It all started when I was 15 years old and got the chance to ride in an RAF Bulldog with the cadets. Sadly I don’t have any photos of any of that as it was before every child had a camera phone but it was amazing getting to fly in this tiny 2 seat aircraft and doing loops, barrel rolls etc. However, at the time, I never imagined a career in aviation as I was pursuing one in IT but the idea of learning to fly never went away.
It took over ten years before I got back to the idea of being a pilot, although I did do a fair amount of model aircraft flying from simple gliders to powered aerobatic machines. 2005 was the year I took my very first flying lesson out of the now closed Filton airfield in Bristol with Aeros flight training who’s main base was and still is at Gloucester airport.
Aeros were an excellent school and I was mostly with one instructor for the duration of my PPL which I think is important when it comes to initial training. However thanks to the weather (I started in January) and other commitments, it still took nearly six months from starting my PPL to going solo with just under twenty flying hours under my belt. So to all those folks fretting about how long it takes to go solo, it really doesn’t matter; it’ll happen when it happens!
Of course it was an amazing feeling in the circuit above Filton with just me in the aircraft. It was at this point that I decided I really wanted to make a career of this flying lark. I gained my PPL in September 2006 and then took various family and friends up for a flight, some enjoying it more than others (sorry mum!).
As I knew I was going to be pursuing the commercial route, I had to start making a few decisions as to how I was going to do it. Modular was the obvious choice as it meant I could keep my 9-5 IT job whilst doing the ATPL theory subjects and the commercial flight training. I elected to go with Bristol Ground School for the theory as their reputation is the best out there and I wasn’t disappointed. The fact their classrooms were a mere five minute drive from my parent’s place in Cheddar kind of made the whole distance learning thing a bit of a mute point though!
During the following two years I continued to build up my flying hours, whilst doing the ATPL theory subjects, by flying a Piper PA28 Cadet, G-GFCB, from Bristol International Airport. I struck a deal with Bristol Flying Centre who offered me a good self-hire rate on the premise I would do my commercial and instrument training with them. I also managed to get my night rating done in that aircraft in January 2008 over a couple of wonderful clear nights out of Bristol and Filton airports. Magical stuff!
Of course I didn’t just restrict myself to bimbling about in a PA28. I made some friends along the way and blagged a few flights with them as I’ve always believed you can learn a lot when flying with other pilots. The Cirrus SR20 was a particular highlight and a great introduction to glass cockpits.
I finally managed to gain my 100 hours as pilot in command around August 2008 so was ready to start my commercial and instrument training. You can read all about that on the next page here.