Once you obtain a PPL - Private Pilot’s Licence - you can fly just about anywhere in the UK. And it may surprise you to learn just who is among the well known names that hold one.
For it’s not just those from everyday walks of life, but also those who have made their name on our screens, blaring from our radios or even out on the world’s sporting stage.
FlyDays brings to you five of the most well known famous pilots - plus information on how you can follow in their flight paths…
One half of Fry and Laurie, his popular comedy double act with Hugh Laurie, former host of the hit BBC quiz show QI, star of hit films such as A Fish Called Wanda and the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks. Those are just a few of the accolades Stephen Fry can boast, but it may surprise you to know that being a pilot is one of them also.He holds a PPL and flies his own vintage biplane - he even famously flew one in a memorable Fry and Laurie sketch. For many years, Stephen was also believed to be working on the script for a remake of the iconic film The Dam Busters, directed by Peter Jackson (who he worked with on The Hobbit series of films), but as of 2018 it still appears to be in development. Here’s hoping it gets flying onto screens soon!
The first woman to appear on Channel 4 when it launched in 1982, as a presenter on long running letters and numbers quiz Countdown, and a dab hand with maths, Carol Vorderman notably gained her PPL back in 2014.
Her private plane, Mildred, is named after Mildred Petre, the record breaking aviator, racing motorist and speedboat racer from the 1920s and 30s, who she cites as one of her greatest heroines.
Just last year, Carol leant Mildred out for use to transport PPE equipment to NHS staff around the UK during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. She also announced that she eventually plans to fly solo around the world in Mildred.
On top of all this, she can also claim another first, in that she was the first woman to be appointed as an Ambassador by the Royal Air Force Air Cadets in their 80 year history, succeeding the role of Honorary Group Captain from Sir Chris Hoy in November 2014.
In the world of football, Michael Owen was a name just as synonymous with the beautiful game in the 90s as David Beckham and Ryan Giggs, playing for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle United amongst others, as well as playing for England in numerous Euro and World Cup tournaments.
Now a football pundit in his own right since retiring professionally in 2013, when he returned to the UK after playing with Real Madrid, he used to fly to and from training sessions and matches at Newcastle United from a nearby BAE systems facility. He is a qualified helicopter pilot; he even demonstrated his skills in this area in a tourism advertising campaign for helicopter tours in Dubai in 2009.
The man who made the parts of both Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses and Danger Mouse his own, Sir David Jason is not only a qualified helicopter pilot (he obtained his PPL in 2005), but he’s also a keen glider and active member of the London Gliding Club. In 2017, he opened the RAF Air Cadets’ first ever flight simulator at RAF Syerston in Newark, Nottinghamshire.
And just last year, to mark the 80th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Britain, Sir David took to the skies again with the RAF, this time at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, where he flew in Spitfires with the RAF Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which was filmed for his ITV documentary Flying for Britain with David Jason.
Along with his sisters Andrea, Caroline and Sharon in Irish family band The Corrs, Jim Corr has sold over 40 million albums worldwide, as well as performing for Nelson Mandela and being made an MBE. But what’s perhaps less known about the brother of the ‘Breathless’ and ‘Runaway’ hitmakers is his interest in aviation.
He’s a qualified pilot, and flies a Robinson R44 Raven II four seater helicopter, with a wingspan of 10m that can fly up to 14,000 ft above ground level. Jim’s also put his flying talents to good use in the past; he was a volunteer pilot in 2006 for the annual Heli Cruise event held by the Irish children’s charity The Bubbleclub.
The good news is you don’t need to be on the A list to become a pilot! Our Flying Lesson packages in fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters are not only a great introduction to the excitement of flying but many of these sessions also count towards your learning to obtain a Private Pilot’s Licence for yourself, from as little as £89. Head to our dedicated Flying Lessons page on the FlyDays website to book yours from available dates or purchase of one of our open gift vouchers!