Growing up in Kingaroy, Queensland, being a member of the swimming club and riding his bike for training and charity is a long way from where Flight Lieutenant Zac Lofthouse finds himself today.
Beginning his fitting and turning apprenticeship while at high school through the Kingaroy campus of Queensland's Wide Bay Burnett TAFE, Flight Lieutenant Lofthouse completed his apprenticeship as a fitter machinist in the agricultural industry.
Today, he's an embedded engineer through a focused industry placement supporting the Australian Defence Force's Hawk fighter jet maintenance program undertaken by BAE Systems Australia at RAAF Base Williamtown.
Managing complex projects, acquiring new skills and experiences and developing his professional engineering abilities is building his Air Force career as an aeronautical engineer.
"I developed an interest in the Australian Defence Force when I moved from Kingaroy to Cairns to expand my trade skills," Flight Lieutenant Lofthouse said.
"As a contractor I worked on naval vessels at HMAS Cairns and really enjoyed manufacturing parts in the large engineering workshops.
"My then fiancee, now wife, encouraged me to undertake further study, a no-brainer really, as mum is a TAFE teacher and dad is the deputy principal at Kingaroy State High and study is a given, so we moved to Brisbane where I commenced my engineering degree.
"The idea of working on aircraft really appealed and following a trade fair day at university, I decided to continue my undergraduate degree with the ADF," Flight Lieutenant Lofthouse said.
Today, he works at BAE Systems Australia under RAAF No. 78 Wing Headquarters in the LIF (Lead-In Fighter) Project Team. The LIF Project entails the in-service support of the Hawk 127 Lead-In Fighter through operational maintenance and supply chain management.
"My Air Force experience has been much wider than just one aircraft though," Flight Lieutenant Lofthouse said.
"During my five-year career, I have already had exposure to the Air Mobility Group’s heavy lift aircraft and the Mechanical Equipment Operations Maintenance Section at RAAF Base Amberley and today I am working on the same base as the Air Force's fifth-generation F35As," he said.
Flight Lieutenant Lofthouse will complete a master's degree in project management at the Australian Defence Force Academy to continue his Air Force career.