First Solo

Bethan Haley

A hedgehog on the taxiway was the perfect excuse for Bethan Haley’s instructor to get out… leaving Bethan to embark on her first solo

Bethan Haley

How did you get into aviation?

When I was 14, my parents gave me a glider flight which completely changed my life. Before, I was a regular teenager who struggled academically.

Afterwards, I knew where I wanted my life to go and was really motivated to pursue aviation. For my 16th birthday, my parents drove me to the airfield blindfolded. I could hear engine noise but didn’t know where we were.

Then I got a heavy gift – all the books I needed for PPL training – and my first single-engine flight experience, which was even better than I imagined.

How did your flight training go?

Great. My instructor really took me under his wing. My parents paid for some lessons, which was nice, but after a while I got myself a retail job so I could pay for part of my training.

This took longer, but gave me more satisfaction. When learning to fly, general handling came quite naturally, whereas navigation didn’t… I’d be given a map with the question ‘Where are we?’ and wouldn’t have a clue…

Were you expecting your solo?

No, it was a complete surprise! Although I knew I was around the solo stage, I was shocked when it happened.

One day, we were practising full stop landings and there was a hedgehog in the middle of the taxiway. My instructor got out to remove it and then told me to go up on my own.

I remember thinking: ‘Right, I’ve got no help now…’ But halfway through the flight this changed to: ‘This is absolutely fine!’

After a few touch-and-goes, I returned to the hedgehog-free runway. Soloing made me even more determined to make my dream, a career in aviation, a reality.

Bethan Haley
Bethan gets down to the nitty gritty of mechanics

What are your plans for the future?

My ultimate goal is to get a job flying for an airline and teach and compete in aerobatics in my free time.

I’ve just completed my Flight Instructor rating on single-engine aircraft and I’ve got an interview coming up with a major airline. Also, I want to continue flying for charities. I really enjoy taking up kids – nothing beats seeing the smiles on their faces after take-off.

“Being a woman in aviation is rewarding too as I can inspire young women who are trying to break into this still male-dominated industry”

Since my high school tried to encourage me towards a more ‘normal’ career path, I’d like to visit schools, talk about my aviation journey, and show teenagers which different paths are possible. Sometimes all it takes is someone saying: “This is available to you.”

What’s it like being a woman in the aviation industry?

It’s challenging at times, but also empowering. And rewarding, especially when I can inspire and help other young women who are trying to break into this still male-dominated industry.

It’d be lovely if more females considered taking up flying, either as a hobby or a career.

Any advice for girls wanting to get into aviation?

A piece of paper doesn’t determine your outcome; you do. I left high school with only one A-level and failed a few times before getting my math GCSEs.

Studying aviation is very challenging and there’ll be times when you want to give up.

If that happens, put your books away for the day and do something you like that isn’t aviation related before returning with a fresh mind.

One thing Bethan loves about flying is the weather – and cloud formations

What aircraft would you have in your fantasy hangar?

A GenPro 300 L. It’s a very powerful aerobatic aircraft, a bit like the Extra, but a one-seater.

I’m just starting to get into aerobatics and every flight, I’ve been laughing hysterically throughout the manoeuvres – I can’t control myself, it’s so amazing!

I’d also like a vintage Jungmann since I enjoy flying The Real Aeroplane Club’s vintage aircraft. They’re a massive part of history, with everything kept as original as possible.

What do you love about flying most?

The weather. I love watching sunrises and sunsets and there’s just no better place to do this than from the sky.

When flying, you get to really experience the weather and you never have the same meteorological circumstances. I love seeing the different cloud formations when cloud surfing and

I can’t wait to see weather phenomena like St Elmo’s Fire from the cockpit of an airliner.

Bethan Haley

Bethan Haley

Bethan wants to inspire more women and girls to go into aviation

When 7 July 2014
Where Breighton Airfield
Aircraft Cessna 150
Hours at solo 15.8
Hours now 265

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