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Local heroes inspire Isabella


The sky is the limit for Tenison Woods College student Isabella Lamb as she embarks on her Year 12 journey with the aim of becoming a commercial pilot.

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And she will have plenty of inspiration to achieve her goal after being awarded the Tenison Woods College Flyers Award in honour of four old scholars of Marist Brothers Agricultural College who were pilots in the Vietnam War.

After researching the pilots and discovering all four died while flying, Mount Gambier RSL president Bob Sandow approached the local college to set up a scholarship for a student who has “had a go”.

He said the award honours the sacrifice and service of those men and women who served their country in a variety of military capacities. It acknowledges a senior school student who has demonstrated their ability to go beyond what is generally expected of them, put others before themselves and has a strong sense of comradeship.

The fourth recipient of the Flyers Award, Isabella has already completed 43 flying hours (31 with an instructor and 12 solo), qualifying her to carry passengers.

Last year she was selected to undertake the Royal Australian Air Force Aviation Program at the Edinburgh base in Adelaide. The aim of the four-day program is to provide aspiring women aviators with an overview of life in the Air Force, particularly in aviation and engineering roles.

Isabella said she “felt proud to be standing on the shoulders” of the old scholar pilots and representing their “values and passion for flying”.

She hoped to complete her Navigational Course throughout the holidays, which would allow her to fly to different airports.

“I might have to take Mum and Dad for a flight down to Robe or Penola for the day,” she said.

Isabella receiving her award from Bob Sandow.

After completing Year 12 at Tenison Woods College, she hopes to undertake her commercial pilot theory and gain work as a charter pilot.

Presenting Isabella with her award on Remembrance Day, Mr Sandow spoke about the four men who inspired the scholarship – Anthony Casadio, John Friedrichs, Reginald Van Leuven and Errol Kavanagh.

“Except for Tony (Anthony), all of these boys survived Vietnam then died doing what they have always wanted to do, that is fly,” Mr Sandow said.

“Tenison Woods College  (formerly Marist Brothers Agricultural College) gave them their wings, and the Defence Force taught them to fly.”

Tony Casadio was a captain of the First XI cricket team and senior athletics champion, as well as successful in his academic studies. He joined the Royal Australian Navy as a helicopter pilot in 1964 and was a highly decorated pilot of the Vietnam War. He was in the unique position of flying in a combined Australian American group.

His heroic efforts on surviving a helicopter crash landing after being shot down in enemy territory earned him an American Citation. However, Tony and his crew of three did not survive a second crash landing and were killed in action in August 1968. He was 23 years old.

He has been recognised with numerous awards including his own monument in the Washington Aeronautical and Space Museum. The second highest RAN casualty in Vietnam, he was buried in Mount Gambier with full military honours.

John Friedrichs left Marist Brothers College in the early 1960s. He trained to be a priest prior to becoming a jet fighter pilot. After some time flying, including a tour of Vietnam, he became a member of the legendary RAAF Roulettes team, flying Mirage jets known as ‘the French Lady’.

John died in February 1974 aged 26 years, flying a French Mirage jet whilst practising a manoeuvre for the Roulettes.

Reginald Van Leuven was from Naracoorte and boarded at Marist Brothers College. On leaving school he worked in a bank for 12 months and then joined the air force. He obtained his flying license before he could drive a car. Reg died in a helicopter accident while doing rescue work in the 1974 Queensland floods.

Errol Kavanagh graduated from Marist Brothers College in 1960. He was a pilot with 20 years’ experience including tours of Vietnam and captain of several Australian Naval vessels. Leaving the service, he flew Jumbo jets and then began flying a privately-owned MIG fighter at charity events.

In 1993 in Canberra the 48 year old crashed shortly after take-off and he and his passenger were killed. On the adjacent oval where perhaps he could have landed, 2000 people were playing sport that day. Witnesses say he altered height to keep away from the oval.


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