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    PASSIONATE: Past, present and future pilots for the Royal Australian Air Force, from left, 100 Squadron leader and former Nhill resident Samuel da Graca Costa, Roulette Flight Lieutenant James Dutschke and trainee pilot Pilot Officer Gregory Weber.
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    MEMORIES: Eight-year-old Samuel da Graca Costa in front of the Tiger Moth he flew in at Nhill Aerodrome.

Pilot back where it began for former Nhill student

It was a return home to the Wimmera for Air Force 100 Squadron executive officer Samuel da Graca Costa when he flew the CA-25 Winjeel at Nhill Air Show.

It was a full circle moment for the squadron leader – as it was at Nhill where he took his first flight as an eight-year-old.

While attending St Pauls Lutheran Primary School, Squadron Leader da Graca Costa flew in a heritage Tiger Moth aircraft.

The De Havilland Tiger Moth served the Royal Australian Air Force in great numbers as a basic trainer in the years leading into, throughout and beyond World War Two.

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It is universally recognised as an absolute classic aircraft.

The joyride became a formative experience that Squadron Leader da Grace Costa looks back on fondly.

“I can still remember vividly the smell of the engine, the wind in my face and the exhilaration of becoming airborne,” he said.

“After that flight I hired the movie ‘Tail of a Tiger’ from the local video shop – I had it on permanent loan.

“I repeatedly watched the story about a kid who helps restore and fly a Tiger Moth at the docks in Sydney. 

“My Mum even kept a story I wrote at school about that experience.”

Squadron Leader da Graca Costa followed that passion for aviation, beginning his training with the Australian Air Force Cadets prior to joining the Air Force as a pilot though the Australian Defence Force Academy.

Now Squadron Leader, he assists others to fulfil their aviation dreams. 

He is a qualified flying instructor, who has taught at two flying training schools and, after posting into 100 Squadron at RAAF Base Point Cook, he became one of the many flying instructor volunteers for the Australian Air Force Cadets.

The 100 Squadron maintains Air Force’s fleet of heritage aircraft and conducts flying displays in order to commemorate those who have fallen in service of the country and to promote the RAAF and inspire future generations.

When not instructing, Squadron Leader da Graca Costa is using the opportunity of participating in regional air shows to speak to young attendees about their aspirations.

“A lot of people I spoke with didn’t know about the broad range of opportunities available within the ADF,” he said. “I hope the aircraft from 100 Squadron sparks some passion and interest for potential aviators in the crowds.”

Squadron Leader da Graca Costa also took the opportunity of participating in the Nhill Air Show to provide some inspiration for his son Ben, who enjoyed his first flight in a Tiger Moth at the show – some 30 years after his father.

A moment of pride and nostalgia, as well as reflection, for the impact that the heritage aircraft can have on the next generation of potential aviators.

– Flight Lieutenant Kristi Adam

The entire May 22, 2024 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!