FOCUS spoke to pilot Ashlee Hayes a little while ago now, so we took the opportunity to catch up with this extremely busy lady in between flights. Ashlee’s covered a lot of territory in the last few years…
Tell us a little bit about yourself …
Originally from Traralgon, Victoria, but I moved to Port Macquarie when I was 8 − so I have practically grown up here. Because I did a lot of flying back home to visit family, I have always had a fascination for aeroplanes.
My parents gave me a trial flight when I was 16, to see whether I would actually enjoy it, and I never looked back.
What have you been up to since the last time you spoke to FoCUS?
Last time I did the interview was almost exactly 3 years ago. I was yet to complete my commercial licence, and I was about to do a fly away trip to outback Australia.
I did the trip in October 2008. I took my dad and we started in Latrobe Valley, then flew to Mildura, pit stop for fuel in Leigh Creek and onwards to Coober Pedy, where we stayed underground. We then flew to Ayers Rock to walk around the base, up to Alice Springs then back down to Broken Hill, and finally finished at Latrobe Valley. I managed 23 hours flying in 6 days.
I finished the rest of my exams and passed my commercial licence in August 2009, then went straight into doing my instructor rating, which gave me the ability to teach people to fly. I was lucky enough to start work with Johnston Aviation in January 2010. I am now working where I had been taught.
How long have you actually been flying now – and what, for you, is the best thing about being airborne?
I have now been flying for 7 years; the time has gone so fast. Not too many people have an office like mine. I saw 6 whales the other day, and it can’t get much better than that. You get a different perspective of things from the air and it changes all the time, which is what I love most about flying.
Port Macquarie has the best of both worlds: situated on the coast, but then only a short flight and you head across the ranges to see waterfalls that you just don’t see unless in the air.
What’s involved with your day-to-day routine of being a flying instructor?
Each day is different. Most days, though, I start work at 8.30am − and depending on what stage the student is up to determines the rest of the working day. If the student has just started, it generally involves an hour’s brief, pre flight checks of the plane, the flight itself and then a debrief. If the student is up to doing navigational exercises i.e. Port Macquarie to Tamworth, a lot more planning is needed on their behalf, and I act as their guide.
Then there’s also night flying. So, I love everything about daylight savings − until it comes to teaching night flying. It means later starts and later finishes. After each flight I have to write up student reports, which I complete promptly, so paper work does not accumulate.
What kinds of people do you most commonly teach to fly?
I teach a vast array of students. The youngest is still in school and the eldest at the moment is aged in his forties. Generally, the older students have built up either their own businesses or have worked hard and saved enough money to now go back and do what they really love, which is to fly.
The younger students have to work, as well as learning to fly. They are the equivalent of uni students, without the help of HECS. All are equally passionate and just want to be up in the air.
What do you personally find the most rewarding about being a flight instructor?
I enjoy watching people build confidence and handle situations that they didn’t think they were capable of achieving. When people accomplish a goal and you’ve worked hard to help them achieve the goal, it is just as rewarding for me. I get nervous for the students when they sit exams or tests, but I also get a buzz when they pass.
What kinds of planes are you qualified to fly and instruct in?
I’m now qualified to instruct on single engine aircraft. We use either a Cessna 152, 172 or 182 for teaching our students. Students start in the C152 and move into larger aircraft as they progress.
What’s next on the agenda for you … where do you see your career taking you?
There’s always more studying required. Currently I am studying my instrument rating exam (IREX) and have plans to do my instrument rating in the near future. At the moment, I am limited to flying with reference to the horizon.
Once I have completed my instrument rating, I will be able to fly with reference solely on the instruments. It should open up some more opportunities for me, including teaching the instrument ratings themselves.
The eventual goal may be to try and obtain a position with the airlines and fly domestic flights, such as Sydney to Port Macquarie, but who knows. I’m taking each day as it comes.
Are you currently available to teach people to fly, and if so, how do they go about contacting you?
I am available to teach from Monday to Saturday; this includes people just wanting to try flying, to people who are seriously thinking about flying as a career. You can email me your interests at email@example.com
Interview by Jo Atkins.