Earn­ing their wings over sum­mer

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NI­COLA STE­WART

Young plane en­thu­si­asts de­scended on Wa­haroa Air­field this month to learn to fly with the Walsh Me­mo­rial Scout Fly­ing School.

The school runs for two weeks ev­ery Jan­uary and stu­dents come from all over New Zealand.

Di­rec­tor Gor­don Ragg said it was an in­ten­sive two weeks with most stu­dents fly­ing solo be­fore the fort­night was up.

‘‘They have eight or nine hours in the air and those who fly solo earn their Scout wings.

‘‘As well as learn­ing to fly, they also learn the tech­ni­cal side of things, weather, air traf­fic con­trol . . . they re­fuel the planes, clean them, learn how to look af­ter them – it’s very com­pre­hen­sive.’’

There were 67 stu­dents this year and they were learn­ing in Piper Tom­a­hawks and Cessna 152s.

Tau­ranga in­struc­tor An­drew Sims learned to fly at the school nine years ago and has re­turned ev­ery year since.

This year was his fourth as an in­struc­tor and the 25-year-old said chang­ing roles took a bit of get­ting used to.

‘‘To be a stu­dent and then come back as an in­struc­tor was a bit of a tran­si­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘You’re on the other side of the fence. It’s def­i­nitely worth coming back though. It’s al­ways good fly­ing and good peo­ple.’’

The school is run by a team of vol­un­teers in­clud­ing 25 in­struc­tors and seven air traf­fic con­trollers.

Mr Ragg said they had some of the most ex­pe­ri­enced in­struc­tors in the coun­try, as well as from overseas.

Kiwi Jack Hol­wor­thy works as an aero­nau­ti­cal en­gi­neer in Hong Kong but re­turns ev­ery year to teach stu­dents at the school. An­other in­struc­tor comes from Ire­land. There were not many fly­ing schools in the world that of­fered a sim­i­lar course, said Mr Ragg.

‘‘What we have here is pretty unique and it’s been held in Wa­haroa since 1967.’’

On to it: Stu­dents get ready to re­fuel a plane. The fuel tank is towed by a car sup­plied by Ni­chol­son Au­tos Mata­mata. Al­most ready: A stu­dent goes through his pre-flight checks be­fore take off. Shar­ing knowl­edge: First-time stu­dent Court­ney Mackie with her in­struc­tor An­drew Sims. In the air: A plane fly­ing over the Wa­haroa Air­field.


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