Posted on

The seven crucial things every parent must know before their child learns to fly

student learning to fly

The seven crucial things every parent must know before their child learns to fly

learn to fly

Congratulations (or commiserations) on having a child who wants to become a pilot. Most likely your child will say they want to become an airline pilot but it’s also possible they want to become a helicopter or military pilot. 

Let’s assume that you have decided that, as a loving parent, you want to support their dreams as best you can while also being a bit nervous that your child is going to be learning to fly. I get calls each week from parents who don’t know where to start when it comes to giving their child the best chance of obtaining employment as a pilot in the aviation industry.

To help those parents,  I have outlined in this blog seven critical points every parent should know, to help their child get started on their journey.

Does your child’s health meet the minimum required to be a commercial pilot?

There is no real point in getting a child’s hopes up for becoming an airline pilot if they do not meet the medical requirements for a class 01 commercial medical. If your child is healthy, not overweight and does not have any medical issues they would most likely pass a medical. Some of the health issues that may stop your child from becoming a commercial pilot, are: colour blindness, eyesight cannot be corrected properly with glasses, obesity and weight issues, diabetes, heart or respiratory issues. Also any history of mental illness or personality disorders may also preclude your child. 

If you are still concerned, I would suggest booking an appointment with your local doctor to see if there is any health issue that may preclude them from being a pilot. If you’re really concerned you can also book an appointment with an approved a designated aviation medical examiner (also known as a DAME). You can go onto the CASA website  You don’t have to book in a full medical for your child but you can book an appointment to discuss your concerns with your DAME. If there are any issues they can even provide possible solutions to improve the health issue before the child starts their flight training. 

Does your child have a realistic idea of what it is like to be a professional pilot?

There is a reason why schools run work experience programs: to give your child a good idea of what it would be like to work in a particular industry. Many younger children like the idea of flying but really have no idea if what is like to be a career pilot. A lot of young students have an unrealistic idea of that it is like to be a professional pilot.

In many instances they may have seen advertising showing how glamorous or adventurous it is being a professional pilot. While there is an element of truth to this, there is also a lot of other not so great things about being a pilot. For instance, becoming an airline pilot quite often involves a considerable amount of time away from home. This can be stressful, particularly if you have a partner or family. It is important that your child has a balanced view of their future career.  If they have a realistic idea of what is involved and still want to proceed with learning to fly, then you know that they really have a passion for flying and it’s not just a passing fad. 

Our own GoFly Online website has interviews with Airline Pilots and you can also search YouTube for interviews with military pilots and airline pilots, to get a better understanding of what it is like working in this type of profession. I always tell my own children to choose work they enjoy and which is meaningful to them. I also tell them that no job or career will be perfect and there will be aspects of the work that you will not like, however if you love what you do the upside more than compensates for any downside.

The younger they start, the easier it will be to eventually secure a job

One of the key items a future employer is looking for in a pilot is how committed and passionate that individual is about flying. The best way to prove this to a future employer is by starting to fly at an early age. It shows that the individual is disciplined, committed and passionate about flying. The other advantage is that airlines and the Air Force are looking for a good return on their “pilot” investments. It costs a lot of money for an airline or the Air Force to train a commercial pilot on their own aircraft. They would prefer to spend the money on a young pilot and keep that employee for 30 years than employ an older pilot and only employ them for ten years. A younger pilot means less turnover and reduces the costs of training.

 The other huge advantage to starting young is they are less likely to be in a steady relationship with kids and a mortgage. While you are  young and single, the cost of living is generally cheaper and you can focus all your time and energy on your career. You will also find it easy to relocate to get that first flying job if partners and kids are not involved. Generally the older you get, the more responsibilities and assets you have which make it harder to transition to a new career.

Book a trial introductory flight to make sure they still want to be a pilot

This one is a must. If your child shows a lot of interest in becoming a pilot then book them a trial flight with a reputable flight school near you. A trial flight is basically a casual introductory lesson that allows students to decide if they want to continue flight training. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to have a one-on one chat with a real flight instructor on the pros and cons of learning to fly and getting a job as a pilot. The instructor can also put a plan in place for the student getting their licence – whether that’s by full-time or part-time lessons.

Get them to do some flight lessons while at school

A lot of our flight school students start learning to fly with us around the age of 14. Many of them have achieved their Pilot Certificate at 15 or 16 before they can legally drive a car. The majority of these students are obsessed with flying and many of them actually pay for the flight training themselves by working part-time jobs.

 A lot of parents have the fear that if their child focuses too much on learning to fly, their school grades may be affected,  however I have discovered the opposite is true: most of them work harder at school so they can have the best grades they can when applying for a future airline or the Air Force. When your child has a clear idea of their future career, they find it easier to justify the study involved to get there. The other benefit of flight training is it teaches your child to be disciplined and focused.

Paying for it: self-funded, VET fee, military training or cadetship?

This is always one of the first questions I get from parents whose child wants to learn to fly. May I suggest as well as this article you read my other blog called ‘How to become an employed airline pilot, while working and without having rich parents‘.

As previously stated, many of our younger flying students pay for their own training with part time jobs. If they can save $100 per week they can do a lesson every two to three weeks.  I would always recommend students paying for their own training if possible or at least some of their training, with their parents’ help. The other options are personal loans, VET fee or an Airline Cadetship. VET fee is a Government loan scheme that assists eligible students to pay their tuition fees for higher-level vocational education and training (VET) courses (at the diploma-level and above) undertaken at approved providers. The student will start paying off the loan once they start earning over a certain amount. The important thing to remember with VET fee is that it is still a debt and the average Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) VET fee amount has another $20,000 administration fee  on top of the cost of the flight training.

It is not uncommon for the student to be left with a VET fee debt of around $100,000 when they finish flight training. I employ instructors who will be paying off student loans for the next 10-12 years. While I am not totally against VET fee, I still think the best option is to just take longer to get your licence and pay for the training yourself. While this may take an extra three years to complete your training, you will have no debt at the end of your training.

The major airlines do offer ‘Cadetships’ from time to time, however most of these Cadetship still use the VET fee program and students will incur debt. I personally think this type of VET fee is justifiable because at least you are offered a job with a major airline at the end of your training. The airlines offering cadetships prefer you to have some initial flight training experience before you apply, so this is another great reason why doing some flight lessons while still at school is a great idea.

They can actually start learning about flying long before they begin their flight training

If your child is too young to learn to fly or cannot afford to start flight training yet, there are still things you can do NOW to prepare them for flight trainig. I suggest they explore our new GoFly Online website were there are over 50 free videos about learning to fly and interviews about what is involved in becoming an airline pilot. These videos will greatly help your child decide if they want to become a commercial pilot and start learning to fly. There is also a Basic subscription option, which includes all the pre-flight briefings and in-flight lessons for the Recreational Pilot Certificate. These lessons will greatly assist with all the procedures that are required for a student to be a safe and competent pilot well before they begin their training. The videos will help them maintain their motivation. The earlier you start fueling their passion the easier it will be later for them to stay motivated through their flight training.

The future for air travel is very bright with new technology such as VTOL (vertical take off and landing) and new electric aircraft technology. This is a very exciting time to be learning how to fly, and as a former 15 year old boy who scraped together his own money for flying – and as a parent of four children – I know how important it is to encourage your child to follow their dreams from as young an age as possible. 

Damien Wills

CEO, GOFly Group

To read more of Damien’s aviation blogs, click here.

Posted on

Five things you must know before choosing a Flight School


Five things you must know before choosing a flight school


1 How to compare apples with apples

 It is no surprise that the second most visited page on the GoFly website is the ‘fleet and pricing’ page. 

Price is important for most customers however the issue with pricing is that most flight schools do not disclose their full costs. For instance many flying schools show the hourly rate and briefing rate but not advise that there are landing charges. Most customers only look at the hourly flying rate but when you add on all the other items such as briefings and landing charges, this can increase each lesson costs by around 30 percent.

The other very important thing to ask the school is if they are quoting course costs based on the legal minimum hours to get your licence. For instance, we know of other flight schools who often quote their Recreational Pilot Certificate course at around $8,000. This quote is based on the student getting their licence in the minimum 20 hours required. The issue with this is that it sets up a false expectation because very few pilots get their licence in the minimum legal amount of time – and if they do I would be questioning the quality of their training. If the flight school is honest and playing fair they should be listing an average price for their course based on an average student or giving an expected price range.  For instance, a good way of advertising this would be to say ‘Our Recreational Pilot Certificate takes 20 to 25 hours of flight training and costs between $5,980 to $7475, depending on individual competency’. 

Ask the flight school ‘What is the cost per hour for your flying lessons including briefings?’ Then ask ‘How long is the average time a student takes to complete their training?’. You can then simply do the maths yourself and work out a rough realistic price. If the flight school can’t give you an answer or deflects the questions, I suggest you look for another flying school.

Another warning sign is if the flight school asks you to pay for the whole course upfront. You should be able to pay as you go.

2 Quality is more important than price

A cheaply-priced flight school does not always mean it is the best choice for you. It is the quality of pilot training that is important. Obviously price is important, but if a cheaper flight school offers lower quality training you may have saved some money but is it worth the risk of not being the best pilot you can be? The biggest issue when you’re still researching a flight school is how to determine quality. Obviously every owner of every flight school thinks they offer the best quality of instruction, so taking the owner’s word for it is not the most reliable way of determining this.

