More than 70 budding young pilots have converged on Matamata Aerodrome for the Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School – an event where aspiring aviators learn to fly from some of the best in the industry.
During Walsh, Matamata Aerodrome is the busiest airfield in New Zealand. Keeping the skies safe are seven Airways air traffic controllers on rotating shifts, working in the iconic Airways mobile control tower – a converted shipping container fitted out with specialist systems and plenty of windows.
The flying school, held every year over two weeks in January, is now in its 49th year – and this year one participant is taking to the skies knowing his father has both eyes on keeping him safe.
Mike Slack is an Airways air traffic controller, based at Auckland control tower. He’s back in the mobile control tower at Walsh after about five years away – Mike was the event’s chief controller for a number of years. "I thought I’d come back this year, given my son Tom is attending," Mike says. Tom is 16 years old and it’s his first time at Walsh. Mike and Tom are pictured above at Walsh.
“When I was controlling at Walsh when Tom was younger, he would always come along so he knows what it’s all about,” Mike says. “His main worry this time is that because he's attending, he's having to do some chores!"
Students aged 16-19 have come from all over New Zealand to participate at Walsh, and 25 experienced flying instructors are volunteering their time. About 16 aircraft are flown during the two weeks of the school. ‘Ab-initio’ students – those who are at Walsh for the first time – put in many hours flying with instructors to learn how to fly solo. There are also returning students who undertake more advanced flying training at Walsh.
Walsh 2015 concludes on Friday, after a parade and awards dinner to be held on Thursday.