14 December 2023

'Flying before I can drive': Griffith teenager gains pilot licence, continues family legacy

| Oliver Jacques
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Father and son flying

Ryan Irvin flying alongside his dad Shannon. Photo: Supplied.

A Year 10 student at Leeton’s St Francis De Sales College has followed in the footsteps of his father and granddad by gaining his pilot’s licence.

Ryan Irvin is just 16, but secured his RA-Aus Pilot Certificate through the Griffith Aero Club in September 2023.

“It’s weird, I’m flying before I can drive a car,” he said. “My certificate means I can fly solo up to 25 nautical miles, which is pretty much from Griffith to Leeton.

“It certain ways, flying is easier than driving, apart from the landing and taking off.”

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His maternal grandfather, Peter Little, 74, flew planes as a crop duster on his Merriwagga farm, while his father Shannon got his pilot licence when he was 19.

“I’ve lived my whole life around planes. My pop’s had his licence for 50 years,” Ryan said.

“It’s now something my father and I now have together; it’s a special connection I have with Dad.

“My mum and dad have always been great inspirations to me, my dad is such a hard worker on the farm and my mum has always gone out and tried to achieve what she wants in business.”

Ryan Irvin

Ryan plans to enter the aviation field following school. Photo: Ginette Guidolin.

The feeling is mutual for Ryan’s mum Cassandra Irvin.

“I’m extremely proud of Ryan; he’s a quiet achiever, he never looks for any form of recognition, but he gets things done. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks, he just goes out and does his thing,” she said.

Ryan secured his pilot licence following lessons from Griffith Areo Club’s instructor Phillip Payn and passing flight tests administered by aviation veteran Robert Robilliard. He was tested on his ability to make emergency landings, follow radio instructions, navigate, and handle a stalled plane.

“I wasn’t that nervous before my test as I’d been flying for so long. I did my introduction flight at the age of 13. My dad then got me to do some flying with him to get some knowledge up.

“I was a bit scared to start with, but it was a good fear, to think, ‘I will be able to fly this by myself’. My pop prepared me a lot before I flew.”

Ryan Irvin shaking hands with instructor

Ryan Irvin alongside his granddad Peter Little and instructor Rob Robilliard. Photo: Supplied.

The next step for Ryan is to pass his Recreational Pilot Licence (Navigation) exam, which gives him the right to fly solo anywhere he wants.

The Year 10 student is also a singer and plays AFL for the Griffith Swans. Covering large distances for regional matches is a lot easier for him.

“There was a time my dad and I flew up to Moama for the Moama Lights and then we flew to Temora to play in an AFL semi-final. Dad didn’t let me use the map in his iPad; I used a paper map, so I learned not to rely on technology all the time.

“I’ve also flown from a town near Cairns to Griffith, flying for more than 10 hours with my granddad.”

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Ryan has mapped out a future in aviation.

“My plan for when I leave school is to become an aeronautical engineer. I did work experience in that field in Sydney. I want to work on and design planes. I could also work on Formula One cars, which is another possible pathway.”

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