Records are broken
at the 48th Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School
Happy students with their Wings certificates and an interesting visiting aeroplane.
Utilising the lull before the storm, by taking advantage of the settled weather preceding the forecast cyclone approaching from across the Tasman, and sacrificing a planned Tauranga Beach trip, Scout leaders, organisers, ATC, Met Service personnel, schedulers, refuellers, instructors and students worked together from dawn to dusk to get as many students as possible in the air to achieve a record.
On Saturday 18 January the mobile Airways NZ control tower recorded 1384 aircraft movements — takeoffs and landings — eclipsing the previous record by a good margin. Matamata may have been the busiest airfield in the world!
Sunday 19th was another record breaking day with 1281 movements. Then the storm came and played havoc with the scout campers, with many tents blown down and a few having to resort to the emergency shelter of the aero club rooms.
Every year since 1967 — yes, that’s 48 years — Scouts New Zealand’s Walsh Memorial Flying School has provided the highest quality aviation training for budding young pilots aged 16 to 19 from around the country by facilitating a two-week camp at Matamata Airfield. Young Venturer and Ranger students have the opportunity to learn about the New Zealand aviation industry and learn to fly and gain their Wings badges. Around 25 percent of the students end up with an aviation career.
The Matamata Scout flying camp, often referred to as the Walsh, is based on the NZ Flying School formed in 1915 by the Walsh brothers, Leo and Vivian, to train pilots for the Royal Flying Corps. The Walsh, held during two weeks in January every year, brings together about 60 students, 20 aircraft and some 25 instructors into a school run by Scouts NZ to introduce students to the joys of the ways of the aviation industry, its skills and disciplines, plus guidance and instruction to learn to take the responsibilities to pilot light aircraft by themselves.
The flying instructors come from around the country and also from their postings overseas. Many are very experienced commercial pilots, some ex-Walshies, some returning over many years, some renewing their instructor ratings and improving their skills to share their time and experience to teach the budding young students.
Aircraft used at the camp are well-known, tried and proven training machines, the venerable Cessna C152 and Piper Tomahawk, giving students the experience of high- or low-wing aeroplanes. They are made available at competitive rates from many areas of the industry and are well looked after at the Walsh, thoroughly cleaned and groomed before being returned to their owners.
Aviation industry support is obvious from the generous variety of prizes presented to students for their efforts and achievements during the camp at the concluding Wings Parade and Awards Dinner.
Talking to some of the students, it was inspiring to share their excitement in their experiences in the camp. All gave very positive feedback about the efficiency of the Scouting movement in making the event possible and organising the running of the school, as well as the instructors for passing on their considerable knowledge and skills in a really friendly manner and for the obvious support from the industry.
For many of the ab initio students, their greatest goal is learning the skills to fly a light aircraft solo to gain their Wings badges and become a pilot, and 38 achieved that ambition this year.
To achieve their goals, students need to learn, in a classroom, the principles of flight, flying rules and regulations, weather, radios, aircraft, engines, navigation and other subjects before they can progress to the aircraft. There they learn to understand the purpose of all the knobs and dials and then the skills to operate all the levers and controls needed to control and fly the aircraft.
Taxying is the first skill, sometimes taking the students by surprise. Using hand on the throttle to control the power and their feet to steer require new skills — quite a contrast to previously learned skills of driving mum’s car!
However, with their smart young brains and the guidance and patience of their experienced instructors, the students usually quickly learn the skills to safely pilot an aircraft to achieve their first solo circuit after a few hours at the controls. Instruction continues, away from the security of the airfield circuit to learn advanced flying and navigation skills essential to find their way back to the Matamata airfield.
One student really impressed with her confidence and determination. Kate Te Wano from Taumarunui, with little aviation exposure but a passion to join the air force, applied for and was accepted to attend the Walsh. Kate worked hard at various jobs, including trapping possums and selling the fur, won some scholarships and sought sponsorships and help from family and friends to attend.
“Although I am a Scout, I didn’t really have a proper Scout background,” she said.
“I’m a lone Scout, so I do everything by myself. I hunt and enjoy bushcraft and survival, so possum hunting goes hand-in-hand. Other kids work at New World and McDonalds. I hunt.
