I have had a fascination with flight since I was a young boy. I started with rubber band-propelled planes and advanced to radio-controlled planes when I was older (read that as when I could afford it!).
It was at this time that I met Phill Hooker, the man who eventually taught me to fly. Phill was a great Air New Zealand pilot and is still one of the best pilots I know but he was pretty bad at radio-control planes. I am proud that one of the feathers in my cap is for teaching the cool Phill Hooker to fly!
Phill is a cool guy. He really is. And he has done good things for aviation in Tauranga. So it came as no surprise to me that I saw him on Campbell Live earlier this week.
The television program had done a show on under-privileged kids in Tauranga the weeks before. In that program, one little girl stood out. She was full of ambition and struggled to break free of socio-economic factors well beyond her control.
Young Porshay wanted to be a pilot when she grew up but did not believe it could ever happen. How disheartening...
And then what did Phill do?
He called the program, hunted Porshay down and gave her a message of hope.
Phill took her to flight school and later on put her in a plane, handing over to her the controls. See the video here.
He did the same for me that many years ago. And because of the same message of hope, Phill Hooker inspired me to pursue my love of aviation. He did not let my disability stop me. And with his help, I became the first person to learn to fly with a disability and created aviation history by becoming the first disabled Kiwi to fly solo.
Who would have thought?
So here's my message to you, little Porshay. Nobody could have imagined it could ever be possible for me to become a pilot and with Phill's help, I proved them wrong. The good man is inspiring to me and I hope he has inspired you to pursue your dreams of becoming a pilot too.
The sky is the limit. I'll see you up there.