This is a interview I conducted with Jodie Davis, Director and Operations Manager of All Axis Aviation in 2012.
How did you become involved with aviation industry / flying and at what age?
Much of my family live overseas. For me Airports are a place of great excitement and celebration. Every time I looked into the idea of becoming a pilot, I came to the same conclusion: that it was only for people with money and I was far from it. In 2007 at age 23, I was living interstate away from family and friends when I decided I HAD to fly. I bought a textbook and read the whole thing and then booked my first lesson a few days later. I only intended to cure the fascination and be able to say that I flew a plane.
How did you find learning to fly – going through the stages of gaining your licenses and approvals – was it easy or challenging for you?
I often hear instructors these days talking about “natural flyers”. I don’t believe I was one. However another Pilot once told me “flying is 90% passion and perseverance, the rest will come with time” best advice I ever got because I was as passionate about it as anything! But I had no experience with machinery and no knowledge about aircraft or caring for engines. Every lesson was a complete revelation to me and I was fascinated by all of it. I worked 3 jobs including cleaning aircraft on the weekends. I started off with one lesson every 6 weeks and they slowly became more frequent.
What do you find the most enjoyable aspect about flying as a pilot?
There are so many aspects of flying that I love. The appreciation you build for life, nature and the weather because of the spectacular views you see, the genuine sense of being content and the self confidence that you build when you are proud of yourself for achieving something out of this world, the days when your mind and aircraft connect and everything comes together…which I find is more frequent now that I’ve experienced aerobatics.
What is your most memorable flight experience so far that you would like to share?
My most memorable would have to be experiencing aerobatics solo for the first time. At this stage I had a total of around 10 hours Aerobatics and had already competed in my first competition (with a safety pilot on board). I was in the middle of training for my second Aerobatics Competition (South Australian State Championships April 2012), which was another week away. I was suitably nervous and excited and had been instructed to do a minimum of a steep turn, loop, slow roll and spin, all with competition precision in mind, up at around 6000 feet. So I did them each in turn. My excitement and nerves soon turned to frustration after I did my 1½ turn spin and it came out ½ a turn early. So I did it again…with the same result. I was using all the same timing and techniques that I had always done…something was different. I tried one last time and realised that as soon as I was kicking opposite rudder, the plane was self-recovering! I didn’t even have to punch forward on the stick on my intended exit heading. Memorable because it was my first solo aerobatics and even more memorable as a turning point when I realised I had a huge craving for perfection in my flying.
What skills have you gained from flying that you may not of gained, if you had not taken up flying? Have you been able to handle situations better by being a pilot? Yes, absolutely! I handle everything better now that I have a better understanding of who I am, how I deal with situations and my decision making process. It’s made me more logical and goal orientated in everything I do.
What is your most favourite aircraft to fly and why?
Right now it’s the Super Decathlon but ask me in another 5 years and I hope to have a much more exciting answer. I love the Super Decathlon because it’s so capable. It’s great for learning and I can feel the effects of all of my inputs.
What kind of thrills do you get from flying aerobatic aircraft? I find that the thrills come after the flight when you review your performance, especially if I’ve videoed it. Whilst doing the aerobatics the thrill comes from sharing it with people, and getting better at it.
How much effort goes into aerobatics and what is the motivation that drives you to do such stunts? The motivation has always been feeling good about myself. I have very high expectations of myself and when it all comes together; mind, motor skills, body and performance. It makes for a fantastic flight. While I was learning to fly I was told to put in 3 hours on the ground for every 1 hour in the air. I now find I’m putting in around 10 hours on the ground to every aerobatics flight of around 15mins.
What got you interested in creating an aviation pilot training business with your partner? Jeremy Miller, my fiancé, is a specialist Emergency Maneouvre Training and Aerobatics Instructor who also competes in Aerobatics. He has worked as an Instructor and set up schools for other people round Australia. He has always wanted his own school to focus on these forgotten skills with all levels of pilots. As a result we have opened All Axis Aviation. I on the other hand, have always wanted to do aerobatics and be able to share it with others, both through airshows and joyflights and so we also opened Skythrills. Both of these businesses operate out of Lethbridge Airpark to the west of Melbourne.
What challenges do you face with your aviation training businesses and how do you cope with some of the airspace limitations of flying in Australia? The biggest challenge is general awareness of what we are trying to achieve with improving the industry’s understanding and importance of thorough Emergency Manoeuvre Training (EMT) training along with the misunderstanding of how accidents occur and are often wrongly diagnosed during investigations. The knowledge presented in EMT training courses and having Aerobatics experience greatly improves a pilot’s technique and safety standards when it comes to ensuring they have the correct reaction, should a crucial decision making moment arise. I’m happy to say that above Lethbridge Airpark we have an 8,500ft step and when I compare Australia to other countries that have completely militarised their airspace, I feel lucky that we have the opportunity to fly around our own vast country.
