Female student flies to top of her class

Shinga McLeod, winner of the Massey University School of Aviation Outstanding Student Award, pictured with one of Massey's Diamond aircraft.

For the second time this year a woman has won the Massey University School of Aviation Outstanding Student Award. Former Saint Kentigern College pupil Shinga McLeod not only fulfilled her dream of becoming a pilot, but was also awarded her cohort’s top prize at this week’s Wings ceremony.

This event takes place bi-annually as each cohort completes the flight-training component of their Bachelor of Aviation degree. For many, getting their commercial pilot’s licence, or ‘Wings’, is more significant than their actual graduation ceremony.

As well as being chosen for the Outstanding Student Award for all-round excellence she also recieved the Air New Zealand Flying Award and the Fieldair Engineering Aviation Systems Award. As one of only two female students, McLeod is leading the way in a traditonally male-dominated study area and profession.

“I originally thought I wouldn’t like being one of only a couple of girls, but after the first week at Massey I just got used to it,” she says. “It doesn’t really make a difference to be honest. Most guys are pretty competitive and, being brought up in a male-dominated family, so am I so there was always a lot of rivalry which kept me motivated.”

All the award winners at the School of Aviation's Wings ceremony.

'I always loved the feeling of taking off'

Ms Shinga says she has wanted to be a pilot since she was 12 years old.

“I always had a fascination with aircraft and the aviation industry because my dad used to fly for fun when he was my age and talked about it so fondly.

“From a young age I travelled internationally because I had family overseas and I always loved the feeling of taking off, which was probably the beginning of my interest in becoming a pilot.”

She says her time at the School of Aviation was full of amazing experiences, but seeing New Zealand from the air was the highlight.

“Before coming to Massey, I hadn’t travelled within New Zealand much so I thoroughly enjoyed the long navigation flights, especially to Westport or anywhere in the South Island.

“I particularly enjoyed night flying. New Zealand is such a beautiful country as it is, but at night it’s like a whole new world.”

Since completing the flight component of her degree Ms McLeod has returned to Auckland to work as an aircraft cleaner at Air New Zealand while she completes her remaining papers via distance learning.

“I wanted to get a job where I was still close to aircraft and and where I could learn about Air New Zealand. I plan on getting my instructor’s licence in the new year and to build my hours so I can hopefully, in the future, join Air New Zealand as a pilot.”

Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey receives his honorary Wings brevet from chief flight instructor Craig Whyte.

One last special presentation

Ms McLeod's awards were not the only special awards presented at the Wings ceremony. The full list is as follows:

  • Air New Zealand Flying Award – Shinga McLeod
  • Airways Corporation Academic Award – Jacob Houghton
  • Palmserton North Airport Professional Attributes Award – Jacob Houghton
  • Fieldair Engineering Ltd Aviation Systems Award – Shinga McLeod
  • Hugh Francis Navigation Award – Sik Chan
  • ASPEQ Flight Instruction Award – Ryan Hellier
  • Manager of Professional Programmes Award – Kiran Parbhu
  • Air BP Scholarship Flight Instructor Award –Angus Ward
  • Air BP Academic – Cameron Nayler
  • Craig Merryweather Memorial Scholarship – Betty Nimmo
  • Massey University School of Aviation Outstanding Student Award – Shinga McLeod

There was one final special presentation at the end of the event for outgoing Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey, who was attending his final Wings ceremony. In recognition for his support of the School of Aviation, including a large investment in the school's state-of-the-art aircraft fleet, chief flight instructor Craig Whyte presented Mr Maharey with his own Wings brevet.


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