Chayde’s eyes still on the skies despite cancer diagnosis

Despite being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, USQ Aviation student Chayde Tooley refused to let the cancer stop him from pursuing his sky-high dreams.
8 Feb 2018

Born in Palmerston North, New Zealand, and living just a short distance from the airport, Chayde Tooley would watch planes take off and land all day.

This sparked his deep fascination and interest in aviation, and from the age of four, he knew he was destined to be a pilot.

So it came as no surprise when, after graduating from high school in 2015, Chayde decided to enrol at USQ Springfield to study a Bachelor of Aviation (Flight Operations).

In his second semester of university study and just weeks away from starting his commercial pilot’s licence training, everything looked to be going to plan.

But on September 30, 2016, Chayde’s lifelong ambition was grounded when he was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare and aggressive form of bone cancer.

Over the next 12 months, Chayde underwent 51 sessions of chemotherapy and was told he wouldn’t be allowed to fly for at least five years.

“It hit me hard when I got the diagnosis and my class one medical certificate was taken from me, because I had not seriously thought about doing anything else but fly planes,” Chayde said.

“I have had this dream since I was a boy and after everything was coming together nicely I felt like my dream was being snatched away from me and it was heart breaking.”

Faced with a life-threatening illness, anyone would find it hard to remain positive and motivated through the pain and countless days at hospital, but Chayde refused to let the cancer stop him from pursuing his sky-high dreams.

During his treatments, he continued to study full-time, switching from the Flight Operations major to Aviation Management to gain a broader understanding of the industry.

About to enter his final year at USQ, Chayde said he was overwhelmed by the support he had received from the University during his illness.

“Studying helped rescue me from a low point in my life as it distracted my mind from the unpleasant aspects of treatment and its side effects and allowed me to stay involved in aviation,” he said.

“The amount of support USQ has given me has been amazing.

“When I was first diagnosed with cancer, all my class members felt it, all my lecturers felt it and they all went above and beyond to help me out.

“I don’t think I could have maintained my studies during that time if I was at a different university.”

Sixteen months after being diagnosed with cancer, Chayde is thrilled to say he is in remission and has vowed not to give up on his goal of becoming a commercial airline pilot.

While receiving treatment, Chayde applied for and was successful in obtaining an internship at Qantas' catering centre at the Brisbane Airport through CareerTrackers.

“One of the best things about working at an airport is I get to learn about the operations involved in getting the planes into the air. There is so much that goes on that no-one thinks about or is aware of,” he said.

“The other great thing is I get to speak with cabin crew and pilots on board airplanes each day.

“The way I look at it, every person I speak to becomes one of my connections. If I can make a good impression with them, they will hopefully tell the right people and that will help me when it comes time to find a pilot role or management role.”

Learn more about studying Chayde's degree at USQ by visiting Aviation

Student headshot
Chayde Tooley is about to enter his final year studying Aviation at USQ.