The best way to determine quality is to do some simple research. Firstly, I believe that quality flows through everything a business does. For starters, what is the flight school’s website like? Has it had a lot of thought and energy and effort put into making it easy to navigate for the user? Or is the website just a big sales ad telling you how good the flight school is and how cheap their prices are? Is there valuable information on the website to streamline your decision making? Does the website show the facilities and aircraft and do they look well cared for? Does the website have a large focus on the customer and staff? Read the testimonials but remember that they will only put positive ones on the website.

Go to their Facebook and Instagram pages and look for reviews. Type the flight school name in the Google search window and look at all the reviews on Google. This is a good way to see both positive and negative reviews, to help you make your decision. Join some Pilot forums on Facebook or elsewhere and ask other students, pilots and graduates which schools they recommend in your area.

3 Sausage factory or personalised service?

There is no doubt that all flying schools are different. The most important question initially for yourself is whether you are wanting to fly for fun or for a career? Many of the bigger flight schools can afford better simulators, more expensive and newer aircraft and better facilities. I believe there is a cut-off point though, where some of the larger schools stop offering personalised service in favour of profit-making volume. Ask yourself, do I want to learn at a large corporate school that pushes through hundreds of commercial pilots a year, or a smaller school that is more flexible? If you want to fly just for fun then maybe a larger corporate school is not for you. Remember bigger is not always better. Within the industry, the larger schools that offer VET fee and train hundreds of overseas students are commonly known as sausage factories. They are designed to do a job and that job is to churn out as many Commercial pilots as possible to satisfy their overseas contracts or VET-fee obligations. 

There is nothing wrong with this but do not expect individual attention or for them to remember your name. Likewise, some flying schools may be too small for you. They may only have one aircraft and one instructor. If you want variety of aircraft and flying instructors and more flexibility, this small school may not be the best. Work out what type of aviation school you want to fly with and this will help reduce your search criteria when choosing a flight school.

4 Sometimes two flight schools are better than one

One of the biggest myths that flight schools try to promulgate is that you must complete ALL of your flight training with them. What if you find a great recreational school that you love flying at but you’re not sure of their Commercial Pilot Licence program? Or what if you have just finished your flight training at your flight school and now want to do a tailwheel conversion or Aerobatics endorsement and the school you learnt at does not offer it? 

The good news is that your flight hours and experience are transferable to any pilot training school.

It also doesn’t matter whether you start off flying a Recreational Aircraft or a General Aviation aircraft as they all count towards your CPL licence if you wish to continue. For instance, I started my training with the Australian Air League in Sydney in a small Cessna 152 many years ago. The flight school was run by volunteer instructors and the quality of training was fantastic but they only trained up to PPL level. I learnt to fly there up to PPL then finished my CPL training at a school in QLD. By doing it this way I saved myself around $15,000 in flight training and got to experience two great flight schools.

So if you are very happy with a school that can conduct your initial training but can’t fulfill your advance training (such as multi-engine rating) don’t let it preclude you from starting your training with that school.

5. Visit their facilities and meet one of their instructors

This one is a must. There are two ways to do this. Firstly, you can ask the flight school if you can visit the school and talk to an instructor and see the aircraft. Do not feel bad about asking for this. Any quality flying academy or school would be more than happy to spend 20 minutes talking to you and showing you around their facilities. Make sure you book in a time and stick to that time. If the school will not talk to you unless you book a flight with them, then choose another school. Secondly, you can take a Trial Introductory Flight. All schools offers them and they allow you to see if you actually like flying and to observe the quality of instruction and instructors before you commit. It is a real flight lesson and will count towards your first certificate.

If the flight school only offers meetings with a receptionist and not a flight instructor, then once again, I suggest you choose another school that will. When you meet the instructor you can then get a feel for how much they care for you as a future student and how professional and friendly they are. You can also observe the condition of the facilities and the condition of the aircraft. If the facilities are worn, old and run down this could be a sign that the owner does not care or the business is not doing too well. The same goes for the aircraft. While most flight schools won’t have brand new aircraft, do take a look at what condition are they in. Are they fairly clean? Does it appear the staff and business care about the condition of the aircraft.  The impression you get from your first visit will help you decide on whether to start training with that school. You might also like to ask to see the syllabus or whether it is online for you to view. And if you intend finishing your next level of training at another school, you might like to ask where they will keep your flight records, so that you know this school will be able to send them to the next school in a timely manner. You might like to see the room where their briefings are done and ask questions about which textbooks they use at their school.

And finally, ask them what I call the Kamikaze question, as you leave: ‘Why should I choose your flight school over all the other nearby flight schools?’ Their response may surprise or shock you, or it may be exactly what you want to hear and it will definitely help you decide.

All the best with your future flight training!

Damien Wills

CEO GoFly Group

Click on this link to see our RPC, RPL, PPL, CPL syllabus and licence prices.

Click on this link to read further aviation blogs by Damien.

When deciding which flight school to learn to fly at, it can be tempting to choose one for the hourly rate alone. When comparing flight school prices, make sure you ask about any other briefing fees or compulsory theory book purchases on top of the cost of flying. Sometimes, what might look like a really low hourly rate for an RPC, turns out to be the same as every other school, once you add in all those extra costs. We recommend you visit the school, ask lots of questions and take a trial flight to see whether you like their aircraft and teaching style.

Posted on

Why Virtual Reality simulation is going to be awesome

3 screen sim

Why Virtual Reality flight simulation is going to be awesome... eventually!

online flying lessons using VR headsets
3 screen sim

The team at GoFly Aviation are always looking for ways to improve the flight training experience for our student pilots. We’d already had reasonable results with virtual reality (VR) headsets and our 360-degree video lessons. In February, as a trial, we introduced the Oculus Rift headset with X Plane software as part of our research and development program, to see the potential for this technology to assist and enhance the flight training experience. 


My good friend – and IT visionary – Jeremy, warned me that a VR flight simulator is still bleeding-edge technology and not quite leading-edge. In other words, the technology is not quite there yet and could be more trouble than it’s worth. 


Being an eternal optimist, I did not heed his warning and decided to test the technology with some of our flight students. Several students took part in this research & development project, and I have outlined below the things we discovered over the course of a few months of using this technology – both the good and the bad.


Suspension of disbelief – most of the time!


The first time you enter the virtual work in Xplane is absolutely awesome! Sitting in the cockpit of a Cessna 172 on the apron, waiting to taxi to the runway you are automatically shocked at the incredible realism that surrounds you. You do feel as though you are really there. You can look behind you and see all the rear seats and the hangars located behind the aircraft. You really do feel like you are in a real aircraft about to go flying. There is no doubt the designers of both X plane and Oculus have done an incredible job.


After experiencing this for the first time you can imagine the incredible potential this technology promises, however……


The Pixel Problem

While the graphics are very good, most of the current VR headsets including the Oculus, offer around 1080 by 1200 pixels per eye. This means that you can see slight pixelation when viewing the imagery. The resolution is not quite good enough to look at a number on an EFIS flight display without leaning forward to increase the image size. This can be distracting, particular if you trying to maintain a healthy airspeed on final approach!

If you were thinking about using VR for serious instrument flying forget it; at the moment it’s just too hard to read all the instruments accurately without being a distraction.


Field of Vision (FOV) lacks enough vision

Field of view in relation to the human eye is how much our eyes can see the horizon looking forward both horizontally and vertically. We are mainly concerned with horizontal field of view with VR. The average human eye can see around 150 to 170 degree field of view of the horizon. 


Currently most VR headsets allow you to see around 110-degree field of view or around 65% of what you can see in real life with your real eyes. The best way to describe how this affects your vision in the virtual world is to try and imagine learning to fly wearing a scuba mask. Obviously your ability to judge depth will be severely limited if you had to learn to fly with a scuba mask on.


The biggest issue is that when you are landing you have to move you head slightly to see the side of the runway to get a better idea of height off the runway.  It’s still light years ahead visually compared to using a single computer monitor, but it’s still not great.


Who took my hands?

The other issue with the VR is that if you have your simulator set up correctly with the VR headset you will have a throttle and control column and rudder pedals. While you can see these items in the VR world they may not match the real word. If you’re smart you can align them to match the real hardware in the real world but this is not easy to do. The other main issue is you cannot see you hands in the virtual world. This can be confusing and disorientating particularly if you want to set radio frequencies or select flaps. You have to use a mouse or oculus controllers to interact with anything in the cockpit. Add to this the fact that you have to lean forward to read small numbers, it becomes a little tedious.


The spooky invisible flight instructor

A big issue with using VR for dual flight simulation training is that you cannot see your flight instructor sitting beside you in the plane and it is impossible to interact with the student visually while they have the VR headsets on. Yes you can talk to them but it’s not quite the same as being beside them and being able to communicate face to face. This might be a good thing if you are not an attractive flight instructor but I still believe most students want to be able to see their flight instructor.


I’m feeling sick and we haven’t even left the ground yet

Another big issue we discovered and I do mean BIG was VR sickness. Currently around 30 to 40 percent of VR users report getting motion sickness from using VR flight simulation. For actual real flight training it is around 5%. Perhaps users might get used to it the more they use it but it’s not a great marketing ploy to have to tell our customers ‘Don’t worry, you will only have to go through four sickbags before you start enjoying the experience.’


