Casino teen starts down runway to aviation dream
GEMMA Kuiters' passion for aviation is as high as her ambition.
The 15-year-old Casino teenager hopes to one day fly fighter jets in the Royal Australian Air Force as an elite trained pilot.
It's a long road, but Gemma is well on her way, having recently taken up flying lessons at the Northern Rivers Aero Club.
The Trinity Catholic College student said she was only five years old when she first realised she wanted to be a pilot.
"When I was about five I went on my first commercial flight to Sydney without mum, or anybody, and I just felt so much responsibility as a five year old going on a plane on my own," she said.
"And I just thought 'yeah, I want to fly planes, I want to do this for other kids'.
"I didn't really know what I was doing when I was five but there was just all this excitement built up."
It has been 10 years since then, but Gemma said her love for flying still had as much lift as ever.
"It's just the excitement," she said.
"You're all up there alone and it's just free.
"There's nothing to think about - other than crashing - and the world feels like it's yours."
Flying is something Gemma would like to see more women take up, particularly since this week is Women of Aviation Worldwide Week.
The week aims to raise awareness of aviation opportunities available to woman while celebrating the accomplishments of past and present female aviators.
Like most female pilots, Gemma said Amelia Earhart was someone she looked up to, as well as fellow aero club member Nathan Parker.
Mr Parker lost his arm in an Australian Defence Force Academy bus crash, but has made a miraculous return to the sky thanks to the help of a rare prosthetic.