In 1978 I joined No 26 Flight of the Air Training Corps (AIRTC) and experienced my first flight with our Flight Commander John Butler in the LVAC Cessna 172 VH-INU. In those days, the cadets had the opportunity to do aero club duty and after washing aircraft and sweeping floors etc, we would usually get to go flying with someone. On one of those weekends, Dave Dawson became the first person to show me aerobatics in the Victa Airtourer VH-MOI and we ended up in a “dog fight” with Peter Furlong in a Chipmunk. It was great fun but I think it took me a week to get over how queasy I felt.
After being awarded an AIRTC flying scholarship to first solo and with a personal loan from my grandmother “Dolly” Hoppner, I had my first instructional flight with Roger Vanstan at the LVAC on 17 Dec 1981 in the Cessna 172 VH-EUI. My other aero club instructors were Alex Hood, Alan Helding and Gary Chadwick. Three weeks after my first flight I passed my restricted PPL test with John Willis, the CFI, on 9 Jan 1982. The Department of Transport (the CASA of the day) did not notice that I was only 16 and a half years old and issued me with a restricted PPL and I was able to take passengers in the training area whilst still 6 months underage. After turning 17, I then completed my unrestricted PPL with the LVAC in Oct 1982. I flew a total of 150 hours at the LVAC on the Cessna 172s (VH-EUI, UGO, CMX, INU and STH) dropping parachutists, flying with the AIRTC and doing cost-share flights. I learned to spin the Victa Airtourer VH-MOI and got endorsed on the Cessna 206 VH-IQH before, and to quote Don Suckling, “Joined the big government flying club”.
I hold a current Grade 1 Flight Instructor Rating (with multiple training approvals) an RAA Instructor Rating and am a CASA Delegate for low-level aerobatics in the P51 Mustang to 1000ft AGL and any aircraft with an engine below 800 hp to 500ft AGL.
In May 1984 I joined the RAAF and my experience at the LVAC certainly helped me in the initial stages of pilots course. After receiving my wings I was posted to fly fighters at RAAF Williamtown with No 77 SQN, No 2 OCU, No 3 SQN and was then posted to RAAF Tindal with No 75 Sqn. I began instructing in 1990 at No 2 OCU when I became a Fighter Combat Instructor (FCI) on the F/A-18 Hornet. I then qualified as an Instrument Rating Examiner (IRE) on the F/A-18 Hornet. I continued flying fighters throughout my RAAF career until joining Cathay Pacific Airways in February 1993. After moving to Hong Kong I converted to the L1011 TriStar. My current role is as a Training Captain/Check on the Airbus A330 and A340.
Flying is my passion and I always try to get airborne in anything I can whenever I am visiting the LVAC, where I first learned to fly and am still a member. I have no doubt that without my experience with the LVAC I would not have had the head start needed to kick off my flying career.
I learnt to fly with Latrobe Valley Aero Club in 1966 and subsequently gained CPL (1969) and Instructor Rating (1970). I then served as a committee member between 1971 – 1974 and took up full-time instructor position with LVAC in 1974. Instructed with LVAC until 1989. Left to take up employment with Augusta Airways (Adelaide) initially as an instructor and line pilot flying scheduled services between Adelaide, Port Augusta and Leigh Creek. Appointed Chief Pilot in 1990. Resigned from Augusta Airways in 1997 and moved to Canberra to become an aviation accident investigator with the then Bureau of Air Safety Investigation (now Australian Transport Safety Bureau).