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SFT Stories: Andrew Ricker - Back in the Air

In the latest SFT Story written by our students, we hear from Andrew Ricker, who describes his experience getting back in the air after a 32-year break and learning to love a more modern way of flying.

Andrew Ricker standing in front of Piper Warrior aeroplane
Andrew Ricker, having reignited his passion for flying, standing beside VH-FKN

Back in the air after a 32-year break

I will celebrate my 69th birthday in a couple of months having started back flying only 18 months ago at SFT after a 32-year break.


I migrated from England to Australia in the mid 70’s and always had a passion for aeroplanes and flying having spent many hours of my youth watching planes take off and land at London’s Heathrow airport.


As soon as I had settled into steady employment in Sydney, I took out what seemed like an enormous loan at the time of $3,000 to train for my RPL at Hoxton Park aerodrome on a Beechcraft Sundowner. I achieved this in 1977 but ran out of money to go any further.


It wasn’t until I moved to the US in 1980 that I did my nav exercises and obtained a US PPL on a Piper Warrior. GA flying on the NE coast of the US was relatively inexpensive at the time and was so much fun with an abundance of aerodromes and places to visit like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. I had a ball, especially being young and single at the time.


Coming back to Australia in the mid 80s, I was fortunate enough through my work to hire a twin Piper Aztec for a project requiring multiple hops of mainly regional centres on the East coast over a 5-week period. I managed to convince the owner pilot of the Aztec to allow me to do my Australian nav exercises and get an endorsement on a twin at the same time, after which I completed the PPL theory test and was then able to covert my US PPL to an Aust PPL.


By this time though I was married with three young children and even though I had the financial resources, there was limited time in my busy schedule for flying. I did manage to hire aircraft now and again for work projects and got a number of hours up on a Beechcraft Sierra, but eventually the busyness of work and family put an end to my flying.


It wasn’t until two years ago when a friend told me he had always wanted to learn to fly and he had started to take lessons at Bankstown, that my passion for flying was reignited.


Like most of us from my era, we either had the time but not the money when we first started out, or when we eventually had the money, we didn’t have the time. But now in my semi-retirement I had both, so I signed up with SFT with the aim of retraining up to a competency level that would enable me to exercise the privileges of my PPL once again.


I was surprised as to how the aircraft had not changed that much in 32 years. It felt like I was caught in a time warp when I first climbed into IJD. However, I was immediately introduced to EFB’s and fell in love with OzRunways. From the moment I started a free 30-day free trial, I realised this was a gamechanger.


I was also fortunate to have Richard Ure as my instructor. Richard is also an air traffic controller and ATC procedures were one of the areas I felt most vulnerable, having in the past flown mainly in non-controlled airspace. Richard did a great job in 12 hours of dual training getting me current and back up to speed to pass my flight review last August. 


I now primarily fly FKN as the glass cockpit is just so comprehensive and together with my EFB on my iPad, I am flying with a whole new level of confidence and enjoyment. There’s always more to learn, but I would tell anyone considering getting back into the air after a long break, that you would be surprised how instinctively you settle back in the cockpit after the first couple of hours of retraining.



Are you a rusty pilot? Whether you haven’t flown for a few months or a few years, Sydney Flight Training can help out. Learn more about our Rusty Pilot Course and Aeroplane Flight Review here.


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