Moving from Roodepoort, Johannesburg to Sydney five years ago when I was 14, I had my head in the clouds with the dream of becoming a pilot. When I heard about the Australian Air League, I thought that getting involved might be an opportunity to help me achieve my dreams.
Arriving at the venue where the local group meets, I found a hall that looked like something out of a Harry Potter scene. It was filled with aviation seats from various planes, as well as airplane wings, old propellers and radial engines. In fact, you name it, if it's from a plane, it's there. The first time I walked into that hall, it was like walking into paradise. I later found out that some of the seats in the hall are from a plane that belonged to an Australian prime minister and had been sat on by the Queen of England.
The Australian Air League is a non-profit organisation that operates through fees and fundraisers. Members strive to focus on the flying and aviation theory aspect, and we have a badge system similar to Scouts. Young cadets learn about different subjects including navigation, meteorology, astronomy, first aid, drills, aero-engines, the theory of flight and electronics. Such subjects form the basis of aviation careers. In addition to the theory, we do practical activities including drills, learning to march and following orders and have a flag party during which we march with flags.
I have been introduced to flying through the Air League as the organisation owns small flying schools, including one at Candem. As the Air League is a volunteer organisation, the instructors and staff at the flying school work with members when they are available.
I've also attended many parades and camps, including some where young members are promoted from cadet to leading cadets, we do marching and we learn about new regulations, and others that are purely recreational.
The Air League is a good way to get started in flying as a young person because it offers so much stability and opportunities to learn. As one example, as a result of the Air League, I spent a week at Qantas for my work experience when I was in year 10.
In my four years with the Air League, I have accumulated 51 hours of flying and will soon be able to do an exam to get my licence. I have recently started to fly a bigger aircraft and will be able to carry three passengers instead of one. I have also completed a TAFE course for the theoretical side of my commercial pilot's licence.
The Air League has given me the opportunity to work with officers who've been involved in the aviation industry. For example, my squadron officers are Keith Bridge, who was a chief engineer with Qantas, and John Conrad who was a commercial airline pilot.
Flying is a great passion of mine, and the Air League has given me a great boost to achieve my dream. My goal is to fly for one of the big guns like Virgin, Qantas, Jetstar, or even good old SA Airways.
Do You Want To Fly?
Never give up. Do research, do a trial flight and get a feel for aircrafts to see what you are undertaking and if you're willing to stick it out. Work through the processes, some of them can be tedious.
However, flying has many rewards and there are so many different careers that you can branch into with flying. These include being a private pilot to a commercial pilot, aerobatic, cargo and medical pilot. The list goes on.
The only thing you really need for flying is passion. If you have the passion and drive to achieve, there is nothing you can't achieve in flying. Stick to the dream. It's always achievable.
Dieter's First Flight
The first time I flew a plane was on July 25, 2005. As we set off I was as nervous as anything; sweating, shaking. As we took off my heart started to race, my eyes grew big and I was holding on for dear life. The roar of the engine made me straighten up and before I knew it we were airborne, climbing out of Camden.
The buildings became smaller and I was in awe of the world; this world of flight. I was excited and a sense of relaxation came over me. Then I heard my instructor say: “Dieter, you have control.”
From that moment I was certain that I wanted to fly. I was on top of the world doing small turns, climbing, gliding. You name it, we did it!
I was upset about having to land, knowing that I would have to climb out and walk away from this amazing world, to join the real world once again. But I knew that I would be sitting there again a week later. My head has been on cloud 10 ever since then and will remain there until I am no longer.
The Australian Air League
The Australian Air League, sometimes called the primary school of aviation, is a national youth organisation for boys and girls aged eight years and older. The League's aims are to promote and encourage the development of aviation amongst the youth of Australia, to promote good citizenship and teamwork and to develop the ingenuity and resourcefulness of it's members.
The Australian Air League was formed in 1934 and the first squadron was opened in Manly, New South Wales. The Air League quickly spread through that state and in early 1939, the first squadron was opened in Victoria. In 1944 the first girl's section was formed. Today the Australian Air League is active in New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia and is still expanding.
For more information see http://www.airleague.com.au/.