Lift-off

Ben Lappin started learning to fly the day he turned 14. On his fifteenth birthday he flew his first solo in a Jabiru and also soloed in a glider. Ben’s mother Michelle, who’s both an RA-Aus instructor and Chief Flying Instructor of the Latrobe Valley Gliding Club, trained him for those achievements.

On the morning of his sixteenth birthday the young pilot soloed in his father Gerard’s Cessna 180, flew an aerobatic “sportsmen’s sequence” in a Decathlon, and then flew a Cessna172 solo “because everyone else has to fly a 172” and he’d never flown a nosewheel aircraft before!

After lunch he also flew as pilot in command in a two-seat Pitts Special S2A aerobatic aeroplane and in a retractable-gear Piper Arrow. On that same day his age qualified him to get an L plate so he could start learning to drive a car.

Ben qualified for his aerobatics endorsement as part of his general flying progress test (GFPT), and won his unrestricted private licence on his 17th birthday. He’s already chalking up successes in competition aerobatics and hoped to gain his commercial pilot licence the day he turned 18, when he also qualified for a probationary drivers’ P plate.

But when this was written the CPL was on hold because this young guy was nearing the end of Year 12 at school and wasn’t yet allowed to drive himself to the airport.

Also Gerard and Michelle had rationed his aerobatic flying in the Pitts to three 20-minute sessions a week because of homework commitments. He’s now also completed his B licence in skydiving, he’s finished his parachute jump pilot training and drops parachutists from the C180 or a C182; he has a 500 ft aerobatics approval and a glider air experience instructor rating, and he’s also a trained glider tug pilot. He hopes to join the Royal Australian Air Force.

001a Ben and David Foord

Ben and fellow-aerobatics enthusiast David Foord

We’re guessing that Ben will soon be building his hours flying with Gerard’s Latrobe Valley business, Aerial Extras Pty Limited. Michelle explains: “We do all the things in aviation that other people don’t want to do, but we specialise in tailwheel operations and aerobatics training.” The ‘other things’ include fire-bombing, low level power line patrols, instructing in various other specialised aerial work operations, parachute dropping, and glider towing. (Gerard’s also a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer and a tandem parachuting master.)

Having completed his CPL Ben has now completed a season with one of aviation’s most successful and professional scenic flight operators, Alligator Airways, flown for Trevor Wright’s Lake Eyre operation at William Creek, done a lot of aerial survey flying in the Pilbara, and is currently flying tourists with a floatplane operator in Tasmania.

It’s pretty much a certainty that Ben will be involved in aviation for as long as there are aeroplanes to fly.

At ProAviation.com.au we know there are lots of young people like Ben who want to make flying their career. We also know that there are literally thousands of folks out there, young, middle-aged or older, who’d like to learn to fly but haven’t got around to gathering the information so they don’t know what they’re missing. Some of these people would find a recreational or private pilot licence a wonderful asset because it allows them either to rent an aeroplane occasionally for touring or sightseeing, or to buy one they can fly any time they like. For others it would be a new asset for their business, extending their boundaries and vastly saving their own time and travel costs or those of key employees. And your aeroplane’s still available for family holiday touring.

If you want to know about learning to fly just for pleasure, or for business, or as a career, we’re here to help you and we’ll be providing and continually updating a virtual encyclopaedia of information on every aspect of learning to fly.

In any case the first step is to gain your own pilot licence. So start with the next article that will explain some of the basic decisions you’ll need to make if you want to get your money’s worth from this great adventure.

This site will bring you new information at least every week, but if there’s anything you don’t understand about what we publish you only need to go to the queries section, pop us a question, and we’ll do our best to help you.

The sooner you start flying, the more of your life you can spend doing it. And you’re going to love it.

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