By Jennifer Cairns 01 Feb 2023 6 min read

How travelling inspired me to become a Pilot

Meet Ashleigh, a trainee airline pilot in Oxford who has recently passed her commercial pilot test and is coming towards the end of her ATPL flight training.



Where did the dream start for you?

For me, my story is a little different. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a pilot, the idea never occurred to me in fact, never even crossed my mind. I believe it started when I left college and went traveling with my best mate. The feeling of freedom I experienced while travelling was an eye opener and changed my perception of life forevermore. Cringey, I know.

I came back and worked as an estate agent for 4 years, which I was settled in and enjoyed working my way up, however I always knew there was something missing. Much to my surprise for my 21st birthday, my family all clubbed together and bought me a trial flight at Shoreham Airport. I remember thinking what an unusual gift, I didn’t even realise that was a thing I could do.

Fast forward to the flight, we were sat in a Piper Warrior accelerating down the runway and as soon as those wheels left the tarmac my smile grew bigger and bigger (apparently, I looked like the Cheshire Cat).

It was then I knew what was missing, it was a somewhat familiar feeling being up in the sky. From that day on, my mortgage savings went out the window and my life has been committed to applying for pilot jobs and flying ever since.


How did you find getting into the industry? 

Getting into the industry I personally found the hardest task so far. I started at Shoreham training for my PPL and had many setbacks with Covid restrictions, which ultimately led to the school closing down for good. I was often told that, unless I come from money, becoming an airline pilot was too out of reach with the large financial costs.

I knew I couldn’t give up here, so I contacted many airline training schools and students on social media until one school, in particular, encouraged me to an open day, even though they knew I was not even a fraction close to affording their course. After that open day, my mother and I made it our mission to get me into that school and with countless phone calls, perseverance and enthusiasm I gained support from various places that enabled me to pursue my dream career.

There have been many many challenges in getting into this career, in fact, I am yet to face many more before I reach the goal of becoming an airline pilot, however, I truly believe that this just makes you more resilient and it will make it 10 times more rewarding when you achieve your goal.

I faced financial difficulties not coming from a wealthy background, nevertheless, the saying goes ‘where there is a will, there is a way’ and I can’t stress this enough because I could have backed down at the first few hurdles but I kept fighting until I found my route in and made the finances possible.

After I tackled the finances, I tested for the class one medical which is required for flight training and got told I had heart issues benign to me. I spent ridiculous money on getting further tests to find out I actually do have a slight complication with my heart which will affect my medical restrictions. For a while they wouldn’t give me a medical sign-off at all.

Finally, there was a resolution that meant I could now commence my training. And of course, it goes without saying really, but you will find many challenges throughout your pilot training, groundschool, getting to your first solo, passing your Commercial Pilot Test and so on. Nothing good comes easy so they say!


What advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?

The advice I would give to aspiring pilots is to NEVER GIVE UP. There will be times when it seems impossible to you, whatever the reason, no matter the background you come from, what grades you got at school, your gender or what people may tell you. If this is what you truly want to do, you can achieve it. It's the resilience and willingness that will carry you through and that is exactly what the airlines are looking for in their pilot jobs.

Do your research, visit schools and choose the school which will look after you, speak to students and professionals. Anyone can do it if they really want it!

Apply for aviation jobs now.


Enjoy this article?

Follow us and never miss an article or update from us.