How to Start Flying while you're still at School

KiwiFlyer Training Article - Issue 53  2017 #4

New Zealand is well served by several organisations who make it their business to help develop your interest in flying.  Mostly volunteer based, these organisations offer a variety of ways for you to become involved in aviation, either for general interest, recreation, or with a career in mind.  The following is the text of an article I recently contributed to The KiwiFlyer Guide to Aviation Training.   I hope you find it helpful.


So, you like the idea of flying, but people have told you it is hard to get into and very expensive.  Well to an extent it is, but you might be interested to hear that there are many individuals, organisations, programmes and events that will help you explore and progress your interest, some at little or no cost.

In this article I will tell you about opportunities that are focused on helping you begin the process of learning to fly.  Such as, but not necessarily limited to:

         - The Walsh;

         - Youth Glide;

         - ATC;

         - ServiceIQ Aviation Gateway Training;

         - Young Eagles;  and,

         - Aeroclubs. 

The Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School

The Walsh is an annual two week tented flying camp held at Matamata in the Waikato for 16 to 20 year olds.  The camp is a National School of Scouting NZ and is supported by The Royal Aeronautical Society and a number of major corporates such as Air New Zealand and Airways Corp, as well as many smaller companies, individuals and the local community.

The school is established for up to 44 Ab-Initio (which literally means “from the beginning”) Students, 26 Returned Students and up to 4 Student Staff.  Members of Scouting NZ have priority for places up to the end or August and then remaining places are open to all applicants.  Overall about 40 to 50% of the students are from Scouting and about 25 to 30 are female, with that proportion growing.  The school has been over-subscribed for many years now, so a ballot is run to determine which of the applicants is fortunate enough to gain a position.  That said there are usually withdrawals for one reason or another, so the waiting list does get used. 

All staff, instructors and controllers attend on a voluntary basis, with varying levels of support from their employers.

For more information go to then click on NATIONAL SCHOOLS/Flying


Youth Glide

The Youth Glide Soaring Development Camp is a live-in event aimed at taking any gliding youngster, at any stage of flying, and helping them to develop further.  These events are run by Youth Glide New Zealand (YGNZ) which is a not-for-profit organisation providing education, tuition and training for all relevant skills necessary for gliding in NZ.  Participating students range in age from 14 to 24 years old.

Instructors, tow pilots and other helpers give freely of their time and expertise, many of whom come back year after year.  The programme is augmented by great educational and social events.

There is much more to Youth Glide than just getting young people into gliding, they benefit in so many other ways, such as providing positive interactions with adults and giving them goals for lifelong learning, recreation and careers.  Over the years many great friendships have been cemented at these camps, with competition for places at future camps now becoming quite tough.

While Youth Glide began in Omarama and Canterbury a similar but separate camp is now being run at Greytown in the Wairarapa and Youth Glide groups are now active in most gliding clubs.  There is an awful lot of effort, time and money going into helping young people fly gliders.

For more information go to


The Air Training Corp (ATC) National Aviation Course

The Air Training Corp is part of the New Zealand Cadet Forces (NZCF) and is for both girls and boys aged 13 to 18.  The NZCFs are a voluntary, disciplined, uniformed youth leadership training organisation and while they are not part of the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF), they are directed by the Chief of Defence Force, on behalf of the Minister of Defence, and are supported in partnership by the NZDF and the community.

One of the major events within the ATC is the National Aviation Course, which is a week-long flying course held at RNZAF Base Woodbourne in January each year.  While numbers are limited and students are picked from applicants around the country, in 2016 47 pilot and navigation cadets took part in this intensive flying course. 

While their friends were hitting the beach over the summer break, these ATC students spent the week studying everything from aircraft maintenance, pre-flight checks and radio procedures, to flying with a general aviation flying instructor.  By the end of the course the ATC cadets aim to pass their flight radio exam and get their wings by making their first solo flight.  The weather at Woodbourne in 2016 was kind and a better than average number of solo flights were achieved.

In the words of one parent;  “.... had an amazing time and came back so inspired and motivated.  We were thrilled about her achievements, so whomever needs to hear ‘thanks’ we cannot say it enough!”

The National Aviation Course is now a well established and successful feature of the ATC annual calendar.  The course enjoys a good level of financial support and awards from a number of very generous sponsors for which they are always most grateful.