Who is sneaking up behind me

The other surprising feedback we encountered is that customers didn’t really like being stuck in a room and not knowing who might be sneaking up behind them. Once you are in the virtual world, you have no idea who is in the room with you. This can be unnerving for many students and offers the opportunity for some great practical jokes and Facebook posts.

You can learn to fly with corrective glasses but you just can’t use VR

Another surprising issue we discovered was with the students who wear corrective lenses. While most VR headsets advertise that you can wear corrective glasses with the VR headset, in (virtual) reality we found wearing corrective glasses didn’t work well. They made the headsets uncomfortable and let light in the side of the headsets. 


It’s not all bad (if you like to fly alone)

Most of the issues we experienced were to do with using the simulation for dual training. The best use for the VR is personal use to practice on your own. If you’re willing to put in more than 10 hours of your time on how to use this technology (over a few days) to get over the potential sickness, then this is an awesome training tool to practice what you have already learnt during your real flight training.


You’re not going to win any awards with your better half or kids for being antisocial while using it (as it really blocks the entire world out) but it does feel very much like the real thing once you get used to its quirky issues.


Yes Jeremy you are always right…

I learnt that my friend Jeremy is normally right when it comes to predicting technology issues and trends. It was good to go through the process because it helped us design a new Flight Simulator that was easier to use and was designed for Dual Flight training. We have just finished building this new simulator that we have nicknamed the Sling Sim. It uses 3 large LCD screens side by side to give better peripheral depth perception while landing; has dual controls; and the student can now see a real instructor and not get motion sickness before they get in a real plane.


We will be using this virtual reality simulator to prepare our students for their ‘reality’. I am surprised more flight schools do not do this as simulators are a great tool for teaching the basics of flight training and enhancing the memory of procedures.


The Future of VR

My gut tells me that the future of VR flight simulation will be a mixture of solo use VR simulators with improved pixelation along with field of view headsets and the introduction of augmented-reality dual-training simulations that mix the best of both worlds. 


Augmented-reality has the potential of being a game changer for simulation as it allows you to still see the physical controllers and flight instructors while simulating the visual scenery outside the cockpit. The potential applications for this technology are huge but I still believe this is probably 5 to 10 years away.


If you’re still not sure of whether you should buy a virtual reality headset for your flight simulator, I suggest you go flying while wearing a scuba mask to see if you can tolerate the limitations (only joking). It really is a personal decision. If I was learning to fly and had the funds, I would purchase a computer that could run both a standard flight sim like X plane on a large LCD screen and have an Oculus as well. I could practice circuits or basic maneouvres in the VR world (or fly an F18 for fun!) and later in my training I could practice instrument flying on the standard sim using the LCD monitor so that I can read all the instruments properly.


I really believe proper flight simulation is a fantastic tool to enhance all types of flight training if given the correct instruction and then used correctly.


Happy and safe flying, in the air and in your lounge room!



CEO GoFly Group


Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien

Posted on Leave a comment

Let’s make Australian flight training great again!

Damien wiIlls on aviation

Let's make Australian flight training great again!

Damien wiIlls on aviation

I have been involved with the aviation industry now for over thirty years. I have been a charter pilot and flight instructor and have now owned my flight school for almost ten years.

While I don’t consider myself an expert, the fact remains that my business is still thriving despite the current doom and gloom portrayed in the media about the demise of General Aviation and the inability of CASA and other governing bodies to assist the General Aviation industry.

The local news is full of articles about the current and projected pilot shortage and the difficulties General Aviation is having in remaining viable in this country. Add to this the other stories suggesting our entire General Aviation fleet (or what’s left of it) and the news that a lot of our flight schools are being sold to China, then it is no wonder the general public (and future pilots) are becoming concerned.

I am amazed at how many flight school owners and aviation enthusiasts love to complain to the media how tough General Aviation is, but cannot offer any solutions to the issues facing the industry. I would suggest that instead of complaining about the current state of the industry (no one likes a whinger) we should look for ways to improve the current system.

The only two constructive news stories I have read in the last year are:

  1. Flight One’s Managing Director, Lucas Tisdall, working with USQ on trying to understand the challenges and opportunities which face the general aviation community. They will be visiting up to 150 flight schools to gather feedback on what will make General Aviation great again.
  2. The news that the Department of Infrastructure and Transport’s think-tank, the General Aviation Advisory Group (GAAG) released their GA Flight Plan strategy in mid 2018. The GA Flight Plan stems from the work of GAAG and the BITRE GA Study conducted last year by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics  and comprises three main priorities: (i) Develop a broad long-term strategic perspective for GA (ii) Propose how air safety regulation can support GA through clear, consistently applied and proportionally responsible administration and (iii) maintain and enhance GA industry capability through workforce planning and access to airspace and infrastructure.

While flight training numbers in General Aviation have been on the decline, student numbers for recreational flying schools have been increasing. This is not surprising given the cost difference for training and the age difference in the aircraft. I hear a lot of individuals complaining that General Aviation Schools have a disadvantage over Recreational Flight Schools in relation to compliance costs, such as having to obtain an AOC. Another issue is the instructors leaving the schools to join the airlines, making it difficult for businesses to maintain adequate staffing levels.

We all want the same thing

Why is there currently still some hostility between RAA and GA schools and governing bodies? The reality is that we ALL want the same outcome: to grow and promote flight training in Australia. Why do we have a General Aviation versus Recreational Aviation mentality?

Below I will offer some possible solutions to key issues affecting the flight training community, as a talking point to generate interest in improving the Australian General and Recreational Aviation industries.

  • Allow General Aviation Part 141 schools (non-integrated) to more easily be approved similar Recreational Aviation Flight Schools

This would not reduce safety, you would still need to to meet the the current Part 141 requirements. I would suggest a simple checklist of the requirements then a set fee (say $3,000) for a CASA-approved person to audit the new school and give approval. The audit process would be annual.

  • Allow Light Sport Aircraft to be dual registered as VH as well as Recreational, so flight schools can better utilise these aircraft for General Aviation training or Recreational Aviation training

Presently you can register many of the RAA aircraft as a VH-registered aircraft. For instance at GoFly Aviation we have recreational Sling aircraft, however, we could have VH-registered one or more of them and used them for PPL, controlled airspace and night training, using a General Aviation instructor (Grade 3 or above). Under the present rules, if we had done that, they could no longer be used for Recreational flight training. This is a crazy situation. A common sense approach would be to allow the aircraft to be dual registered so they can be used for both types of training and thereby offer a better financial return for the flight school and better price for the students. RAA would still receive their registration fees and everyone wins. One way to do this would be to simply add the letter ‘R’ after the VH registration to let people know that the plane was also registered for Recreational training.

  • Allow CPL flight tests to be conducted in High Performance Recreational Aircraft (plus 120 kts, retractable, adjustable prop)

One of the reasons GA is dying and Recreational flying is increasing is that most new students are not excited when they sit in a 20-30 year old Cessna 172. Young students who have grown up with high tech devices DO NOT want to fly in old Cessnas.

Recreational aircraft are modern and innovative aircraft available for a fraction of the purchase price of new equivalent General Aviation aircraft. Recently, one of my friends who is a 737 Captain mentioned that one of my Slings had the same level of advanced avionics as the 737s which he flies.

Other than weight, I do not see any difference in doing a CPL flight test in a high performance 120 kt plus Light Sport aircraft compared to a Cessna. I have heard the argument, ‘A student will not be able to get a job as a charter pilot once they complete their CPL if they don’t train in a high performance type aircraft’. To counter that argument, I suggest that the student can simply get endorsed on the type of aircraft which they are looking to fly, after they have completed their CPL. For instance, get a Cessna 182 endorsement if you want to work for a company which uses Cessna 182s. None of my recreational flying students have had any issue transitioning to heavier aircraft; the weight is never the issue, it is more the higher speed. Weight is a consideration going from a Sling to say, a 210. Landing configuration and methods of holding off are different. The principle is the same however. And let’s not forget that these aircraft are far more environmentally friendly than their older counterparts.

  • Allow RAA instructors (if they hold a CPL) to easily transition to a General Aviation Grade 3 Instructor

This would offer better career transition for recreational instructors and maybe alleviate the future shortage of flight instructors. Flight training is meant to be competency-based, so if an instructor does not meet the required competency level then they simply do not pass the course.

  • Make all instructor grades competency-based rather than based on minimum instructional hours as they currently are

Making all instructor grades competency-based would allow any instructor to sit a flight review for a higher grade of instructor without having to have the prerequisite instructional hours. I know many senior CPL-qualified RAA instructors who have their Grade 3 Instructor rating, however their ab initio hours on an RAA aircraft currently do not count towards getting their Grade 2 licence. This is ridiculous and goes against the entire concept of competency-based testing.

Another alternative would be to offer a ‘higher grade instructor course’. Instead of having to have the minimum hours, you could undergo a 10 hour dual training Grade 3 to Grade 2 course, to improve your standards to the required competency.

