Teen soars to new heights

May 14, 2020 BY

Zakary Ekberg is no ordinary teen: he’s flying planes solo at 15, and hopes to secure his pilot license in the near future. Photo: MICHAEL CHAMBERS

TURNING 16 is an exciting time for most; it means getting behind the wheel of a car. But for 15-year-old Zakary Ekberg, while he’s not yet old enough to drive, he’s already flying.
The St Joseph’s College Geelong Year 10 student woke up nearly two years ago wanting to fly and said after his first lesson at 13, he hasn’t looked back.
“I always wanted to do acting but one morning I woke up and thought ‘I want to fly’. My parents got me a certificate for one flight lesson and I loved it.”
Zak has been having regular lessons since in Lethbridge at Golden Plains Aviation and after two years of hard work, exams and flight lessons, took to the skies solo for the first time.
“I’ve done two solo flights now; they add up to just under an hour. I was confident but nervous at the same time. The instructor was in the plane, then once we landed she pulled us over and got out,” Zak said.
“She said I was going up by myself, and up I went. My heart was pounding but I was confident. Sometimes you think ‘What happens if something goes wrong?’ but generally I believed I’d be fine.”
From his first flight, Zak knew it was something he wanted to do professionally and as he soars above the countryside, feels a great sense of clarity.
“When you’re up there looking over paddocks and the valley, you see animals and it gives you a different perspective of the countryside. You’re looking over an open area, down at nature, and it’s beautiful.
“It feels freeing to fly. You can’t experience that any other way; flying in a big commercial plane is nothing like flying in a small plane.”
Owner of Golden Plains Aviation David Mackay has been a pilot for about 40 years and said 15 was the minimum age for students to go up solo, but there’s plenty of pupils from 13 onwards.
“It’s amazing that legally you can fly before you can drive. I don’t understand that but you can start at any age, as long as you can reach the pedals and have the maturity,” he said.
“I always say to the students, ‘Your mother drives you to the airport, then she hops in the plane and is under your control, then she’ll drive you home’.
“Once a student completes all their training, exams and 10 solo hours, they can get a passenger endorsement, meaning they can take a passenger up with them.”
After two solo flights, Zakary said he’ll continue working at The Little Mussel Café in Portarlington to fund the $200 lessons and keep momentum up from his solo flights.
“I want to continue flying as a career path, I did the Australian Air Force cadets which really got me interested in the history of planes and the aviation world.
“When you fly for the first time, a lot of pilots say you either get a feeling or you don’t. You’ll never find a pilot who does flying for a job that doesn’t want to fly on the weekend.
“I’ve never really been a sports person; I absolutely love being up in the air.
“Flying is in its own league, the emotion it brings. Sometimes there’s been days where I’m a bit down but once you get up there, all your problems just fly away – no pun intended.”

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