Lifestyle

Budding pilots are flying high

  • Bermuda from the air (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Bermuda from the air (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Bermuda from the air (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Blue Sky Flights campers from left Ryan Fleming, Kyla Hall, Indira Coleman and Lucien Penacho with pilot Heather Nicholds in back (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Campers Ryan Fleming and Indira Coleman in the background and Kyla Hall and Lucien Penacho in the foreground (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Blue Sky Flights' Cessna (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
  • Blue Sky Flights' Cessna (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Indira Coleman, 7, has wanted to be a pilot for as long as she can remember. A quick cockpit visit was the closest she had ever come to aircraft controls, so when the opportunity came to get up close and personal, she took it.

The St George’s Preparatory School student was one of 20 who signed up with Blue Sky Flights for a three-hour camp for kids this month.

The children enjoyed a 30-minute aerial tour of the island in a Cessna 172, and were given tips on how to fly.

“It’s been so long, I don’t even remember why I decided [I wanted to be a pilot],” Indira said. “But I think it would be fun. The best part was taking off. We went fast and then we just went up.

“It was really fun flying across town. I got to see my house and it looked very different from above. It was pretty fun to see Bermuda from the sky.”

She was a little disappointed she did not get to actually fly the plane.

“No one did,” she said.

Lucien Penacho, 12, is also considering a career as a pilot. He described the camp as an “awesome” experience.

“I am interested in exploring the sky and getting to see magnificent views and stuff like that,” the Mount St Agnes Academy student said.

“I’d definitely recommend this to my friends.”

The heat inside the plane surprised him.

“There was no air conditioning. The windows opened, but that made things very windy.”

Blue Sky Flights manager and pilot Heather Nicholds was behind the camps. She hopes they make children passionate about learning to fly; the company plans to offer more this summer.

They get really quiet up in the air. They are just so busy seeing everything there is to see.

“They just can’t wipe the smiles off their faces,” she said. “I want to keep them entertained, so it’s hard to know whether to interrupt or just leave them be.

“We offer a ground school for students starting at age 14, but there is nothing really for younger children. A lot of kids — in any country — don’t have the opportunity to get up close to an aeroplane’s controls and see how they work. “Commercial airlines don’t even allow kids to go into the cockpit any more during take-off.”

For kids who want a tour but are not interested in becoming pilots, that is OK too.

“Just doing it is a cool experience,” she said.

Ms Nicholds, who is originally from Toronto, Canada, was 16 the first time she went up in a small plane.

“My first time up was pretty much the best thing ever. I landed and I couldn’t get the smile off my face.

“The reason I took that first flight was because I wanted to take a university programme: business plus flight training. They suggested that I try flying in a small plane before signing up. I loved it so much.”

After university, she became a flight instructor at Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, then flew float planes in Kelowna, British Columbia.

“I had a friend in university who was from Bermuda,” she said. “I came to visit her a few times and loved the island. The people are amazing and so welcoming.

“When I saw the job posted I decided to apply. I moved here last October for the first America’s Cup event.”

She has now done so many aerial tours she finds it easier to navigate the island from the pilot’s seat.

“The most exciting thing I’ve done is fly here,” she said. “You don’t go very far because you just go around the island, but it is just so beautiful.

“In Canada I was just flying over farmer’s fields and the town. I don’t get tired of circling the island. I have taken people up who have lived here their whole lives and they see things they never knew were there.”

To find out more about this summer’s courses, e-mail reservations@blueskyflights.bm or call 516-3305