you’ll notice them as little fluffy Cumulus clouds around here often … Getting under those allows a glider to gain altitude for free. We then sail around until it’s time to land – and for that, you have only one shot in a glider – so, handy to get it right first time!

What parallels can you draw between fixing computer issues, and flying a plane?

Nice question. Aircraft work well when looked after. So does your Mac or PC. When you’re flying, you’re continually making mental calculations and considering safety, you’re always looking for an “out” if something goes wrong – perhaps a bit like web browsing? You’re always looking ahead of your aircraft, knowing that if anything went wrong at all, you’re more than ready for it – and hey, did you guess what that might be? Backups, of course. I could go on, but you get the drift!

When you’re not busy working, or flying, what are some other activities that keep you busy?

I have an “almost” two year old. Enough said! Love to run and cycle and although cliché all over the place, keep fit. Good for the soul, in my opinion. I love putting the noise cancelling headphones on from time to time and just “being”. I still watch Home and Away. The trauma of losing Scott and Charlene on Neighbours means I can never go back!

Where can we contact you, or find out more about you?

You can find me at Leading Edge Computers on Lake Drive in Port Mac most days. Just ask for me. If I am not there, I’ll be at Macquarie Air. So, on those days when you need Mac or PC advice or need a charter flight or both, luckily, I have you covered! You can call me on 0497 171 271, email df@03.com.au or call Macquarie Air on 6582 7771.

Thanks Darren.

Interview by Jo Robinson.

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