TWO members of the South Gippsland Gliding Club recently completed their first solo flights at only 15 years old.
James Spencer and Hamish Scothern took to the skies in the club’s single seat gliders after about six months of incredibly in-depth training.
The two boys can’t get their learner’s permit on the road yet but they know how to fly a glider all by themselves.
Someone who can take a bit of credit for their early aviation progress is South Gippsland Gliding Club instructor Kevin Owen.
Owen has been gliding since 1975 and is a level 2 instructor with more than 440 gliding hours.
And he couldn’t be happier with his latest young pilots.
“They both went really well; we’re all extremely proud,” Owen said.
Owen, along with Max Speedy and Ian Shadbolt, have spent many hours preparing youngsters like James and Hamish for the skies.
And training 15 year olds to operate an aircraft by themselves isn’t something the instructors take lightly.
“It’s a big responsibility that they take on,” Owen said, adding instructors ensure all the right procedures are undertaken.
The first thing they learn about is the very stringent checklists required to be completed before hitting the runway.
“We expect that to be memorised, they have to get in and do their pre-flight checks without even looking at a bit of paper,” Owen said.
The club, which operates out of the Leongatha Aerodrome, has a simulator in the hangar for members to train in before they strap in for the real deal.
They also run lectures, and an online exam must be passed before anyone can go solo.
Training typically consists of two to three 15-minute stints of flying time and the instructors will brief the budding pilots before they take off and after the landing.
In flight, there are instructions about how to tackle certain aspects of the glider.
In the lead up to the first solo flight, Owen said he and the other instructors will sometimes hammer the gliders with about four or five trips into the sky a day.
“At the end of the day, it’s consistency that wins the day with that sort of work,” Owen said.
Owen hopes his two newest prodigies continue in aviation and they both say they will.
Hamish, who is from Wattle Bank, thanked the instructors for all their efforts in his latest endeavour.
“My instructors have guided me with respect and kindness throughout my training and I look forward to continuing my relationship and future training with them,” Hamish said.
“Going solo has taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to, and I look forward to what the future might hold for me in the air.”
James, of Leongatha South, has big aspirations in the aviation world.
“My future ambitions are to do something with flying, whether that be the air force, agriculture, aerobatic flights or competitions,” James said.
And he said the coolest thing he’d done with a glider so far was a loop.
“To feel positive and negative g-force when I did the loop was the best feeling.”
Since completing their first solo flight, both boys have achieved their Gliding A certificate, which requires five solo flights.
Although it may not be a regular sporting club, Owen said there was certainly a club environment at the hangar.
In between flights, members perform all types of duties that makes it much like a team-oriented sport.
And Owen is encouraging anyone who may be interested in a start in aviation to come down to the club and join in the action with the 20 active members.
“It’s raw flying; you learn basic flying skills and it’ll stick with you for life once you’ve got it,” Owen said.
“But most importantly, it’s fun.”
There are discounted flying fees for juniors and the club can help to try and attain scholarship funding for training, which Hamish and James both received.
The two young pilots didn’t know each other before arriving at the club but they have now become good friends and will surely be good sounding boards for each other in their aviation journeys.
To learn more about the South Gippsland Gliding Club, visit the club Facebook page or go to sggc.org.au.