Course delivers flight achievement

A 16-year-old Clyde youth has accomplished an aviation enthusiast's dream, flying a plane solo.

Aidan Smith, a sergeant in the Air Training Corps, has spent the past 10 days at Royal New Zealand Air Force base in Woodbourne, living the life of a pilot and flying every day as part of the New Zealand Cadet Forces national aviation course.

Smith, a former Dunstan High School student, has been a member of the corps since 2008 and said this year had been his best so far.

"Becoming a pilot has always been my dream and the ATC has allowed me to achieve it," Aidan said.

Flying a Piper Tomahawk plane solo had been the best part, he said. "It is a little scary, though, realising the responsibility we hold when we're up there. Being professional and critical of your decision making is essential to getting back down safely."

Aidan said he was considering getting his private pilot's licence later this year and needed to work hard to keep his experience and flying confidence up to, hopefully, make a career out of it.

The course, subsidised by scholarships and fundraising, enables cadets to receive high-quality, intense training, which fast-tracks them to solo flight.

Chief flying instructor and cadet force officer, flight lieutenant Craig Walecki said the course was considered one of the highest achievements for any cadet.

"With 35 cadets going through each year, we have the opportunity to help young people achieve their goals and fly by themselves," Mr Walecki said.

"It's even a great experience for the instructors," he said.

The Southland Times