Pilot profiles: Gyles Pugh-Panther

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
I first found out my Grandfather was a RAF pilot when I was 5, I must have shown an interest as my parents got me a flight in a Cessna as a kid. After that I was hooked. It only got worse when I joined the cadets in High School, I had my first experience flight and loved every moment.

Group Captain Kenneth Pugh

How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot?
I joined the local Combined Cadet Force, with them I had my first experience flight and started to do some basic aerobatics. I was only about 14 and I loved every moment. From that point I knew I wanted to be a pilot

Once you decided you wanted to follow a career in Aviation, what were your initial steps into turning this ambition into reality? How would you advise somebody who aspires to do the same?
Initially I joined my schools Combined Cadet Force, I got to fly with the RAF and was even lucky enough to win a gliding scholarship. From there I decided the RAF was for me and applied straight out of school. I was unlucky enough that the financial crises and cuts to the forces meant I couldn’t join. I then looked into civil aviation and borrowed some money to get my Microlight Licence and then on to my Private Pilot’s Licence. Looking back I didn’t even consider a career as an Airline pilot and I think limited my options. I would have been more open to the idea of University or Airline jobs, I also think I should have researched my options at an earlier point, I spent money on lessons and licenses that I didn’t need. All the options can get confusing, you need to take time and get advice, don’t forget to shop around!

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Take the time to look at all the options and find out about your local airfield, they always need help and could help get you some experience. My local airfield paid for me to get a radio licence, from there I spent the summer volunteering in the tower. As a kid I didn’t even know the airfield was open!

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
From leaving school to starting training took about 9 years. Don’t give up, I was heartbroken when I had my first set back, it is hard but keep going.  Lots of the pilots I know have spent years doing different jobs or applying to Flying Schools before getting there first break.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
My first instrument flying lesson was incredibly exciting, it was a culmination of hours of preparation and years of previous flying. I was amazed that with just a few instruments and nothing else I could fly to a different airport and land. It felt like real grown up flying.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find most challenging?
I’ve always found it hard to get the funding together and not have breaks in training. It’s difficult, it is expensive and at points in my flying I wasn’t sure if I’d ever become a commercial pilot.

If you had your time again, would there be anything that you may have done differently? If so, why?
I’d definitely spend more time as a teenager at my local airfield. I’d also spend more time researching my options to become a commercial pilot. There are so many different companies with so many different options.

Why Virgin Atlantic?
Virgin have this image of doing things a little differently, they stand out and have character. In my past jobs I’ve had colleagues, while training for virgin I’ve made friends and met some great people.

Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
For me it will be my first flight with paying passengers on-board. Then I will know I’ve arrived as a pilot.

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