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Schoolboy Pilots Helicopter Solo

Richard Stephens, 16, was smitten by helicopters and has nurtured a dream of becoming a search and rescue helicopter pilot for the U.K. Royal Air Force (RAF). He first received flying lessons when he was 15, and has already completed 25 hours in a 250,000-pound helicopter, including two solo flights. Once he has completed three more trips on his own, Stephens could become the youngest Briton to own a full helicopter license. “I know I’m very young but ever since I flew model planes in my garden I wanted to be a real pilot,” he says. “It is not scary flying solo as I have had extensive training and think I am rather good at it.” Stephens got his first hour-long helicopter lesson on his 15th birthday at Disley Aviation, and since then he has logged another 24 hours of flight time. People as young as 14 can receive flying lessons, but they cannot fly solo until they are at least 16. Seventeen is the minimum age for a person to secure a Private Pilots License for Helicopters, and Stephens needs 45 hours in the cockpit and a total of five solo flights to obtain his license. Among the skills Stephens says he must acquire to earn his license are navigation, engineering, and weather, while becoming an RAF pilot requires proficiency in math and physics.

September 16, 2009

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