Let’s not beat around the bush, this is hard, real hard. If you are expecting to roll up into a cushy, laid back course and cruise through then think again. From the outset it is crystal clear that Australian Wings Academy set high, professional standards, which may not be for everyone. For me? It’s great, it forces me to push my limits, to grow in ways I never have before and there is one thing becoming clear fast, and that is the next 12 or so months of my life will be the most intense, disciplined and committed so far.
We arrived for an 8:30am start and sat down in a classroom with Gannon Hempel, the Chief Flight Instructor (CFI) who is a charismatic professional, with an impressive career spanning over 20 years in both civilian and military aviation to back it up. He takes us through the first half of the day going through the Diploma of Aviation syllabus and structure, showing us around the facilities and just generally introducing us to AWA. We then took a break for lunch and then it was straight down to business with Cameron, our ground school instructor who took us through our first brief, Basic Aerodynamics. I don’t quite think anyone was expecting to be hit so hard and fast with the theory, which is all new to me, but I kept my focus, took plenty of notes and survived Day 1.
Driving home I was questioning whether I had made the right choice, whether I had what it takes to do this, to see it through. I don’t think I could have prepared myself better regardless, there really is nothing quite like it, there is so much to learn, so much theory, so much skill and talent in actually flying. It has given me a whole new respect for Pilots, particularly my Uncle Matt who I called once I was home to tell him all about it. He helped to reassure me, and it was good to talk with someone who had been in my shoes, Matt will no doubt become a pivotal mentor throughout this journey.
The rest of the week didn’t relent, more and more theory, new concepts, new ideas, like someone upgraded your brain to Broadband after being stuck on Dial-up. Think of it like surfing, I was struggling to keep my head above water and then something magical happened, it all started to click, it felt like I was standing up on the board now and the big picture was being revealed. Connections between all these foreign concepts were being forged, links, relationships and understanding, it all began to fall into place. I would imagine it’s similar for most people and my best advice on this is to stay focussed and determined, you will fail otherwise.
As the end of the week drew in I had my first Flight Lesson with my instructor Jack. We had a pre flight briefing, went over my Load Sheet, some theory and the lesson plan which was Taxiing, Effects of Controls and Straight and Level. I had been trying to cram in the relevant frequencies and radio calls but didn’t quite have it all down, Jack was great though, he took me through it all and we had an all up good lesson I thought. I wouldn’t say it was fun though, because it wasn’t, it was hard, there are so many things going on, so many different procedures, so many things to keep in sync and maintain. If people complain they can’t read the speedo in their car because it distracts them from driving, then there is no way in the world they could fly a plane. Of all the various vehicles and machinery I have used, a plane is by far and away the most sophisticated and refined of them all. It’s going to take everything I have to master the art of flying.