Youngest Yak aircraft pilot in SA to attend KZN Winter Air Tour

2013-06-28 00:00

THE youngest Yak aircraft pilot in South Africa is from Howick and will be attending the KZN Winter Air Tour shows in Pietermaritzburg and Margate.

He will fly in with his aircraft but is not taking part in the displays himself.

The 19-year-old Ryan Chalmers-Banks, who matriculated from Howick High School last year, said he flew in a bush plane in Zimbabwe at age 13 and has been hooked ever since.

He joined Howick Flying Club at the age of 15.

That’s where he said he began to experience the “purest form” of flying by gliding and learning the ability to rely on the air currents.

“I then moved on to begin and complete my powered pilot’s licence at the Pietermaritzburg Flying Club,” he said.

It wasn’t a smooth glide trying to juggle school and learning to fly for Chalmers-Banks.

He’d sit in lessons knowing that a perfectly good flying day was passing him by. “It was unbearable,” Chalmers-Banks told The Witness.

He also sacrificed holidaying with friends and leisure time on weekends to cover his 40-hour flight time for his private pilot’s licence, which he attained last June.

“The end goal was always a great motivator.”

The quiet but confident Chalmers-Banks said he received lots of support from the flying community, and especially from air traffic controller Sakkie de Lange and the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club’s David Bond.

“I never felt for one moment that I was at a disadvantage because of my age,” he added.

When asked what he likes to do for fun, Chalmers-Banks said: “Flying and making up for lost time.” He now tries to hang out with his friends more.

He described flying as a bug that bites you and a unique feeling that somehow man was meant to have wings.

This Yak pilot is now pressing towards passing the necessary exams to qualify for his commercial pilot’s licence.

The Yak, according to East Cape Aviation, has a 360 hp nine-cylinder M-14P radial engine, retractable gear and variable pitch propeller.

“It’s a beast of a plane … generally you can hear one coming before you see it,” Chalmers-Banks said.

His advice to other youngsters is simple –– find what you love and follow your dreams –– and it is no doubt that Chalmers-Banks is living his dream.

The KZN Winter Air Tour show in Pietermaritzburg takes place from 10 am to 3 pm on Saturday at Pietermaritzburg (Oribi) Airport.

Gates open at 8 am.

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