Do you find the regulations and costs imposed on flying a major factor in deciding if you want to fly on any given day? Cost will always be a barrier with flying. It’s the only career that I know of with such a huge investment into your future; upfront costs in training and certification only to have to pay large ongoing checks, security, medicals, etc. and your whole career can go down the gurgler if you find yourself not passing a medical one day. For career pilots who have done nothing else, you may be left with a resume that has no relevance to any other industry. You may have a logbook full of experience, you may or may not have a cert 4, but other than that you appear to be completely uneducated. Other industries may see you as over qualified for another job or under qualified. It’s a risky career choice in that respect. Once your qualified you then find yourself having to pay for check flights or “job interviews” with new employers. Doctors in comparison, invest a lot in their education, however they can continue to work in that role effectively until they choose to retire, with what ever ailments they themselves are experiencing. I think that the whole industry needs to change and make this professional more achievable. On a day-to-day basis it affects my ability to fly, as I can’t afford to stay completely current. I tend to work for months on the business so that I can afford 1 week of aerobatics training flights and get myself to a competition. After years of trying for scholarships I still haven’t been fortunate enough to receive one or complete my CPL. My aim is to finish my CPL this year and seek sponsors towards my Aerobatic career.
What are your own views of the current aviation industry in Australia? Can it expand further perhaps bringing more people into the industry? If Government and Council take a more active stance to protect Airfields with the help and Guidance of The National Association for Safeguarding Airports, and the economic benefit of Airports in Australia is better understood by the public, then yes, I believe that the industry would become stronger and grow to incorporate other related industries. I’m excited that Victoria has a Minister for Aviation, Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips, which I think is a huge step forward and will hopefully be carried on in other states.
How could Australian aviation industry help attract more people to become interested in flying? Make it easier to advertise and hold aviation events such as Airshows and Aerobatics/Gliding competitions, in an effort to publically show case local pilots, so that Australians can be inspired by pilots who live in their own backyards, rather than always show casing international talent.
What goals have you got for the future with your aviation interests?
Finishing my CPL is high on the agenda so that I can share aerobatics and get more experience. Train hard to advance through the categories of Competition Aerobatics and perform at Airshows around Australia. Then when I feel I have learnt enough worth sharing, start teaching Aerobatics and EMT as well.
Is there anything else you would like to share or add?
If people are interested in finding out more about EMT training, Aerobatics and their local providers, I highly recommend you contact the Australian Aerobatics Club, as you can be sure that anyone they recommend will be up to date with the most current recovery techniques on an International Standard and be a specialist in the field. They can also put you in contact with other members around Australia who are passionate and knowledgeable about Aerobatics techniques.
Whats your thoughts on encouraging more women to become pilots or become involved in aviation?
Start them young and equal opportunities must be just that, equal. So I plan to encourage females into aviation the same way that I’ll encourage males – talking to primary school students and creating opportunities for them to be apart of the industry through school excursions to airports, making schools aware of airshows and encouraging the kids to take their families to the local airshows etc. Because when your 5 years old, your only perception of barriers and your socially acceptable career choices come from the adults around you, and adults are still stuck behind the barriers of what was socially acceptable for their generation. I still maintain that these gender barriers or discrimination are in peoples heads. That’s not the world we live in any more and if any individual is determined enough to pursue what they love, then they will succeed no matter what they initially see as a challenge or barrier.
Do you have any opinion or insight as to why so few women are wanting to be involved in aviation in general?
This is a question that I won’t be able to provide any distinct answer for; the Royal Australian Air Force themselves are at a loss to understand this and are currently doing research to find the answer. As a female pilot, I have a few ideas why this may be the case, though it varies for every female who does or doesn’t pursue flying for Recreational or Career means. The first is access to knowledge – when you’re growing up, parents are the natural cause of all of us learning to be gender orientated. A huge generalisation but it is interesting neverless – when growing up girls are given dolls and taught how to do domestic tasks, where as boys are given machines, toy trucks or tools and taught how to service their cars. When it comes to activities such as aviation , such a task spilt at a younger age can be seen in some ways as males can have a higher aptitude towards understanding engine care and operating machinery, the result may be that males have a less steep learning curve to flight lessons and theory?. Another possible reason could be stopping more women from become involved in aviation is that generally females are still paid less in any industry compared to a male? Less pay means less disposable income to spend on interests such as learning to fly. There are definitely factors and barriers that are all just part of “life” that will never be avoided no matter how evolved society becomes. But where there is a will there is a way, and I would bet that there are both females and males out there with equally amazing stories of overcoming their own barriers in pursuit of a pilots license. One thing that I imagine this group of pilots, much like me, all have in common, is that you can bet that the privilege of flying means so much more to them because they fought harder and want it more.
Jodie on right, seen with Jeremy and in middle well known Australian racing/aerobatic pilot Matt Hall.