Learn to Fly

Harry’s PPL and beyond

Harry Beaven learned to fly with Freedom Aviation at Cotswold Airport and is now pursuing a commercial career

In last year’s Learn To Fly Guide, we told the story of Harry Beaven, who learned to fly with Freedom Aviation at Cotswold Airport and had just passed his PPL Skill Test.

We’ve been in touch with Harry since then and we’re happy to report his flying is progressing well. More of that later. First though a bit about Harry’s PPL training. Here’s what he said a year ago:

“I’m a graphic designer in my early 20s in Bath, and I’ve wanted to fly for as long as I can remember. I was initially going through the RAF route, but I chose to do a trial flight with Freedom, as the last time I’d flown was with the Air Cadets about five years ago. 

“This was just to test the water and allow me the opportunity to work out what I really wanted to do, as joining the RAF was looking less and less likely. 

“I was instantly bitten by the bug as the people at Freedom were kind, welcoming, professional – and showed the same passion about aviation as I did. Its aircraft are also in incredible condition, made up of mostly PA28s sporting Garmin G5s, and clearly with a pristine level of maintenance. They’re a joy to fly.

“Combined with the amazing airfield it operates from, surrounded by a mass of 747s and other airliners, as well as a HUGE runway, it’s an environment I feel genuinely lucky to be flying from.

“When it comes to the course itself, Freedom has a specific syllabus which it operates with PPL level students. The lessons are taught professionally and I never felt out of my depth. It’s a lot of work – and that was to be expected – but it was taught in a way that was interesting and allowed me to work at my own pace.

“If I needed to spend a few flights just revising PFLs (Practice Forced Landings) or a specific area of  General Handling, my instructors were happy to accommodate and I think it’s one of the key reasons I passed first time.

“The groundschool element was definitely my least favourite part. The instructors do a fantastic job of making the content digestible and break the day into smaller lessons as not to burn us out. I’m just a very practical learner and love being in the sky, so being in a classroom, while interesting, just can’t compete with actually flying (not a lot can!).

“The Skills Test was done in the least stressful manner I could imagine. It almost felt just like another flight lesson, just with a higher workload and some interesting changes that I hadn’t expected. The examiner tried to push me slightly, allowing me to demonstrate a level of airmanship and competence beyond just the PPL level, which felt great and was a massive confidence boost for me. We also got incredibly lucky with the weather, clear skies and calm wind – almost made it go a little bit too smoothly!  

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat, as I’m genuinely sad that the training is over. Now I no longer need to fly with the instructors with whom I’ve made a genuine connection, I feel like I’m missing out on one of my favourite aspects, but I’m lucky to still have access to Freedom’s aircraft.

“Since we last spoke I’ve almost entirely been focused on ATPLs (the Theoretical Knowledge for an airline pilot’s licence) at BCFT in Bournemouth. Definitely the most difficult and challenging experience I’ve ever faced. After spending so long falling in love with flying, it’s been tough returning to a solely classroom based lifestyle. 

“I’m almost done and plan on going on to do my CPL and MEIR as soon as I can, with hour building being done back at Freedom Aviation. I’ve got nine exams left with all the classroom time completed so I’m hoping to be done with this portion of my training and get back in the sky by late summer.

“Unfortunately though not a massive amount of flying, I flew on Wednesday for the first time in almost 6 months just to get current again and it was a massive motivation boost. When you spend so long in the classroom and so much time revising you can start to forget why you’re doing it all! 

“I also got my night rating in November of last year, we flew on bonfire night and it was a great chance to take a break from the revision and get back in the sky with some amazing views. 

“I was fortunate enough to get a great trip in before I headed off for my ATPLs in May last year though. One of the instructors from Freedom, myself and a friend took a PA-28 up to Easter, just north of Inverness, where my friend and myself then hopped back down to Dundee to spend the night. The next day we returned in slightly inclement weather to pick up the instructor from Easter, the first real experience both myself and my friend had flying in a situation like that. We then flew the Great Glen, dodging showers and generally enjoying the incredible scenery before flying home to Kemble. I don’t think I could have had a better send off before starting the dreaded ATPLs!”


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