Aviation student wins special memorial award

David Merryweather presents the Craig Merryweather Memorial Scholarship to Tabitha Winiata. 

A former Paeroa College student has been awarded a special memorial scholarship for her commitment to her aviation studies. Tabitha Winiata, of Te Arawa and Ngāti Tamaterā, received the Craig Merryweather Memorial Scholarship at the recent Massey University School of Aviation Wings Ceremony. The scholarship was established in the memory of Massey business student Craig Merryweather, who was murdered while hitchhiking in the South Island in 1987.

The Bachelor of Aviation did not exist when Mr Merryweather was at Massey, but he was passionate about flying and his parents felt he would have studied aviation if it had been available. They established the scholarship to help one young student each year to establish their aviation career. Craig’s father, David Merryweather, presented the award to Ms Winiata at the Wing’s Ceremony.

She said she was “incredibly surprised” by the award, which is presented to the student who has best demonstrated the “endeavour to succeed” as a pilot.

“I think everyone in my cohort achieved so much over our time at Massey that I thought others surely deserved it more than I did, but I am so honoured to have been lucky enough to be the recipient,” she said. “This award has really cemented for me that I am on the right path. It really makes me want to work harder.”

Tabitha Winiata and the rest of her cohort at their Wings Ceremony.

A dream come true

The School of Aviation’s Wings Ceremony takes place as each cohort completes the flight-training component of the Bachelor of Aviation degree. For most, getting their commercial pilot’s licence, or ‘Wings’, is just as significant as their graduation ceremony.

“Receiving my Wings was a dream come true. I’ve been waiting for that day for what feels like so long,” Ms Winiata said. “It was a huge milestone for all of us, and well worth celebrating. All the work we’ve all been doing, all the hours of studying and flying have been building up to it.”

She said she first developed a love for flying during her final year at Paeroa College.

“I had always loved travelling and after speaking with my careers adviser, I was given the opportunity to do some trial flights at Waikato Aeroclub and, from there, everything aligned for me. I was hooked from the moment we took off.”

She says her most memorable experiences at Massey all involve flying.

“The first time I crossed the Cook Strait, it felt like it took forever, but when we made it to the South Island, I was taken back by how beautiful the Marlborough Sounds were,” she said. “Or merely hours before the Wings ceremony, I finally got to take my parents and my little sister flying. I had been waiting two years to give them that passenger brief!”

Ms Winiata says she’s not sure what the future holds, but she is focused on completing her degree and then doing a bit of travel, before returning to Massey. 

“I plan to do the flight instructor’s course in 2019 if I’m lucky enough to be accepted. Depending on how that goes, I’ll spend some time instructing and then, hopefully, move into an airline job.”

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