WHEN Mark Gwilt was 12 years old, he stood at the bottom of the runway at Leeds Bradford Airport watching the planes fly in overhead and said to his father, “that could be me one day.”
And after three years of studying, 250 hours in the air, and spending his £70,000 inheritance - he could soon be doing just that, after gaining his commercial pilot’s licence at just 19 years old.
Mark, of Pool in Wharfedale, first had a taste for flying after his parents bought their aviation-loving son a flying lesson for his 16th birthday.
He’d spent many a weekend plane spotting with his father and had tried his hand on a computer flight simulator, but getting into the cockpit for the first time was still nerve-racking.
Mark said: “It was pretty exciting, but that first time I was shaking constantly.”
But he had got the flying bug and more lessons followed.
While he was studying for his GCSEs at Prince Henry’s Grammar School in Otley he continued his lessons at Multiflight flight training at Leeds Bradford Airport (LBA), and gained his private pilot’s licence.
He said: “Flying solo for the first time was quite strange, I didn’t have time to think about it, and before I knew it I was back on the ground.”
This cemented his ambition to become a pilot, and after sitting his GCSEs, he decided to pay his way through pilot training using an inheritance, instead of following the traditional route of A Levels and university, like his friends.
He attended the Aviation Academy at LBA, and then went on to take an intensive course in Shoreham on Sea to take him through his Commercial Pilot’s Licence exams.
He passed the first part in January, and the final stage last month.
And he’s in an elite group. According to the Civil Aviation Authority’s latest figures, there were just five 19 year-olds holding commercial licences in 2012, and across the board, just 603 licences were held at any age.
He’s now searching for his first job as a First Officer, and hopes to fly Boeing 757s, but he’s already had his first passengers.
Mark said: “My mum is not the best flyer, and always said she wouldn’t dare come up. But I took her up for her birthday last month.”
Mike McKenzie, flight training manager at Multiflight said: “It’s a lot of money, but if you know being a pilot is what you want to do, it’s only a similar amount to what you’d spend getting a degree.
“Mark now has the piece of paper he needs to apply to any airline in the world. And he’s in a very good position being so young.”