Bernadette Wolhuter

IT WILL BE years before he can legally drive a car, but 15-year-old Colin Campbell can already fly an aeroplane.

The Pietermaritzburg lad this month become one of the youngest in South Africa to be awarded a student pilot’s licence, and he took to the skies on his first solo flight just over a week ago.

“It was amazing,” Colin said, recounting the 304m ascent he made in a Cessna 150 aircraft last Thursday. “I have never felt anything like it.”

Until recently, the minimum age for a student pilot was 16. However, a few months ago, the Civil Aviation Authority reduced this to 15.

When Dave Campbell – Colin’s father and the chief flying instructor at the Pietermaritzburg Aero Club – heard this, he jumped at the opportunity and the two began the application process.

Before being awarded his licence, Colin had to pass the theoretical courses and exams in air law as well as aircraft knowledge. He also had to be medically cleared to fly and to clock in at least 10 hours of dual flying with an instructor. All this while the Pietermaritzburg College pupil, who is in Grade 10, was studying for his end-of-year exams.

“It requires a lot of discipline,” said Campbell. “And I’m obviously very proud of him.”

But Colin said it had not been much of a sacrifice.

“I was just so excited to get my licence and to be able to fly by myself,” he beamed. “I’ve been passionate about aeroplanes for as long as I can remember.”

“Colin has been flying with me since he could reach the controls,” Campbell explained. “It is in our blood. My own father was a pilot in the war and many of Colin’s uncles and cousins are pilots.”

Colin said he was unsure of exactly which career path he would follow after school. However, he said it would definitely involve flying.