St James’s & the Abbey, 1998 Leaver
I left St James’s & The Abbey and took a year to travel Canada and Alaska. I returned to Bournemouth University to do a BA in Communication and then went to South America for two years of travelling and working. I can’t say I knew with any certainty what I wanted to do while at school or even university. I only found my passion for aviation and flying helicopters in my late 20s.
What I do know is that years of working in other industries and my strong foundations of school and university meant that I had the confidence to start retraining without too many qualms. Having my Private Pilot’s Licence has enabled me to have some wonderful experiences; I regularly take friends and family over London to see the sights from 1000ft, I’ve done The Three Peaks Challenge in a helicopter - flying the length of the UK is breathtaking. I have flown to just south of Paris in a day and back; and dropped to just a few metres above the waves along deserted beaches in South Africa. En route to Wales last year, I realised I was close to Malvern and diverted to fly over St James’s for a trip down memory lane.
I am in the process of completing my Commercial Pilot Licence so I can move into working full time in aerial filming and photography. Studying for the APLTs (Airline Transport Pilot Licence) is a long and protracted process involving 14 theory exams and needing a lot of flight hours logged. I balance this study with residential property development, which gives me a much-needed distraction at times.
I’d say that it’s good to be prepared to change tack within your career. I had 10 years of working as a personal trainer; I loved it so much that I went back to university to do an MSc in Sport and Exercise Science. A few years later, I realised that there was something I wanted to do more; so I made the leap into aviation. That decade in my 20s wasn’t wasted time; I developed many skills that serve me well in my role as a pilot. I don’t regret them and I don’t regret not finding flying earlier; I found it when I was ready to put in the work necessary to become a pilot.
My focus has always been to do what makes me feel inspired, challenged and uplifted. Aviation, and particularly helicopters, is a small industry but the people I meet through flying (pilots, engineers and ATC) are engaging and intelligent, and inspire me to always want to be better and try harder. Becoming a pilot was one of the best decisions I made, because every flight brings me moments of pure joy.
What does success look like?
If you stop developing you will stagnate; so success is to never stop learning or growing.
What is your best piece of advice?
If you are trying to do things that are beyond your comfort zone, you will fail. Get comfortable with this idea. And when it happens, remind yourself that failing is evidence that you are striving for better. Failing is not failure; it is part and parcel of having ambition.