My 7357km airborne adventure | Sunshine Coast Daily

AT THE age of eight, I went to my first air show at Biggin Hill, in the United Kingdom, where I saw many impressive aircraft including the Concorde and Red Arrows.

From that moment, I decided that I wanted to be a pilot.

Since then, my passion for aviation and becoming a pilot has only become stronger.

In September 2005 my parents decided to move us from London to Australia, specifically the Sunshine Coast.

In 2014, when I graduated from high school, I decided I wanted a gap year in order to work, get some savings behind me and travel. In 2016 I began following my dream of a career in aviation.

Jake’s view as he flew across the Red Centre was stunning. Contributed

In October 2016, I began a Diploma of Aviation Course at Basair Aviation College in Archerfield. The course covers both the theory and practical side of flying, from the Recreational Pilots’ Licence through to the Commercial Pilot’s Licence.

My first day was nerve-wracking but exciting, meeting people who finally were as much as “aviation geeks” as I was!

To know that everyone had the same interests and common goal was a very good environment. Just under a year later I obtained both my Recreational and Private licence and am currently chipping away at the Commercial Licence.

In order to obtain a Commercial licence, the pilot must have flown for a particular number of hours. For the month of August, the flight school stipulated we had to accumulate 30 hours of flying in four weeks.

So five other students and I began planning to do something a little different.

Naming it, Run-a-way-North, we planned a once-in-a-lifetime trip that would take us out through the desert, up through the Northern Territory to the tip of Australia and back down the east coast.

Jake's view as he flew across the Red Centre was stunning.

Jake’s view as he flew across the Red Centre was stunning. Contributed

Apart from getting our flying hours, the trip was a fundraiser for the Royal Flying Doctor Service in recognition of the great work it does every day and to promote aviation to school children.

On August 9, parents, family, instructors and friends gathered at Archerfield Airport to see us off on our adventure.

At 0600 hours, five other student pilots and I set off in three aircraft (one Piper Archer III and two Cessna 172s) and proceeded on a 12-day journey into completely unfamiliar territory – a great challenge for flight training.

Each day came with its challenges – constant changes in weather conditions, fluctuating temperatures and unfamiliar flying conditions as well as a wide range of challenging airstrips, which took their toll on each of us.

But being well prepared and heeding our flight instructor’s “words of wisdom”, we were able to identify and adjust accordingly to any challenge that we faced.

On the trip we visited three schools – Yirara College, Darwin Middle School and Darwin High School – giving a two-stage presentation.

A short presentation outlining factors that may impact on the students if they choose to go into aviation (i.e. relocating, financing options) as well as going in-depth on some career paths in aviation, some of the many perks of working within aviation and some background information on our experiences.

Taking the students in groups out to our aircraft, where we briefly explained the systems on the interior and exterior of the planes.

It was extraordinary to watch the kids’ faces light up, especially when they were put into the cockpit. They were so interested in learning about an aircraft flies and how the instruments work.  

The flight path Jake Dickson and his fellow commercial pilot students followed.

The flight path Jake Dickson and his fellow commercial pilot students followed. Contributed

Arriving back in Archerfield, as exhausted as we were, we felt a great deal of achievement, not only had we just completed a 7357km trip on our own but we had also promoted aviation to 45 students and raised funds for the Royal Flying Doctors Service.

We had a great time and made many memories we will take with us forever.

The most memorable parts of the trip for me was flying over the Simpson Desert for three hours without seeing any signs of civilisation and flying around Ayers Rock and the Olgas.

Although it was pretty warm and turbulent for both, flying through the Red Centre made me appreciate how beautiful the land we live in really is.

Getting into aviation is not the easiest thing to do; constant exams come with lots and lots of study and pressure. It all comes down to how badly you want your end goal and how much you are willing to put in to achieve it.

My biggest supporters have been my parents, both physically and financially. I could not have got to where I am today without them. My friends and family have also helped with never-ending support.

Now that we are back from our trip, reality sets in, as each of us begins the ground theory for our Commercial Pilots’ Licence. That comprises many lectures, study and seven major exams.

We will come out as qualified commercial pilots with the world as our oyster.

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