  • Allow CASA exams to be conducted in-house in the student’s flight school with video supervision

To attract and keep more students we should be making sure the exam process is easy for the student. Why put the student through the added stress of travelling long distances to an approved exam centre? By using readily available technology, every flight school could host exams at set times twice per week with the exam room monitored not only by the staff but also via video link to a central CASA auditing team (or independent company).

  • Allow Multi Engine Instrument ratings to be conducted in single-engine aircraft with the multi-engine component conducted in a Category B simulator

This would alleviate flight schools from having to purchase and maintain expensive twin-engine aircraft. Airlines are starting to accept direct entry pilots who have single-engine turbine time but no twin engine aircraft experience (although you would still need a twin-rating IFR).

I believe that unless you want to conduct twin-engine charter in a light aircraft, the twin-engine instrument rating requirement is ridiculous. There are many General Aviation schools struggling to keep and maintain ageing twin-engine training aircraft when the aircraft is being utilised for less than 20% of each CPL student’s training. This is not sustainable.

If CASA allowed the flying component to be conducted in a more cost effective single-engine aircraft and the twin component to be conducted in a CAT-B sim, the costs for training would be far lower for both the school and the student.

If you want to fly a twin-engine Baron for charter work, then simply get a Baron endorsement after your training (you will need to do this anyway). Most charter companies will be supervising you in command under supervision (ICUS) for the first 20 or so hours anyway.

  • Allow flight simulators to complement all flight training

Simulators are becoming more cost-effective and more realistic and we need innovative ways to incorporate this training into flight schools. Once again this would attract younger pilots into flight training and benefit them as they are used to using VR headsets and X Box simulators etc.

  • Allow overseas companies to buy a maximum of 49% ownership of Australian flight schools

I have no issue with training non-Australian pilots and I truly believe that this is a great way to grow and sustain the Australian flight training industry, but I also believe that we should keep our flight schools Australian-owned and not minimise the flight training opportunities for Australian students.

  • Allow progressive VET fee for all flight schools (Recreational and General Aviation)

VET fee should be accessible to all flight schools and students (providing they have passed their CPL theory subjects:  if you’ve passed your CPL theory subjects then you are a serious student!).

This would allow both Recreational and General Aviation schools to benefit from VET fee help. The VET fee would be portable and students could also choose to change schools if they are not happy with the quality of their flight training (this would keep schools honest and working towards the student’s best interests, rather than just concentrating on the government funding). Part time courses should also be eligible.

  • Allow all CASA exams to be valid for 5 years (you have 5 years to sit your practical flight test)

Currently if you do not sit your CPL flight test within two years of passing your CPL exam, the exam result expires. This is despite the fact that if you pass your CPL flight test within those two years but then decide NOT to fly for ten years, your exam component is still current (although you will need a flight review or course). This makes absolutely zero sense. How about we extend the exam time-frame to 5 years to give the self-funded and part-time students more time to sit their flight test?

  • Set up an independent review board which acts on behalf of the collective industry

I am going to end on this point as I think it is absolutely vital for the future health of the Australian Flight training Industry. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is a governmental body of the United States with powers to regulate all aspects of civil aviation in that nation. The FAA appointed an independent review board 15 years ago and we are now seeing some incredibly innovative changes happening in the USA flight training industry. Some of the changes have influenced my thinking about the Australian flight training industry.

I would like to see the Government appoint an independent panel made up of representatives from Recreational Aviation Australia, CASA, General Aviation and Recreational Flight Schools, Australian airlines and innovative thinkers from outside the aviation industry, plus a team from the FAA. Over a one to three year period, this aviation review panel would consider how we can improve and innovate our aviation industry, make recommendations to government and then overseeing the implementation of these changes.

The panel could look at how to reduce regulation and improve innovation without compromising safety – something which the FAA has already achieved. There may be individuals in our government organisations who will resist any positive change because it may mean an end to their current role (or job). But if they do not participate in much-needed positive change, their jobs will eventually be lost anyway when the industry collapses through a lack of vision and innovation.

Feedback on my manifesto is more than welcome and I would love to hear your thoughts about the introduction of an independent aviation review board.

Happy and safe flying!

Damien Wills, CEO GoFly Group

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien

Posted on Leave a comment

Am I too old to become a Commercial Pilot?

Am i too old to be a pilot?

Am I too old to become a Commercial Pilot?​

Am i too old to be a pilot?

You love flying and you might have dreamt of being paid to fly an aircraft. Your dream may have been to become an Air Force or Airline Pilot or even a Flight Instructor.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the way, you gave up on your dream of being a pilot and you settled for a comfortable (and easier to achieve) job. As each year passes, your dream of eventually becoming a Commercial Pilot seems less and less likely.  However, if you still have that desire, and you’re thinking that another 20 or so years being stuck in a dead end job that you’re not passionate about, is just like undergoing daily root canal therapy, then read on.

How old is too old to learn to fly?

I have trained some student pilots in their 70s who made me feel unfit standing beside them. So there are a lot of exceptions to every rule, and my suggestions are by no means gospel. If you’re learning to fly for fun, I would say 80 years old would be the cut-off, if you are in good health.

If you are looking to fly for a career, then this obviously changes the maximum age. What type of pilot you want to become will determine what age would be too old to change careers and start your flight training journey.

Becoming an Airline Pilot

If you’re looking to fly larger jets for a major airline then I would suggest the cut-off date is around 35 years if you are only just starting your training. I would suggest anyone just learning to fly over the age of 40, will probably not get into a major airline but they may get into a regional (smaller) airline.  

In fact the 40-45 age bracket has an advantage for smaller regional airlines, as the airline knows that you will not move onto a major airline, so the time they invest in your training is well worth their risk of employing someone slightly older.

Obviously there are exceptions to this rule but I know a lot of the regional airlines are complaining because they are losing a lot of their younger pilots to the larger airlines after only a couple of years of employment with the regional airline. I would suggest 45 would be the cut-off age if you are considering a regional airline and are just starting your flight training.

Becoming a Charter Pilot

If you’re willing to travel to remote locations you can still get a job in general aviation as a charter pilot even in your 50s. I worked for a large charter company in the Northern Territory and they regularly employed pilots in their late 40s and 50s as they knew, once again, the airlines would not poach them. As it’s expensive to train new pilots, it makes economic sense to retrain?? older pilots, particularly for smaller charter companies where keeping training costs low is critical.

There are a lot of charter companies in remote areas of Australia which carry tourists and mine workers. Many of these charter companies fly modern turbine aircraft and offer a lot of variety and flexible work hours.  I would suggest the cut off age to become a charter pilot would be around 50.

Becoming a Flight Instructor

With the global pilot shortage and the growth of recreational flying, there will always be a need for flight instructors (well, until we have self-flying aircraft in about 10 years, anyway)

The good news about growing old is that many students prefer instructors who look older, as they assume they are more experienced, plus, you have more life experience and skills that can be applied to assist your students in the training environment.

I would suggest that the cut-off age to start learning to fly and becoming a flight instructor would be 55. Please remember these are only suggestions and there are ALWAYS exceptions to every rule.

Stop using your age as an excuse

I have met a lot of students who hate their jobs and want to change careers but they often use their age as an excuse for why they can’t. The real reason is not usually their age but their fear of failure.

We tend to fear failing at something that we are passionate about. When you take on something new and you’re and you cannot be certain of the outcome, fear will creep in. Your mind starts thinking ‘What if I lose all my savings? What if they they laugh at me? What if I have an accident? Is it fair on my partner for me to stop earning while I learn a new skill and apply for jobs?’. It’s easier to stay in a job you hate, and complaining to everyone about it, because at least you can predict the outcome.

It’s too embarrassing and maybe even confronting to tell everyone the truth: ‘I’m not going to chase my dream of being a pilot, as I’m really afraid of failing and being called a fool for trying’, so we use age as an excuse not to be a pilot. It’s hard for people to argue with you because most individuals have no idea what too old is (including yourself!)

I’ve written this blog so you can stop the excuses and begin to seriously consider starting your journey to fulfill your dream.

How much will it cost?

Another excuse is the income uncertainty. I am always amazed at how many individuals would prefer to earn a high income in a job they hate, than work at a reduced income but in a job they have a passion for. We all need money to live, but wasting half of your waking hours working at a job you hate just so you can earn a good income, is crazy.

So how much can you expect to earn as a commercial pilot? Below I have outlined some basic wage expectations once you have secured full-time employment in Australia:

Charter Pilot.               $50,000 to $85,000

Flight Instructor           $45,000 to $75,000

Regional Airline Pilot   $80,000 to $140,000

Airline Pilot                  $90,000 to $250,000

One of GoFly Aviation’s most recently hired flight instructors gave up a corporate job in Sydney and moved to the Sunshine Coast with his wife and young child for a lifestyle and career change. He is in his early 40s.

He is now earning half of what he was being paid before, however he regularly tells me how happy he is and how much better his life is, now that he is living in one of the most beautiful areas in Australia.

Just focus on the first step

When a middle-aged person comes into my flight school and tells me that they have always wanted to be a commercial pilot but they think they are too old, I tell them not to focus on the entire training or the time that will be required to become a commercial pilot. Instead, I tell them to just start learning, and o complete the first part of their training. If they enjoy it and succeed, then they start and complete the next part of their training. It’s easy to plan and achieve smaller steps along the way to our goal, and a lot less intimidating.

