Flying high on dream
FROM the moment Ballina's Danny Lewis took off in a Qantas jet on his first overseas family holiday to Bali as a 10-year-old, he had a dream to become a commercial pilot.
On Wednesday, 12 years after that inspirational flight, Danny achieved his dream by gaining his commercial pilot licence with the help of the Northern Rivers Aero Club.
To achieve his ambition took a lot of hard work and money, which began at the age of 14 when he started being paid as a soccer referee.
"When I turned up at the club as an 18-year-old I thought it was going to be easy but as the years went on, I saw how much study and practice was involved," he said.
Since he was 16, Danny had worked as many shifts as possible at Big W to help fund his dream.
"I have been working and saving since I was 14 to achieve my goal of becoming a commercial pilot," he said.
"A lot of my friends are studying at uni or as painters or personal trainers, but I was determined to be a pilot."
Now 22, Danny said without his parent's financial help to pay for the training and flying hours, which cost more than $60,000, gaining his licence would have been much harder.
To gain his commercial licence, Danny sat seven theory exams, got 200 hours of flying experience under his belt, did a three-to-four- hour oral exam and had to pass a practical three-hour flying exam.
After three cancellations due to bad weather, Danny said he sat his practical flying exam in challenging weather conditions on Wednesday.
"I'm pretty stoked getting my licence. For me it's sort of like getting your uni degree and graduating."
Northern Rivers Aero Club chief flying instructor Bill Kiernan said of the more than 50 people who gained their commercial pilot licence over the past 10 years through the club, Danny was in the top 10%.
"There was only one area in his testing where he didn't achieve 100%, which was gratifying," he said.
Until he can clock up 1500 hours and do more exams and flight tests to get his air transport pilot's licence, Danny said he hoped to find work as a charter pilot.