Danica Walsh as an instructor with CTC accompanied by her students.
Last month, First Officer Danica Walsh made a giant step towards her ultimate goal – to be a Captain flying jets for Air New Zealand.
The 27-year-old pilot joined Mount Cook Airline and is currently undertaking training, before flying regional routes from Christchurch from July.
Walsh’s journey started on her 12th birthday, when she accompanied her father on a helicopter flight. From that moment, her dream was to fly jets for Air New Zealand.
Her father, who was flying the helicopter at the time, didn’t quite complete training for his private pilots’ licence, but his daughter took up the reins, and at 19 began fixed-wing pilot training at Ardmore Flying School in Papakura.
“The excitement of being up in the helicopter was enough to set my mind on flying a plane myself one day,” Walsh said.
After completing the ground course at Ardmore, Walsh moved to Bay Flight in Tauranga, at which she completed her Personal Pilots Licence (PPL), Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL) and C -Category licence.
When she received her licences, she flew for a skydiving company in Tauranga, where she worked for a year, before returning to Bay Flight as an instructor.
“As well as flying the planes, I also worked at reception for the skydiving company,” Walsh said.
“So the best part was that after checking the people in for their skydive, I’d hop into the front of the plane. I got so many funny looks and so many people asked ‘Are you qualified to fly the plane?’ – I used to just laugh.”
Walsh decided the best way to build up her hours was to instruct and settled into long-term employment at CTC in Hamilton, where she worked for almost five years before leaving to join Mount Cook last month.
“There are limited options for earning your hours,” Walsh said. “Other than staying in skydiving, I could have chosen to fly in Papua New Guinea and live in a village compound or move to the Australian Outback.
“I decided that instructing was the best lifestyle choice I could make and it still presented a great opportunity to learn and get my flying hours up.”
Walsh was often one of only seven female instructors at CTC (a number that often dropped to three) in a centre that had a list of 70 instructors in total; although it’s not something Walsh thought about. She’s thankful to the training and support received from a senior instructor at CTC, who guided her through her B-Category licence.
The senior instructor is the reason she joined NZALPA around three years ago. She considered him a mentor and trusted his advice. He had also experienced support from NZALPA in the past and was a dedicated membership advocate.
“He always said that pilots needed to be part of NZALPA so that if anything goes wrong, you’re not standing on your own,” Walsh said.
“Having that security is invaluable. I know that now that I’m in the Links, NZALPA will also negotiate my employment contract too, as well as support me if any issues with my employer come up.”
At time of writing, Walsh was busy preparing for simulator training in Auckland and sitting exams with Air New Zealand.
“Joining the Links makes it feel as though all the hard work is worth it; it’s what I’ve been working for,” Walsh said.
She’ll work to become a Captain for Mount Cook and then begin the wait for the big call-up to the Air New Zealand jets.
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