Willow spreads her wings over Wyndham

Fourteen year old Willow Plenty from Werribee is an aspiring pilot and Senior Cadet of the Year 2023 with the Australian Air League. (Damjan Janevski) 399477_01

Whereas most teenagers are learning to drive in the hope of eventually getting their car license, Werribee 14 year old Willow Plenty is aiming a bit higher. Literally.

Rather than bunny hopping around an empty shopping centre carpark, Willow spends her spare time gliding serenely above Wyndham as she pursues her dream of becoming a professional pilot.

“The first time I went gliding was in 2019 when I was 9,” said Willow.

“I was very short I couldn’t reach the rudder peddles.”

What might’ve been terrifying for others, proved inspiring for Willow, who has spent the past five years practicing her gliding skills with the Australian Air League squadron in Point Cook, where she was named Victorian Senior Cadet of the Year in 2023.

These days Willow can not only reach the rudder pedals, but will soon be able to operate them on her own.

“I’m with an instructor (right now). I’m too young to go by myself but when I turn 15 I can get my solo license.”

Willow turns 15 next year and has recently been awarded a scholarship with the Geelong Gliding Club where she can prepare for her first solo flight.

Gliders are non-motorised aircraft that are towed into the air behind a plane and then released to glide slowly to the ground in journeys that usually last from 15 to 30 minutes.

While her ultimate goal is to become a commercial pilot flying motorised aircraft, for now Willow seems content floating on air.

“When I’m up in the air it feels like all pressure is released and I can be myself and enjoy what I do.”

Cade Lucas.