Flights of Fantasy For Wanaka Trainee Pilot

Trainee pilot Corey Fothergill finds it hard to believe he gets paid to fly.
Trainee pilot Corey Fothergill finds it hard to believe he gets paid to fly.

7 April 2017

When Royal New Zealand Air Force trainee pilot Corey Fothergill is hurtling through the sky in one of the new T-6C Texan II planes he still struggles with the concept he is actually at work.

Pilot Officer Fothergill, 20, of Wanaka, has just completed Exercise Wiseowl at Base Woodbourne, near Blenheim, where he spent two weeks learning formation flying in the Texans with nine other trainee pilots from 14 Squadron.

The planes are purpose-built for military pilot training and have the latest technology, including ejection seats, collision-avoidance and ground awareness warning systems, a pressurised cockpit and personal locator beacons for each pilot.

They are allowing this latest batch of trainee pilots to go higher, further and faster than their predecessors.

“I still find it hard to believe that when I’m flying that it‘s actually my job,” Fothergill said.

“Growing up I always dreamed of becoming a pilot. When deciding what to do after I left school I thought the Air Force would be a pretty cool way to do it and here I am - definitely no regrets.”

Fothergill, who attended Mount Aspiring College, joined in early 2015. He attended an officer training course in Woodbourne that year and began pilot training at Base Ohakea at the start of 2016.

One of the aims of Exercise Wiseowl is to place the trainees in unfamiliar territory, so they develop the skills to operate anywhere in the world.

“Every day is different for me, which is what I love about it,” Fothergill said. “One day you could be doing aerobatics by yourself at 15,000 feet above Castlepoint and the next you could be formation flying over mountains down south – it’s pretty cool.

“The change of scenery we were flying around above Woodbourne was awesome. You can’t beat close formation flying through the Marlborough Sounds or over high mountainous terrain, which you just don’t find in Manawatu.

“It was a great place to learn to master the skills of formation flying. Along with solo aerobatics, this has been one of the highlights of my career.”

Though only in the early stages of his career, Fothergill has no doubts he made the right decision.

The Air Force, and the New Zealand Defence Force in general, provided a great career path, he said.

“There are so many different trades in all three services, and you’ll do some pretty cool stuff wherever you go.

“After more than two years in the Air Force I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Every day is different, you get to travel lots and work with some seriously cool pieces of kit.”

This page was last reviewed on 7 April 2017.