PHOTOS | HELEANA GENAUS
About eighteen months ago, Claire did what most of us take a lifetime to do. She abandoned the comfort and security of her well-paid, comfortable existence, to pursue her life’s passion… flying planes for airlines. In that time Claire has delved head first into full-time study and training, is probably poorer than ever and has never been happier.
I’m not describing the type of “happy” that some of us feel when we finally do something we’ve always wanted to try. I mean the kind of happy where every day is a joy, where every challenge is exciting and every failure is seen as a lesson rather than setback. When I met Claire at Bankstown Airport to get a tour of the base, it was hard to comprehend that she had only started this journey less than 18 months ago. Talking me through every test, exam and endorsement she'd been through from the day she started studying aviation it’s clear she has loved the whole process, even the failures. She now knows her way around an engine, the logic of its performance, air and fuel ratios, navigation, speed, g-forces and everything else a pilot needs to know… which sent me dizzy trying to keep up.
Her life changing decision was not only hers; her husband and children were also on board once she was confident this was right for her… which only took one lesson for her to be hooked. There really is no turning back for Claire. While she has powered through endorsements to get to point where she is working toward her multi-engine instrument rating, after successfully completing her commercial pilots licence with an instructor rating, she admits her initial aspirations to fly for a commercial airline have changed. With flying, pilots must study and practice to be able to progress through every skill they want to accrue to their range of options in the sky. From recreational flying, to dual propeller, to instructing, sea planes, small passenger carriers… and the list goes on. Every advancement takes time, hours in the air and tuition of which also all costs money… but totally excites Claire.
In her previous life in marketing, she felt there was only so far to go; with Aviation there is a lifetime of progression and adventure. While flying for airlines is still her goal, she’s slowed down her trajectory and is meandering through other options, like instructing, so she can enjoy the process more, earn some money doing what she loves and has her sights on moving to the Maldives to join a fleet of sea planes to get her hours up… and give her family a sense of the world. A deviation? Maybe, but when you love the journey more than the achievement of reaching the final destination, then there really is no hurry to get there. Her initial determination settled into a whole new way of seeing the world.
I am totally inspired by Claire, she really is testament to that old saying “it’s never too late”. She doesn’t regret her previous career, there are skills she learnt there that she will apply to her current trajectory. Claire believes she is more alive, positive and grateful of everything and her family are benefiting as well.
To say that pilots earn their wings is really no understatement, and in Claire’s case, each new set of wings and stripes a little 'win' to a life that is aligned with everything she loves... a life in the air.
Heleana is a force of nature. The founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.