Teen's first solo flights a 'rare achievement'

By John Cousins

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Tauranga Boys' College student Sam Godfrey has notched up a rare and possibly unique feat in the history of New Zealand aviation.

Not content with celebrating his 16th birthday on Saturday by flying solo in the Tauranga Aero Club's student workhorse, the Cessna 152, he also went solo in the club's four-seaters - the Cessna 172 and Piper Warrior.

Chief flying instructor Aidan Campbell said flying three different types of aircraft on the first day he was allowed to fly solo was a rare, if not unique, achievement.

"Sam is a natural aviator, hard working and dedicated," he said.

Mr Campbell said Sam had logged 100 hours in his three years' training with the club, effectively having developed enough skills to have flown solo many years ago.

"He has done a lot of hours waiting to go solo - which was why he accomplished what he did."

Mr Campbell said Sam's ability and work ethic meant he could be in the captain's seat of an Air New Zealand Dash 8 as young as 21 or 22.

Sam's passion for aircraft and flying started when he was eight years old. Once he had "caught the bug", the youngster became such a regular at the airport viewing planes that Phil Hooker of Bay Flight gave him his first taste of getting airborne in a light aircraft, with a trial flight aboard a Cessna 172. Sam even took the controls.

That memorable flight set Sam on the path to having his private pilot's licence by 17, his commercial licence by 18 and airline transport licence by 21.

However, flying does not come cheap and Sam has funded his passion by loading bags for Air New Zealand at Tauranga Airport - usually for one or two shifts each weekend and sometimes after school.

Sam said he had not dared to add up the thousands of dollars he had spent learning to fly. His dream aircraft was the McDonnell Douglas F18 fighter jet, although his foreseeable aviation ambitions were a little less spectacular - to become an Air New Zealand pilot.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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