It was on Alexandra Shaw’s second solo flight over Bunbury last year that things went wrong when the trim controls of the light aircraft she was flying began to misbehave.
The Bunbury Grammar student was just 15 years old at the time and too young to drive when she found herself alone with a malfunctioning aircraft 500 feet above the earth as she was lining up to land.
“I didn’t panic. I checked everything to make sure it was the aircraft and not me, but, yes, it was the aircraft. I thought I could bring it in anyway and I had enough control to land, so I did,” she said.
“But it wasn’t until I’d taxied up to the clubhouse and got out that it struck me what had happened. I just burst into tears.”
It wasn’t enough to keep her out of the sky. Alexandra is one of four young women who have recently been awarded flight training scholarships from the Australian Women Pilots Association. And last week she became the only candidate from WA selected for the 2016 Air Force camp for girls at RAAF East Sale.
The selection is the latest in a banner run for the young pilot after she won her category and came fourth overall in the WA Light Aircraft Championships at the Bunbury Aero Club in November last year.
Recalling her first solo flight, Alexandra remembers how different the aircraft felt when she took off.
“Both of my instructors are tall guys, so when I took off solo for the first time the plane didn’t dip over to the side like it usually had,” she said. “Then I looked over and saw the empty seat and realised I was totally responsible for myself.”
But the sky, it seems, is not quite big enough for her, so Alexandra has also taken to the water and become a rower.
She won her first race appearance when she represented Bunbury in the 3000 metre women’s single scull at the Swan River Rowing Club’s Mettams Head Race on April 17, pulling a 16-minute time.
Alexandra thought her coach would be happy with about 20.
“But I’m pretty competitive,” she said.
Alexandra is aiming to compete at the national level by the end of the year.
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