Shop worker’s journey to becoming an airline pilot takes off

James Burgon has gained his private pilot licence.
James Burgon has gained his private pilot licence.
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A man who started saving his Christmas cash and wages up from the age of 16 to cover the cost of flying lessons has passed his private pilot licence.

James Burgon, 20, a shop worker from Seaham, has successfully passed his Private Pilot’s License (PPL) after having caught the flying bug in his teens and saving all his spare cash to pay for flying lessons.

I received a flight experience for my 16th birthday and became obsessed with flying straight away – I knew I wanted to fly for a living.

James Burgon

The 20-year-old, who works at Bensons for Beds in Durham, has been saving his Christmas money since he was 16 and working numerous jobs, from instructing at a climbing wall to helping out on shop floors, all with the aim of becoming a pilot.

Having passed his PPL with pilot training and testing specialist PTT Aviation Newcastle, James is now qualified to pilot aircraft privately and with non-commercial passengers.

Now he has his eye on progressing his skills with the hope of becoming a commercial pilot and is celebrating after his first solo flight took him over his home town.

He said: “I received a flight experience for my 16th birthday and became obsessed with flying straight away – I knew I wanted to fly for a living.
“Ever since I’ve been working hard and saving my Christmas money to pay for lessons and make sure I can fly as much as possible.

“There have been a few hurdles to overcome – the nine written exams being big ones.
“But the little achievements along the way made it worthwhile.

“Completing my first solo flight felt amazing – I did a quick circuit at the school at first, then I flew from Newcastle to Barnard Castle, across to Seaham and back again for my first cross-country solo.

“The views were beautiful or they looked it from the small glances I allowed myself.”

With his PPL under his belt, James is now working towards his Commercial Pilot’s Licence (CPL) which will allow him to fly for commercial airlines.

Founded in 1925 by a group of war pilots, Newcastle’s PTT Aviation which is now based at Newcastle Airport, is the oldest flying school in the country.

James is joining an impressive alumni, with previous students including Sam Smith Senior, founder of Ringtons tea and pioneering female flyer Connie Leathart.

James added: “I chose PTT because of its reputation and the quality of the instructors – they explain everything really well and make learning to fly a really fun experience.”

PTT has a fleet of 30 aircraft including helicopters, single and twin prop planes as well as access to business class private jets.

The school, which also has bases in Durham Tees Valley and Leeds Bradford Airport, also has advanced flight simulators, manufactured by the leading flight simulator company.

Craig McLeod, its managing director said: “At PTT we want to nurture the pilots of tomorrow and offer modular cost-effective training programmes that allow students to progress at a rate which suits them.

“We couldn’t be more proud of James – he’s a great pilot and has worked really hard to get to where he is, both at the school and outside of it.

“We have no doubt he’s going to go far.”