Flight Instructor, CFI and Owner
Cotswold Aero Club Ltd
A flight instructor for 36 years and examiner for 32, Phil has amassed 25,000 hours on Single Engine Propeller (SEP) and Multi Engine (MEP) aircraft. In that time, he has instructed or examined thousands of pilots. The owner and Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) of The Cotswold Aero Club Ltd based at Gloucestershire Airport, formerly Staverton, he is a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (HCAP) and was awarded the Pike Trophy in 2016 by the Company for services to General Aviation Training. An honour bestowed on one of his CFI predecessors, John Cole, in 1996.
Phil first got interested in flying when he attended the Skyfame Airshow at Gloucestershire Airport in 1967, having leaned over the fence watching the planes at weekends, evenings and on school holidays. He became a helper at the museum and eventually with the help of his father, persuaded the management of the Cotswold Aero Club to allow him to become a social member and he started getting involved in odd jobs around the club and the planes, especially aircraft cleaning. It ignited his interest in flying. The deal for his effort was flying time rather than cash. It started him on the road to a Private Pilot’s License (PPL).
His training which covered the 4 years till he reached age of 17, enabled him to fly a number of different aircraft types, including; Bolkow, Airtourer, Cessna, PA-28, Auster, Jodel, to name but a few. This led to his desire to sample different aircraft as each opportunity was presented and moving into flying instruction seemed like a natural progression. He’d not been attracted to airline flying and felt sticking to General Aviation provided more variety.
Whilst initially flying was a hobby, he was a civil servant in his early working life, gradually aviation became more important. When an opportunity arose to turn the hobby into a career, he took it and the rest, as they say, is history.
He followed the usual route of PPL, Night and Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) then built hours and experience. Along the way he became a check pilot for one or two private aircraft that were rented out to others, so helped get him in to the instructing mindset, it also got him used to flying in the right-hand seat!
Initially teaching at weekends and evenings, when the resident CFI had to reduce his flying commitments Phil took over most of his work and moved into the instructing role full time. As the regulatory world changed, he undertook the theoretical knowledge exams and flight test to obtain Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL).
The IR training, he notes, was probably one of the harder courses he’d done over the years. In the end he didn’t feel the need to go for an airline job so he’s not taken full advantage of the ATPL.
His greatest satisfaction in aviation is in seeing students progress; especially when you know someone has had to work hard to achieve their personal goals, be it a first solo, cross country or practical skills test.
Phil can look back through his log books and identify many highlights; some of the flights he’s done across Europe acting as pilot mentor; a couple of students who he didn’t think would ever go solo actually getting there; flying an aircraft that is rather different to the more unusual flying school fare. All part of the variety that initially took him in to GA instruction.
Over the years he’s seen quite a few pilots who have learnt or trained with him go on to careers in various branches of aviation. It is he says ‘always good to think I had a hand in that’. Some of the best flying fun in recent years has been float plane flying, an addition to his skill set.
If you want to become a pilot, his advice is to get a good educational background. University is not essential, but it may help provided a suitable degree course is undertaken.
Importantly, if this is your chosen career path be prepared to stick to achieving your goal, as it won’t be easy getting there. If there’s any opportunity for grants, bursaries or scholarships then apply, there is more information on this website.
In aviation, Phil says “clear communication is essential, in all aspects aviation”. Air Traffic Control (ATC) he says, ‘is often regarded by many as an ogre. That myth needs quashing. They are there to help and to organise a sensible and safe flow of traffic in what could otherwise be a disorganised environment. The GA and ATC worlds could really do with making better efforts to let each side know how the other operates and what are each other’s requirements’.