Mitch Baker, 18, of Lismore, hopes his recent course is a step toward his dream of being a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctors Service.
Mitch Baker, 18, of Lismore, hopes his recent course is a step toward his dream of being a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Jacklyn Wagner

Aero club flying high into Lismore

SOME of the country’s next generation of ‘top gun’ pilots may soon be trained at Lismore with Northern Rivers Aero Club planning to offer a full-time course for those wanting a commercial licence.

After years of training pilots to get their recreational licences, the club tested the waters recently by offering a part-time course for school students who were interested in a gaining a licence.

Eighteen-year-old Lismore lad Mitch Baker was one of about six students who took part in the course and has since clocked up many hours in the cockpit.

“I like doing something different from the normal,” he confessed.

“I’ve done a couple of months of flying before I left school last year and now hope to have my commercial licence by the end of the year.”

Mr Baker, who became hooked on flying after his father encouraged him to take an introductory flight, wants to eventually get a job with the Royal Australian Flying Doctor Service.

He is the type of young dedicated pilot that the board of the Northern Rivers Aero Club and its chief flying instructor Bill Kiernan wants to attract to the course.

“It’s a big step for us, but it could be a very good step. This aerodrome is tremendously under-utilised and it’s an ideal training environment,” Mr Kiernan said.

But budding pilots should be warned: this is no Mickey Mouse course.

Mr Kiernan is openly derisive of the ‘get them in, grab the money and get rid of them’ approach taken by many flying schools.

“We operate a mixed fleet of aircraft and our training syllabus is designed to give the pilot a solid grounding in all the areas they will need to be successful,” he said.

The club plans to offer four full-time places three times a year to take advantage of a theory course for commercial pilots offered by a Brisbane-based college.

“There is a fair bit of demand for quality flying training and we are seeing that all the time,” Mr Kiernan said.

At $80,000 a place plus accommodation, Mr Kiernan reckons it will be good for the local economy.

The club, which has recently upgraded the facilities at its club house and hangar, has also put in a tender to purchase the unused hanger at Lismore Airport as part of its planned expansion.

However, Mr Kiernan said the club’s hopes do not hinge on a successful tender.



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