Budding pilots will descend on Leeds tomorrow for one of the biggest careers events in Europe.
The YEP sent a reporter on a flying lesson to see what the fuss is about.
MY HEART is thumping so loudly in my ears that I can barely hear what Richard is saying.
Holding a flimsy model airplane in his hands, he calmly talks me through the cockpit controls and makes flying a plane sound like a walk in the park.
Well, he must have done this thousands of times before, having been a flying instructor for the past 39 years.
But for me, flying a plane is a totally new, totally terrifying experience.
Casually slumped in his chair, he laughs, “We can’t use stick controls anymore...you know... after the accident.”
The word ‘accident’ wasn’t exactly what I wanted to hear, and as he tells how a student crashed their training plane just a couple of weeks ago, the enormity of the task ahead suddenly dawns on me.
“Well, it’s just one of those things,” he shrugs.
The student wasn’t injured in the crash, thankfully, but that is of little comfort to me at the moment.
Before I know it, Richard has whisked me out on to the runway and in the blink of an eye I’m in the cockpit, waiting to take off from Leeds Bradford Airport.
The tiny four-seater PA28 looks so tiny and fragile from the outside, but it’s this pile of metal and Richard’s hands that I’ll be putting my life in.
With Richard in control, the tiny plane takes off and soon we’re flying at 1,600ft above Leeds before heading out to Wetherby.
I’m stunned into silence by the views, and as Richard tells me about his favourite places to fly to (Italy, in case you’re wondering), I feel myself relax into my seat.
After a few minutes, Richard bravely hands the controls over to me while we fly past the Great Yorkshire Show.
As I feel the plane lean into the turns, the adrenalin starts to rush through my body.
Richard hasn’t batted an eyelid and is now telling me a lovely story about a police chase he once saw from the skies, but I’m literally shaking with excitement and can’t take my eyes off the skies.
With such a sense of freedom and achievement, it’s no wonder so many people want to do this as a career.
It’s such a popular career choice in fact, that the Professional Flight Training Exhibition in Leeds is part of one of the largest careers event in Europe.
The annual aviation career fair pulls in hundreds of visitors to its Leeds event every year.
The event brings together dozens of major airlines, as well as plenty of flying schools and education institutions.
Attendees at this year’s event, which will be held at the Royal Armouries tomorrow, include British Airways, Flybe, Jet 2 and the University of Leeds, to name a few.
It aims to give young people and anyone interested in flying a chance to meet and speak to some top experts and learn about the industry to find out if it’s the right choice for them.
Ian Seager is running the Flight Training Exhibition in Leeds this weekend.
He said: “The event aims to give people who think they might want to become a pilot an idea of what is actually involved, whether it is for them and the questions they might want to ask next.
“For some people they will realise that it is not for them.
“It is hard work to train, for some it is not what they expected and for some people the lifestyle of a pilot being away from home a lot will not be for them.
“But I always say it is not a bad office for you to have 30,000 feet up looking at the world going by.”
But to bag such an impressive job, there’s an equally impressive price tag.
“The biggest obstacle for anyone will be affording it,” Mr Seager explains.
“It can cost between £50,000 and £150,000 to train to get a commercial pilot licence.
“There are schemes available which support people – British Airways have a future pilot programme – but for most people the funding will come from the bank of mum and dad.”
Speaking about how people can get into the field, he added: “There are two main routes to becoming a pilot.
“Either modular – where you learn at your own pace – or what we call integrated – when you attend a flying school and then come out with a licence 13 months later.”
Mr Seager said although there were not necessarily academic qualifications needed, the training would involve understanding aviation law and the principles of flight.
He added: “Pilots tend to be sharp, and have a good hand eye co-ordination.
“But the one thing you need have to become a pilot more than anything else is a passion for aviation.”
Mr Seager said he also hoped the upcoming exhibition in Leeds would attract more women who are interested in joining what is currently a male-dominated industry.
The exhibition tomorrow is suitable for any young people who are interested in becoming an airline pilot, or anyone who is thinking about making a career change and is considering a career in the skies.
The event will also be suitable for military pilots leaving the service, who are considering a new career with the airlines, or for school and college career advisors to learn more about the aviation industry.
The exhibition will be held at the Royal Armouries, at Royal Armouries Drive at Leeds Dock, from 10am to 5pm on Saturday, July 12.
Tickets to the event cost around £5 in advance.
For more information about the exhibitors and the presentations that will be held throughout the day, or for tickets to the event, you can visit the website at http://exhibitions.seager.aero/.
Ditching their jobs to follow their dreams
SINGLE MUM Melanie Wheeler had worked in the pharmaceutical industry for several years when she decided to pack up her job and follow her dream of becoming a commercial pilot.
Melanie, 40, travels to Leeds Bradford Airport every day for her training, and has so far racked up an impressive 140 hours of flying.
“It was always what I wanted to do.
“It’s been my dream since I was a child.
“When I left school there was a height restriction to become a pilot and I was too short.
“So I went into the pharmaceutical industry, saved up to do this, left my job and now I work in flight operations at Newcastle Airport, so that gives me an interesting insight into the industry.
“Aviation has always been a thrill for me – it’s always been fascinating. I enjoy the challenge.”
She added: “My advice would be do it while you’re young!”
Matthew Titmarsh, 18, was working as a chef in a cafe before he decided to leave his job and become a pilot.
He’s now studying for a level 3 extended diploma in aviation operations at the Aviation Academy at Leeds Bradford Airport.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Matthew explained: “I have always wanted to work in the aviation industry.
“I’ve always loved flying and just the industry as a whole.
“People want to work in the industry mainly because of the freedom of it and the feeling of being up in the skies.”
He added: “There’s something cool about watching the world fly by underneath you.”