Then National, Wednesday 12th September, 2012
PAPUA New Guinean Yarrawe Unamba, 21, has broken with tradition from a family full of doctors to study to become a pilot at an Australian aviation school.
Unamba, a student at the Gold Coast Airport-based Australian Wings Academy, said it offered a hands-on, practical training course than in PNG.
The Gold Coast flying school had become a breeding ground for international commercial airline pilots, with hundreds of students from around the world paying A$100,000 to study aviation in the city.
The academy had taken hundreds of wannabe pilots through their 12-month Certificate IV in Aviation to obtain their commercial pilot licence, with most of them returning to their home country to be snapped up by the major airlines.
The academy’s general manager Carolyn Thorburn said past graduates were now piloting international commercial flights for Air Asia X, Emirates, Etihad, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, Eva Air and Oman Air along with Australian domestic airlines Tiger Airways, Virgin Australia and Jetstar.
“We are airline-focused and deliver what they want so students that graduate from the academy are often picked straight up by the airlines when they return home,” Thorburn said.
“They finish the course with about 200 flying hours.”
William Basquini, 31, travelled all the way from Brazil to learn to be a pilot and described his first solo flight as amazing.
“I couldn’t even breathe, I just was thinking ‘is it true’?” he said.
The full-time course included a six-week navigational diploma at the end, teaching pilots to use navigational instruments to fly without visuals.
Chief flying instructor Gannon Hempel said the students learnt in Cessnas and Diamond DA40s, flying after just one week and taking their first solo flight after 10 to 15 hours of supervised flying.
They start by lapping the airport grounds, then progress to cross-country flying to the Sunshine Coast, Lismore, Tenterfield and Stanthorpe to prepare for the international flying aspect.
Hundreds of qualified pilots have graduated from the academy since it refocused the business to commercial airlines in 2006. – Gold Coast Sun