In 2019, Solly Cameron was making national headlines when he became the youngest person to circumnavigate the Australian continent by air.
At just 15 years of age, Solly took off from Bendigo in a two-seater Jabiru J230 on the adventure of a lifetime.
Along the way he raised thousands of dollars for Angel Flight—an organisation dedicated to flying people living in isolated regions of Australia to important medical appointments.
Now a Year 12 student at BSSC, no-one has eclipsed Solly’s record, and he laughs as he admits he sometimes looks at 15 year-olds and wonders how he did it.
BSSC has worked well for Solly, both academically and supporting his aviation plans.
“The college offers so much,” he says. “There are so many resources and opportunities and I think the learning style here encourages independence too, which is really great.”
Solly’s favourite subject is Physics and while he may have only three subjects appearing on his timetable —English, Business Studies and Physics—there is a very good reason for this.
BSSC has also accommodated his flight education into his study program.
“It’s great because I get to spend Mondays and Wednesdays working towards my Commercial Pilots License (CPL) and I expect to achieve it and finish Year 12 at the end of this year.”
For Solly, most of his CPL preparation is now bookwork because, with 270 hours of flying up his sleeve, he’s already surpassed the requisite 200 hours.
There are seven different exams a pilot must complete to have a CPL and Solly has already passed five of them.
Despite his achievements, and perhaps a sign of someone who just loves being airborne, he continues to fly—working on what he describes as, “more tailored techniques”.
In an interesting twist, although Solly has a license to fly, he’s too young to drive a car, so he flies to Ballarat for his CPL exams. You can imagine how keen he is to turn 18.
While his life revolves around aviation, Solly still finds time to play his guitar, do some woodwork, and make the most of his height on the cricket pitch when summer comes around.
Solly’s obsession with planes and flying really took off when he was in Grade Six.
“I used to ride my bike out to the Bendigo Airport just to watch the planes take off and land,” he remembers. “I had my first lesson when I was 12 years old and knew from then I wanted to be a pilot.”
Learning to fly is not cheap, so Solly earned money washing planes and was 14 when he began regular flying lessons.
“When I look back at how focused I was on becoming a pilot, I realise I sometimes lost sight of the importance of just enjoying the journey,” he says.
“If I could go back and have a chat to my younger self I’d tell him to savour every moment of flight training.”
Meanwhile, the aviation community based at Bendigo Airport embraced the enthusiastic teenager and offered the kind of mentoring other would-be pilots might only dream of.
“I often reflect on how well I’ve been guided,” Solly says. “It was incredibly generous of people, and unexpected. My current instructor, Murray Medway, really knows how to teach. He’s been a great role model.”
Solly is grateful for the opportunities he’s had and is only too aware not everyone gets the chance to pursue things they are really passionate about.
His long-term aim is to work as a charter pilot, preferably flying out of Bendigo. In an ideal world he’d love to run his own business.
These small charter planes criss-cross the country every day, ferrying everything from mail to survey teams—holiday-makers to workers heading out to isolated work sites.
“I’d also like to become a flying instructor,” Solly says. “It would be great to guide students through to being pilots.”
If he had the chance to talk to anyone in the world, Solly would choose Bob Hoover, an American fighter pilot, test pilot, flight instructor, and record-breaking air show aviator.
He’d also love a conversation with Chuck Yeager, the first pilot in history confirmed to have exceeded the speed of sound in level flight.
“Imagine some of the stories they’d be able to tell,” he says.
Feats such as Hoover’s and Yeager’s are quite remarkable, and yet Solly has already written himself into the record books because of his flight around Australia.
Thinking back over the experience—a trip that took almost seven weeks—Solly says there was no one standout highlight.
“It was so exciting to see Australia’s stunning and different environments from the air,” he recalls. “I did notice how many mines seemed to be in the most random spots.”
Solly’s route took him from Bendigo to Tasmania and then up the east coast to far north Queensland, across the top of the Northern Territory and down the west coast to Bunbury before heading east along the southern coastline.
The idea for the trip began with a class assignment and the thought that maybe, when he was older…
That goal is now history!