“I want to put a lot more emphasis on the fact that I wouldn’t be here without help from family and the scholarships. Fur hunting played such a small part when compared with the help of others, and I’m really grateful to them for it. The Walsh is a truly amazing place and I’m blessed and honoured to have attended and gained my wings there. The opportunities are incredible. There is a wealth of knowledge pouring out of all those involved, be it the pilots, ATC or met service,” said Kate.
“Backed up by major sponsors, who include the RNZAF, the Walsh has pushed me in all the right directions. I’ll be eternally grateful to all those who helped me; being in the air is something indescribable. You can’t put a price on experience, and my first solo is something I’ll never forget.”
Kate proved to be a popular and capable student, gaining her wings badge and receiving several awards to help her achieve her ambitions.
Another student, Aimee Burn from Hawke’s Bay with Dad a property manager and Mum having been a flight assistant with Origin Pacific, remembers her first solo flight very well. After she achieved the skills to safely fly an aircraft in the circuit, the instructor hopped out at the takeoff area and instructed her with those time-honoured words, “Go fly your first solo circuit and pick me up after landing.”
Normally the instructor watches the aircraft as he quietly walks a few hundred metres along the runway to the landing area and waits for the student to land and pick him up for a ride back to the flight line. However, Aimee was so excited about her solo achievement she forgot the pickup, leaving the instructor a long walk in the hot sun!
Excuses went something like, “I landed a bit long” to “I tried looking round for my instructor but couldn’t see him so I just decided to taxi back to the parking spot instead — I was going to radio the tower and ask them, ‘Matamata tower, do you happen to know where my instructor is?’”
Congratulations and well done Aimee. She was also very popular with her peers, gaining her wings badge and several awards.
Sponsorship of ab initio student Lucian Clark is just one of many examples of the wide support from the aviation industry. Several of the Walsh instructors are Air Nelson pilots, many returning year after year and providing invaluable industry experience input into the student training programme.
Gary Parata (“Two weeks of insanity at the Walsh keeps me sane for the rest of the year!”), Nick Rowe, Tessa Mobray and James Hilson are some of those.
An additional treat was a flypast by twin turboprop B1900 ZK-EIA on a maintenance check flight, reportedly flown by Chris Mortimer, a previous Walsh participant who has obviously gone on to make a career in aviation.
Three beautifully presented Tiger Moths arrived early on the family day morning. Blue BFF, flown by John Pheasant, yellow ALM (Paul Doherty) and silver 42-7167 (Wayne Edwards) were very popular. They flew about 30 flights giving students a dose of nostalgia in an elderly open-cockpit biplane, a real stick-and-rudder aeroplane with tail skid, flown expertly in close formation, sequencing in with the busy Cessna and Tomahawk training fights all happening at the same time.
Return instructor Sue Mealing said this year’s Walsh was the best yet, the weather kinder than many previous years enabling her students more flying time and achieving very high successes. Most students achieved their first solo, which along with their exam enabled them to gain their Wings badges.
The Wings Parade and Awards Dinner were preceded by a flypast, display and arrival of a two-seat Mk IX Spitfire beautifully flown by Gavin Trethewey, who also presented the Wings badges. At the Wings Awards Parade Gavin congratulated all the students for their success and shared some words wisdom from his extensive flying experiences. “There are only three things required for a good landing, and when somebody finds out what those things are they should let me know!”
The Awards Dinner was another experience of the planning and execution that goes with the Walsh organisation. Students were seated with Scout leaders, guests and sponsors. Throughout the many presentations there was an obvious display of maturity and confidence, plus lots of fun and rivalry between the four student flight groups.
Aviation industry awards, chosen by the organisers, instructors and peers, were presented to students for various achievements to continue their dreams of flying and to encourage continuing association with things Scouting and aviation.
This year the guest speaker at the dinner was Graeme Harris, CAANZ Director. Graeme outlined his background in aviation, issues facing CAA with UAVs and ongoing support for the Walsh, also hinting at closer connections with grassroots aviation.
The coveted 48th Walsh Trophy this year went to the popular and deserving Danielle Stevens.
The local Scout group helped with serving the meals, coordinating serving the four courses between the numerous award presentations and guest speakers. The greatest accolades went to the kitchen staff for producing such a delightful four-course meal from very limited kitchen facilities.
- Report and photographs by Noel Bailey
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place