Monday 6th April saw Tamworth Leading Cadet Ji Thorley celebrate his birthday in a very unusual way. While not yet old enough at 15 to drive a car, Ji took off from Tamworth airport and possibly into the record books as the youngest person in Australia to fly solo.
Growing up under the final approach path at Tamworth Airport, Ji had been long fascinated with aviation and would enjoy watching the aircraft coming into land from his home.
At age 7 while taking part in the local ANZAC Day parade with another youth group he saw the Australian Air League and joined up as soon as he was old enough.
Through the Air League Ji started to learn about aviation and began progressing through the education syllabus, studying navigation, meteorology and the theory of flight. Each year the Squadron would undertake two flying days, in gliders and power flight, and last year when the Air League’s Piper Warrior aircraft flew up to Tamworth for a Squadron air experience day Ji got to take the controls for the first time under the supervision of the pilot.
In February this year Ji started his flying training with Airspeed Aviation, a local flying school at Tamworth, working towards his Recreational Pilot License (RPL). By April he had accumulated 10 hours of flying training in the Grob G115 aircraft and would soon be ready for his first solo.
CASA regulations state that a pilot must be at least 15 years old to go solo, and with his birthday soon approaching it was decided Ji would do his first solo on his birthday. Under perfect skies Ji did 5 circuits with his instructor who then told him he was ready to undertake his first solo.
Taxying back out to the runway; Ji opened the throttle on Grob VH-TGL and was soon airborne on his first solo flight. While he admitted to being a little nervous as he taxied out, those nerves disappeared as he took off, noting how quickly the Grop climbed without the instructor aboard. All too soon he was turning on final to touch down, ending this first flight.
Speaking to us after his first flight, Ji said his goal was to become a commercial pilot.
“I’d like to fly for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, or eventually for an airline that flies around the world”
We wish Ji all the best with his flying!