Aviation. A career navigating the skies has been 16-year-old Levi Quilliam’s dream ever since boarding his first commercial flight from Wynyard to Melbourne over 10 years ago.
Now, with 25 hours of dual and nine hours of solo flying experience over the past 14 months, the Scotchtown teenager continues to soar higher after being awarded a $2500 scholarship from Recreational Aviation Australia.
The GYFTS (Giving Youth Flight Training Support) subsidy helps young pilots to complete their flying training at minimal cost; a benefit Levi was very grateful to accept as the only recipient in Tasmania from 40 candidates.
“You don’t get that every day,” he said. “I was definitely happy with it – it makes things a lot easier.”
Quilliam began his training in February last year, travelling regularly from his former home in Edgcumbe Beach to the Smithton Airport to practice under the guidance of instructor Lloyd Kay.
Despite clocking up over 120 hours on the realistic computer program ‘Flight Simulator’, he admitted the nerves kicked in during his first dual flight.
“The first time I’d ever been in a cockpit, I didn’t want to touch anything,” he said.
“[Kay] said ‘I’ll let you have a fly now’ and I thought ‘struth, here we go’.”
But after months of dual practice and a growth in confidence, Levi was given his first solo run in August.
“It’s one thing you’ll definitely never forget,” he said. “It’s just that good – it’s a struggle [to describe].
“You just fly over Smithton and see the footy players and think ‘I couldn’t think of anything better right now’.”
While most his age are beginning to drive on their learner permits, Levi is just minutes away from reaching the 10 hours required to apply for a solo flying licence; an opportunity he cannot wait to take.
“I was flying a plane by myself before I could drive a car,” he said.
“That [licence] is what I’ve been waiting for since the start – it’ll be good to take family and friends up there.”
With the ultimate goal of entering into the Air Force after he completes high school not far from reality, Levi was quick to acknowledge the support of his parents and instructor Kay, who he described as being the “perfect” teacher.