Australia's youngest female pilot Jade Esler flies solo at 15
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Australia's youngest female pilot Jade Esler flies solo at 15

She's too young to drive a car, but Jade Esler is Australia's youngest female pilot.

The year 9 student made her maiden solo flight at Fly Oz school in Cowra on her 15th birthday last week.

Jade Esler took her maiden solo flight on her 15th birthday last week.

Jade Esler took her maiden solo flight on her 15th birthday last week.

At 15, the Jerrabomberra teenager is still too young to have an official pilot's license and had to fly with her instructor contactable by radio on the ground.

Esler, whose father and grandfathers were pilots, says her love of flying came at an early age. She would go up with her dad from the age of two, and always relished a rarely enjoyed part of family holidays: the airport.

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Jade Esler paid for her training with her business, The Sugar Bite, which sells at two market stalls in Canberra.

Jade Esler paid for her training with her business, The Sugar Bite, which sells at two market stalls in Canberra.

"I would make Mum and Dad get to the airport four hours early on holidays just so I could sit there and watch the planes," she says.

All titles come with technicalities. While Esler was Australia's youngest solo pilot on her birthday, she says it is a "not uncommon" age for a first solo flight.

However, Esler says those young flyers normally fly Recreational Aviation aircraft. The age limit for General Aviation, which Esler flies, was only recently reduced from 16 to 15 by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

While she knows of "a guy in Sydney" who also flew solo at 15, she is pretty sure she is Australia's youngest female General Aviation pilot.

Regardless, she is definitely the youngest – if not only – pilot to pay for the entirety of her training with an old-fashioned cake stall.

"I've always been into cooking and baking every since I was little, and my mum saw a lady who did a cupcake stall and she thought, 'You know, Jade could do this'."

Esler's business, The Sugar Bite, sells at two market stalls in Canberra and she also does catering jobs.

She estimates she has sold 10,000 cupcakes over past two years, enough to cover every cent of her $300-a-lesson flying tuition.

As for the future, Esler says she wants her Commercial Pilot's License, which she will be eligible for age 18 after completing 150 hours of flying as well as a number of theory exams.

"I've done a couple of them," she says. "For practice."

After visiting Italy on a school language excursion earlier this year, Esler says her end goal is a job as a pilot with a European airline.

The question is: when you can fly a plane, why sit through 120 supervised hours to get a provisional driver's license?

"A driver's license is a lot more practical," she laughs. "You can't really fly down to Woolies."

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