10 October 2019
Waikari man Tom Sidey has gone from maintaining aircraft to flying them, after serving nine years in the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) as an Aircraft Technician.
Pilot Officer Sidey was one of nine RNZAF pilot trainees from No. 14 Squadron putting their skills to the test in Otago recently, conducting flights out of Dunedin International Airport.
The pilot trainees were joined by 10 instructors and more than 25 supporting personnel for this year’s Exercise Wise Owl, a two-week pilot-training exercise focussing on formation flying in the T-6C Texan II aircraft.
After graduating from Christchurch Boys’ High School and joining the RNZAF in 2009, Pilot Officer Sidey trained as an Aircraft Technician. In that role he was deployed to more than 30 countries, including spending a month in Antarctica with the United States Air National Guard.
However, he always had a desire to fly and at the start of 2018 started his Wings course.
While the pilot trainees are usually stationed at RNZAF Base Ohakea, flying out of a different airfield during Exercise Wise Owl provided them with a unique challenge. During the exercise they flew over Dunedin, Balclutha, Alexandra, Timaru, Oamaru, Te Anau, Manapouri, the Catlins, and Invercargill.
“When you factor in flying at up to 300 knots between 250 and 30,000 feet in close formation with another aircraft, navigating an unfamiliar environment offers a whole new dimension to our training”, Pilot Officer Sidey said.
“Having the opportunity to fly over other parts of the country and see the awesome scenery has also been extremely rewarding.”
While the Wings course takes up most of his time, he still finds time to run ultramarathons and participate in target shooting, hunting, fishing and water sports.
The trainees aim to graduate from their Wings course by the end of the year, and will go on to fly either the A109 helicopters or the King Air 350 aircraft.
As he approaches the end of the training, Pilot Officer Sidey has no regrets from making the switch.
“Flying as part of the RNZAF has already been one of the highlights of my military career, he said. “Getting paid to train in what you are passionate about and having the opportunity to contribute to society in some epic roles makes all the hard work worth it.
“And you also make a lot of really awesome mates.”