Also, sometimes you don’t really know if your dream is right for you until you actually start to follow it. Taking small steps towards your dream will confirm you are on the right track. Worse case scenario is that you don’t enjoy it, and guess what? You’ve learnt something about yourself and you can move onto doing something else which is better suited to you.


In the last 25 or so years that I have been involved with the aviation industry, I cannot think of a more optimistic time to be a commercial pilot; there are plenty of jobs – even if you are older -and I do not see this changing for some time. Remember the famous words of Henry Ford ‘If you think you can, or you cannot, you’re right’.

If you’re still not sure whether you’re too old to change career then I suggest you research your local flight schools and book your first lesson, and then you can decide. You don’t want to get to your 80s, still in fairly good health, thinking: ‘You know, I really should have done something that I loved for the last 30 years’.

The regrets in your life will always weigh more heavily on your mind than the mundane and comfortable times of your life!

Damien Wills

CEO, GoFly Group

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.

Posted on Leave a comment

If you cannot handle frustration, you cannot be an Airline Pilot

overcome frustrations and be a pilot

If you cannot handle frustration, you cannot be an Airline Pilot

overcome frustrations and be a pilot

Those who can and those who cannot

As a business owner and Chief Flying Instructor, I have always been intrigued by why some students succeed during flight training while others give up; or why some of them go on to join airlines and fulfil their dreams while others don’t. I‘m quite obsessed with self-development and psychology, and fascinated why some people never give up while others give up before they even begin.

I am not talking about individuals who are not quite sure whether they want to be a pilot or not, but the real die-hard aviation enthusiast who wants to learn to fly and to one day get paid to be an airline pilot.

I would love to be an Airline Pilot but….

Below are all the excuses I have heard over the last 30 years as to why someone would love to be an airline pilot but cannot be. In their minds, people have created excuses as to why it is not possible.

  1. I don’t have enough money
  2. I don’t want to get into debt
  3. It will put too much stress on my family
  4. I already have a pretty good job
  5. I might have to move to another city
  6. I’m not smart enough
  7. My partner/family does not want me to
  8. It could be dangerous
  9. I might not pass the medical
  10. I’m too old

The only excuses I agree with are the last two: airlines generally don’t hire new pilots after the age of 65, and if the person has a medical or psychological issue preventing them from passing a medical, they will not get hired.

Their excuses tell me one thing: this individual does not want to be an airline pilot badly enough or, they simply cannot handle, and have not learnt to deal with, frustration.

Big dreams equals big frustration

It doesn’t matter matter whether you want to start your own business, or become a well paid lawyer, an artist, a doctor or Airline Pilot; to achieve anything rewarding you are going to have to handle ‘frustration’.

The definition of frustration is: being upset or annoyed as a result of not being able to change or achieve something.

Most individuals give up on their dreams for three main reasons

  1. their dream is either not big enough or not meaningful enough for them
  2. They don’t believe they are capable of achieving their dream
  3. They have not learnt to properly deal with frustration

Some students give up at the first sign of frustration

It is common knowledge amongst flight instructors that the majority of our students give up just prior to going solo. I believe the reason for this is that learning to land an aircraft can be difficult  – and most students have an expectation that it will not that be that hard to learn. As soon as the training becomes difficult, they feel frustrated and give up.

Many students come to GoFly having heard a story about an old friend, or a friend of a friend, who  completed their first solo after just 10 hours of flight training. They may have had this anecdote in their head for years, and even when we try to change their expectations, they get frustrated when they get to 11 hours of flight training and have not yet gone solo.

‘The only person in this world you should be competing against is yourself.’ You may have heard a variation of the statement above at some point.

Commercial flight training is challenging AND rewarding

Notice how I stated that it is both challenging AND rewarding. As as a rule, nothing is really rewarding if it is very easily achieved, and of course, anything which is challenging can also mean it is massively frustrating.

But anything which produces frustration can also lead to massive rewards.

During my own flight training, I considered giving up many times. I failed every one of my flight tests the first time, except for my Commercial Flight Test. I found my twin-engine instrument rating so challenging that I felt like giving up on the course on a daily basis. But I stuck it out, and the feeling of achievement was well worth the massive frustration I had to deal with to get to the end.  Flight training will bring out the best and worst in you. It can be extremely challenging but the rewards can be exhilarating.

Feeling frustrated feels very uncomfortable

No one likes the feeling of frustration, it is a very close feeling to the feeling of being stressed. So it stands to reason that we try to avoid feeling frustrated at all costs. The easiest way to avoid frustration is to simply avoid doing things which make us frustrated, so we give up as soon as something becomes frustrating. This makes absolute sense if you don’t need or want to achieve anything meaningful or important, but if you are reading this post I will assume that you do not fall into this category.

How many people do you know who work in average jobs, live in an average house and have average dreams and goals?  Most likely a lot – if not the majority of the people you know. The reason that there are so many individuals who live average lives is because they want to continue living in their comfort zones and do not wish to have to deal with frustration.  Also, many of them have given up believing that they have any real power to change their lives or that it is even possible to get what they truly desire.

There is another way

What if, instead of avoiding frustration, or giving up as soon as we feel frustrated, we could learn how to channel our sense of frustration into something that feels a lot better? Wouldn’t that be great? Over the last thirty or so years, I have learnt how best to manage my own frustrations. Some of these techniques I learnt from reading books and others I have learnt through trial and error. Here are some of my tips on how to avoid or eliminate feelings of frustration altogether, so you can succeed.

(1) Expect frustration

The first step in learning to deal with frustration is to expect it. If you are planning on doing anything new and it excites you and will be a challenge there will be frustration involved. If you expect it and almost welcome it then you will reduce its impact.

(2) Estimate how long, and how much, it will cost you then double it

Planning on starting a business and think it will take you twelve months and ten thousand dollars to begin? Well, you should really plan on it costing twice as much and taking twice as long, as there is then less chance of you being frustrated. Unrealistic expectations are what causes of lot of frustrations. For flying students for instance, I tell them that the legal minimum to get your initial pilot certificate is 20 hours, however, the average time taken is around 30 hours for part- time or casual students.

(3) Read or talk to others who have gone through the same experience or process

Talking to others who are going through or have been through what you have gone through is a great way to normalise the feeling of frustration you might be feeling. I love to read books and when I read about some individual who has achieved something and has dealt with massive frustration but continued anyway, it inspires me to keep going. I also then come to realise that my problems are usually not worth getting frustrated over. Reading about someone who has achieved what you are trying to achieve is a great way to motivate you and to reduce feelings of frustration.

(4) Meditate in nature

Nothing relieves my frustrations more than going for a meditative walk on the beach on my own. This really allows me to clear my mind and receive creative inspiration to keep going. I like to do this at least twice a week. Owning and operating a weather-dependent business can be frustrating at times and I look forward to these walks and they also remind me how lucky I am to live near a beach. Find a reserve, park, hill or walk that calms you and allows you to get some perspective on your frustration.

(5) Exercise

I’m not at all sporty but I have read books which tell me that exercise can also help reduce frustration! While I do not exercise a lot, I know that after I go for a power walk or use my rowing machine, I feel a lot better and frustration does diminish.

(6) Frustration will be there regardless of what you choose

I used to be a Manager with a large insurance company. I was paid a lot of money for not creating a lot. While I was comfortable doing the job, I knew I was wasting my time, talents and abilities, and this caused massive frustration. In fact, I think this type of frustration is worse than any other form of frustration because it is within your control; you know what you should be doing, but you’re just too damn scared to do it and that is really frustrating.  

If you had to choose between the frustration of not even attempting to go after your dreams, or the frustration that comes with chasing them, I know which one I would prefer.

Channeling frustration into positive action

I have learnt to use the energy of feeling frustrated, to motivate myself into action to create a structure that will eventually reduce the frustration. What on earth am I talking about? A good example of this is when I started my business. I used to get very frustrated on windy, rainy and low-cloud days when the weather prevented my flight school from making money. So, after some thought, I used this frustration to film and edit flying lessons, which could be sold on DVD and posted to people to create income, regardless of what the weather was doing.

The year after I created these videos, the Sunshine Coast experienced the longest  period of wet weather in 100 years. This low, but constant, income from the videos saved my business from closing down. So, as you can see, frustration, when turned outward into positive action, can create massive positive results for your life. (I have since filmed the ab initio lessons again, this time in 360-degree video and you can download the first lesson for FREE here. )

Imagine what your life will look like when you are old if you never learned to handle your frustrations

When I was working for the insurance company, I imagined being 60 and still being stuck in the same dead-end boring job and looking back on my life thinking: ‘How would my life be different if I had taken a chance and followed my dreams?’ This was a big motivator for me.

Your dream of being an Airline Pilot is at the moment just a dream. Dreams and visualisations are powerful things. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine that you’re old, and you’ve been stuck for many years in a boring job which does not inspire you. Next, imagine what your life could have looked like if you were determined to handle your frustration and determined to become an airline pilot. Imagine your perfect future. What would it feel like to actually change your life and fulfil your dream? A favorite saying of mine by Henry Ford is: ‘Whether you think you can or you cannot, you are right.’

Whether you choose to achieve your dream and learn to deal with frustration or not, is the choice you must now make.

