Senior flying instructor Sam Todhunter puts the Northern Rivers Aero Club's new training aircraft through her paces with a breathtaking loop-the-loop above Lismore.
Senior flying instructor Sam Todhunter puts the Northern Rivers Aero Club's new training aircraft through her paces with a breathtaking loop-the-loop above Lismore. Alison Paterson

New plane takes wannabe Top Guns to new heights

LOOP the loop, barrel rolls, spins and stalls ... when it comes to aerobatics, Northern Rivers Aero Club senior flying instructor and former Royal Australian Air Force pilot Sam Todhunter is a top gun.

Taking the club's new single-engine Citabria up for a spin, Mr Todhunter puts the aircraft through her paces and executes a number of impressive acrobatic manoeuvres that show the 85-year-old is still on top of his game.

The club's head of operations, Bill Kiernan, said the aircraft was ideal for beginners as well as pilots wanting to improve their skills and fly historic aircraft.

Top guns - NRAC senior flying instructor Sam Todhunter and head of operations Bill Kiernan, with aspiring pilots (left) Cullum Ferguson and Marco Bishopp-Cruciani with the new Citabria at Lismore Airport.
The club's senior flying instructor Sam Todhunter and head of operations Bill Kiernan, with aspiring pilots (left) Callum Ferguson and Marco Bishopp-Cruciani with the new Citabria at Lismore Airport. Alison Paterson

"After someone has had some time in the Jabiru training plane and done a solo, we can then transition them into the Citabria to learn aerobatics,” Mr Kiernan said.

"It's good to fly (before moving) into flying warbirds such as a Mustang.”

Callum Ferguson, 17, and Marco Bishopp-Cruciani, 18, are training hard and hope to get their wings soon to pursue aviation careers.

Mr Ferguson has his sights set on a career as a pilot with the Royal Australian Air Force, while Mr Bishopp-Cruciani is aiming to fly commercial jets.