By Tony Stickley
Former Mercury Bay Area School student Jordan Williams has demonstrated in dramatic fashion the old phrase “the pupil is now the master.”
Jordan, one of a number of youngsters involved in the school’s plane build partnership with Mercury Bay Aero Club (MBAC), went on to get a degree in aviation at Massey University, where he is now an instructor, teaching other students how to fly. It is remarkable enough that he has gone from being a complete novice getting his first flight at the age of 15 at the MBAC to becoming a fully-fledged pilot and instructor, still aged only 23.
But what is just as fascinating is that he has now surpassed his original flying instructor and mentor, Alan Coubray. Indeed, when Alan had to do his private pilot’s licence Bi-annual Flight Review (BFR), it was Jordan who tested him in a curious reversal of roles. “Jordan was one of our star pupils,” said Alan. “But now it looks like I am his star pupil.” Jordan has been an instructor at the university since graduating with a Bachelor of Aviation Air Transport Pilot degree. In the latter part of last year, however, he was upgraded from Category C instructor to Category B. “A few months before Christmas he passed his test to become a Category B instructor,” said Alan. “My two-yearly BFR for my private pilot’s licence was coming up, so when Jordan told me he had got his B category instructor rating which allows him to test other pilots, I arranged for him to do my test in a friend’s Cessna 172.
“So it is a case of the pupil becoming the master. It was really such a thrill to be able to complete the circle. Jordan worked on our second Vans RV12 plane-build when he was about 15. I took him on his very first flight and also sent him up solo, because I am a microlight instructor. But I am not the master now, that’s for sure. He is way more qualified than me now,” Alan said.
Jordan said that his career in aviation was living the dream. “I still get a buzz. The passion for flying never really drops off, which is good, as it keeps me motivated. There is always a buzz when you go up,” Jordan said. While he had always had his heart set on a career as a pilot, the unique partnership in New Zealand between Mercury Bay Area School and the Aero Club provided the initial pathway. “It was something that
I had always wanted to do from as far back as I can remember, so it was very fulfilling when I first went up in a plane over Mercury Bay.
“When I see the excitement of the students at Massey when they first go up, I remember what it was like for me when I was 15. It lit a fire, if you like, and just carried on from there,” Jordan said. “So, I am very grateful to everyone involved in the plane-build programme; it has definitely had a massive impact.”
For the present, Jordan is content to pass on his flying nous to others but is in no hurry to seek to progress to piloting bigger and bigger aircraft. “As for the longer term, I am in no rush to go to an airline or anything, but just slowly keep on getting experience,” he said. Asked about any ambitions he might have to fly the biggest Airbus, he replied: “Maybe one day, but I don’t need to rush.” Interestingly, Jordan’s partner, Kyndra, is a flight attendant for Air New Zealand. “We both have the same passion for flying and aviation,” Jordan said. “She is very similar to me in that she had the same sort of ambitions from a very young age, but obviously to be a flight attendant rather than a pilot.” Jordan says his parents, Craig and Justine, who live near Hot Water Beach, are very proud of his achievements. They have not been for a plane ride with him yet, but that is going to change this year, Jordan promises.
Currently the Mercury Bay Student Aviation Trust, the official name of the organisation that runs the plane build programme, is finishing off its fifth $170,000 Vans RV12, which was held up due to delays caused by Covid-19 in getting parts delivered. The plane has been bought by Leigh Hopper, the brains behind the Whitianga Waterways development. Alan said that a sixth kit-set plane had already been ordered. There was enough money in the trust’s account to buy a plane, less motor and instruments at this stage. As with earlier planes, a buyer would be found to keep the project rolling forward.
Over the years a number of former plane-build students have gone on to forge a career in various aspects of aviation from flying aircraft to engineering and maintenance. Alan is proud of them all and what they and the Trust have been able to achieve.
Caption: Jordan Williams flying to success