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News > Alumni News > Profile: Shelby Whatham (Class of 2016) Landing on her feet, with a career in the air!

Profile: Shelby Whatham (Class of 2016) Landing on her feet, with a career in the air!

Despite not taking HSC Physics and a high-level Maths, Shelby shifted gears and changed her plans from Theatre Media and studying Arts to working towards a career in aviation as a pilot!
29 Apr 2020
Written by Shelby Whatham
Australia
Alumni News
Shelby Whatham (Class of 2016) at CAE flying school
Shelby Whatham (Class of 2016) at CAE flying school

“…within 24 hours we were driving up to the Warnervale Aerodrome for my TIF (Trial Instructional Flight) and the rest is history. I was absolutely hooked from the moment the plane’s wheels left the ground you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face… I had finally gotten the feeling I had been waiting for when you KNOW this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.”


Hi, how’s it going!  
 
My name is Shelby i’m 22 years old from the graduating class of 2016. During my time at Oxford Falls I was always interested in the arts particularly loving drama and english the most, being able to express my creativity. After being accepted along with most of my drama class for early admission to Charles Sturt university for a bachelor of Theatre Media I was definitely leaning towards the arts side for a career. I was never 100% sure of what I wanted to do so on graduating I ended up attending the University of Sydney for a Bachelor of Arts and Science in the hopes of discovering what I really wanted to specialise in. However, after a semester I hadn't found anything that really grabbed my attention so opted to defer the second semester and travel overseas instead. Returning from my trips I seriously started to consider my options, feeling the pressure to decide I talked to my dad (an airline captain). I have always wanted a career that I enjoyed and was passionate about but if worst came to worst I would be able to support myself and children alone without having to financially struggle. My dad himself had never suggested the idea of becoming a pilot to me he had always just said I could do whatever I wanted to do but funnily enough after thinking about it for a while I slowly started to realise how much the job actually sounded amazing without any input from him. So, I voiced my idea to him and within 24 hours we were driving up to the Warnervale Aerodrome for my TIF (Trial Instructional Flight) and the rest is history. I was absolutely hooked from the moment the plane’s wheels left the ground you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. When we were back on the ground it was decided, and I had finally gotten the feeling I had been waiting for when you KNOW this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.

Then the real hard work came. 
 
Becoming a pilot, I soon realised is just as complicated as you would think, pilots have to know about weather phenomena from geography, physics from science, a LOT of mathematics, the human body factors from biology, clear and strong communication from english, hand eye coordination from PDHPE, in depth mechanics of all aircraft systems, laws of the air and even the duke of ed can be brought into it with in-depth map reading and navigation. I started to doubt my ability thinking how on earth am I going to be able to keep up with only a background of english and drama being my main strength in high school beforehand, but this was my dream and I was not going to stop until I achieved my goal so the study began. I applied to every airline cadetship I could find including REX, Cobham and Jetstar while continuing my training flights at Warnervale.
 
After flying all over Australia to attend multiple testing and interview days for different cadetships I got to the final stage of the Jetstar Cadetship interviews which included a session of group interviews and two one-on-one interviews with Jetstar and the flying school CAE. On the 17th of December 2018 I got the call I had been accepted! I cried, mum cried, we went out to celebrate and then it was full steam ahead for moving from Sydney to Melbourne to embark on this amazing opportunity.
 

“…aviation is a heavily male dominated industry with only 7% of worldwide certified pilots being female…”

I started the course expecting to be one of two girls however on arrival to orientation day I found out the other girl hadn't been able to accept the offer and I was to be the only girl in a group of 10. It’s no secret that aviation is a heavily male dominated industry with only 7% of worldwide certified pilots being female and that became very clear to me just walking around the halls of the flying school only seeing a few girls here and there, but its a very family orientated culture and we all look out for each other and we became very close very quickly as other older intakes welcomed us in with open arms offering support and advice.


Photo: On the left my Jetstar Intake 19-1 (the first of two intakes of 2019) along with our ground school instructor at the time. 
 
As I studied, it became clear a background knowledge of high school physics would be very beneficial as well as Mathematics when it comes to the theory component. So if you are thinking about a career in aviation and picking your subjects I would highly recommend Physics and mathematics. BUT DON’T PANIC if you don’t have these subjects that does not mean it’s the end of your aviation career before you have even started, my year 12 subjects were Advanced English, Geography, Multimedia, General Mathematics and Drama. With some hard work and a committed mind set the theory is definitely doable.

However, I do have to point out not everyone is cut out to be a pilot but if you hold these 7 common traits then you should definitely think about aviation as a career protective: attention to detail, situational awareness, self-confidence, humility, clear communication skills, able to remain calm under pressure and a desire to learn. These traits are essential in becoming a safe pilot. So, if any girls (or guys) think they like to be in control, are confident (a bit of an adrenaline junkie) and a hard worker then I would say to give flying a try before you dismiss it because it’s as far as you can get from an office job and the views are unbeatable! 



It hasn’t been all theory though, the flying aspect makes all the exams worth it from doing my first solo flight (which will stick with you for the rest of your life that amazing feeling of taking off for the first time and its ALL on you, there’s no instructor there to save you if something goes wrong), to working so hard for so long and finally earning my wings passing my private pilots licence flight test and being able to take family and friends up for a joy flight whenever I want to. 

"...the timing of everything will be impacting due to the current COVID-19 so we will just have to wait and see what happens with that as the aviation industry as many other are struggling right now."


Well, I have now completed my training and 100 hours of pilot in command cross country flying on the single engine cessna 172 and have commenced my training on the multi engine seminole working towards my class rating, Instrument Rating, Commercial pilots licence then finally completing my Multi Crew and Jet orientation course. As well as finish up the last of my ATPL exams, all together everything should be done in the next 3-4 months before awaiting the call from Jetstar to begin Type rating on either the Boeing 787 Dreamliner or the Airbus A320.


Photo: L to R, Starting out in a Cessna 150, 100 hours done in a single engine Cessa 172 and Shelby's current aircraft a Piper Seminole
 
However, the timing of everything will be impacting due to the current COVID-19 so we will just have to wait and see what happens with that as the aviation industry as many other are struggling right now. My goal is to become a captain as soon as possible firstly domestically flying narrow body aircraft and to eventually be a captain on an international wide body aircraft (787 / 777 / A350 ). I would also love to live overseas again at some point, japan in particular I'm interested in but would also love to experience the flying around Europe. I also want to get my seaplane endorsement growing up seeing the seaplanes around palm beach I would love to experience landing on water! The study never stops in this industry so I know the hard work will never really end even at the conclusion of this course but the possibilities are endless with the world at our fingertips.


 

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