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


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Good Old Dose of Optimism

I have had the most incredible two months, and as tempting as it is to use this space to tell you all about the wonders of flying in the USA, the thrill of landing at Oshkosh and the fabulousness of flying in an R44 through Sydney Harbour (thanks Neil Weste!) upon my return, I felt I needed to bring to your attention something a little less exciting: our industry’s apathy.

A year ago, when I became editor of Australian Pilot and implemented an ‘anti-whingeing’ policy in this magazine. I vowed I would not carp on about restrictive regulations, the red plastic ASIC which we all loathe, or the frustratingly poor customer service that is indicative of so many flying schools. I promised I would be the go-to publication for positive stories, to promote progressive businesses and share the excitement of flying. And yet, after returning from the USA, I no longer felt like the Doris Day of Aviation.

After a month of American FBOs providing me with $10 per hour hire cars, aircraft hired for $103 per hour and airstrips every ten nautical miles in every direction, I could be forgiven for not being a Pollyanna pilot. After receiving over 25 emails detailing increases in landing fees, airport closures and wrestles with AvMed, I felt like hanging up the headset and applying for the green card lottery.

And then, something fabulous happened: I attended Ausfly. After four days with the nation’s most enthusiastic aviators, I realised all is not lost. Not at all. We might be smaller than the USA, we may well be over-regulated and we might just have a twentieth century attitude to flight training, but we are a nation of determined individuals who are prepared to continue to fly against some very tricky odds.
Among the fine aviators—and aviatrixes—of Ausfly, I met: a young couple with a flying school so progressive, the bulk of their students are under thirty; a remarkable young man who flew solo around the world despite a significant lack of sponsorship and no donor aircraft; an aircraft distributor who had taken a punt on a new aeroplane because they really, really believe it’s the best trainer on the market, and a man who sold his house to buy his dream machine. I chatted with scores of people who flew in every kind of aircraft, from every corner of the country, to be with like-minded people. I saw children staring open mouthed at the flying displays, and wallets opening at the speed of light to fly in a Pitts.

photo by Phil Buckley

At the Ausfly dinner, I listened with interest to SAAA President, Martin Ongley’s speech about the importance of joining organisations and supporting the industry, and I joined the crowd in a standing ovation for Ryan Campbell. I calculated the average age of my table’s diners to be around 50 (which is lower than the average pilot population—or maybe it was just the mood lighting!) and felt positive that Ausfly is succeeding in the very thing our industry needs—a good old dose of optimism.

photo: Phil Buckley

Everybody I spoke to agreed we have a long way to go, yet each had a personal story about flying and how it had enriched their life; journeys one could never have without having flown; marriage proposals in Tiger Moths and beautiful picnics at coastal airports. Tales of aircraft built, rivet by rivet, year by year, were shared among stories of lives saved by pilots, apps designed to make lives safer and friendships formed at aero club sausage sizzles.

Photo: Phil Buckley

We may not have courtesy cars at our airport, our CPL may still require the passing of seven exams and we might have to dangle an expensive piece of red plastic from our shirts for a long while yet, but while there is fuel in the bowser and gable markers on the runway, we will fly. And while I’m editor of this magazine, I will not whinge. Instead, I will take my lovely new Bose headset with me into the sky and visit the remarkable pilots who keep this industry the only one to which I am happy to belong.

Photo: Phil Buckley


  1. Great read! AusFly13 was my first fly-in. Even though I didn't get to fly in (due Wx), I had a great time and felt welcomed. Meeting everyone and talking aviation certainly re-charged my flying spark!