Behind the wheel of a glider

Tauranga teenager Nolan Cockburn is navigating a glider through the air well before he knows how to drive a car.

Tauranga teenager Nolan Cockburn, 14, knows how to get around the sky before the road. Photo by Cameron Avery.

The 14-year-old has been learning to fly a glider at Tauranga Gliding Club since December 2014 and is almost ready to fly solo.

Nolan’s tried driving a manual car before, but he says flying is easier. “There’s nothing really to hit apart from planes and the Mount,” he laughs.

It can be daunting for a parent to see their teen behind the wheel of a car, let alone an aircraft. “I think they [mum and dad] are a bit scared with me being up there on my own,” says Nolan.

“But I think it’s just about building trust overtime. I’ve still got a lot to learn.”

After all it was his parents who bought their son a membership at Tauranga Gliding Club.

“I’ve always been interested in flying,” he explains. “It’s just been something that I’ve followed through with and really enjoyed. And it’s a cheaper way to get into aviation as well.”

Nolan is afraid of heights, but not when he rides shotgun in a glider almost 10,000ft above ground. “When I’m on a jungle gym standing at the edge, that’s what gets me,” says Nolan. “But you’ve got to have trust in your aircraft. It’s just always been like that for me.”

He just feels more comfortable up there. “I feel free,” says Nolan. “You can do what you like really. It gets pretty cold up there. The temperature drops two degrees every thousand feet you go up.”

Nolan’s dad Wayne is the coordinator for Youth Glide in Tauranga and his uncle used to fly in the Air Force. But flying seemed cooler in the movies. Nolan says ‘Top Gun’ was one of the films that inspired him to want to fly.

“Once I’ve finished school I’m hoping to go and fly around the world and join the Air Force. Then I might go commercial but I’m not sure.”

The Tauranga Gliding Club is hosting a Youth Glide Open Day on Sunday, September 13 from 10.30am, where aspiring pilots under the age of 18 can get a feel for the sport.

Flying will occur dependent on the weather.

For more information, contact Wayne on: 021 780 038.


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