A little background....

My first post for the new True Aviators post!! I've felt this to be an important part of making aviation more accessible for all of you with an interest. Primarily to provide a transparency of thought and actions, and a timeline to give an understanding of the work behind the scenes of our achievements.

My personal journey started 24 years ago, at an age where simply watching aircraft flying overhead was the limit of my involvement. In years to come I would start building plastic models with my father, and move onto balsa models with the glamourous RC option in my sights. Just the transition between these interests took 5 years. I saved $90 for my first 2nd hand 2 channel RC set, and built my first model from scratch.

At age 14 I took my first flying lesson in a Cherokee 140. Over the next two years I logged 10 hours in my logbook, and soloed 4 months after my 16th birthday. At 11.5 hours I was on my own financially after the support of my parents for which I have always been grateful, and unable to continue with powered flight I turned my attention to gliding. I learned to drive the winch, and would tow gliders into the air all day long in exchange for a flight at the end of the day. Typically this would last 7 minutes, after a 13 hour working day. This period served to teach me airmanship, an understanding of the workings of an airfield, and kept me in aviation on a level I could manage.

During this time I volunteered with my Grandfather to crew for the local balloon fiesta. We would chase our balloon, and over 5 days built quite an understanding of yet another aviation discipline. Over the next 3 years I built 7 hours in hot air balloons. My father was keen for me to continue with powered flight, and to my surprise suggested we purchase a microlight. Enquiries followed with incredible excitement at 17 years old, and soon a Teratorn TA microlight was purchased for $2000.

This aircraft is a single seater 24 hp taildragger, simplicity at it's very best. Over the next 5 years I built 40 hours, and learnt about the considerations of aircraft ownership. The Teraton was hangared in a temporary shed and had to be assembled prior to flight. This was definitely quite a processes, but kept teaching me airmanship.

I reached a point where I knew I needed to progress further under supervision, and made the decision to finish my apprenticeship as a wheelwright after 3 years training, and started to travel NZ with my $10,000 of savings to find what I really wanted to do in aviation. First stop was Ardmore airport to do work experience with Pioneer Aero Restorations, and spent time on Kittyhawks and LA 9. After being offered a job on day two, I had already decided I needed to fly while I had my youth and medical fitness - as attractive as the thought of being able to return these incredible aircraft to the air.

In the end I spent one year on the road living in a campervan, and visited every flying school I could. I eventually decided on the CHB Aeroclub due to their instructor experience, their low costs due to farming enterprises offsetting flights costs - but most importantly that they had a Tiger Moth online as a club aircraft. I continued living in my campervan, and started work at the local petrol station. I was earning $11 per hour, and paying $120 per hour for a Cessna 152. I achieved my PPL after one year, and self studied for my theory exams. I flew the Tiger Moth for the next year, and travelled to a neighbouring airfield for 7 days to achieve my aerobatic rating, after having taught myself how to loop, roll, and stall turn in the Cessna.

I made my next move to Omaka airfield for my warbird progression. I knew I had to gain high inertia time and bought a share in the local Nanchang syndicate. I had saved for this through the last two years, along with my Campbell Aero Classics helmet http://www.campbellaeroclassics.com/, by working two extra jobs on farms on my "days off". I was also invited to take an evaluation flight with the Omaka Fighter Collection, now The Vintage Aviator Ltd, in their Tiger Moth. I was fortunate to move onto the DH5 replica, the only representation of the type in the world, and progressed quickly onto formation flying with other types.

Now training for my CPL, but building hours in the Nanchang while learning aerobatics and airshow display considerations, I was again self studying for my theory exams. I would wake at 5am every morning before work in a hardware store as a tool salesman, and an afternoon shift in a vineyard, and study for 2 hours while my brain was fresh. 6 months later I had passed 6 exams and was ready to fly the remaining 30 hours to complete my CPL training. As I was completing these hours in Tomahawks and Cherokees, I started to build a Sopwith Pup with two other enthusiasts. This was rather a large undertaking, but definitely in the spirit of our historic aircraft interest. Ribs were constructed, fuselage formers, metal stock orders prepared although at this time I was building on my own, constructing parts for 4 aircraft.

I passed my CPL flight test, with the most relieved and relaxing feeling afterwards. I was fortunate to have multiple offers of work, and against all advice turned down the first job offers without an alternate. After 6 months I was asked if I would help establish a company in Queenstown flying a Pitts Special, something much more appealing. I flew the next 2 years, taking passengers on aerobatic joyrides in one of the most beautiful places in NZ, and built 500 hours in the Pitts.

My next move would see me move to Australia, flying Nanchangs in a similar manner. During the next year I would manage an L39 Albatross, fly a newly purchased Nanchang 6 hours across Australia on a delivery flight, and complete my initial twin endorsement in a Beech 18.

This was now the second company I worked for that had run into financial trouble through high growth models which were not sustainable, and I resigned feeling a little desperate to need to do things differently. Enter True Aviators. This concept has been created to celebrate all things aviation, to encourage participation at all levels, and to ensuring an awareness of historic aviation especially. I created a company exposition, leased an under-utilised Yak 52 from a local syndicate and started providing flights experiences with an ambassadorial focus. Over these two years I built about 300 hours on radial engined eastern bloc fighter trainers.

It was at this same time I started flying with a local skydiving company, operating a Cessna 182 and 206, climbing to 14,000 ft. It wasn't long before the skydivers had me at the door, and 10 jumps later had completed my Accelerated Free Fall course, jumping solo, enjoying it, and fascinated by the flock of Wingsuiters. I flew here for a year, and amassed about 300 hours in the air.

Approached by a individual with a DC 3, I was asked to return to NZ to give advice on setting up a scenic flight operation in the lower South Island. Again, a high risk concept financially, but one which held merit after the DC 3 to be used had completed an impressive journey from England to NZ. However, as with previous experiences, it soon became clear that expectations and available budgets would never work. I approached the Croydon Aviation Trust with the offer of returning their DH Dragon Rapide to the air after 3 years on the ground to fill the brief of a flight product over Fiordland.

During the next 6 months I built 50 hours in the Rapide, and flew approx 350 passengers in another beautiful part of NZ. I balanced the time out of the air working at a high end bed and breakfast, providing marketing and events management for guests and community, and setting up a local model Aeroclub for electric aircraft.

Which brings me to current day, actively working on ways to keep these special aircraft in the air, and spreading the word far and wide to encourage participation on all levels