I think that many people believe that airfields like the one at panshanger are just for rich people. I firmly believe my experiences can disprove that point.

Airfields like panshanger provide so much more; for the community, for the aviation world, and for average kids like me! I first visited the North London Flying School located at Panshanger when I was eleven years old.  I came from a relatively low income family with no aviation connections, and dreamt of becoming a pilot! Today, I sealed the envelope on my licence application for a PPL (Private Pilots Licence)! I am just seventeen years old. I am by no means exceptional, I was an average student, lacking in confidence and never really fit in with my peers.  I didn’t really share their interests and they really didn’t understand my love of planes, so in truth I was shy and hid in the background as much as I could.

As I was so young even my parents were dubious about my desire to fly and by their own admission they both felt it was a far fetched and an expensive dream but for the sake of a quiet life they took me to the North London Flying School to see if it was possible.

From that moment my life changed. Not only was I able to fly at such an early age, but my passion was taken seriously.  I was never a kid with a dream, I was a boy with ambition and I was treated accordingly. I was able to spend time with plane owners, instructors and engineers and able to get a real feel for the world of aviation, even before I was airborne. The best thing was that I had the chance to volunteer in exchange for lessons so the financial strain on my parents suddenly became less.

During the years before the closure I helped at every event I could, aerobatic days, the revival days, bonfire night, the Santa fly-in at Christmas and each one made me feel more and more a welcome part of a community.  The annual young aviators day showed me that I wasn’t the only kid with a dream, I was one of many.

Panshanger Aerodrome has been closed for a while now, yet I’ve gone on to achieve amazing things. I flew solo on my 16th birthday, I spend my weekends volunteering with the engineering team of a major warbird collection, last year I won my first aerobatic competition despite not being old enough to hold a licence…… But each and every one of these things is a direct result of the contacts I made, the confidence I gained, and the start I was given by the people at Panshanger.  Not only by the people that were employed there, but other private owners, other students, local aviation enthusiasts, veteran war heros and even people that just stopped by for a coffee!

It’s fairly easy to see the advantages of a local airfield for private plane owners, what’s not so obvious is the advantages set out for somebody like me.

Somewhere right now there is a shy eleven year old drawing planes on his school text book, I hope they get the same opportunities that I did! I would love to see Panshanger Aerodrome come back to life for their sake as well as when I get my own aircraft!

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