All about aviation at Gold Coast Airport and Air Gold Coast; and then there were glow worms at Tamborine National Park (Feb 13)

All about aviation at Gold Coast Airport and Air Gold Coast; and then there were glow worms at Tamborine National Park (Feb 13)

Hong Kong Airlines Embrace the World Student Sponsorship Programme 2016/17 is taking nine local secondary school students on a trip of a lifetime, and Young Post is tagging along for the ride

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A flight simulator at Air Gold Coast, which offers aviation lessons for aspiring pilots.
Photo: Heidi Yeung/SCMP

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We were granted special access to get up close and personal with some of the planes at Air Gold Coast.
Photo: Heidi Yeung/SCMP

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John Chan (first from right), a manager at Australia's Gold Coast Tourism Corporation, helps leads the students on a tour of Gold Coast Airport.
Photo: Heidi Yeung/SCMP

"Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away..." Oh, Frank Sinatra, I knew you'd pop into my head at least once on this trip.

For the educational leg of our trip, our group returned to Gold Coast Airport, not to board a plane, but to learn how an airport operates and what it takes to keep everything running smoothly.

We go through security into the international departures area to learn about the safety measures and communication between the different teams working on the ground. And even though it was a brief tour, it left a deep impression on the students.

"Gold Coast Airport is very different to Hong Kong International Airport," Johnson Keung Kwan-shun, 18, Y.C.H. Lan Chi Pat Memorial Secondary School observed, "our airport is a major point of transit and is in a cosmopolitan city, so it's very hectic. Here, as soon as you come through you already feel like you're in a holiday paradise. It's also much smaller in comparison, but equally as efficient."


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Rhapsody Siu Yee-man, 18, first year student at the University of Hong Kong and one of the most inquisitive on the students on this trip found out that space is an important thing in an airport.

"I found out how the distance between the departure and arrival gates can help manage traffic of travellers," Siu said, "which is important for an airport this small.

"None of this is very complicated, it's all pieces of a puzzle. But altogether it creates a much more complex picture."

During their tour, the students also met some of the volunteers with the Gold Coast Airport Ambassador programme, which started in November in 2016 in anticipation of next year's Commonwealth Games held in the city. 

Rhapsody Siu Yee-man meeting Melissa Harmon, one of the volunteers with the Gold Coast Airport Ambassador programme.
Photo: Heidi Yeung/SCMP

Tanya Matty, terminal operations co-ordinator, explains that the programme began with just 35 volunteers, and in the space of just three months, there are 45 more hoping to volunteer on the waitlist to be part of the programme.

Our next stop was exciting: a visit to Air Gold Coast where they train some of the best pilots working today.

Peter Long, general manager of Air Gold Coast, shared with us what it takes to train as a pilot before taking us on a tour to see the flight stimulator and some of the aeroplanes they have on the grounds. The tour also emphasised the importance of keeping on top of the planes' maintenance, and an engineer was hard at work as we passed by.

Long explains that Australia is a prime location for learning aviation because of the combination of a few things.

The nuts and bolts of aviation.
Photo: Heidi Yeung/SCMP

"Australia has always been recognised for being a leading country in pilot training because of a few reasons," Long says. "Firstly, we have a very good aviation regulator and syllabus to follow. Secondly, Australia is so large, our air-space is very suitable for learning to fly. Thirdly, our climate is stable; on the Gold Coast, we don't have snow. In some countries you can't learn flying because of the snow. Finally, we speak English here."

Well, some of the students may return to learn to be a pilot after Long told them that a long-haul second officer can sometimes fly four times a month, doing one take off and one landing, and has the rest of the month off! (Just kidding. Not about flying four times a month, that's true, but there's a heck of a lot of training that went into those take offs and landings!)

After Air Gold Coast, we had a break, some dinner, and then went on one of the most highly anticipatred activities of our trip: glow work hunting.


Meeting Australian animals at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary and being stunned by the beauty of Gold Coast (Feb 11) 


For this, we were driven to Tamborine National Park on a four-wheel drive, which at times felt like a rollercoaster, and hiked through the darkness. Chris O'Neill, our nature guide, is in his element in the national park much more than he is in a bustling city, and was able to tell us all about the rainforest we were and all the creatures in it like they were his friends. (Oh, Colours of the Wind is in my head now.)

I wish I could show you pictures of the glow worms. When we found them, at the foot of a small waterfall, they were festooned all around what could be an over-hanging rock structure. I can't be sure because we had to switch off all our torches to see them glowing in the dark like a thousand blue Christmas lights.

Because I didn't have a good enough camera and an hour to spare, I'm going to cheat and insert a picture of what glow worms look like here:

The hike back to the car was much quieter than on our way out. Maybe we were all tired, or maybe we were so awed by one of nature's most beautiful wonders. 

With us silent, the nocturnal musical of the creatures around us sounded extra loud. A rainforest is not quiet, it's alive with sound but at the same time it feels very serene. If it weren't for the damp and the fact that I'm arachnophobic (I know: then what am I doing in Australia?!) I could stay out there all night.

Either way, the next day was going to involve an extra early start to go hunting for crabs and fishing on Tweed River. So we were all very happy to stumble into our hotel rooms and crawl into bed. 

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