January this year saw local Venturer Kieran Debenham (Welcome Bay Scout Group) attend the annual Walsh Memorial Flying School where he undertook a 2 week intensive course learning to fly and at the end of it made his first solo flight at 16 years of age. He joined 65 other students in attending this very popular two-week long training camp at Matamata.
The annual event has been run by the Scout Association of New Zealand since 1967, providing the highest quality aviation training in the country for budding young pilots both male and female aged 16-19. The Walsh has many past students with successful careers in aviation.
This school is named after Vivian Claude Walsh (1888-1950) who was an engineer and his elder brother Leo Austin Walsh (1881-1951) who were pioneers of New Zealand aviation. The Auckland Branch of the Royal Aeronautical Society, concerned to preserve the memory of the brothers' contribution, formed the Walsh Memorial Air Pageant Organisation. Several events raised significant monies for educational purposes - now administered via the New Zealand Aeronautical Trusts Ltd.
The School is supported by the Royal New Zealand Airforce, Air New Zealand, Air Nelson, Air BP, Airways New Zealand, Civil Aviation Authority, New Zealand Met Service, Aviation Services Limited, Royal Aeronautical Society, Rotary International and Fuji Xerox.
Various other planes of interest also visited during the school giving the students chance to see 'up close and personal' which they wouldn't be able to do otherwise, including a Beechcraft 1900D (Eagle Air), Strikemaster, Spitfire, Albatross, MASH Helicopter, Chipmunk & CT4 Airtrainer
During the school besides the flying and lectures, there is a time for the students to meet with people from the Air Force, Air NZ and other flying career options so they can get an idea of where to go if they wish to pursue a career as a pilot.
The 2013 school was very fortunate to have the last public display of the only flying de Havilland Mosquito on its ferry flight back to Auckland from the Wings Over Wairarapa Air Show, in Masterton before it was dismantled for shipping to it's American owner. Students and staff were very privileged to be able to get a close inspection of the aircraft during the afternoon. At the Wings Parade, on the last day of the School, the Mosquito's pilot Keith Skilling presented Scout Wings to the 41 students who had flown their first solo flight before departing for Ardmore with a flying display of the aircraft. Our thanks to the Mosquito's owner Mr Jerry Yagen of the United States.
The School relies on Flying Clubs to provide aircraft and instructors, and this year, as with previous, a number of planes and instructors from Bay Flight Tauranga played a large part in supporting the School, and last night (Tuesday 19th February) Andrew Sims (one of the Instructors from Walsh, as well as being an Instructor with Bay Flight) re-presented Kieran Debenham with his Wings Badge in front of his Scout Group - Kieran is currently the only youth scout member in the Western Bay of Plenty Zone (Katikati to Te Puke) to have achieved this feat.
During a visit to the school in January Welcome Bay Scout Group Leader Neil Debenham also got chance to take to the air in a CT4 Air Trainer.
If you would like to participate in this type of event, feel free to contact Neil Debenham, 07 5432428.