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Aviation Wingman - The Beginnings

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Pinpointing exactly where my desire to fly started is difficult - my mum has always worked in aviation (she's cabin crew of 30+ years), and so has my dad. The precise moment I told myself "I am going to fly for a career" was in an RE classroom in secondary school; I was in a bit of a sticky place emotionally, not really knowing where I was going or what I was doing with myself (RE classrooms tend to have that effect on me, even to this day), when I happened across a grubby, torn, wrinkled A4 piece of paper pinned to the wall - "Become an Airline Pilot!" it broadcast. My attention hooked, I snapped a photo of the details of the advertised exhibition at which all of the UK's major airlines and commercial flying schools would be present. "I am going to fly for a career", I thought, before turning and heading to Latin for an hour of declension-related fun.

And that's how I found myself walking around a stuffy hotel conference room with my mum, the room itself packed full of men and women in suits and cabin crew and pilots uniforms all trying to sell their company or training school. All of the big names in aviation were there but none of them really caught my attention; they all said the same basic thing: "Give us £100k and we'll pay you 1/5 of that per year to fly the maximum number of duty hours you're legally allowed to". Not inspiring stuff by any means. The only stand I gave a second glance was that of an Indonesian domestic airline which flew PC-6s, delivering groceries to distant communities, although their allure of being the "world's most dangerous place to be a pilot" also wasn't actually that alluring at all.

I trudged back to the car feeling no more motivated than I had been before, and finished my GCSEs.

With the GCSEs sat and the results brewing, I had booked myself into a flying summer camp in Vancouver, Canada. The camp was two weeks in length and would see me making 10 hour's worth of progress through the PPL syllabus.

The flying there was like no other flying I've ever done in my life; magnificent mountains and colossal canyons, seaplanes and sun. The first few lessons were spent learning the basics of flight in a rickety old PA28-140: pull the stick back to go up, but not too far or you'll start to go down again; push it forwards to go down (stop pushing when the trees are beginning to look too big); left to go left; right to go right; oh, and don't forget to dab the same side rudder whenever you use the ailerons.


A low wing monoplane, PA28, on the apron in Canada
The PA28-140


With the basics mastered we set off further afield: Powell River, Port Alberni, Qualicum Beach. Highlights of these adventures included learning how to tune the local radio stations on the ADF and jamming to Canada's finest Country and Western, flying over one of the last remaining Martin Mars water bombers, and taking the low level route over Vancouver harbour.



Unfortunately, those 10 hours I flew in Canada were to be the last hours I flew for several years. It would be a while yet before I took to the skies once again.

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