Cheryl Hicks

inducted 2019 Service

About Cheryl Hicks

1971 - 1999

Cheryl Hicks was born with wings, invisible to the eye, but they were always there.

Asa little girl she would take flight from kindergarten, which terrified her at first, and run to her grandmother's house. In prep, school held the same fears until Cheryl settled in and found the confidence that would later see the five-foot-tall, pocket rocket remembered as someone always on the move and ready for the next challenge. Her mother, Shirley, recalls how Cheryl began riding as a At year old and later showing horses and as soon as she was old enough, getting her motorbike licence.

The motorbike was much bigger than she was and her mother wondered how she managed to stand it up, much It control it. Shirley was relieved when Cheryl, then 17, announced she was selling the motorbike, only to declare in the next breath, am having my first flying lesson." Flying proved to be Cheryl's true passion.

Cheryl took on full-time office work to she could afford her flying time at the Warrnambool Airport, spending hours there, after work and each weekend. She was determined to clock up as many flying hours as quickly as possible toward reaching her goal of becoming a professional pilot.

While building her hours as part of the Warrnambool Aero Club, where she was the only female member, Cheryl would encourage others to fly and also helped to instruct new pilots. Her efforts saw her presented with Gold Wings from veteran airman Bill Bell. By the age of 20, Cheryl had gained her private flying licence and three years later, her commercial licence.

In 1995, she became a Grade Three Fixed Wing Flying Instructor and was hired as an instructor at the Peninsula Aero Club in Tyabb. Cheryl's adventurous spirit led to a passion for the adrenaline-filled entertainment of aerobatics. She also became an aerobatics instructor, teaching other pilots the expert manoeuvres that are not used in normal flight.

Cheryl quickly became known for her infectious enthusiasm that inspired others, especially young women, to take up flying, but she was also respected for her professionalism, where every student - no matter how well she knew them - could expect a thorough test of their skills.

While at Tyabb, Cheryl continued to build up her own experience, hoping to eventually become a pilot for a major commercial airline. She would spend her days off at the Essendon Airport volunteering for the mail run, to build her hours, and took night classes at TAFE to complete Year 12.

By 1998, having achieved her Grade One Instructor rating among other qualifications, Cheryl's dream started to all come together. She was employed as a shuttle service pilot on Horn Island, in the Torres Strait. Horn Island is about as remote as it gets, with fishing and a pub the only diversions, but Cheryl embraced island life and fast became a popular local.

Tragically, Cheryl was only six months into her new life when she was killed in a flying accident on a shuttle run to Coconut Island. She was 27. Two passengers were also killed. An inquest into the accident determined that there was no pilot error involved and one passenger was saved through Cheryl's heroic and skilful response to the dangerous situation that confronted her on the runway.

The Peninsula Aero Club presents an annual award in Cheryl's honour, the Cheryl Hicks Memorial Shield for the most determined pilot. The inaugural winner was Eva Fabian, who started her training under Cheryl and who, having been inspired by Cheryl's teaching, found her own wings to fly.

2019 marks the twentieth anniversary of Cheryl's passing. Her legacy lives on through her family - parents Shirley and Philip and sisters, Sharon and Narelle - and Cheryl Court, in Warrnambool, is named in her memory.

2019 Inspiring Alumni

Cheryl Hicks