For more information go to www.


ServiceIQ Aviation Gateway Training

ServiceIQ is the Industry Training Organisation (ITO) for aviation (including pilots), travel, tourism, museums, hospitality and retail, and is committed to helping young New Zealanders make a start in their careers.

ServiceIQ offers a wide range of training opportunities including the Aviation Gateway programme.  The purpose of this programme being to enable schools to provide senior students (year 11 and above) with access to structured workplace learning that helps them to kick-start their aviation career by gaining foundation knowledge, skills and experience, and to gain unit standards while doing so.

A student’s ultimate career role could be as a pilot, flight attendant, aeronautical engineer, airport operations manager, air traffic controller, academic, regulator, tourism operator, or many other related occupations.  The Aviation Gateway programme can also help students make professional contacts that can open doors in the future.

There are two types of Gateway training programmes available, either a programme ready made by ServiceIQ, or a DIY programme, where your school's Gateway Coordinators select the best ServiceIQ products to create a tailor-made learning programme for you.  Both of which take place in the classroom and/or an industry workplace.

ServiceIQ’s Aviation Gateway training programme is a fantastic way for you to get a feel for what it’s like to fly an aircraft, plus gain great insights about other roles in the aviation industry.  If your passion is to be a pilot, this first-time flying experience helps you gain acceptance into full-time flight training when you leave school.

You will do your training flight with a CAA qualified flying instructor at a local aero club during term time.  The programme usually takes about 10 weeks, and normally runs between 1.00pm and 3.30pm.

Students who successfully complete the programme will have gained:

         - Up to 18 credits towards a national qualification;

         - Up to three flights towards their Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL);

         - Real skills and knowledge of the aviation industry;  and,

         - An insight into many different career options.

ServiceIQ also offers a Gateway “Flying NZ” Flight Training Scholarship to a stand-out student who has successfully completed the Gateway Aviation training.

While the ServiceIQ Aviation Gateway training programme is not offered in all schools, it may be available in yours, so ask your school careers advisor, and if its not, encourage them to explore setting it up.

For more information go to


Young Eagles

Young Eagles is a aviation emersion programme for young people between the ages of 12 and 17.  It is offered by many aero clubs under the auspices of Flying New Zealand (the trading name of the Royal New Zealand Aero Clubs - RNZAC).  Young Eagle members will get the opportunity to experience many different aspects of aviation, from visiting air traffic control units and maintenance organisations, through to flying in an aircraft, with an instructor of course.  Young Eagles will have the opportunity to actually control the aircraft, experience how it works and look down on the world from inside the safety of an aircraft.

Whether you are interested in aviation for a career, for recreation or you are just curious to find out what it is all about, Young Eagles might just be the starting point for your aviation adventure.  If you are interested contact your local Aero Club and see if they offer the Young eagles programme.  If the aero club in your area doesn’t offer the Young eagles programme, maybe your enthusiasm will encourage them to join.

For more information go to


Aero Club Flying Days

In late 2016 the North Shore Aero Club held a Flying Day, in both fixed and rotary wing aircraft, for disadvantaged kids which was funded by the club committee and a number of club members and other individuals, some of whom also gave their time and aircraft for free.

The children were organised through Variety and Stand Children’s Services and about 50 children were taken on two or more flights each.  Some children wanted to fly the aircraft, some not, and a number of the flights required the children to be accompanied.  A major logistics exercise to organise.  To aid in managing the day, the children were formed into three groups, each with a different coloured high-vis vest.

Despite some mildly challenging weather conditions, the day was an unmitigated success, with the group photo showing many beaming smiles.  After certificates were handed out the kids treated those who had created their day to a “shy but sweet rendition of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ - priceless!”

Well done NSAC!


So as you can see, there are opportunities out there which will help you learn about the aviation industry and help you take those first tentative steps toward either a career or a recreational interest in aviation.  The opportunities I have touched on above may not be all that exist, and to the others I apologise for not mentioning you.

If you are interested, don’t sit back and wait for it to come to you.  My observation is that to be a professional in our industry takes a determined investment of effort, time and to some extent or other money.  It is not easy, but there are those prepared to help you, and most aviation professionals I know are passionate about their chosen careers.

If you want it - go for it.  And don’t let set-backs along the way discourage you.  Persevere.