Back in 1993, Principal Marion Marsden was approached by Moruya Airport Manager Richard Bond, about an idea of a project of building an aircraft which would involve the community, some ex aviators and students of Moruya High School. Hence the School Flight Program emerged.
At the time there were only two schools that took part in the School Flight Program, Kent St High School in Perth, W A and Ballina High School in NSW. Moruya High School became the second school in NSW to take part in the program.
This was a tremendous opportunity for students and teachers of the Manual Arts Dept to construct a lightwing aircraft from a kit. Students in years 10 and 11 enrolled in an Aviation Studies subject and worked under expert guidance from members of the community whom had worked in the aviation industry.
Hughes Engineering in Ballina manufactured the aircraft kits, therefore the Australian Lightwing Aircraft GA582 was purchased in three parts due to the financial costs involved, with a number of sponsors assisting with the costs.
A shed was constructed on school grounds to house the aircraft during construction. Design and Technology teacher Steve Roxby was involved in the construction and teaching of the aviation subject and was extremely proud of the school’s achievement in the program and the extraordinary effort of the students to support the course. “The Lightwing has really become a community-based project which the kids have been able to tap into, giving them valuable skills which have directly influenced their career choices. It has been a wonderful experience for them “. (Steve Roxby, Bay Post/Southern Star, April 4 2001 p.3).
In 2001, the launch of the aircraft took place in the school hall where some parts were dismantled to display the aircraft on the stage. That’s right, our aircraft took pride of place on the stage for all to see. The aircraft was painted in colours representing Moruya High School, light blue, dark blue, yellow and white, with the Moruya High School crest on the tail.
The aircraft was then leased to Moruya Aero Club in 2003 for commercial use and to train pilots including high school students. A number of students received aviation scholarships, where they completed a Commercial Pilots licence theory course, and actual flight training. One student, Peter Blood (15 yrs) took his first solo flight in the aircraft in May 2001, after beginning flying lessons in January 2001. Principal at the time John Walsh commented that a couple of students had received their pilot licence before they were actually old enough to go for their driver’s licence. Due to ongoing financial costs associated with the insurance etc, the school then sold the aircraft to a private buyer in 2005, and funds were used for other programs at Moruya High.
Fast forward to the 21st century. After extensive research by school library staff member (Julie Brailey) who was intrigued by the story, located the aircraft and discovered that the Moruya High School lightwing aircraft is still in use to this day. Many thanks to Shelly Brown of Hughes Engineering Ballina (manufacturers of the Australian Lightwing Aircraft kits) for her assistance in obtaining information, Andrei Bezmylov of Air History.net and Derek Heley of ABPic (Air Britain) for their fantastic photographs of the aircraft. Can you believe it! A remarkable achievement for Moruya High School.
Our school aircraft was sold again in 2006 to a private buyer in South Australia where the aircraft spent many years cruising the air in South Australia and other parts of Australia. In 2009, the aircraft was again sold to a private buyer in Tarraville Victoria, where it currently remains and is still flying today. The owner Robin Sidebotham has kept up with the maintenance of the aircraft, although changing the colours slightly, the MHS school crest is still present on the tail of the aircraft. Another interesting fact is that the lightwing is one of the last 2 stroke lightwings still operating in Australia.
The school flight program was a tremendous success not only for Moruya High School but also for the entire community and the town of Moruya at the time.
Well done to the students, staff and community members who were involved in this project, it truly was a wonderful achievement.