Plotting a flight path to wealth
He started making a difference in his own life at about the time this photograph was taken when he was just 12 years old.
And what a huge difference it turned out to be.
The oldest of three boys being raised by mum, Jenny, Tim can’t remember ever not being conscious of the family budget.
“The budget was always analysed after shopping trips, particularly,” Tim said.
And if, after the shopping, the fortnightly budget wasn’t in good shape, the boys didn’t get pocket money.
So, Tim figured sleepy little Edithburgh (pop 466 at last count) on the Yorke Peninsula west of Adelaide could really do with a professional lawnmowing business.
“I bought my own lawnmower and a book,” he said.
“I remember the first entry in the book was a negative amount for $500-odd, which was the price of the lawnmower.”
A couple of letterbox drops, word of mouth about town, and he was soon riding the crest of profit.
It was hard work though and he showed real dedication by stuffing a fuel can into his school backpack (often, along with a drink, and his lunch), and pushing the mower across town to each job.
He stuck with it right through high school, even expanding the business by buying a whipper-snipper once he could afford the capital investment.
The mower worked hard, too… he walked it so many kilometres, he eventually had to replace the worn-out wheels.
Married (to Rebecca), with three daughters – Tiana, 14, Isabella, 8, and Laura, 3 – Tim now understands how difficult it must have been for his mother.
He was a deep thinker, even as a child, and his burning ambition was to be a pilot.
All he wanted to do was fly.
With that in mind, he insisted on being allowed to take the maths and science subjects he would need to qualify as a pilot after Year 12.
So, in a class of 30 or so at the Yorketown Area School, he was on his own, taking four maths and science subjects by correspondence.
The only class in which he participated at the school was English.
It took dedication and determination, but he is proud of the fact he did well enough to be accepted into the ADF as an officer when he graduated.
He used some of his lawnmower profits – with support from Mum – to make the first small steps towards becoming a pilot, starting when he turned 15 years old, paying $150 an hour to learn to fly in a Cessna 172.
He went solo not long after turning 16, and on one memorable day, at the age of 16 years and three months, drove Mum and his brothers to Port Pirie (he had just got his Learner’s Permit).
Having parked the car, he took the whole family for a half-hour joy flight.
He needed the supervision of his mother to drive the car, but when they all piled into the little Cessna, Tim was, very much in charge.
“I remember Mum said: ‘Oh, well, if something goes wrong, at least we will all be dead together’,” he said.
Tim said it was a humorous statement, but there was an underlying element of fear being voiced as well.
Nothing could deter him from his ambition to fly.
“At the end of Year 11, I took the pilot aptitude test offered by Air Force,” he said.
It’s a day of written tests, reading gauges and making quick mathematical calculations, rather than a video game testing motor control.
He failed, and they suggested he redirect his ambition towards becoming a navigator.
At the end of Year 12, he sat the test again, this time knowing it would immediately shape his future.
He scored even less than he had done the previous year, and this time was told he might be more successful as an air traffic controller, or, perhaps, an airfield defence guard.
Gutted, Tim went away and got a job pouring liquid concrete down the bore holes left by miners at the Beverley Uranium Mine, but he continued to research his options in the military.
It was back-breaking, repetitive work and he had plenty of time to think… too much time.
He decided he would be better off in the Army as a general service officer, rather than the RAAF, whether it be in the infantry or something else, he wasn’t sure.
Lifting bag after bag of cement to tip into the open tank on the back of the flat bed truck used to reach the holes left by the mining teams strengthened his resolve to join the Army.
He started work at the mine in December, 2004, and, in March, told his boss he had applied to the ADF to be an Army officer.
“They really encouraged me, and when it came to the day I had to be tested, they had organised my shifts so I could get to Adelaide on time,” he said.
He was accepted into the ADF as a general service officer cadet on July, 13, 2005 and was packed off to Duntroon the next day.
He was the youngest in his class at Duntroon, and although he never asked, was almost certainly the only blue-collar worker there.
“I felt like I stood out for the first month or so, but not after that. The military is a great equaliser,” he said.
He had been at Duntroon for about eight months and was in second class when the same dreaded pilot aptitude test was offered to the whole class.
Of course he had another crack at it, and to his delight, and astonishment, he passed.
But he wasn’t “in” until he passed the two-week flight screening course at Tamworth.
His previous flying experience proved to be a two-edged sword.
Although he had an advantage over his peers who had never piloted an aircraft before, his experience meant he had to pass the advanced course flying the ADF’s AC CT-4 Airtrainer.
But he breezed through it.
“That two weeks was my favourite time at Duntroon,” he said.
Better yet, every moment after that was sweetened by the knowledge he would be heading to Army’s Aviation Corps, where, eventually, he would be a pilot.
After graduation, he was sent to Tamworth for more flying training for almost an entire year, then, in 2008, went to Oakey where he was introduced to rotary wing aircraft, learning initially on the Kiowa.
He remembers the frustration experienced by almost every new helicopter pilot at not being able to fly straight and level, or being able to keep the aircraft in a stable hover.
The straight and level skill came fairly quickly and his flight path, which, typically had been like the progress of a rocking horse across the sky was smoothed out.
But hovering was a problem – he kept creeping forwards.
“They say you have to be touched by the hover fairy, or you will never be able to hover,” Tim said, grinning.
He was cured of creeping forwards when the instructor made him aerially “park” the aircraft in front of a tree.
