Not many 16-year-olds can say they can pilot an aircraft by themselves but James Westwood is one of them.
But funnily enough, he has never been in an airplane nor left the country. He doesn’t even own a passport.
The college student, from Woolhope, Herefordshire, works as ground crew part-time in order to help fund his flying. While he has faced a few difficulties along the way, he’s determined to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional pilot.
Watch the video to meet James.
[rumble video_id=v5m6l7 domain_id=u7nb2]
Video credit: Rumble
He said: “I have been around helicopters all my life, being able to fly a helicopter is so much fun, I love every minute of it.
“At this point, I can fly solo and have operated a helicopter in the air on my own.
“People think it’s really funny that I haven’t ever actually flown on a plane before, I’ve never even been on holiday.
“I don’t even own a passport.
“It might sound weird, but it’s never bothered me. I’ve just always been interested in helicopters, as long as I can remember.
“I have been a passenger in a helicopter which is fine, but I much prefer being in the pilot’s seat, controlling the helicopter myself.
“If I was to fly a plane I would have to land on a runway but in a helicopter, I can land in my garden. Why would I want to be on a plane?”
While his college friends may be showing off their driver’s license soon, James will soon be able to show off his pilot’s license.
He added: “It’s quite odd going to college and hearing everyone talking about getting their driver’s license because I’m about to get my helicopter license – so it’s different to the usual.
“I have flown in helicopters my whole life and have been guided on how to use them, I would probably have a go at airplanes but generally would stick to helicopters.
“I suppose it would be cheaper driving a car to the shop, but flying is definitely cooler.”
On August 27, 2019, the day James turned 16, he was finally able to pilot a helicopter solo.
He said: “I started training when I was 14 and I’m finally at a point where I can fly solo, at the moment I’ll take myself up in the air and do a few circuits in the airfield.
“I’ve always been interested in machineries like quadbikes, tractors and stuff like that, so this has become natural to me and I definitely prefer helicopters to things like football.”
James is planning to take a flying test when he turns 17 so that he can get his pilot’s license then hopes to get his professional license once he’s 18.
There have been some bumps that almost turned him from the path to becoming a professional pilot but he’s always found a way to get back on it.
James said: “It hasn’t been completely smooth but in anything you do mistakes can be made so it’s about developing your skills and learning from your mistakes.”
It may be ironic that despite being able to fly a helicopter he hasn’t been able to set foot on an airplane. But that’s fine with James for now because he loves flying helicopters.
James said: “I’ve never been in a holiday jet because I haven’t had the chance and obviously don’t have a passport.
“I’ll go abroad one day I guess but for now I prefer flying helicopters.”