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Fly into 2022 with the Ultimate Experience - Fly Your Own Plane

Is being in command of a plane on your bucket list? Well, you can do just that at Archerfield Airport in Brisbane!

What better way to start the new year off with an exhilarating experience?

Kick start your year with new intentions, and new experiences.

Today, we share with you the experience of flying for the first time and embark on a unique journey with Pathfinder Aviation.

Steps to become a pilot
Tick off the bucket list - Fly a plane ft. Piper PA-38 Tomahawk

The experience

The day began at Pathfinder Aviation with some paperwork, a pre-flight briefing and information about the plane you'll be flying. My instructor was Ian - he was professional and extremely knowledgeable.

Flying in the morning is recommended as the cool air provides a much smoother flight. Pockets of warm air develops in the air throughout the day as it warms, potentially causing more turbulence.


Before departing, there are mandatory pre-flight checks that must be conducted both within the cockpit and externally, such as the engine, fuel, breaks and of course, the weather.

Ian had a binded checklist and we went through that together. I couldn't remember everything that was on there, but in short, some of it involved the million buttons (that's what it felt like anyway) on the dash.

GoPro set up

You also have the opportunity to set up a GoPro to record the flight, depending on the package you go with, they provide you with a HD recording of your flight experience. However, I do recommend bringing your own micro SD card as they didn't have any spares the day I was there. I had my GoPro with me so I just mounted it and it was good as gold.

You can also plug the audio wire from the plane into your GoPro to record the radio communication you're having within the cockpit throughout the flight. This is usually for trainee pilots to go home and review, but also a nice to have if you're flying for the first time and are learning the tips and traps of the trade.


Once the control tower at Archerfield Airport opened at 0700hrs, we radioed in, taxied to runway 28L, then radioed in again to confirm takeoff. The call sign of the plane we were in was India Alpha Delta (all Australian registered planes actually begin with VH (or Victor Hotel phonetically), and it is usually dropped on radio calls).

Here, you get to taxi to the runway using the left and right pedals to navigate - I must say that was the most challenging part of the experience as you have to keep the pressure equal on your left and right foot to make the plane go straight. My feet just didn't want to do that until I had a second go post landing! Don't worry, the planes are dual control, and your instructor is going make sure you stay on track (no pun intended).

Flying for the first time, sling plane, tomahawk plane
Slings at Pathfinder Aviation Hangar - Archerfield Airport


They often say takeoff and landings are the most dangerous parts of a flight, so you will be leaving that to the expert. It was definitely eye-opening to actually see it first hand.


After our initial climb, Ian explained the key flight operations and before you know it, you're in control of the plane - changing altitudes and doing turns.

If you're scared of heights - so am I! The first turn had my heart jump out a little, but you quickly get used to it. Just look at the horizon, and enjoy the scenery! Don't let this stop you from this amazing experience.

Once in the air, there is no set 'path' you must follow as such, so you really have to look out for other planes and in our case, hot air balloons too! We got to see 2 of them even though is a bit rare in the summer months.

We were going to head out to Stradbroke Island but all we could see was bad weather and poor visibility that way, so we flew south of Brisbane instead - still absolutely gorgeous and a completely different perspective from the ground.

The landing

Under the directions of your instructor, you will fly identify certain landmarks to make your way back to Archerfield Airport. A radio call is made to the control tower to confirm approach. Your instructor will take over for the landing so you don't need to worry about that!

Landing small aircraft into Archerfield Airport
On approach to Archerfield Airport in Brisbane

The plane

Pathfinder Aviation have a few planes. I went on the Piper PA-38 Tomahawk which you can see in the photos.


Upon landing, you have another opportunity to up your taxiing skills. Here I started getting a better hang of how to balance the pressure equally to navigate the plane on the yellow line!

On return, the plane is parked up and you're good to head back to reception. You get a certificate of completion which includes your name, your instructor's name, the plane you flew and the number of hours which could go towards your recreational pilot licence (RPL).

Things to bring

  • Sunnies

  • Hat

  • Closed in shoes

  • Bug spray (for summer - I got bitten)

  • SD card

  • Your own GoPro (make sure you set up the auto rotate)

At the time of this article (January 2022), you'll still need to wear a mask as per the current legislation - so make sure you bring this with you.


I personally booked it through Red Balloon which was the same price as Pathfinder Aviation themselves. You also get a $10 discount the first time you book with Red Balloon too. We're not affiliated but hope it helps to save you a couple of bucks.

You might be able to get additional discounts through applications such as Shop Back which provide you with a cash back on your purchases.

New hobby?

As mentioned, you can get your RPL and count the hours you have just completed. The lovely team at Pathfinder will give you options to suit and get you to your goals!

We hope you enjoyed reading about this unique experience.

Let's keep wandering and see you in the next one! -- Wandonist

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