On 14th February, 2016, a day for celebrating those you love, I celebrated my love of the skies and flew solo for the first time. It was an amazing experience.

I’ve studied aviation theory at Snowy Mountains Grammar School for the past three years and last year was thrilled to receive a $1,500 scholarship from Jindabyne Aero Club. This generous funding gave me the opportunity to commence my flying career.

Having completed thirteen hours of dual instruction and sitting the theory exams, Martin Hughes, my instructor from Alpine Aviation Australia, flew a dual check flight with me on Saturday 13th February, which included several circuits and a simulated engine failure, before informing me that he considered me to be ready to go solo.

We decided to wait until the next day so that my parents could be there, and on Sunday morning we rolled the Jabiru out of the hangar and completed our pre-flight checks. After three circuits, Martin was happy to let me go solo.

With a few nerves, I carried out my pre-takeoff checks, lined up and completed my final checks; runway, flaps to half and wind direction – I pushed in the throttle and was away.

In Jindabyne, wind direction and turbulence off the mountains are two of the biggest considerations that pilots encounter. Immediately after I became airborne, the wind changed direction through 90 degrees, resulting in some turbulence on the final approach that required me to call on additional skills my instructor had taught me to control the aircraft and land safely.

I heard “Congratulations ,Toli” over the radio and couldn’t believe I’d actually completed my first solo flight and landed safely in one piece.

On clearing the runways, I made my final call and checks before cutting the engine and letting the adrenaline flood through me.

Thank you to Martin, my instructor, and Mr. Ryrie, my SMGS teacher who runs the aviation studies program, who have supported and encouraged me to realise my dream.


Snowy Mountains Grammar School Aviation Program

The Aviation program at SMGS is one of the few aviation educational opportunities offered at Senior School level in Australia.

The course offers those students who are interested in flying for recreation or as a career, the opportunity to begin their aviation studies while still at school. Participants study aviation theory as well as participating in flying lessons.

To learn more about the Aviation Program at SMGS, click here