An interview with Senior Flying Instructor, Ray Lind
Is age really just a number when it comes to flying? We speak to Ray Lind who has been teaching flying for more than 30 years at the Hastings District Flying Club (HDFC). Ray has been taking to the skies for 35 years and flying is very much a part of his life. From being a school teacher to becoming a flying instructor, Ray has blended his passion with his profession.
You have been flying and teaching for so many years, what changes have you noticed through the years in terms of flying?
Time is the other thing that flies here, and yes there have been progression and change, though I’d say the actual flying strategy itself hasn't changed at all. We still use the same format, the same tried and tested lesson plans which basically started probably a century ago when they first started flying. These are military ways of teaching, and very, very regimented, and it works well.
What has changed is the type of equipment. In the old days, we had Tiger moths and biplanes and very simplistic aircraft with very basic instrumentation. These days, with the way modern technology is advancing, training aircraft now have very sophisticated glass cockpit instruments. This means students need to be trained how to use them, but having said that, many pick it up really quickly, given the technological world we live in. The quality of the aircraft we use has also advanced. The older ones were slower and less responsive. Students love the modern machines we fly now and they're very fast. An example of that is the Sling Two, which is what we use at the Hastings District Flying Club. It is a two-seater trainer, low-wing and a good one to use for training.
What is the biggest challenge students face?
Landing the aircraft. It is also not easy for the instructor to teach the student, but the beauty of it is, once you’ve learnt it, you never forget it. At HDFC, students are taught properly and they become very good, confident pilots who can land consistently.
Who can learn how to fly? Is there an age restriction?
At the Hastings District Flying Club we have a very wide range of flying students. Generally we start them flying at around about 14, provided they're physically big enough. They can start at 14 but they can't go solo until they're 15. Kids that age are really fast so they pick up flying very, very quickly. The inspiring thing about flying is, age is a number and not an impediment. We have students in their 80s and we even had one who was learning to fly in his 90s. And he was thoroughly enjoying it! So we have a whole age range at the Hastings District Flying Club and it doesn't matter what age you are at. If you enjoy a challenge, you like the idea of flying and want to learn, the sky is your limit. I would add that if you want to make a career out of flying, then it is helpful to start quite young.
HDFC provides opportunities for experienced pilots to participate in a monthly flying competition or pilot proficiency day to maintain and upgrade their qualifications.
“Our goal as a flying school is to produce GREAT and RESPECTED Pilots. We do this by ensuring total aviation safety and disciplined airmanship through accurate and professional flying training”, says Ray.
Where do I start if I want to learn to fly?
The best way is to purchase a Discovery Flight and experience what flying is all about. With one of our professional flight instructors at your side, you will actually get to fly our Sling aircraft across the coast and town of Port Macquarie.
During your 30 minute hands-on flight, you will learn the basics of taxiing, take-off and maintaining straight and level flight. Best of all, you can log the flight time in your pilot's logbook if you decide to continue flying training.
Note: Passenger's weight limit is 95kg
First Solos: The most exhilarating experience of a flying student
Are there any incentives to help young people get started on flying?
Flying can be fairly expensive. Even though HDFC's rates are the most affordable, it would still cost anywhere from five to six thousand to get certified, and that can be difficult for families, so the Hastings District Flying Club offers generally two, sometimes three scholarships per year for youths. These help students through that early stage of flying. Applications for scholarships start from the third quarter of the year when we approach schools and give them information about the scholarships. We usually get many applications. What we are really proud of is how some of our earliest scholarship students have gone through the training and now have very successful flying careers. Several are now flying for Cathay Pacific - one is a First Officer and another is about to become a First Officer flying out of Hong Kong. Others are now in the military and progressing well in their careers. At the Hastings District Flying Club, we start from ab initio, the very first stage with virtually no knowledge, and students do all their exams with us right through to get their Pilot's Certificate. They finally get a cross country endorsement which entitles them to fly anywhere in Australia.
Why would youths want to train at HDFC?
HDFC is very attractive for young people, firstly being in Port Macquarie where flying around the coast, along the beaches and over to the ranges is an exhilarating experience which you have to try for yourself to understand. You see Port Macquarie in a completely different light. HDFC’s other strong point is that we have a range of very experienced instructors. We have seven. Some have had airline experience and clocked up many hours through their careers. They do this beyond as a job beyond a hobby as it is their passion and they are always ready to give their best to the students and are available at any time. Some start training as early as six in the morning! So there is a lot of flexibility to cater to what students need. HDFC ensures that the standards of flying instruction are met in accordance to CASA and delivered with the highest quality they deserve.
Ultimately, HDFC has a long history of flying training. It started 62 years ago and it is still going strong, bringing a love for flying to many generations. HDFC is at present training two more experienced pilots to become flying instructors.
Our training aircraft
We are also very proud of our two training aircraft - the Sling Two which are presently training a record number of students. These aircraft are available for hire at $150/hr for members and $180/hr for non-members.
Why keep returning to the skies?
Other than being able to enjoy the beautiful sites of Port Macquarie from way up high, teaching flying gives me the joy of helping people achieve their goals, overcoming their challenges and sharing the love for flying with so many people across ages and backgrounds. Youths have great energy, are quick learners and have a real thirst to soar, and I also enjoy others who are learning to fly on a recreational basis. Ultimately, flying is a passion and people who do enjoy it, they generally go right through the training and get as far as they can. There is this desire to know what it is like to bring a plane all the way up and feel the freedom of flying. It is motivating for me to see people of all ages wanting to learn to fly and it is also a joy for me to share my experience and passion with them.
Ray Lind, Senior Flying Instructor and Club Captain
Hastings District Flying Club
Oliver Dr, Port Macquarie Airport
t/ 0428 820 698