It’s time to get frustrated!


Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.

Posted on Leave a comment

Can I obtain my Commercial Pilot Licence while flying in a recreational light sport aircraft?

sling aircraft

Can I obtain my Commercial Pilot Licence by flying in a recreational light sport aircraft?

sling aircraft

If you have heard about the global shortage of pilots and are interested in becoming a Commercial Pilot, you are likely to have been researching flight schools and learning a lot of strange new terms. Terms such as: RPC, RPL, CPL, light sport aircraft, General Aviation aircraft, 3-axis and rotary aircraft, VET fee, HECs, Aviation Diploma, class 02 and class 01 medical and CASA (the Civilian Aviation Safety Authority).

A question I repeatedly get asked is: ‘What’s the difference between a General Aviation and a light sport aircraft and can I use my hours flown on a recreational aircraft towards my Commercial Pilot License? Before I answer this question, let’s start by looking at some key differences between a recreational light sport aircraft and a General Aviation (GA) aircraft.

Firstly, as far as general mechanics go, there is no difference. They are both fixed-wing three-axis aircraft. The only difference is in the weight. Recreational aircraft are currently limited to a maximum of 600kg (total weight of combined plane, fuel, passengers and luggage) although that’s about to be increased. General Aviation aircraft can weigh up to 5,600 kilos. Most older General Aviation two-seat trainers weigh somewhere between 600-800 kilos, fairly close to the recreational aviation weight.

Secondly, as far as learning to fly and the training syllabus is concerned, there is almost no discernible difference between learning to fly in a recreational aircraft and a GA aircraft. Recreational aircraft are however, usually more advanced than the GA aircraft used in most flight schools. This is one of the reasons why GoFly has been successful: we use modern recreational aircraft which are under 5 years old and each has a modern electronic flight instrument system (EFIS).

A new recreational aircraft costs around $180,000, whereas a new GA aircraft costs around $500,000.

As a flight school owner, I have worked out that once you start to borrow more than $200,000 for a flight school aircraft, the profit margins on flight training decrease dramatically. What this means in the real world is that flight schools tend to either purchase the older GA aircraft or the cheaper new recreational aircraft. Which would you prefer to learn to fly in? A modern recreational aircraft or a 30 year old GA aircraft?

The other major difference between recreational aircraft and GA is the cost of learning to fly. Recreational aircraft can cost up to $100/hour less to learn to fly in. General Aviation use older engines and most still use the more expensive Avgas, as well as using more fuel per hour. This means the flight school has to charge a higher hourly rate for teaching. A Cessna 172 used for flight training, uses around 34 litres/hour of fuel whereas the fuel burn for a rotax-powered Sling recreational aircraft is 16 litres/hour. Both aircraft fly at the same speed and can be used for the same type of training.

Integrated and non-integrated training

Now let’s look at the difference between a CPL-integrated and non-integrated course. An integrated CPL course is a full-time flight training course which is usually integrated with a diploma course and has very strict guidelines. The minimum flight hours for these courses is 150 hours.

A standard Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) course or non-integrated course, can be full-time or part-time and the minimum number of flight hours is 200.

While integrated courses might reduce the total flight hours required, I can tell you from experience, a 150-hour commercial pilot fresh out of uni, is not very employable. If you’re an owner of a charter Company and you have two candidates: one from an integrated course with 150 hours total command time and a pilot from a standard 200 hour course, who are you going to employ?

Ok. it’s time for me to finally answer the question in the title: yes, you CAN do most of the flying for your CPL in light sport aircraft! For non-integrated CPL courses, CASA will allow the majority of flight training to be done in a recreational aircraft!

CASA has a strange way of grouping aircraft. Both General Aviation and recreational aircraft come under one group called ‘fixed wing aircraft – Group A’. They then break it up into another category called ‘registered’ (or ‘recognised’)  aircraft. Australian aircraft have a registration number starting with the letters VH. This means that if the aircraft has VH registration and is certified, then it is recognised.

This might sound confusing but all you need to know is that for non-integrated CPL flying course (which most flying schools offer), you can do the majority of your flight time in a recreational aircraft. The dual benefits of this are that it saves money and the aircraft are modern.

At GoFly we have partnered with Air Qld in Redcliffe to offer a hybrid RAA to CPL course. There are other flight schools (such as Soar in Sydney and Melbourne) which offer a similar course. For our 200 hour CPL course, the first 150 flight hours are conducted in our modern recreational aircraft. The student then does a conversion over to the GA plane and finishes their commercial training and flight test at the end of the course. This equates to a saving of around $10,000 in flight training costs.

For more information about our hybrid CPL course, please call us on 0426 282 26, email or log onto the CASA website for hourly requirements for CPL courses.

See you in the sky!


CEO, GoFly Group

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.

Posted on Leave a comment

Reaching for the Sky: Enrolling in a Bachelor of Aviation and applying for a Virgin Cadetship

Ami Love bachelor of Aviation USQ

Enrolling in a Bachelor of Aviation + applying for a Virgin Cadetship

Ami Love bachelor of Aviation USQ

I am currently a first year student at the University of Southern Queensland studying a Bachelor of Aviation (Flight Operations). While I’ve always had an interest in aviation – after being fascinated at a young age with the work of my grandfather building plane engines for Rolls-Royce – having a career as a pilot had never seemed like a possibility.

Last year, I decided to follow my passion and pursue a career in aviation by enrolling in the Bachelor of Aviation at USQ. The degree at USQ has students undertaking aviation-specific courses from day one, with the opportunity to choose flight operations and learn to fly at a flight school (within the university degree) and also in the university’s first class simulator.

An extremely beneficial part of the degree is the personal development program embedded throughout. This gives students the chance to learn from current aviation professionals such as military and airline pilots through to aviation management professionals; giving us the chance to best prepare and succeed in an aviation career.

Studying aviation at USQ has presented many opportunities including undertaking work experience with QantasLink and the opportunity to apply for the Virgin Australia Ab-initio Cadetship, which, if I’m fortunate enough to be accepted, would see me employed with Virgin Australia as a commercial pilot at age 21.

The Virgin Australia Ab-initio Cadetship (no longer on offer) means that successful candidates can look forward to an exciting career as a pilot with the Virgin Australia team upon completion of the 59-week residential course based at Parafield Airport, near Adelaide and is designed for candidates to achieve a Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Multi Engine Command Instrument Rating (ME CIR), as well as study the ground theory subjects for an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL), Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) and a Multi Crew Cooperation (MCC) Qualification program.

When applying for this cadetship, I didn’t have high expectations about the outcome – being only 19 and with almost no prior flying or aviation knowledge other than a single semester of university.

The selection process began with an initial application submitted online, followed by a video application for shortlisted candidates. Following the video applications, candidates were further shortlisted and I was lucky enough to be invited to attend an Assessment Day at the Boeing Simulator Centre in Brisbane which included PILAPT and academic testing, group interviews and one-on-one interviews. Approximately 30 candidates are shortlisted for the final panel interview stage, and I am fortunate to be one of them. Then 12 final candidates will be chosen for cadetships.

It is so important to make sure you are as best prepared as possible for opportunities like this, by making sure you are familiar with the company you are applying to(from routes, to aircraft fleet, to businesses within the company). While passion is one of the biggest factors in succeeding in the aviation industry, it is not just a matter of saying you have the passion, but showing it.

Though this cadetship is an Ab-initio cadetship requiring zero previous experience, I believed that undertaking some flying would be beneficial for giving me some personal experience and for continuing to develop my love and passion for aviation. So I set about researching flight schools so I could obtain my Recreational Pilot Certificate.

While GoFly Aviation is not the closest flight school to where I live, I decided to begin my flying with them and I couldn’t be happier. I will be forever thankful for all that the school and the instructors have taught me. It has truly helped my love and passion for aviation continue to soar.

Ami Love

Ami is now working as a First Officer on National Jet Express

Click on this link to read further blogs.

Click on this link to read about other GoFly Graduates.

Posted on Leave a comment

Why you might want to consider learning to fly at Caloundra Aerodrome

Caloundra Aerodrome

Why you might want to consider learning to fly at Caloundra Aerodrome

caloundra aerodrome

Before you roll your eyes and say: ‘Of course the owner of a flight school in Caloundra is going to plug his own aerodrome over the other aerodromes’, be aware that my first flight school was actually located at Caboolture Aerodrome. Later, when I was looking around to start a satellite flight school I also spent considerable time researching other sites such as Redcliffe, Caloundra, Sunshine Coast and Archerfield.

(At the time I thought that ‘bigger is better’, when running a business, so it made sense to me to start up a second flight school. Since then I’ve learnt that ‘becoming excellent at what you do’, is much better than becoming bigger and more complex, and maybe I’ll write another blog on this topic in the future.)

All of these locations I researched had some benefits but many of them had more disadvantages than advantages. After six months of research I concluded that Redcliffe or Caloundra were the best choices for starting my second flight school. While Redcliffe had many advantages I wanted to eventually live on the Sunshine Coast, so I decided on Caloundra Aerodrome. After operating GoFly Aviation from both Caloundra and Caboolture for a few years, I eventually decided to move my entire operation from Caboolture to Caloundra because the facilities available and the aerodrome were so good to operate from. The fact that it shortened my commute from Mooloolaba was just an added bonus.

