Jindabyne local and aspiring pilot Aidan Dawson celebrated his 15th birthday in January by taking his maiden solo flight, two years before he can legally drive a car on his own and two months after being confined to a wheelchair with a broken leg.
Aidan, a Snowy Mountains Grammar School (SMGS) Aviation student, has been flying with Alpine Aviation Australia (AAA) from Jindabyne Airport since he was 13-years-old and always hoped he could take his first solo flight on his 15th birthday, the earliest legal age to fly solo in Australia.
That dream seemed unlikely when Aidan, a mogul skier, had a season-ending injury in early September when he suffered multiple broken bones in his left leg. He was confined to a wheelchair and full-leg cast for 12 weeks and began unassisted walking just before Christmas.
During his time of immobility, Aidan worked with AAA instructor Martin Hughes and SMGS Aviation teacher Phil Ryrie to complete his theory exams in preparation for his Recreational Pilot Certificate and solo flight. Aviation is an elective at SMGS and Aidan has been an Aviation student since Year 7.
After Aidan was given the medical all-clear to resume flying and was back in the skies over Jindabyne in preparation for his solo flight on his 15th birthday.
The weather obliged and Aidan completed his first solo flight in a Jabiru 120 from Jindabyne airport on January 27, with a smooth take-off and landing.
The teenager admitted he was feeling nervous in the lead-up to his solo flight but once he was alone in the plane, his experience kicked in and he felt confident.
“I thought I was going to be super nervous flying solo but I actually felt fine,” Aidan said.
“I’ve flown the circuit so many times so it didn’t feel too different. I’ve always loved flying and I’m so happy to have achieved my first solo flight on my 15th birthday, on my way to getting my full pilot’s licence.”
Martin was also thrilled Aidan had achieved his first solo flight on his 15th birthday, as he had been ready to fly solo six months earlier but his age, and then injury, prohibited it.
“Aidan has been champing at the bit to go solo for some time but he had to wait until his 15th birthday,” Martin said.
“It’s a great achievement on his birthday.”
Aidan is a fourth-generation pilot, following in the footsteps of his uncle, grandfather and two great great uncles, one of whom was trained by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith before being shot down in battle over France during World War II, while the other was one of the first Qantas captains.
Aidan is now working towards gaining his full Recreational Pilot Certificate and then his Private Pilot Licence.