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Handing Over

Passing on the aviation gene

For our son Hayden’s 14th birthday, my wife and I decided to organize a RAAUS membership and Orange Flight Training for him. I guess you could call aviation a “family business” for us. 

Both my wife, Kirrily, and I are commercial pilots. Both of our mothers served in the RAAF while Hayden’s two grandfathers flew as well. My father flew 201 fighter missions in the Korean War, while Kirrily’s dad flew Caribous in Vietnam. I had my skepticisms about whether or not the aviation gene would be passed down to him, but now, our son seems to have caught the bug. 

Following his birthday, Hayden and I drove to Orange, discussing the first lesson, “Effects of Controls”. With the assistance of a plastic cricket stump, Hayden mimicked the control inputs for pitch, roll and yaw as I called them out and then asked for primary and secondary effects. It reminded me of a time when my father did the same with me.

An RAAUS instructor Rating is on my radar but for the time being I entrusted Hayden’s education to a good mate, John Hunter. A former RAAF Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) and current airline training captain, John instructs at Orange Flight Training.

Following a thorough preflight briefing, John and Hayden ran through their pre-start checks in the Bristell as I stood on the grass verge, a keen observer. As they taxied past, I was taken back to a time when I had tentatively edged a Cessna 152 towards the runway and imagined my father’s anticipation.

As the yellow Bristell climbed away into the sky over Orange, it was another moment for me to mentally savour. As I awaited their return, the rural setting and uncluttered sky was occasionally interrupted by another light aircraft taking to the sky on a cloudless afternoon. All too soon for Hayden, they were back overhead and joining the circuit, before landing and offering an excited wave. After an extensive debrief and a wipe-down of the aircraft, it was time to call it a day.

The excitement in Hayden’s voice was priceless as he recounted the flight that evening and all the way home. Inevitably, he asked when he could fly again. His enthusiasm was infectious and that excitement for flight remains with me to this day, just as it did for my father before me. Across three generations, flight has been a common theme and passion shared by Hayden’s family.

Whether Hayden ultimately seeks to pursue a career in aviation or flies solely for recreation is his choice alone. Either way, flight has created cherished memories for all in our family and will undoubtedly continue to do so for generations to come.