News Corp Australia Network
Demand for pilots is set to soar with 558,000 new pilots to be needed across the world’s airlines by 2034 — and it turns out flying is not as hard is it looks.
When Australian Wings Academy offered me a lesson in one of their Diamond Aircraft, including taking off and landing myself, I was a little apprehensive.
Firstly, my only experience in a cockpit had been playing Microsoft Flight Simulator on my brother’s computer as a child.
Secondly, my landings in said game had invariably ended in fire.
Add this to the fact I don’t even have an open car license, I had no reason to feel confident in a plane.
But with trainer Jason Mitchell by my side, spoiler alert, it all went fine.
He gave me a lesson in aerodynamics, showed me how to lodge a flight notification, and let me watch as he inspected the plane and checked the engine and oil.
Then he sat next to me in the aircraft with identical controls, meaning he could take over at a moment’s notice if I forgot his very technical instruction: “pull back, you go up, push forward, you go down”.
The hardest part of controlling the aircraft was taxiing to the runway using foot pedals.
As I zigzagged up the tarmac, I wondered if the other student pilots were secretly laughing at me.
But no matter — I was about to fly!
I pushed the power up to 100 percent and we began hurtling down the runway.
Then I slowly eased the control back to lift the nose and we were in the air! We were on a slight angle and I was yelling “oh my God” but in the air nonetheless.
I hoped I wasn’t making Jason airsick but thought better than to look sideways to check. Eyes forward!
Once I had straightened up, flying was actually a lot easier than I had thought.
We headed out from Gold Coast Airport towards Surfers Paradise and Q1.
Jason radioed Sea World to make sure I wouldn’t collide with any tourist helicopters. All clear.
I learned how to keep the plane at a consistent height, sticking between about 1500ft and 2000ft while travelling at about 200km/hr, and, once beyond the controlled airspace, practised some barrel rolls.
Just kidding, no barrel rolls, just turns and yaws and ascents and descents.
There was a bit of turbulence and a bit of rain but otherwise the flight was completely relaxing.
Jason tells me the odd student freaks out on their first lesson but no one has ever crashed at the school.
He had been a real estate agent on the Gold Coast for years but made the career change after his mother gave him simulator training one Christmas.
“I clearly remember walking to my car and thinking ‘I can really do this, becoming a pilot is achievable,” he says.
“I love my job. I love being able to fly every day. Who else gets to come to work and fly up and down the Gold Coast and surrounding areas sharing your skill set with aspiring pilots?”
Lucky he was sharing his skill set with me because it was now time to land the plane.
I lined up the aircraft with the runway and began reducing power for a slow, controlled descent — there is a fine line between getting low enough in time and not skimming roof tiles off the nearby homes.
Flashbacks of crashing animated 737s on Flight Simulator encouraged me to concentrate.
As the aircraft was about to touch down, we lifted the nose slightly for a delicate landing.
If I can fly a plane, anyone can!
Read more about starting a career in aviation in the CareerOne section of Saturday’s News Corp metropolitan newspapers.
Story and photos: http://www.news.com.au