He chose to fly the Army’s Chinook helicopter because it was the one going on operations, the one likely to be chosen.
In 2009, he went to Fort Rucker, Alabama for three months to learn to fly the Chinooks.
Finally, he was posted to C Squadron, 5Avn Regt, Townsville.
More training, this time very practical, as he learnt how procedures in the unit were varied to suit the task at hand.
By then a captain, he deployed to Aghanistan in 2010.
“It was, by far, the best flying I had ever done,” he said.
It was also the most sobering.
His first mission – to transport SAS TPR Jason Brown’s body from Kandahar to Tarin Kot – could not have been more sobering.
While he was never in an aircraft that was fired upon, he does remember all too clearly one mission where he and his co-pilot pre-positioned tourniquets on their upper thighs before take-off.
A US Blackhawk had rolled on landing and, although nobody was hurt in the accident, the aircraft was stricken in a deep depression on an open plain.
Tim’s crew was ordered to fly personnel and ordnance to the site to enable the helicopter to be stripped of sensitive equipment, then destroyed.
“We were on the taxiway and about to take off when we heard on the radio that the soldiers guarding the chopper were starting to take small arms fire,” Tim said.
“We had body armour on our chest, and a helmet, but we still had that glass bubble to see out of, and our legs were forward and right up there in an exposed situation.”
The torniquets were to prevent them “bleeding out” if they did get shot in the legs.
“It’s the most vulnerable I have ever felt, anywhere,” he said.
As it happened, a couple of Apache combat helicopters shepherded the Chinook into the landing zone, and stayed on patrol during the whole mission, which lasted about 20 minutes in the danger area.
Tim almost missed being on that deployment because of his love of water ski-ing.
“I was ski-ing on the Ross River, practising a slalom course and fell heavily on my side,” he said.
The impact burst an eardrum and he had to wait for that to heal before he was allowed to join his colleagues in Aghanistan two weeks late.
Ultimately, it was water ski-ing that ended his career.
He fell at speed as he crossed the boat’s wake, tumbling across the surface until the ski on his left foot speared into the water.
The other foot fastening released, but the left one did not and that foot stopped suddenly while the rest of him continued to spiral around it, shattering the ankle bones as well as destroying cartilage in the joint.
His ankle was operated on immediately, then again seven months later and Tim stoicly applied himself to the reabilitation process, anxious to get back to full fitness and back to full duties at work.
More than a year after it happened, he realised it was not improving as predicted and the orthopaedic surgeon diagnosed incurable arthritis in the heel.
The only option he offered – which, in Tim’s opinion was no option at all – was to fuse the joint.
The Army paid for two more opinions, which agreed with the first diagnosis, but Tim couldn’t let it rest without having checked every possibility.
“I searched for the best ankle surgeon in Australia, who turned out to be in Melbourne,” Tim said.
It seemed to offer him a chance because Dr Geoffrey Tymms was also linked with research into the use of stem cell treatments on damaged ankles.
Tim grasped at what he knew was his last hope and, under his own steam, travelled to Melbourne for a consultation.
No chance, the fourth opinion from the best in the country confirmed the previous three diagnoses.
The flight home was a long one, having had his dream of finding somebody to inject some stem cells into his ankle to make the cartilage grow again shattered.
Typically, Tim had formulated a plan before the plane touched down in Townsville.
He was halfway through a correspondence degree in business administration when the ski-ing accident turned his world upside down.
“Basically, I was doing the degree to tick a box that would be needed if ever I was to be promoted to lieutenant colonel,” Tim said.He had always been interested in finance and share investment, and he wryly remembered a fairly recent conversation with a bank teller.
He had asked her how the interest on his account was calculated. Was it compounded daily, weekly, how was it done?
“She had no idea what I was talking about,” Tim said.
“But she did say: ‘You should be a financial planner’.”
So he asked to see a financial planner, asked about the qualifications necessary and skewed the remainder of his degree to suit.
Tim and Rebecca Klingner with daughters Tiana, 14, Isabella, 8, and Laura, 3
He finished the degree, and, knowing he would have to leave the Army because he would never be able to convince any Medical Employment Classification Board he would be able to regain fitness, he took the unusual step of applying for leave without pay.
“I thought people would take me more seriously if I had demonstrated I was prepared to start work right now,” he said.
He got a job with ANZ Bank, moved to a more independent operation with RetireInvest after about 18 months and after more than a year there, began to think about starting his own business.
That’s when he bumped into Bernie Goldie and Justin Pascoe at the Axis Investment Centre.
“The more I looked at it, the more I liked what they were doing, which was pretty much what I wanted to do,” Tim said.
He said there was much more to the advice he could give ADF members than simply which shares to buy.
He said it was important for military people to plan for life after their careers finished.
“Yes, you will have a reasonable superannuation income, but it won’t be anything like the cashflow you’re used to,” Tim said.
“And if you don’t own a house and have somewhere to live – particularly if your career ends sooner than you would like – then you have a problem.”
He said it wasn’t necessary to have a wad of money to invest before calling him.
He said he could help with the first steps of planning to save a little for investment, and prevent people from falling into financial traps.
Ring him anytime, any day on 0419 037 867.
CAPT Tim Klingner in a Chinook simulator in the UK. He posed for the photograph with daughter Isabella’s toy puppy but failed to notice the dog’s face was buried in the instrument panel