Kerry Phillips’ journey to an Associate Degree in Aviation involved an obsession with sharks, two double degrees and a move across the country.
Growing up in Perth, WA, Kerry loved sharks. “Shark week was like my Christmas,” she said.
“I would spend holidays at the beach looking up for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter because the helicopter was searching for sharks" she said, and from there she became interested in aviation and what it would be like to be a pilot.
Her interest in sharks and helicopters went on pause after high school, while she did a double degree in physiotherapy and sports science in Perth.
“I used to drive to university and just sit in my car for hours.I liked those subjects in high school but it wasn’t something I could see myself having a career in. I got the courage to leave after four years and travelled around a bit. Then I decided I would make aviation my career, not my hobby.
Kerry made the move to RMIT for her studies.
“I chose to study at RMIT because I was doing the double with business management and aviation. I had a few options so I talked to people and I researched. I found out that RMIT had a very good business school with a lot of facilities, and the aviation and aerospace school had the largest amount of research outputs.”
After completing the double degree in Applied Science (Aviation) and Business (Management), Kerry is now studying the two year Associate Degree in Aviation (Professional Pilots).
“This is my first year of flight training and I love it so much more. My GPA has almost tripled since I studied physiotherapy. I’m not any smarter, I just love what I’m doing and I’m genuinely happy so everything is easier.
Kerry’s Associate Degree in Aviation takes her between the RMIT city campus and the Point Cook Airfield, former home of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) Flying Training School.
“I get the best of both worlds. I get to live the normal university life at the City campus and for the rest of the time I’m at the Point Cook RAAF base.
"I would advise anyone to do what makes them happy.”
“Life on campus at Point Cook is great. There’s a lot of intensive study and practice involved to be a pilot and we’re here a lot, so you get very familiar with your cohort and the staff. We really bounce off each other and support each other.”
Kerry’s highlight from her first year of flight training was the second time she made a solo flight.
My favourite flight was actually my second solo, when I got to do a few laps.
“Everyone says their first solo flight is the really memorable one. My favourite flight was my second solo, when I got to do a few laps. I had the realisation that 'wow I can actually fly a plane' and it’s something I’m doing and I’m doing it well. It’s not something I’ve fluked."
Kerry has seized incredible opportunities to travel overseas throughout her studies.
“Since I started studying at RMIT I’ve had wonderful opportunities to participate in different awards, competitions, environments and exchanges.”
Working with industry experts in the Fastrack Innovation Program saw Kerry spread her wings in the field of ideation.
“I realised I loved innovation and creating new ideas. Before it was something I’d never even considered. I joined a team at RMIT and applied for the Airbus Fly Your Ideas international student competition, where our idea made the top five.
“Airbus flew us to Toulouse in France for the finals and we came second. After that I did an internship at Airbus Defence and Space in Germany for nine months. They’d met me at the competition and were really excited to invite me back.”
Kerry is also passionate about women in aviation.
“The percentage of women in flight training at RMIT is larger than the industry standard, and it’s increasing every year. I was fortunate to speak at the 2017 Women in Aviation/Aerospace summit. I’m really motivated to show young women that they can get involved at a high school level. There are a couple of organisations for women in aviation and aerospace. They have forums, summits and volunteering opportunities, and it’s wonderful to go to them and hear other women voice what’s in my head.”
Kerry’s love of flying and her innovative aviation ideas promise a bright future.
“What’s next for me is working towards getting my commercial and instrument rating so I can be a commercial pilot with an airline. I’ve always loved planes and flying since I was little, as a passenger or as a pilot. I even love airports!
“So I’ve taken it to the next step and made it my career.”
Acknowledgement of country
RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business. - Artwork created by Louisa Bloomer