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Nick’s career as a trainer takes off

Nick Howard is returning to the flight school that kick-started his aviation career to help others like him take to the skies.

One year on from completing his own qualification, 25-year-old Maleny local Nick Howard is returning to the flight school that kick-started his aviation career in order to help others like him take to the skies.

Nick completed the Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence — Helicopter) (AVI50319) — a course delivered by Helitec in partnership with TAFE Queensland — in August 2021, and had spent the last six months heli-mustering in central Queensland when a call he had made to seek advice resulted in the opportunity to become an instructor and help train the next generation of helicopter pilots.

Nick has now commenced his instructor rating, with the enthusiastic pilot set to help deliver the course to the latest intake of students.

“I’m really looking forward to being able to pass on a bit of experience and knowledge, and to see people with the same excitement I had as a student,” Nick said.

“Plus nothing beats flying around the Sunshine Coast. It’s good to be back close to home.”

Nick’s fascination with flying began after he graduated from high school, when he moved to the Northern Territory to work as a ringer on a cattle station. Having been involved in several musters were helicopters were used, Nick found himself drawn to the idea of becoming a pilot, but was unsure how to go about it.

“I’ve always had an interest in cars and motorbikes, and then following my mustering experience, helicopters. It’s something I felt instantly drawn to, but it always seemed out of reach,” Nick said.

“Then I saw someone I knew through heli-mustering share an ad for TAFE Queensland that he appeared in on Facebook. When I saw TAFE Queensland was offering a Diploma of Aviation (Commercial Pilot Licence — Helicopter) (AVI50319) on the Sunshine Coast through Helitec, and saw I could get a VET Student Loan to pay for it, I realised it was an option.”

Keen to turn his dream into a reality, Nick enrolled at Helitec, where over the course of six months he developed the skills he needed to launch his career.

“The course was great and Phil (Helitec’s Chief Executive Officer and trainer) was very kind, supportive and helpful. His classes were well run and I always felt safe,” Nick said.

“We started with three months of theory, and I really enjoyed studying with a group of people who had a similar age and interests to me, but were from different parts of the country. I feel like I’ve made long-term friends.

“Then once we finished that, we were rewarded for our hard work by getting to put what we’d learned into practice and actually fly,” he said.

“Getting to fly every day was just amazing — just experiencing the freedom and excitement of being in that moment of what you’re doing. I have a deep love and interest in mechanics, and how helicopters fly just blows me away. It never really gets old for me.”

TAFE Queensland General Manager for the East Coast region, Ana Rodger said the training provider is proud to continue partnering with Helitec to provide aspiring helicopter pilots, like Nick, with the practical, hands-on skills they need to graduate confident, capable and job-ready.

“With the expansion the Sunshine Coast Airport in 2020 and the reopening of our borders earlier in 2022, aviation is an industry that is expected to take off in the region, and this partnership positions the Sunshine Coast as a destination for those looking to make the most of these opportunities to embark on their career,” Ms Rodger said.

Helitec Chief Executive Officer, Phil Aldridge said was excited to welcome Nick back as an instructor and that he’ll make a valuable contribution to his team.

“As Nick has now experienced, working as a commercial helicopter pilot is such a rewarding career – you get to provide passengers with an often once-in-a-lifetime experience, and your ‘office’ changes every day,” Mr Aldridge said.

“Having been a student himself, Nick shares our students’ enthusiasm and passion, and can put himself in their shoes, but he now has the experience to provide them with the training and guidance they need to succeed.”

According to the National Skills Commission, employment opportunities for air transport professionals are projected to grow by 31.4 per cent over the five years from 2020 to 2025.

Nick encouraged anyone considering a career as a commercial helicopter pilot not to delay kick-starting their career and to make the most of the opportunity to learn locally.

“When I was looking into it I was hesitant to do it because I wasn’t sure I could do it. But once I took that first step and committed to it, it was amazing,” he said.