Canberra 16-year-old Jade Esler Australia's youngest pilot

Canberra 16-year-old Jade Esler Australia's youngest pilot

About 20,000 cupcakes, three years of lessons and countless trips to Cowra later, Jerrabomberra teenager Jade Esler can enjoy the sweet taste of success after becoming Australia's youngest licensed recreational pilot.

The bright Merici College student completed the practical pilot's licence test on Saturday - her 16th birthday.

Year 10 Merici College student Jade Esler has funded her flying lessons through cupcake sales.

Year 10 Merici College student Jade Esler has funded her flying lessons through cupcake sales.Credit:Karleen Minney

Jade can now fly solo anywhere within 25 nautical miles of an aerodrome but must take off and land from the same space.

Eventually she will try for navigation and controlled airspace endorsements which will allow further freedoms.


The pilot licence represents years of hard work for the year 10 student, who has juggled school, flying lessons and her cupcake business, The Sugar Bite, since she was 13.

Every trip in the air was paid for through the sale of $3.50 cupcakes made by Jade with help from mum and self-described sous chef Belinda.

"I don't know what normal 13-year-olds would do [with the profits], but she went 'I could have a flying lesson', so we took her down to Cowra where her dad's instructor now has a flying school," Mrs Esler said.

"So at 13, once she realised OK, I can make money from this and fly, she went out and got a tax file number and ABN, registered the business name, set up the website, did all the food handling registration, got all the inspectors in, did all the online courses to be a food handling supervisor, did it all and off it went.

"We've calculated now she's probably baked and sold around 20,000 cupcakes. She's self-funded all of her expenses."

Aviation has been a lifelong passion of Jade's. Her father obtained his private pilot's licence when she was still a baby. Strapped in the back of the plane, she would fall asleep as her father explored the skies. Jade took her first steps in an airport hangar in Bankstown.

By the time she was five, mum was delegated to the back seat of the plane as Jade demanded the best view.

The cupcake business was an obvious channel for another passion: cooking and baking. Mrs Esler said Jade had whipped up three-course meals from the age of 10 and, after seeing a woman selling cupcakes at a market, was determined to try her hand at the business.

"Almost three years later the business is out of control, the catering orders are coming through thick and fast," Mrs Esler said.

Jade aims to complete her pilot exams during year 12 and become Australia's youngest female commercial pilot. For now, she will continue her training, aiming to obtain her private pilot's licence by her 17th birthday.

She hopes to maintain her straight-A average and later study a Bachelor of Languages and Bachelor of Science through the Australian National University.

The business may become a franchise, she mused. It could all be a bit much when she has school, motivational speaking engagements and flying lessons to keep up with.

"I have three whiteboards in my study covered in what I need to do and orders and where they are and delivery and assignments that are coming up - everything is on these whiteboards and my life is planned to the minute," Jade said.

Mrs Esler agreed: "All she does is bake, fly or study."

Emily Baker is a reporter for the Sunday Canberra Times. She previously reported on education for The Canberra Times.

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