Welcome to my blog.

In 2008, I received a trial flight in a light aircraft - a flight which changed my life. After a mere thirty minutes in an asthmatic old Cessna, I decided I would become a pilot. It was love at first flight. As Leonardo Da Vinci famously said - Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

However, like any relationship, there were highs (and there were puns!) and there were many moments where I thought I would never grasp this new skill.

After fifteen instructors, six flying schools and enough tears to fill a dam, I became a private pilot. And, because of a strong masochistic streak, I decided to study for my Commercial Pilot's Licence.

This blog is a working narrative of my time as a pilot, through my personal writing, my round Australia trip and my career as an aviation journalist, magazine editor, customer engagement manager for AvPlan EFB and aircraft salesperson for Cirrus Sydney.

Aviation has changed my life: through learning to fly I have discovered a part of myself that is resilient, organised and capable of great joy as a result of hard work, setbacks and learning.

In the words of Socrates, “Man must rise above the Earth – to the top of the atmosphere and beyond – for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.”

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to email me with advice and suggestions on


Monday, December 20, 2010

Hooray for RA

Hooray for RA!

Four years ago, when I stepped onto the wobbly path that would lead me to my GA PPL, I didn’t even know Recreational Aviation existed. From a family with no aviation blood, I stepped up to a flying school in Bankstown for a TIF, became firmly hooked, then realised it was a Sausage Factory. Thus began my career of bolting from one flying school to another until I found someone with the patience to teach me.

Ten instructors, three schools and two airfields later - after a six week wait for CASA - I finally had my PPL. It took over 100 hours, two exams, a medical and most of my funds.

Like many students, I’ve been through the wringer - instructors on their way up to the airlines who were more comfortable with The Mechanics of Flight than people; pilots so young they’d blush through the entire lesson, never having been that close to a woman before; schools that would cancel lessons without notice; places with secretaries apparently trained by Corrective Services...the list goes on. I decided I’d like to train as an instructor and ‘make a difference’ so I sold my small business to fund my CPL and began working through the exams.


In an hour-building solo flight from Sydney to Perth, out there in the scrub, I discovered RA. Time and time again, I’d run into people at airfields and clubs flying aircraft I’d never seen before. My only experience of recreational aviation in Sydney had been flying over the Oaks:

Me: ‘Oooh, what goes on down there?’

Instructor: ‘Oh, you know, just ultralights.’

Out of the cities, the attitude was different, and it wasn’t long before I met people who filled me in. By the time I reached the west coast of the continent I’d sat in more Jabs than I’d failed CASA exams, not to mention all sorts of exciting home builds. But it was in Busselton, WA - where I met CFI Will Owen - that I fell in love (not with Will, but with his A22 Foxbat). One flight, and I was gone. With enough power to keep me out of trouble, and the visibility of a chopper, I knew I’d have to learn to fly it.

Time passed...I continued to rent Archers...and then along came Natfly. Unsure whether or not GA aircraft were welcome, and afraid of having rotten tomatoes thrown at my Archer, I decided not to fly in. I had no idea what to expect.

What I found inspired me to become an RA Aus member immediately. The friendliness, the enormous range of aircraft - new, affordable and with modern avionics - and the total lack of prejudice - GA, RA, gyrocopter. What does it matter? We ALL fly! Not to mention not needing an annual medical, reams of paperwork and several exams. I hear the magazine is pretty good, too.

I decided to book a lesson in Sydney as soon as I got back home.

On a day so blustery most of the lessons were cancelled, I rocked up at Sydney Recreational Flyers, at the Oaks. With my log book chronicling nearly 500 hours and my fancy pants noise-cancelling headset were the only indicators that I was coming ‘over’ from GA, I felt like an aero virgin all over again.

Everything was different!

Firstly, things at the Oaks are a little more casual than the Class D strips from which I’ve flown: aircraft in various states of repair were dotted around, the loo was a ‘dunny’ and more of the pilots had beards. I immediately relaxed in the informal atmosphere of the flying club as instructor Greg Davies and I discussed whether it was worth going for a first flight. Being a ‘suck it and see’ kinda gal, I decided we should give it a go, on the proviso we’d return if it got too bumpy.

Secondly, the aircraft are quite different. After the steady drone of a Lycoming, I couldn’t get over the quiet buzz of the Rotax. There’s no mixture lever! And the Foxbat has no flaps, just ‘flaperons’ which we would not be using in our first lesson. I discovered finger brakes, which I loved.

It was all very different, and not being the fastest learner in the land I allowed myself plenty of time to get acquainted with my new bird.

Greg spent a lot of time on the daily, popping the cowling open to show me the shiny and unfamiliar Rotax 912. Slowly working our way through the cockpit, I noticed the absence of the AH and DI , remarking “Gah! I can’t fly on a compass!” to which Greg replied, “By the time we’ve finished with you, you’ll be able to fly without any instruments. The one thing I find in conversions from GA is pilots with an over reliance on instruments. We’ll make a seat of the pants pilot of you yet!”

Greg gave me control and we taxied to the ‘run-up bay’ (on the side of the strip) using the finger brakes (which make SO much sense!) then we were OFF! Like a rocket! At 1400 fpm with a nose attitude so high it made a GA pilot sweat.

In no time we were at circuit height, and I was experimenting with the RPMs, the engine sounding quite different to the one in the old Archer. With no mixture or carby heat, the downwind checks were short. And then, get this, we pulled the power and didn’t touch it again. Every approach is a glide approach, which Greg explained as a hangover from the days of two stroke engines (which failed more often, apparently).

After a few circuits, we zipped out to the training area for some general handling work, where I was once again amazed by this little yellow machine - it stalls at 26 knots! Greg encouraged me to spend some time in slow flight (35 knots, gulp!) to get used to the margin between slow flight and the stall. In the stall, it was sedate, needing only an inch or so of lowered nose to unstall and not the full power-on I’m used to.

All too quickly, it was back to the field for a few more circuits. With the wind having dropped, we decided to do five before calling it a day.

Well, I had a ball! I could have stayed for the full endurance. The Foxbat is, simply, so much fun to fly. I booked my next lesson on the spot. At $125 per hour, I can actually afford one.

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