Having soloed a glider on his 14th birthday, then a powered aircraft at 16, now 18 years old, Travis Ludlow hopes to set an around-the-world solo record.
Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
9 June 2021
When I was really young, my mum used to take me to the airport café at Wycombe. While she was drinking coffee and chatting, I’d be pressed up against the fence, staring at the aeroplanes. I remember thinking it’d be so cool to fly one myself. One day, my dad came home with a stash of aeroplane magazines, which I’d read every night before going to bed. When, for my 12th birthday, my godmother gave me a trial flight in a glider, I realised I could actually become a pilot. On my 14th birthday, I first soloed in a glider.
I trained at Wycombe Airport where everybody was very friendly. Learning to fly a powered aircraft was really exciting, especially the first few lessons. It was even better than I imagined and my glider experience helped a lot. I actually found powered flying easier than flying gliders, since you don’t have to worry about staying in the air. Practising forced landings was strange though: in a glider you can glide for ages, but an aircraft without power falls out of the sky so fast!
“Soloing a glider at 14 was cool, but my first powered solo was a significant moment”
I actually planned to solo on my 16th birthday, but it was too windy so it didn’t happen and my grandparents, who’d come all the way from Ipswich to see me solo, had to drive home again. The next day, they came back, and luckily I could solo. I was nervous and excited, but the fact that I’d already gone solo in a glider eased my nerves a bit. The flight went well, but I was a bit too high and too fast coming into land, so I did one go-around.
Although soloing a glider at 14 was cooler, my first powered solo definitely was a significant moment. We didn’t have a big party though – afterwards, I continued studying for my GCSEs. Back when I did my PPL training, Wycombe was still a towered airport, with full ATC, which gave me good experience for my upcoming RTW flight.
That’s hard to say, as I’ve learned a a number of different things from so many Earthrounders. They’ve all been extremely helpful in sharing their experiences and I’m so grateful to all of them. The most valuable thing is probably that if I ever get lost or confused, or need help during my journey, I can just give them a call. On my aircraft I’ve got a satellite link so I can call, email or text while flying.
Yes, especially the story of the Australian Ryan Campbell, who was once the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world. After his RTW trip, Ryan was in an aeroplane crash which left him in hospital for more than a year. He temporarily lost all feeling in the lower half of his body, but made the most amazing recovery. Afterwards, he went back into aviation and now he’s living in the US, flying a Super Cub. The fact that he continued flying after his setback is super inspirational.
A Piper M600/SLS. Because it’s a really fast and safe turboprop which can go far and high like an airliner, yet it can still land at Wycombe Airport. Also, it has an Autoland emergency system, so if the pilot gets unwell, a passenger can press a button and the aircraft will automatically land itself at the nearest suitable airport.
Actually, if I really had an M600/SLS in my hangar, I’d probably sell it straight away as it absolutely guzzles fuel! With the money I’d buy a Diamond DA50 – also expensive – but way cheaper to operate.
The freedom. It’s great being by myself, far away from the worries on the ground. Also, some of the views are absolutely amazing when flying. I just love it up there.
Follow Travis’ trip at aroundtheworldsolo.co.uk
Aiming to break the youngest solo pilot world record, Travis Ludlow will be circumnavigating the Earth in his Cessna 172R.
|When||14 February 2019|
|Where||Wycombe Air Park|
|Hours at solo||Approx. 20|
|Hours now||Approx. 330|