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Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School 2023

From the 7th -19th January, 70 students descended upon Matamata for the 56th Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School.

During the first week they had weather from ex-cyclone Hale come through Matamata which made it difficult/ impossible to get up in the air. Students were able to complete a lot of class room time during this week. 

The second week the weather cleared up and they managed to do 80%+ of their flying. This meant by some miracle all students were able to complete the school and 41 students completed their first solo flight! 

A very big thank you to all the instructors for working really hard to ensure this amazing experience happened for the students. 

After having to cancel last years Walsh (the first ever in the 50+ years its been running) they had around 10 less returning students which meant that those students who did return really had to step up to support the students who where attending for the first time. And they certainly did!

You can check out the Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School Facebook page for more photos and Ben Girven (Unit Leader), and Sophie Collingridge, (Deputy Unit Leader), share their experience at Walsh below…

This year’s Walsh Memorial Scout Flying School was a major success and an unforgettable one for sure. It is safe to say that everyone had been looking forward to it, especially because of the lack of a school in 2022 due to COVID. 

Ex-tropical cyclone Hale didn’t allow for much flying over the first few days of the school and several tents didn’t survive the weather, so lots of tent pitching and fixing was required. Everyone was determined and keen to lend a hand, and even without the incentive of flying, students worked incredibly hard to get the camp up and running.

Despite the slow, wet, and windy start, everyone remained in good spirits. The Ab-Initio (first year) students had most of their briefings crammed in on the bad weather days. This meant that when the weather improved, flying took priority. What followed were some of the busiest days of flying in Walsh history, with planes in the air all the way from 6 am until 9 pm. Due to an amazing effort from instructors, camp and flight operations staff, air traffic control, and the students themselves – who spent much of their time on the ground studying – an astounding 41 of 48 ab-initio’s completed their first solo flights. The number of returned students (13) was almost half the normal amount due to the 2-year break between schools, so student leaders had their work cut out for them. However, the returns all had a very successful school, getting in lots of flying while helping to facilitate the success of ab-initios.

In between all the flying, there was much more fun to be had at Walsh – we had cricket and volleyball tournaments, visits to the local hot pools and screenings of Top Gun. Sunday the 15th was family day, which was a great opportunity for students’ families to see how their young pilot was getting on, to meet instructors and watch two forms of entertainment provided by the RNZAF – the firefighters’ competition and an incredible air display by the Black Falcons.

On the last night of the school, students are presented with their Scout Wings and certificates at the Wings Parade ceremony, which is followed by flag down and the final dinner. Several high-profile guests are invited to the final dinner – many of whom are sponsors of the school, or scholarship providers, along with speakers and representatives from other organisations. Many deserving students are awarded scholarships at the dinner, including money for flying, equipment, and experiences provided by Air New Zealand, Airways, the RNZAF and others. This year’s Walsh Trophy, for the top ab-initio student, went to Lukasz Swain who also received a large award from Air New Zealand.

Walsh is an amazing, addictive, and incredibly rewarding experience – it’s easy to understand why
people keep coming back year after year.