The flying bug bit for me when I was in matric (grade 12) at St Andrews College, Grahamstown. This was 10 years ago as I am writing this. (seems bloody long now that I think about it) It was nearing the end of the year and I was still not really sure what I wanted to do after I matriculated. Was I going to study, take a gap year or who knew what else I was thinking.
I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but my parents and I (possibly my sister as well) ended up in a small coastal town on the East Coast looking at 43 Air School. It was amazing, the constant sound of the piston engines droning in the background, the huge expanse of the 5 or so runways and the many aircraft and students moving around the campus/airfield. We had a look around, were told about what all to expect and I even got a flight in one of the planes with a student doing a lesson (this was a few weeks later, but still).
I was hooked and knew then this is what I wanted to do!
I am one of the lucky ones who am fortunate enough to have parents who had the resources to send me to an amazing school like this, and for that I will always be thankful. (Thank you Mom and Dad). So the only thing that was now standing in my way and my newly acquired desire to become a pilot was school and the medical. School was the easy part. All was passed, I was signed up to start April 2008.
I drove up to the barracks (new students housing) that April 2008 with my good friend from school Poka. We arrived and were put in a shared room with each other. As the day went on the rest of the intake arrived and we all chatted with excitement about the new journey we were all starting together. Our group had a mix of girls and guys aged from 18 to 30 and from all parts of South Africa. We all got along pretty well.
While there we flew Piper Aircraft, the PA28-140, the PA28-180, the PA28R-200 and the PA34-200 (twin). These were great planes to learn how to fly in my opinion.
In total the course, from 0 time pilot to 200hrs and a licence, took me 11 hard months of constant studying, lots of amazing flights, plenty of early morning surfs and of course the odd cold beer to help relax after a heavy day of mind testing flying. I completed my time at 43 with a Commercial Multi Engine Pilot Licence.
The time I had there were some of the best days of my life and I would not trade any of it for anything. I owe a lot to my instructors, who weren’t always my favourite people, and to all the amazing friends I made there. The time will always be remembered.
Tune in next week for more stories and chapters in my flying career.