Sky's the limit for young Turk
Akif Sert dreamed of being a pilot as a young boy in Turkey, but he considered it an impossible dream.
But in his adopted home of Feilding on Monday, it was anything but a flight of fancy. Sert received his Diploma in Aviation from Flight Training Manawatu, which is based at the Taonui Aerodrome.
It was a double celebration, as he was the company's first diploma graduate.
Sert came to New Zealand when he was 18 after an internet search indicated this country offered him the best opportunities in flight training.
He arrived in 2007, knowing only a few words of English. He spent three months at an English language school and two years working in hospitality mastering the Kiwi vernacular.
When he moved to Feilding for his pilot training he also managed the Gold Kebabs takeaway.
Receiving his diploma was a big moment for Sert, as was his first solo flight in 2011.
"It makes you feel wonderful, being by yourself. But finishing the diploma is the biggest thing in my life."
Flight Training Manawatu chief executive Michael Bryant said Sert had achieved a lot during his time at the training school. As well as the diploma, he is working towards his Bachelor of Aviation through Massey University extramurally, and is translating a Turkish reference manual for a professor at the university.
Completing the diploma also encompassed Sert attaining a commercial pilot's licence, which he completed in August last year.
Studying and living in Feilding had been a good experience, he said. "It is a lot cheaper to study in New Zealand. I have enjoyed my time here and the really good instructors.
"It will be quite sad to go back to Turkey."
Sert has a job interview for Turkish Airlines at the end of the month. He will continue his extramural studies and also has 14 weeks of intensive instructor training at Flight Training Manawatu to complete.
His goal is to fly commercially for a national airline.
Fourteen students are working towards the diploma at Taonui - it normally takes two years to complete.
They have 12 exams to pass, 23 papers and 200 hours of flying to complete.
Bryant said the new diploma was offered after the Government revamped the flight training industry three years ago.
The school has 35 international students, from India, the Middle East and Singapore, with some soon to start from Papua New Guinea and Tahiti.
"Our students are sought out by Indian Airlines, and our New Zealand students tend to find work in New Zealand or parts of Asia," Bryant said.