I’ve been in the flight training business now for eight years and flown into many airports. I am listing below, those airports which I believe to be the best flight training aerodromes in south-east QLD and why I think this:

  1. Caloundra Aerodrome (very good)
  2. Redcliffe Aerodrome ( very good)
  3. Caboolture Aerodrome (good)
  4. Archerfield Aerodrome (average)
  5. Sunshine Coast Aerodrome (average)

Sunshine Coast Aerodrome

I did my Commercial Pilot Licence and Instrument Rating at Sunshine Coast Aerodrome around twenty two years ago (yikes, those years went fast!) and it was a busy aerodrome even back then. I remember having to hold in the Twin Piper Seminole for up to ten minutes while 737 planes departed, and thinking to myself, ‘Well, that wait just cost me $80’.

Learning to fly at a Controlled Airport for a new student is not a lot of fun. Firstly you have to get clearance then wait for the controller to tell you what to do. Secondly, small aircraft (training aircraft) get lower priority over large regular public transport aircraft flown by the major airlines. Last year almost a million passengers travelling with the major airlines used Sunshine Coast Airport.

Sunshine Coast just closed the east-west runway while constructing a new longer international runway so things are about to get even worse. Training aircraft presently cannot do touch-and-go landings at the Aerodrome between 10am – 1.30pm during the week. This results in many of the flight schools flying (ferrying) to Caloundra Aerodrome – at the student’s expense – to do touch-and-go landing practice. This adds considerable cost to the student in ferrying to another aerodrome.

Again, if you’re wanting to become a Commercial Pilot, learning to fly in controlled airspace environment has its benefits, however if you’re wanting to learn to fly for fun, do you really want all this stress and extra cost?

Archerfield Aerodrome

The  best part of Archerfield Aerodrome is its proximity to Brisbane (particular south and western Brisbane). Other than that, there is not a lot I really love about this Aerodrome. It has multiple runways and is controlled, so for new students this can be overly complex and intimidating.

At certain times of the day, the aerodrome limits the amount of aircraft which can operate in circuit and will restrict how many touch-and-go landings an aircraft and student can do in a particular lesson. This has a flow-on effect for a student. They also have expensive landing charges. One of my competitors, who operates out of Archerfield charges $40 more per hour for lessons and I can only assume that this is to cover the landing and other charges that this aerodrome imposes on flight schools. The other issue is that it is surrounded by lots of Controlled Airspace, making it complex for new student pilots. If you are wishing to become a Commercial Pilot, this may be beneficial, but if you’re looking to fly for fun then I suggest you go elsewhere.

Caboolture Aerodrome

Caboolture is still fairly close to Brisbane and I operated out of this aerodrome for five years. As a training field it is fairly good, however my main issue is that the majority of the runways are grass so it can get rough or soggy after rain. The other issues ares a lack of commercial office space for flight schools and the high numbers of birds and other wildlife which don’t mix too well with student pilots and aircraft. If you look past the wildlife and grass runways, it is still a good aerodrome. There are no runway lights so if you want to do night training you will have to go elsewhere.

Redcliffe Aerodrome

This is my second favourite aerodrome in SE QLD. The advantages are: close proximity to Brisbane; it is a non-controlled aerodrome; and there is close proximity to the training area and other control zones. The aerodrome is well managed by Moreton Bay Council and has a decent paved runway and taxiways. It also has runway lights for night training.The only disadvantage is it only has one runway, so crosswinds can be a challenge, however some may argue that makes for a better pilot (eventually). If you’re based in Brisbane and don’t want to drive all the way to the Sunshine Coast, this would be my recommended aerodrome.

Caloundra Aerodrome

I love teaching and operating at Caloundra Aerodrome. It is a non-controlled Aerodrome and I believe a non-controlled Aerodrome is a better learning environment for pilots wanting to learn to fly for fun. There are no landing charges at Caloundra and this results in GoFly being able to offer competitively-priced training. There are two sealed runways and this means that there is rarely an issue with crosswinds being over the maximum limit for the training aircraft. It also has runway lighting. It is still close to Controlled Airspace for students wanting that experience or learning to become commercial pilots.

As a business owner, I also have greater flexibility in how I operate my business and at what times I can start and finish, than I would have if I operated at a Controlled Aerodrome.  

The location is also absolutely spectacular, being situated directly beside the river and ocean. As soon as you take off you are presented with an incredible view of the Pumicestone Passage, Glasshouse Mountains, Moreton Bay and islands. The aerodrome is also very central to shops and the Caloundra township, making it ideal for overseas students to find accommodation and transport for the few weeks it takes to get their Recreational Pilot Certificate. There are plenty of accommodation options from budget to five star hotels and of course the beaches are wonderful. Many of my students live in Brisbane but learn to fly with us because they can visit the beach afterwards. Some bring friends or family and make a day of it, enjoying the great restaurants beside the beach.

The only negatives at Caloundra Aerodrome are that there is not enough taxiways (one has to use runways to access other runways) and there’s a lack of parking for visiting aircraft, but these negatives are minor compared to the benefits and can be improved in coming years.

A good aerodrome is a nice-to-have but good training is a must-have

It is important to note that you can receive fantastic training at any aerodrome. There are many great flight schools which operate at all of these aerodromes. If you find a great school at an aerodrome that is not-so-great, and which has great instructors whom you’re comfortable with, then stick with it. You can become a great pilot from any aerodrome if you have good quality training.

However, if you can have good quality training at any aerodrome, wouldn’t you want to choose the location which best supports that great training?

I’m so glad I made the decision to move my entire operation to Caloundra Aerodrome two years ago. I love working at Caloundra Aerodrome as it has a unique tropical feel that few aerodromes possess. Having the friendly guys at AMS right next door for maintenance also makes life easy for a Chief Pilot, plus we get to see a variety of exotic old and new planes being worked on and put through their paces.

If you are still considering which is the best location at which to learn to fly, drop in to visit Caloundra Aerodrome for yourself. You will not be disappointed.


CEO GoFly Group

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.

Posted on Leave a comment

Learning to fly: fear and personality

Fear kills more dreams than failure

Learning to fly: fear and personality

Fear kills more dreams than failure

I have been wanting to write this blog about fear for a long time. Part of the reason I have put it off is due to being incredibly busy over the last six months, and also, ironically, due to my own fear: fear of offending someone!  I’m writing it not to name and shame, but to highlight the difficulties humans have when dealing with our internal fears and personality quirks, and in writing this, I’m hoping to help readers identify when others are displaying fear-based behaviour or personality issues/disorders.

As a small business owner I am fascinated in what motivates individuals to learn and grow. As a Flight Instructor, I believe that my main mission is to keep students motivated through their flight training, as I know that mastering a new skill can sometimes be frustrating (fortunately, learning to fly is also very rewarding).

I also have a deep fascination with human psychology and over the last 20 years have read over thirty books on psychology and motivation. Fortunately for me, 99% of the students I teach are motivated and do not have any of what I would call ‘adverse psychological baggage’ which is going to have a negative effect on their flight training. During my last eight years of owning a flight school I can only think of around five students whom I believe have had negative psychological issues which impacted on their ability to pilot a plane safely.  If you are a flight instructor or student pilot, or you own a business, reading this blog may be beneficial to you.

As a business owner it is important to spot the warnings signs early, because these customers could cause your business (not to mention your peace of mind) damage and stop you from focusing on the customers who do in fact value your services.  The warning signs are also important if you’re hiring staff. For instance hiring an instructor with narcissistic tendencies would be a huge mistake for my business. No one wants to fly with an instructor who has little empathy and constantly talks about themselves and how good they are.

As Recreational Aviation and Private Pilot Licence authorities do not impose psychological testing on students, it is important to notice these warning signs as early as possible. I am not a trained psychologist and these anecdotes are only my experiences, however I still feel that sharing my experiences and what I have learnt from them, is worth the possibility of offending some individuals. To protect the identity of the individual and their families, I have left some detail out of some of the anecdotes. My intention is not to harm or embarrass but to highlight the difficulties that some personality types share and help others identify them in oneself and in others.

Learning to fly

By the time most of us start learning to drive we have been sitting in a car observing others driving, for at least fifteen years. With learning to drive, nothing is really that unfamiliar to us. But when it comes to flying a plane, unless your parents are pilots, the chances are your first lesson is going to be completely foreign to you (and exciting). Flying will require all of your senses and it will require all of your focus if you are to succeed. As humans we are not used to directing ourselves through space and thinking in three dimensions. This takes time for our brains to become accustomed to.

Being humble

When we are learning something new for the first time we have to be humble. In a way it’s like being a small child again: we have to accept help and acknowledge that we don’t know what we are doing. This can be challenging to the mature student who has been successful in their given profession and is used to being competent at most of the things they do.

When a student first starts learning to fly, if they act like a know-it-all and don’t take direction or accept feedback well, I know in advance that I am going to have issues with their training. These issues are exacerbated with an emotion that we all occasionally suffer from, and that is fear. I’m not talking about the fear of flying; it’s the other fear which starts early on in our lives and remains with most of us until we depart this earth – fear of failure!

