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TAFE Queensland and Airwork Helicopters’ 100th graduate takes off

When Cameron Arnold was being flown into a remote worksite in the Northern Territory he never imagined that he would one day call the skies his office.

Cameron's desire to take his career sky high came while working as a carpenter in the Northern Territory where he would be choppered into remote Indigenous communities, and during those flights he discovered his passion for helicopters.

"I was blindsided by how passionate about helicopters those flights made me. So much so that I started spending my weekends working ground support for Katherine Helicopters to absorb everything I could about them," explained Cameron.

"The more I learnt, the more intense my passion became, and I was amazed at how many opportunities there are for helicopter pilots. Fighting bush fires, mustering and spraying, tourism and transport - the applications for helicopters are endless. It wasn't long until I decided to study to become a pilot."

His search for training brought him to TAFE Queensland to study a Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence - Helicopter) (AVI50319) and realise his dream of becoming a pilot.

He chose to study with TAFE Queensland for a number of reasons, one of which was the financial structure of the diploma that connected him with a student loan.

Delivered under the expert guidance of TAFE Queensland's partner instructors from Airwork Helicopters in Caboolture, Cameron successfully completed his diploma and commercial helicopter pilot licence, becoming TAFE Queensland and Airwork Helicopter’s 100th helicopter graduate in the process.

"Between working with the helicopters in the classroom to flying each day, the course was hands on from the start. I got a lot of opportunities to fly, understand how everything works and apply the theory first-hand."

Based in Caboolture, Cameron spent his days immersed in learning from other students, engineers and pilots. Then, after 20 hours of flying under instruction, he took his first solo flight, which he described as unbelievable.

"I found the structure of the course great, it has a perfect mix of theory and practical training. I was able to learn about various types of helicopters, aerodynamics and meteorology, so I knew what to expect when I got behind the controls for my first flight."

Giving him a greater appreciation and understanding for helicopters was the immersive nature of the training facility. Based in Airwork’s hangar at Caboolture Airfield, his classroom gave him access to aircraft, ground crew and workshops each day he was there.

"The best thing about studying at an airfield is that we're able to chat with engineers and visit their workshops and ask questions about each aircraft and its components," said Cameron.

Cameron said it was exciting to gain his helicopter pilot licence in a short space of time and has surprised himself in the process.

Now qualified, Cameron is heading back to Katherine to pilot tourism and agricultural flights with a view of one day specialising in search and rescue and firefighting flights.

Also helping him get his new career off to the best possible start was how his training was tailored to his first job by the team at Airwork Helicopters.

"My teachers got in touch with my employer to ensure I learnt the specifics they were looking for, helping me to get job ready faster."

"Because I'll be flying near a military zone for work, my teachers ensured I trained near air force bases in Queensland, where I learnt how to communicate with military air traffic control."

Now with a passion for learning, improving and being the best he can be, he credits TAFE Queensland and Airwork Helicopters for both helping him change careers to do something he truly loves and igniting his passion for learning.

"I was never an academic in high school, but because I'm so passionate about this subject, studying wasn't a chore for the first time in my life and I'm amazed at how far I've come and how much I've learnt in such a short time.”

“It wasn't long ago that I was a passenger on my way to work, and now I'm able to manoeuvre a helicopter in ways I'd never thought possible."

"Thanks to the support of my amazing teachers and incredible facilities, I'm living my purpose, and my TAFE Queensland qualification will allow me to travel the world and work from above the clouds."