Outback vet earns her wings

A FRIGHTENING in-flightincident before a forced landing wasn’t enough to deter a Northern Territory veterinarian from gaining her wings. Lauren Porter, from Katherine, is on track to receive her pilot’s licence today, otherwise known as her wings,after six weeks of training at the Northern Rivers Aero Club Recreational Pilot Centre (NRAC) in Lismore.

Last week, the 23-year-old trainee pilot was flying a two-seater Jabiru aircraft with flight instructor Geordie Paton when the engine failed and they were forced to land in a paddock.

Despite the emergency, Ms Porter brushed the incident aside and continued the pursuit for her pilot’s licence.

“Basically, I was flying and the engine stopped and Geordie took over the controls and then flew us down safely,” she said.

“I was sort of scared for an instant. At first I thought he was tricking me.

“I have been trained to handle a situation like that, but I don’t think I could have handled it as well as Geordie.

“It didn’t for a minute put me off flying.”

Pregnancy testing cattle, home calls to horses and chickens, and even attending to crocodiles in remote areas, are just a few of the jobs Ms Porter might encounter in an average day.

The University of Sydney graduate has been working as a vet at the Katherine Vet Centre, but sometimes is req-uired to drive up to 11 hours to reach some of the remote communities.

With a pilot’s licence she will be able to cut her travelling time drastically and her transport will become a lot safer.

“It’s a lot more practical and a lot safer to fly out there, esp-ecially if you’re driving and break down in the middle of nowhere and there is no one to pick you up,” she said.

“I once had a crash out there where I rolled my car. There is no phone reception in some places and hardly any people on the roads so I just had to walk for two hours until a car came along.

“At the moment flying will be a daily part of my job and I think it will be for a while.”

About 30 people each year attain their wings through the NRAC, including manywomen, seniors and future flying doctors.

“There has been a big change in what women in aviation have accomplished and Lauren is an example of this,” NRAC chief flyinginstructor Bill Kiernan said.

“You get a lot of guys too in their late 50s who have always wanted to fly, but couldn’t aff-ord it or got a bit sidetracked, and then they come wandering in and away they go just for fun.

“As you get older you arealways looking for something interesting to do and this is a great challenge.

“We give trainees the basics to build the skills and hours they need and then off they go.

“I would say to anyone interested in becoming a pilot, just follow your dream and have a go. Don’t just sit there,” Mr Kiernan said.

Mr Kiernan admits he is prone to ‘cracking the whip’ on trainees, which he says pays off when they complete their training and go on to do ‘brilliant things’.

Training for a pilot’s licence at the NRAC costs about $13,000 and courses run forbetween six weeks and a year, depending on how often a trainee choses to fly.

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