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What does it take to become a pilot? Join us as John Laity gives us insight into his inspiring pilot journey.
John Laity is a pilot engineer and pilot with over eighteen years flying experience in ultralights. He co-founded Flying for Freedom in 2010 in response to the large number of injured and wounded veterans who applied to be a part of the British Antarctic Microlight Expedition.
Flying for Freedom is now funded and supported by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry via their endeavour fund. Further supporting the course, both Prince Harry and Prince George are proud owners of special Flying for Freedom flying suits.
- John’s grandfather was a Lancaster pilot in the Second World War and continued to fly multi-engine aircrafts after the war.
- Unfortunately, his grandfather was stricken with Alzheimer’s so he’d take him to airshows as some sort of getaway.
- John joined local flying clubs and learned to fly in secret because he wanted to surprise and fly with his grandfather (which eventually happened!)
Initial Training Challenges
- The weather is the biggest challenge for John. Flying a microlight can be very different from flying other types of aircraft because it is lighter and draggy and can go a lot slower at 55 to 60 miles per hour.
The Aircraft Types
- Cessna 152
- Pterodactyl Ascender
- CFM Shadow – very fantastic visibility, looks a bit like a power glider.
- QuikR – closest to his heart because it’s a very fast, flexwing-type microlight.
- Quik GTR
- Raj Hamsa X-Air
Best Flying Advice
- “Try and Train in block. Don’t try and get your pilot’s license by going every other weekend. Take some time off.“
- John completed his PPL at Cotswold Airport (formerly Kemble) and flew locally.
- He even built his own X-Air and made his stepfather’s golf putting green as a runway.
- In 2002, John ran a marketing agency and helped raise funds for the 1st British army Antarctic expedition. He also did this in 2004 and 2006.
- In 2008, John’s airstrip sat right on the edge of the Lyneham airspace and saw the wounded and injured soldiers coming back from Afghanistan.
- Had an idea to raise money for Help for Heroes through an expedition to Antarctica using microlights.
- Decided to make the disabled veterans as pilots for the expedition but had some setbacks. Problem was solved by putting up a flight school to accommodate the demand. Thus, Flying for Freedom was born.
- Lots of trips in cold locations including Sweden and flight testing for the Antarctic expedition.
Proudest Flying Moment
- Two of the Pilots from Flying for Freedom qualified for the Endeavour fund Spitfire scholarship at Bigby and will be announced by Prince Harry himself.
- Set world records, share the Flying for Freedom model, explain how it works, grow the concept and make disability flying well-known in all parts of the world such as the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Flying Internet Resource
- P&M Aviation – for checklist and maintenance stuff for aircraft
- Afors.com – great purchasing site for microlights
Best Aviation Book
- Reach for the Sky: Story of Douglas Bader by Paul Brickhill
In 1931, at the age of 21, Douglas Bader was the golden boy of the RAF. Excelling in everything he did he represented the Royal Air Force in aerobatics displays, played rugby for Harlequins, and was tipped to be the next England fly half. But one afternoon in December all his ambitions came to an abrupt end when he crashed his plane doing a particularly difficult and illegal aerobatic trick. His injuries were so bad that surgeons were forced to amputate both his legs to save his life. Douglas Bader did not fly again until the outbreak of the Second World War, when his undoubted skill in the air was enough to convince a desperate air force to give him his own squadron.
The rest of his story is the stuff of legend. Flying Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain he led his squadron to kill after kill, keeping them all going with his unstoppable banter. Shot down in occupied France, his German captors had to confiscate his tin legs in order to stop him trying to escape. Bader faced it all, disability, leadership and capture, with the same charm, charisma and determination that was an inspiration to all around him.
Favourite Cockpit Gadget
- Sony Experia Z2 – Waterproof phone; apps such as Skydemon can be installed on it. (Android and iOS)
- Garmin D2 Pilot Watch