Graphic: Griffith aviation student wants to fly for a higher purpose
Since climbing into the cockpit of an F1-11 as a child, Ethan Taege has dreamt of a career in the sky – but now he hopes to fly for a higher cause.
The 20-year-old Griffith University Bachelor of Aviation student recently won a private tour of the RFDS Brisbane base.
The RFDS provides care to more than 330,000 Australians each year delivering a range of health services as well as aeromedical retrievals for the critically ill or injured throughout Australia’s rural and remote communities.
Ethan hopes to one day work for the rural healthcare service after they were called to airlift his sick grandmother from her regional home in south Queensland.
“I always wanted to be a pilot, but after my grandma fell ill and needed to be transported, I started investigating what the RFDS pilots actually do and what the lifestyle is like,” he said.
“My grandma couldn’t speak highly enough of how comfortable she was during the whole trip and how caring the staff were.
“She was in this tiny plane, up in the middle of nowhere and she said she felt really, really safe.”
Touring their Brisbane hangar and latest Beechcraft King Air 360CHW turboprop aircraft, Ethan says the RFDS VIP experience has only made him more convinced he’s on the right flight path.
“It’s a really cool operation in terms of the service they provide as I didn’t know it was completely 100 per cent free to the people who need to fly,” he said.
“I’d obviously enjoy the flying, but to also help people out, give back to the community and fly to these regional areas would be a really special opportunity.”
Ethan has not had to distance himself from runways or roaring engines whilst supporting his studies, working part-time as a baggage handler at Brisbane Airport.
“Driving past the tarmac you don’t see much – but today I was able to see the operations room, the aircraft itself and see everything put into practice,” he said.
University has not always been an easy ride for the aspiring aviator, with no pilots or industry workers to seek guidance from in his family, however chasing opportunities and making connections has been pivotal to his progression.
“University is not an easy thing to do, but it’s really helped me with my knowledge of aviation in general and to get that experience and exposure to the industry,” he said.
“My advice to future aviation students would be to do your research, have a goal in mind, but just to get after it.
“I’m only in this position because I’ve met other people, and I’ve been able to get advice from them.”
Access to Griffith’s clubs and societies has enabled Ethan to find a supportive community with like-minded, passionate people.
“I started gliding through and strike-on flight training through the Griffith University Soaring Society (GUSS) and that was a massive experience and introduction.
“I never thought of gliding as an opportunity to get into flight training.
“The Aviation Mates Program as well has given me leadership experience, I have mentors in the other students and just knowing that everyone’s in the same sort of boat and there to help each other really got me through that first year I think.”
Opportunities such as that awarded to ambitious Ethan Taege form part of a wider push to see more pilots consider flying with the RFDS as the institution faces a pilot shortage.