Former Virgin staff David Everingham and Deborah Garner land new gig in Coffee Hangar Cafe

Former international pilot Dave Everingham and partner and fellow Virgin employee Deborah Garner opened the Coffee Hangar Cafe on July 4.
Former international pilot Dave Everingham and partner and fellow Virgin employee Deborah Garner opened the Coffee Hangar Cafe on July 4.

Former international pilot Dave Everingham and partner Deborah Garner worked for Virgin. Then COVID hit.

But if there's a positive side to Virgin Airlines' decision to make redundant, it's come in the form of a new cafe in country NSW, inland from Port Macquarie on the NSW mid north coast.

Mr Everingham and Ms Garner launched the Coffee Hangar Cafe back in July - and it's flying high.

"Despite everyone telling us that we were mad for opening a cafe during a pandemic, we still went ahead with it," Mr Everingham said. "I have to admit there were times when we both doubted ourselves about opening the shop.

"Some days I'd just say to myself: 'boy, this is bad' but then there were too many good day,s too. You know, the locals would come and support you, the weather would be fantastic ... everything would be great.

"I've been told by people that have opened a small business in a smaller community that these thoughts are pretty much normal.

"The locals are very good up here on the plateau, and we also get plenty of repeat business from Byabarra, Wauchope, Port Macquarie and the Camden Haven.

"We also get plenty of motorbike and push bike riders coming up for a day ride too," he said.

But there are challenges.

The start-up costs are significant and there are constantly changing guidelines revolving around COVID-19 health and safety issues, Mr Everingham said.

"We opened up basically from scratch and my sister came onboard with some financial support as part of our start-up.

"With COVID-19, we were also worried about how we could continue to operate if restrictions were further tightened too."

Despite those misgivings, the couple believe the cafe will continue to operate, even if they return to their respective work roles.

"Deb has started her nursing course and I am still keen to return to flying one day," Mr Everingham said.

"Even if we return to our previous or new careers, we will still operate the cafe, with the support of the local community.

"The Coffee Hangar Cafe is here to stay. There could even be a franchise on the way - you just never know.

"We have family and friends helping out, including my aunty, Denise Everingham, who comes up each Saturday to help out in the kitchen.

"We are looking to get involved in this community and hopefully entice more people to come to Comboyne and enjoy our events and activities.

"There could even be an Avocado Festival or even something with blueberries or raspberries."

As a pilot, Mr Everingham was a regular on the Sydney to Hong Kong route, before returning to the couple's 40-hectare Comboyne farm.

Ms Garner also worked that route along with Sydney to Los Angeles and some domestic routes.

The couple settled on purchasing the Comboyne property because it was in close proximity to Sydney and provided a perfect counter to their busy lifestyle.

"Comboyne has a wonderful sense of community, it is a great rural village setting and has fabulous scenery.

"There were no second thoughts when we purchased up her," Mr Everingham said.

Returning to live in Comboyne was a coming home for Mr Everingham, who is a fifth generation Wauchope resident.

He became a flight instructor after studying science aviation in Newcastle. After several roles with domestic airlines he eventually secured a job with Virgin.

This story Grounded pilot opts to grind coffee instead first appeared on Port Macquarie News.