My aviation journey continues...
So now I had flown solo. I was well and truly infected by aviation but the medicine would come at a cost. As a schoolboy, a paper-run was never going to be able to pay for flying lessons and my parents weren’t in a position to sponsor my passion for flight. As a consequence, I learned that the first skill I would need in my quest to become a pilot was patience.
On leaving high school I gained employment with a large multi-national company and was made one of their cadets, earmarked for greater things in the years ahead. Unfortunately, this also involved long hours and minimal pay until I had climbed at least a few rungs on the corporate ladder, so the opportunity for flying lessons was severely compromised. More importantly, my heart was not in the job.
As I sat in the air ambulance hangar one afternoon waiting for my father to arrive, I began speaking with the paramedics that were waiting for the patient on board the aircraft. The conversation included a discussion about their 4-days-on then 4-days-off rostering system and a full-blooded wage. The wheels began to turn and I could envision being able to learn to fly in parallel to being a paramedic. And while the initial spark to join the ambulance service was ignited by the ulterior motive of flight, so began four of the most beneficial years of my life.
I was nineteen years of age when I first joined the ambulance service and I grew up very quickly. I soon learned that the moral barometer that had been set in place by my parents was not consistent across the breadth of society. I saw horrendous sights by roadsides and in homes that I imagine will remain with me forever, however the good far outweighed the bad. The camaraderie between the officers and members of the other emergency services was a bond built on shared experiences. The ability to aid someone in their most desperate moments was a reward that I still cherish today. And as a witness to tragedy and fate’s cruel hand, I came to appreciate every single day of my life.
This made the privilege of learning to fly even more special. Some days I would race from my shift at the station to night school to study aviation subjects without time to change my clothes. One steamy summer night I sweltered beneath my jacket in class, for the uniform shirt beneath was still covered in blood from the young man I had watched die only an hour before.
Each week I saved my money and studied my text-books. Slowly I reached a position where I had enough theoretical knowledge in my head and enough money in the bank to set about taking my dreams into the sky. The end-game still seemed so very far away, but I had one very strong advantage – my Dad.
Dad had been an air force fighter pilot and instructor and had gone on to instruct over many years in civil aviation. Highly experienced in the field he had agreed to teach me the craft, however I knew that this would not be an easy path. The first hint was when he began mounting briefing boards in our shed and setting out tables with aircraft models and his old air force notes.
That being said, this was to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. Aside from the wisdom he would pass down to me, I would ultimately come to know my father as never before. He would share with me his memories of war and I would confide in him the misery I had witnessed on the streets of our city.
The planets had now aligned. I had the instructor, the funds and the time. Now I could take my passion of flight to the next stage and I couldn’t wait.
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