Your West Australian Symphony Orchestra isn’t just full to the brim with amazing musicians; the people you see on stage each week are also talented in different areas. Some may surprise you more than others…

Cellist Tim South briefly studied electrical engineering at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology before deciding to study music. This multi-talented musician even has his pilot’s license!

Learning to fly is something Tim had wanted to do for a long time, “One day I realised I could afford it, so I did it. At the time it cost about $100 for an hour's lesson (much, much more now). It took me about four months or so until I did my first solo, then after more training I was given a restricted licence. I immediately took my more foolhardy friends swooping around the skies. I never found it too hard to fly and land the plane, but I often found it difficult to spot other aircrafts.”

When Tim was eight years old, a friend of his father's took them up in a light aircraft, and so began his love of flying, “One of the manoeuvres was the steep turn, where the wings are at 60 degrees to the horizon and all the people inside weigh twice as much. Each time we performed this manoeuvre over Port Phillip Bay (in Southern Victoria) we all squealed repeatedly that we wanted to do it again!”

Tim South at the Royal Aero Club WA with a Cessna 152 aircraft in 1998

Years later, while studying cello, a clarinettist friend of Tim’s (now a Qantas captain) decided to learn to fly, and each time he had a new endorsement Tim was his first passenger. While he loves the thrill of the sky, Tim has always seen flying as a hobby, “I've never thought of it as a career, mainly because of the expense of obtaining a commercial licence. I love operating a machine and flying around in the air at the same time. Usually I was too busy looking at my instruments to enjoy the view; I suppose I liked the thought that the only thing between me and a fiery death was my wits!”

Learning to fly is certainly not for the faint hearted and requires an immense amount of concentration, “Early on you begin circuit training, which is where you circle the airport, taking off and landing repeatedly, using everything you've learned at once. To begin with it was like juggling on top of a rolling barrel; I used to get out of the aircraft after an hour's circuit training with my brain completely numb.”

Tim’s inner engineer is always present when flying commercially as a passenger and he enjoys finding out about all the different types of aircrafts, “While I was training I used to ask airline pilots if I could visit the flight deck. I made quite a nuisance of myself, and sat in the flight deck during landings on a number of flights in all sorts of big commercial jets - 747, 767, even a BAE-146 during an orchestra tour to Margaret River.”

At face value music and aviation seem to be polar opposite industries but Tim does see some similarities, “Both involve learning on an ongoing basis, memorising complex tasks, plus a great sense of satisfaction over what you've accomplished.”

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