Tragic flying death leads to scholarship

THEY still expect their daughter Joanne to walk through the door.

Gryff and Kay Ethell, of Lismore, find it difficult to put into words the grief they are going through after their 20-year-old daughter Joanne died in a plane crash in Sydney's West last year.

But now that grief has a purpose.

The Joanne Ethell Memorial Scholarship, has been set up in conjunction with the Northern Rivers Aero Club and will offer the first step for anyone who wants an aeronautical career, Mr Ethell said.

It was chief flying instructor Bill Kiernan, of the aero club, Joanne's first flight instructor, who helped put the scholarship together.

Worth $3000 in instruction time, the scholarship will be offered every second year.

Joanne started flying when she was 15 but couldn't officially take her first solo flight until she was 16.

Her parents could see how keen she was - and it wasn't surprising.

Mr Ethell has his own plane, as did his father, Byron Bay doctor Guy Ethell who flew across the country to see patients.

It must run in the family because Joanne's dream was to be a pilot for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. She spoke of this in her last conversation with Mr Ethell just a few days before the tragic accident.

Joanne, a flying instructor, and the student in the Cessna 152 were both killed when their plane was in a collision with another in the skies above Bankstown, Sydney.

It was Saturday, December 18, and as Mr Ethell sat down to watch the cricket on television a newsflash announced a mid-air collision.

He knew it was Joanne and immediately phoned his wife.

This personal family tragedy has not affected the Ethell's enthusiasm for flying.

They hope people who are keen to learn can be given the first step in their own flying dreams.

Contact the aero club on 6621 4844 for more information.

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