Andy Todd says he never gets bored with flying. It’s an obsession the 53-year-old flying instructor has had since he was 16, when he first qualified to fly a glider on his own.
“On a clear day, you can see the Humber Estuary,” he enthuses as we stare down at a flight simulator which is cruising above the Leeds landscape. “You can take off on a misty morning when the skies are all overcast and dark and after a while you soar through the clouds and come out into bright sunshine and it’s beautiful. It feels just like when you go off on holiday.”
Despite notching up over 10,000 flight hours, it’s clear flying has lost none of its allure for Andy. Indeed, you might say flying runs in his family. His father was called up to serve as a pilot during the Second World War, he met his wife, Kate, who was a fixed wing pilot at the time, through flying and one of his two sons also flies commercially.
“I do love it,” he says with genuine feeling. “It’s something I’ve always been interested in, right from a young age. Probably, my dad being a pilot had something to do with it too. They used to do gliding scholarships when I was young and I went solo at 16.”
After that, he went off to Huddersfield University to study chemistry and after graduating, became an industrial chemist, until about 24, he decided on a career change and turned his eyes to the skies.
It’s an option an increasing number of people are finding appealing, even if they already have a career or are retired.
The recent decision by the Government to give the green light to a new runway at Heathrow will have a positive knock-on effect here in Leeds, according to those in the industry, as airlines look to buy more planes, which means they will need more pilots.
“That’s one thing that will come out of it,” explains Anthony Day, head of operations at PTT Aviation, which has a base at Leeds Bradford Airport and which has recently expanded its operation to take over three sites across the North of England, the other two being in Durham and Newcastle.
PTT is a subsidiary of Naljets, who operate business jets across the world for private clients and charter operations.
“The airlines will expand and more planes means more pilots. We’re already well positioned to take advantage of that as we have a proven track record of getting people into the industry.
“There are some great opportunities for people to go into the industry because of this.”
Anthony, 28, who caught the flying bug from his mother, who harboured ambitions of becoming a pilot when he was in his teens, went on: “You get people from all walks of life who become interested in flying.
“A lot of our intake comes from young people leaving college or higher education who want to go on to learn to be pilots but we also have people coming to us for a career change and even people becoming interested in it in retirement.
“The big thing for us is that we are now across three sites, so we have much more flexibility in terms of what we are able to offer people coming to us, in terms of where they fly but also the number of instructors - we have 20-25 across the three sites - and available aircraft. The biggest opportunity is to help people develop it into a career.”
Those who are interested can sign up for test flights, which usually cost about £110 and last around an hour and involve a short flight and a chance to take the controls while airborne. After that, assuming they are not among the one per cent of people who are scared witless by their first experience in a light aircraft, there’s the chance to train for their private pilot’s license (PPL) and after that, their commercial pilot’s licence (CPL).
“The PPL allows people to go up to about 2-3,000ft,” explains Anthony. “While the CPL goes up to something like 9,000ft. Once someone has their CPL, they can apply for a job at an airline and they will then be rated by them. We’ve had a number of people who have gone through our training programmes and gone on to get jobs with the airlines.”
If you think flying is just Boeing 747s taking off for Malaga, think again - there’s a wealth of commercial and charter flight opportunities for those who want them.
PTT has recently spent £250,000 on a state-of-the-art Diamond aircraft, which has some of the most advanced instruments to help train commercial pilots.
It’s one of a number of light aircraft parked up inside one of the hangars at PTT, which sits right on the edge of Leeds Bradford Airport. Walking around the hangar, it feels like it ought to be a backdrop in a James Bond film.
Anthony explains: “If you want to get into it, there is a financial cost but it’s all relative. If you go to university today, you can easily notch up tens of thousands of pounds worth of debt and a pilot’s licence might cost about the same but when you come out of university, there’s no guarantee of a job in your chosen field.
“A lot of people buy our trial experiences as gifts, especially for birthdays and at Christmas and they start from £125. But that’s relative too.”
He adds: “I’m going to see Middlesbrough play Chelsea and it’s cost me £160 for four tickets for 90 minutes. If they lost, I know where I’d rather be.”
SUMMARY: A trial flying lesson is a superb way to experience the freedom of flight first hand. It could even be the start of a real aviation adventure and a possible future in the skies
PTT Aviation Flight Training Centre at Leeds Bradford International Airport
has helped many individuals experience flying an aircraft for the first time. It offers flight training and testing for all levels, from those just starting out on their flying adventure or wishing to achieve their private or commercial pilots licences, through to professional pilots looking to maintain or upgrade their qualifications.
With prices starting from only £125, PTT Aviation’s flying experiences make a perfect gift for family and friends to mark birthdays, anniversaries or special occasions – they could even make an ideal treat for you. And with Christmas just around the corner, The Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post are offering one lucky reader an exclusive opportunity to win a flight experience with PTT Aviation.
To enter, please email [email protected] with your NAME, ADDRESS and CONTACT NUMBER, making sure to put PTT COMPETITION in the subject box, by midday on Friday November 25.
PTT Aviation Free Flying Lesson Prize Draw – Terms and Conditions...
1. To enter the prize draw you must email [email protected] with your NAME, ADDRESS and CONTACT NUMBER, making sure to put PTT COMPETITION in the subject box, by midday on Friday November 25. No other form of entry will be considered.
2. A winner for the prize draw will be selected at random once the deadline has passed. The organiser’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into.
3. The prize consists of one free half-hour flying lesson only.
4. The prize must be redeemed at PTT Aviation, South Side Aviation Centre, Leeds Bradford International Airport, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS19 7UG, UK.
5. The date of the lesson will be arranged with the winner at a time convenient to the event organiser.
6. The lesson is to take place before the 30th April 2016 unless the event organiser requests that the lesson take place after this date.
7. The package does not include travel to or from the lesson.
8. Flying lessons are subject to weather conditions and may be cancelled at short notice. In the event of this happening PTT Aviation will rearrange the flight to another date.
9. No cash alternative will be offered.
10. In the event that the winner cancels the lesson, after a date has been arranged, the organiser is not obliged to rearrange and no refund will be offered.
11. In the event of unforeseen circumstances, the promoter reserves the right to offer an alternative prize of equal or greater value.
12. Competition open to all UK residents with the exception of employees of PTT Aviation, Naljets, Airfotos or their immediate families, agents or anyone else associated with the administration.
13. All entrants must be willing to participate in publicity should they be a winner.
14. We reserve the right at any time to cancel, modify or supersede the competition if, in our sole discretion, the competition is not capable of being conducted as specified in the competition rules.