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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Air Force pilot returns to where it all began

The tiny town of Nhill in the Wimmera region of far west Victoria was once home to the executive officer of 100 Squadron, Squadron Leader Samuel da Graca Costa, who recently returned representing Air Force at the Nhill Air Show at the controls of the CA-25 Winjeel. 

It was a special ‘full circle’ moment for Squadron Leader da Graca Costa, as it was there, as an eight-year-old, that he took his first flight in a heritage aircraft, a Tiger Moth, while attending St Paul’s Lutheran Primary School.

The De Havilland Tiger Moth served the RAAF in great numbers as basic trainer – in the years leading into, throughout and beyond World War 2. 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. 

Squadron Leader Samuel da Graca Costa working with 100 Squadron maintenance and Nhill Airshow staff to prepare the Winjeel for a display flight.

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

“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 own 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 da Graca Costa assists others to fulfil their aviation dreams. 

He is a qualified flying instructor, who has taught at 2 Flying Training School 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. 

Ben da Graca Costa taking his first flight in a Tiger Moth at the 2024 Nhill airshow.

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. I hope the aircraft from 100 Squadron sparks some passion and interest for potential aviators in the crowds,” he said.

Squadron Leader da Graca Costa also took the opportunity of participating in the 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. 

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

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