It’s not everyday we have such a highly experienced pilot joining our ranks. We recently welcomed David Ostler to the Learn To Fly team as a Grade 3 Junior Flight Instructor.
Whilst many pilots take on the role of an instructor towards the start of their career to build hours in preparation for moving on to other commercial opportunities like joining an airline, David’s passion for flying has led him to want to teach others after having already built an incredibly impressive range of flying experiences himself.
David actually completed his Instructor Rating with us before taking on his new role, and it will be great for our students (and other Learn To Fly Instructors) to have somebody with such an extensive aviation background in the team.
We caught up with him to discuss his career, and some of the amazing flying experiences he has had over the last 30+ years.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN FLYING AND WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO BE A PILOT?
Whilst in school, we had to complete a week of work experience. I initially wanted to do my work experience at the local vet clinic, but somebody else got in first so I ended up at the Gilgandra airfield (rural New South Wales).
For the entire week I avoided being anywhere near any aircraft as I had absolutely no interest in it, but at the very end of the week I was finally convinced to go up on a flight in a Cessna 172. Immediately after that, I went home and told my parents that I wanted to become a pilot.
At that point I was working 5 afternoons per week cleaning in a local butcher shop, which could afford me about 20mins of flying per week. I eventually completed my first solo flight in 1985.
GIVE US A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF YOUR CAREER AS A PILOT SO FAR?
Early on, I didn’t really have the money to afford flying lessons, so I joined the Australian Army as a Signals Officer in the hope that I would eventually be able to fly. My first flying role in the Army was piloting GAF Nomad and Pilatus Porter aircraft.
After a stint in the Army I transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, where I learnt to fly helicopters and piloted aircraft such as Sikorsky Seahawks operationally. I completed a Test Pilot course and became a Test Pilot with the Navy until 2008.
Following the Navy roles, I became a Lecturer and Flight Instructor for Swinburne University, as well as providing aviation consulting services. I then worked with Gippsland Aero, developing and testing their GA8 and G10 Airvan aircraft.
I’m enjoying my at role at Learn To Fly as a Flight Instructor, and am also still occasionally lecturing at Swinburne as well as continuing with Test Pilot consultancy work.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE MOST INTERESTING THINGS YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED AS A PILOT?
In the Navy I was the Chief Test Pilot for the Kaman SH-2 Super Seasprite helicopter. The ageing aircraft was riddled with issues, and the planned acquisition of 11 units at a cost of over $1 billion was subsequently cancelled and widely covered by the media.
Operational helicopter flying off ships can be both exciting and nerve-wracking – night landings in rough conditions with pitching decks are always very interesting!
Some of the most exciting flying was low-level operations in the Pilatus PC-6 Porter STOL aircraft with the Army. Often we were as little as 10ft above the ground, hugging the terrain. A short filmed titled “Battlefield Pilot” was made about this in the 1980s, and was actually originally shown as a trailer in the cinema before the first Star Wars movie in Australia. It can now be found on YouTube here.
WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING AIRCRAFT YOU HAVE PILOTED?
I flown a lot of great aircraft – the most fun fixed wing would probably be the Hawker Hunter (pictured above, image courtesy of Fighter World Australia). For helicopters, it’s hard to go past the CH-47 Chinook – it handles like a much smaller aircraft and the power is amazing.
The Seasprite helicopter was definitely the most professionally challenging aircraft that I have flown during my career.
IF YOU COULD FLY ANY AIRCRAFT IN THE WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I’d love to fly a Grumman Albatross – a large twin–radial engine amphibious flying boat that was used by the United States Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, primarily as search and rescue aircraft.
As for a helicopter, I’ve been lucky enough to fly some pretty interesting aircraft. A Sikorsky/Erickson S64 Aircrane would be an awesome experience. We’ve actually got the pictured S64 here at Moorabbin Airport for the summer on standby for bushfire operations.
It’s fantastic to have such an experienced pilot join us, and we look forward to the unique skillset that David will bring to Learn To Fly here at our Melbourne base.