VIDEO: Sky no limit for teenage pilot
FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl Thalia Lenord can't drive a car or ride a motorbike, but she can legally fly a plane by herself.
The Pacific Valley Christian School student, who will sit for her HSC next year, has just received her RAAus (Recreational Aviation Australia) Pilots Certificate after about six months of intense instruction at trainer Andy Ski's flight school at South Grafton Aerodrome.
Thalia has already clocked up six hours of solo flying in her 30 hours of flight time, all of it in Mr Ski's Foxbat trainer.
He said with four more hours of flight time under her belt, she would be qualified to take passengers aloft.
Although she has flown solo as part of her training, last Thursday the young pilot took off by herself for the first time as a certified pilot.
"It was really cool," she said.
Thalia, whose ambition is to fly with the RAAF, cannot remember a time when she didn't want to fly.
"When I was in Year 3 I wrote that I wanted to be an astronaut," she said.
"But I really knew a couple of years ago that I wanted to be a RAAF pilot."
Her plan is to finish school and take a working gap year then apply to join the air force.
Thalia said qualifying for the RAAF would have some big advantages.
"If you go through the air force training, they pay for your university at Griffith University," she said.
"They also have some really good incentives for women to join up, like shorter service time."
Her plan B if the RAAF direct entry does not work out is to complete a Bachelor of Aviation at the uni, then try the RAAF again.
But her instructor does not think she has a lot to worry about.
Mr Ski trained his sons Nick and Kris as general aviation pilots and they are both pilot instructors with the RAAF.
"I would say she's ahead of where they were at the same time in their flying," Mr Ski said.
He said the RAAF would be getting a pilot who learned quickly and was able to follow procedures faultlessly.
"She just takes everything in and then does it when she flies," he said.
"Her work on the radio is faultless.
"I know experienced pilots who still can't do that right."
And he said Thalia should not give up on her schoolgirl's dream of eventually becoming an astronaut.
"I could definitely see her piloting a space shuttle," he said.
"That's going to be a big thing for pilots in the years to come."