Earning their wings over summer
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.