Fasten your seatbelts, Glenn Phillips is ready for take-off.

That phrase might normally apply to cricket patrons when the New Zealand Twenty20 batsman detonates his power game, like during his man-of-the-match 56 from 40 balls against the West Indies at Nelson last summer.

However, it's just as likely to emanate from his home office as the 21-year-old enacts plans to become a commercial pilot after his sporting career.

Phillips has an X-Plane 10 flight simulator built into his computer set-up. He enters the virtual cockpit at any given opportunity to extend his aviation knowledge.


He is part of a global network of aspiring pilots. They can attempt myriad flight paths, enter most international airspaces, and deal with live online control towers.

It's all part of learning the jargon which enables Phillips to decipher his Alfa from his Bravo from his Charlie.

The Herald jumps into seat 1A to witness him complete a circuit around Auckland Airport in an Airbus A310.

The tendency to grip the armrest at take-off remains, even though we are ensconced on terra firma in the heart of Pakuranga.

The worries ease when Phillips engages the throttle and launches smoothly into the ether.

Time to release the tray table and take a sip of complimentary rooibos tea that comes with the service.

PHILLIPS' FAMILY emigrated from South Africa to New Zealand when he was five. A passion for the sky has endured most of his life, apart from a blip a few years back when he got "terrified" by air crash investigation shows.

His passion was rekindled in an instant courtesy of the G-forces as his plane left the tarmac on a club cricket trip to Australia.


"It's just the thought of being in control of something large and powerful, and the lives of everyone onboard are in your hands," Phillips says.

"It's an adrenaline factor, I guess. The idea is to get my pilot's licence at some stage in my cricket career after 50 hours of flying and some exams. From there, I'd go into commercial flying which means I'd get paid to learn more and instruct.

"Hopefully I'd go on to get my air transport licence, which means I can fly internationally and domestically, but that's at the mercy of how many hours I can get under my belt, and how quickly."

Phillips' flight path has suffered the odd spot of turbulence.

When he went for his original medical certificate he had been on medication for ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and the prescription drugs counted as an addictive substance, according to the aviation authorities.

Phillips is now off the medication but, rather than risk having it on his record, he chose to pursue his cricket career while maintaining his aviation passion online.

He can complete flying hours, but can't get his licence without a medical certificate. The document verifies that a pilot is capable of controlling the plane if something goes wrong.

"I was seven hours in [with training at Ardmore's Auckland Aero Club] when I found out the medical certificate was going to be an issue," Phillips says.

Glenn Phillips at the computers that give him the experience of piloting anything from a seaplane to a space shuttle. Photo / Andrew Alderson
Glenn Phillips at the computers that give him the experience of piloting anything from a seaplane to a space shuttle. Photo / Andrew Alderson

"I put it on hold two and a bit years ago, and have done simulator stuff since. I'm looking to get back in the air midway through next year. The hours stay in the system but the lessons will start again. I want to do them all properly.

"Once I get to a solo flight after 25 hours, then I can pay to go by myself without needing to book an instructor."

IN THE meantime, Phillips is devoting himself to a programme that can see him fly most aircraft from the Concorde to a helicopter to a sea plane. He can even channel a touch of Neil Armstrong in a space shuttle if the mood takes him.

That would be a small step from a home office, but it'd be a giant leap to pursue his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut.

Instead, Phillips has buckled himself into the cyber airspace so his pilot knowledge is as close as possible to the real thing.

"People get annoyed if you don't talk in the right radio language, and it gets you in practice for what you have to do up in the air."

Phillips reacts to whatever the world's weather serves up, adjusting his instruments accordingly. He ensures he has enough fuel, taxis onto the runway in an orderly fashion, and negotiates an artery-like map of possible flight paths when he's in "the air".

Pilots are only allowed to "fast forward" over the oceans, provided they are out of anyone's certified airspace, otherwise they are required on the flight deck until they land.

The repercussions are severe if participants fail to respect the system.

"Like if there's any talk about terrorism," Phillips says.

"If you say anything online, the real air people get into action because they have all your details. They're trying to make it as life-like as possible."

Officials also get grumpy with anyone who ignores designated altitudes, speeds and angles, particularly around airports.

Phillips says it took about six years for him to get fluent with the system. That involved a few trial-and-error crashes before he went "live" online. He was no Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger landing on New York's Hudson River in those fledgling days.

FLYING AIRBUS 380s remains Phillips' overarching ambition once he transitions out of cricket.

"That's the ultimate, but the guys flying those are in their late 40s and early 50s and have been flying since their 20s.

"To get those hours under the belt I'd have to pretty much fly every day. It's a distant dream."

Phillips' next flight plan involves travelling to the Caribbean Premier League in August and September to play a second season with the Jamaica Tallawahs.

He will be based out of Kingston's Sabina Park and Fort Lauderdale in Florida. Fellow Black Cap Ross Taylor and internationals Shahid Afridi, Imad Wasim and David Miller are among his teammates.

The trip presents a chance to resume putting balls rather than planes into distant airspace.