Birthday boy flies solo
'I wasn't really nervous until after I had landed'JOHN BISSET
Tom Thorne celebrated his 16th birthday yesterday in a way few others have.
The Waimate lad flew solo for the first time, in a Piper Tomahawk at the South Canterbury Aero Club.
His interest in aviation began at the age of 12 when he was introduced to flying model aeroplanes. He began flying lessons at 14 and has been anxiously awaiting his 16th birthday, the age he could legally fly solo.
It was also a first for chief flying officer Sharn Davies who had never sent a pupil solo on their 16th birthday. "He is a fantastic pupil who has worked very hard," said Mr Davies, who had come in on his day off to see Tom's dream fulfilled.
Tom had a restless night awaiting his first solo flight. "It didn't look promising first thing with low-lying cloud. We had to wait around all morning for it to lift," he said.
Finally at 12.30pm it was clear enough to take off. Nervous parents Sally and Tim Thorne watched on as Mr Davies prepped his student with a final circuit around the airfield.
"My son is causing me as much pain today as he did 16 years ago," a teary Mrs Thorne said as Tom farewelled the instructor and accelerated down the runway.
After a perfect take-off Tom flew a single circuit and six minutes later was back on terra firma. ‘'The plane was lighter to fly by myself and my landing was a little wonky. I wasn't really nervous until after I had landed," Tom said.
A relieved Mrs Thorne said she had no worries for her son's ability as a pilot. "He is a very precise and careful person," she said.
Tom is looking forward to a career in flying and hopes to gain his private pilot's licence (PPL) before leaving school.
Tom's parents are helping contribute toward the $15,500 required for a PPL , "It's a career pathway for Tom," Mrs Thorne said.
Tom will have to fund his advanced training at a flying school after he has finished his education.
Mrs Thorne said it would be a huge undertaking for a kid to repay the estimated $120,000 to gain a commercial licence.
- © Fairfax NZ News