I suppose you could say that aviation is in my blood. My grandfather was in the RAF during World War II, and while he did not talk much about this time, as far as we know he was based at RAF Cranfield - how strange that I should now be doing my flight training at Cranfield! My grandmother also had a passion for aircraft and this love of aviation has passed down the generations to my father, my brothers and now myself. My father has a Private Pilot Licence and makes replica aircraft, and my youngest brother flies Boeing 787s for British Airways.
My love for aircraft has been present from a very young age. We lived near Birmingham Airport and as well as watching the planes take off and land from our garden, we would regularly sit on the perimeter fence and watch the aircraft overhead at any given opportunity. Even at the age of 18 when I’d booked a holiday with my friends, I made my best friend sit in the viewing lounge at the airport every week to watch the planes until our holiday arrived!
That excitement for flying has never left me. I just never envisaged having the opportunity to fly such aircraft. 25 years ago, if women wanted to fly, the vast majority thought that meant being a stewardess. I knew I didn’t want to do that, but equally thought I would never be able to be a pilot, so my career path took me through various management and finance roles. When I had my children, I started my own successful wedding business. My passion for aviation remained though, from watching endless documentaries, going to air shows, and even pointing out aircraft to school mums on the playground, telling them what plane it was and where it was going; much to their delight I’m sure! But by this stage in my life I felt as though I’d missed the boat.
A few years ago - after I’d turned 40 - my brother forwarded an email from L3Harris about an Integrated ATPL course with Female Scholarship and suggested I apply. I was very hesitant at first, as I thought given my age, I probably wouldn’t be successful. However, after some encouragement, I applied. I was pleasantly surprised to be invited to the next stage and when I passed that, I dared to hope that I might actually have a chance at being offered a place on the Integrated ATPL course. Words cannot describe how I felt when I learnt that I would be offered a place, along with a Female Scholarship! My dream had literally come true!
I started ground school in January 2020. It was hard! Especially since I had not been in a classroom environment for over 20 years and the volume of information to consume in such a short space of time, it was a shock to the system. With two children thrown into the equation, it’s fair to say that at times I felt like I’d never be able to do it. Then, just before our first set of exams, the country went into lockdown and we went straight into Module 2 via Zoom. I’d be in Zoom class every day from 8am to 4pm whilst also trying to desperately home-school both my children, and revising in the evenings and weekends. When it came to taking those first set of exams, I can honestly say I was terrified. But with the guidance and support from the instructors and the help and encouragement from my fellow classmates, I passed them all! It gave me that much needed confidence boost and made me even more determined!
After a short delay due to Covid, I started Basic Flight Training at Cranfield at the end of June 2020, and I’ve never been happier! The whole team are lovely and the instructors have a wealth of knowledge and experience which makes you feel very relaxed. I finally feel I’m on the road to where I’m meant to be.
I would say to anyone, but in particular women, no matter your age, if you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, or even just dreaming about it - do it!
You will be so glad you believed in yourself!