Fear of failure

When it comes to hobbies and interests that we love and are passionate about, we tend to fear failure the most. I don’t enjoy cricket so if I failed at learning how to fast bowl it would not affect me in the slightest. I’d be relieved that I could now go and do something more interesting. However I love flying, and if an instructor had said to me early on in my training, ‘You’re no good at this kid, why not try learning to sail instead.’ I would have been devastated.

Since most individuals would not attempt flying lessons unless they were passionate about flying, the idea of failing at flight training creates a lot of fear in most students. How a student handles that fear is what separates the successful students from the not-so-successful ones.

Some common signs of a student not handling their fear well, include:

  1. The student blaming the instructor for them not making progress
  2. The student cancelling lessons at the last moment with no logical reason.
  3. The student blaming the weather or other aircraft for their substandard performance
  4. The student getting angry at themselves if they make a mistake and not being able to get over it in a timely manner
  5. The student sabotaging their flight training by quitting or inventing an excuse so that they never undergo their flight test

Believe it or not, the last one is quite common. A student may be doing well and either be getting close to solo or to his/her flight test and then suddenly they quit, with no reason given. While personal issues may be the cause on some occasions, I believe that mostly the student is choosing to not lose face with themselves and in front of other family members and friends. The fear of failure is so strong that it is easier to just quit and tell others (and yourself) that you just didn’t enjoy it, or you ran out of money, rather than fail at something you love.

I spend a considerable amount of my time helping students overcome their fear of failure. It’s is very simple life lesson: you will never get to enjoy the work, hobbies or relationships that you are passionate about if you cannot accept that failure might be an option, and that if you do fail that it is completely ok and is just a part of the learning process. You only truly fail if you don’t learn from your failure and if you refuse to give it another try.  As a child, we were not embarrassed to fall off a bike and get back on and try again, time and time again. But as adults, we tend not to bounce back so well after initial failure.

A warning sign as an instructor is if a student becomes overly emotional or does not handle stress in a positive way (gets angry or blames everyone else.) While all of us vary in how we deal with stress and regulating our emotions there comes a point if a person cannot control their stress or emotional state then there may be something more serious going on.

Personality disorders

This is a topic that fascinates me. While mental illness encompasses a wide range of mental disorders the ones that can greatly affect a student are what psychologists call the ‘cluster B’ types of personality disorders. The reasons why these disorders are fascinating is because they can at first be very hard to detect. I have read many books on these subjects and have known many students, family and friends over the years who have displayed these traits.

It is important to note that cluster B personality disorders range on a spectrum from displaying only minor traits right thought to displaying major traits which may affect the individual’s day-to-day relationships, goals and ambitions. Most of us at some point in our lives will also display some of the symptoms, however that does not mean we actually have the disorder. These disorders can affect the ability to learn something new because many of the negative characteristics are amplified when the individual is placed under stress or is fearful. Flight training can bring these traits to a head. 

The two main disorders that I will discuss, are Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD)

While BPD and NPD have much in common, there are differences. I will generalise a bit to keep this blog succinct. A person with narcissistic personality disorder lacks the ability to empathise (they cannot put themselves in your shoes) and they believe the world revolves around them and that everyone is there to support them and give them the love they so much crave and deserve. Narcissists are usually pretty easy to identify.

Narcissists are not good listeners and they love to talk about themselves and their accomplishments. They find it hard to show true empathy when someone is in pain. If you look at someone’s social media sites and more than 80% of the photos and posts they upload are about how clever they are, how good their life is, where they have been and what they are up to, there is a very good chance that the individual has some narcissistic tendencies.

Narcissists are very hard to teach because they find it almost impossible to be humble and admit a mistake. It is always someone else’s fault. They often learn to fly for the wrong reasons (e.g. ‘If i get my pilot licence, I can feel superior and everyone will be impressed that I am a pilot’). If they fail a test they will often rage and blame the instructor.

I once failed a student midway during a navigation test and he refused to accept my decision – even though at the time I had around 3,000 hours of flying experience and he only had 40 hours. He started yelling and screaming at me in the plane.  I had to take control and at the same time, carefully calm him down. When we landed he ran from the plane screaming, and took off in his car. To his credit, he rang me three days later to apologise and pay for his flight.

Some narcissism is ok, and possibly healthy, if we are to get what we want in life, however it becomes negative or malignant when an individual cannot have empathy with, or an interest in, other individuals.

BPD or Borderline Personality disorder (the emotionally-driven individual)

This one can be harder to spot than narcissistic personality disorder but can be just as damaging. While there are many characteristics of BPD, the main ones are: an inability to regulate one’s emotions; fear of abandonment; and ‘black and white’ thinking.

Most of us have the ability to control our emotions; if someone upsets us or shows disapproval, or if we are fearful, we can generally hide these emotions and carry on. Someone with borderline personality disorder finds it very hard to regulate their emotions on a daily basis. They are in many ways ruled by their emotions and not by logic. Common signs are manic highs and depressing lows (happy and excited then sad) and this can happen multiple times throughout a day. If you say something that offends them, they will either rage at you or burst out crying.

Another common trait is black and white thinking. To put it another way:something is either all good or all bad. People with this disorder find it hard to integrate shades of grey into their thinking. For instance, as an instructor, if I offer some constructive feedback on what they need to do to improve, a student with BPD characteristics might take offence and within a second they will turn on me and I will go from being their hero to their enemy within seconds. Fear of abandonment also concerns these people, as the thought of someone leaving them or not liking them, sparks in them the fear of rejection and can trigger emotional dysregulation.

Another telltale sign of BPD tendencies, is that during one lesson they might be in a fantastic mood and in the next lesson they are depressed and indifferent to the instructor.

The main difference between narcissist and borderline personalities is that a borderline person can be empathetic and they can be very likeable, and this is the reason it can be so hard to identify in students upon first meeting them. More often than not, these characteristics are only displayed towards the end of the student’s flight training when facing the final flight test or if they believe the instructor is disapproving of or abandoning them.

Lack of logic or empathy

While there may be other external reasons affecting the performance of these students mentioned below, here are a few examples of people who let their emotions sabotage their flight training:

  1. A student cried every second lesson and would swear at other aircraft during flights and kept blaming the other aircraft in the sky for distracting her from flying.
  2. A student who was just two lessons away from being flight tested and was flying very well, refused to do another 20 minute dual check before he was sent solo (recommended by me due to the challenging conditions on that day). During his previous lessons he was always upbeat and confident but as the day of the test neared, he became very hostile and refused this recommendation (accusing me of trying to get more money out of him) and then refused to complete his training. I later discovered that he had done the same thing at another flight school after also spending a lot of money on lessons there just prior to being sent for his first solo..
  3. A student was asked to wait an extra thirty minutes before starting his lesson, as the previous flight had been delayed with a minor maintenance issue. The student said ‘No worries, I don’t mind waiting at all’, only to run out of the hangar and drive off after twenty minutes. Later that night he rang and screamed at me for half an hour, saying he was so upset with having to wait, and at being made to feel unimportant, that he vomited all afternoon .
  4. A student who failed the flight test for his Instructor Rating refused to take the test again and instead waited a year, then out of the blue, sued me for $130,000 for ‘lost wages as a flight instructor’ (even though no instructing job was ever promised to him by a flight school and despite him still owing me $5000 in training fees!)  While defending this claim, I endured two years of stress and wasted hundreds of hours and more than $28,000 on legal fees, both of which would have been better spent on improving the flight school or taking my kids and partner on a much deserved holiday. I was fortunate to meet a great lawyer halfway through the case and he got the claim thrown out.

The IMSAFE Checklist

As part of becoming a competent safe pilot we teach students the acronym ‘IMSAFE’ to be used every time before they fly. The checklist is very simple and self explanatory, and, just like an aircraft checklist, this checklist is to ensure your are physically and mentally fit to fly:

  • Illness
  • Medication
  • Stress
  • Alcohol
  • Fatigue
  • Emotion

Stress and emotion are a part of the the checklist. I believe that individuals who are heavily weighted towards NPD or BPD are a potential risk to themselves and potential future passengers. The main reason is the inability to regulate their emotions, in particular when placed under stress. A competent pilot needs to be able to keep calm and keep their emotions under control under pressure. This is one of the many criteria I look for when I am testing someone for a flight test.

As stated before, the majority of my students are wonderful and willingly receive feedback for self improvement. We all go through hard times and we all act emotionally at times, without logic or reason.  The main difference though, is our level of self-awareness and if we are able to ‘self-soothe’. If you can’t soothe yourself, and if you get angry or upset and you can’t control your emotions by yourself within a reasonable time-frame, you may have an issue and need to see a psychologist. As for self-awareness, are you aware when your emotions are controlling you? Are you aware when you have upset someone? Are you aware when you might be wrong?

Having some knowledge of the different personality disorders that exist and having a basic understanding of human nature and psychology has I believe helped me to become a better flight instructor and business owner. There are plenty of days where I myself could have been more self-aware and empathetic to both my staff and students, and like everyone, I have my own fair share of negative traits which I work on reducing while trying to also increase my positive ones.

The reason I keep growing my business and teaching individuals how to fly is because I enjoy developing meaningful relationships with the 99% of customers and staff who have nothing but goodwill towards themselves and others.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog today, and, if this post made you really upset or angry, then maybe flight training is not for you…


Damien Wills, 2019

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.