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I believe I can fly

WINGING IT: Courtney Byron is still chasing his dream of being a pilot

A BUS DRIVER with a pilot’s license says he will not let his childhood dream of soaring the skies be grounded despite being knocked back time and again.

Courtney Byron, 29, from north London, fell in love with areoplanes as a little boy.
But despite years of expensive training he never landed his dream job of being a pilot and settled for driving London buses to make ends meet.

He told The Voice: “My dream has always been to become a pilot ever since primary school. The other kids wanted to be a fireman or policeman but I wanted something different.”

Ironically it was a fear of flying that started his love affair with the skies. He recalled being gripped by fear on a trip to Jamaica when he was four years-old.

In a bid to calm him down, he was invited into the cockpit and given a model aircraft.

Byron recalls: “My mum had to literally carry me on to the aircraft but I walked off fascinated and have been ever since.”

As a youngster, he became so besotted that during the walk to school he had a number of near misses with dog mess because he spent the entire time staring dreamily at the sky.

And in a design technology lesson he was forced to make a helicopter after the teacher banned him from making an aeroplane.

“I’m not good at building stuff but that helicopter was remarkable,” he laughed.
“All the kids were like ‘wow’. I remember even fitting a motor on the router so it could spin it around.”

At the age of eight he had something of a triumph when his mother signed him up to the air cadets allowing him to fully indulge his passion.

In his twenties a natural stepping stone was to enroll at Stapleford Flight Centre, and four years later he emerged fully-qualified complete with his commercial pilot’s license.

PERSISTENCE

Yet despite having the same skills as his peers, he watched them find work one by one while he looked on growing increasingly frustrated. He has been looking to get into the cockpit since 2008 but to no avail.

He said: “I passed all my tests with flying colours and I know that some of the other guys failed and did the tests more than twice, but they got jobs and I didn’t.”
Despite the setbacks, he remains determined to follow his heart’s desire and has been working on perfecting his skills.

“I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” he said. “If it means that I have to travel to Nigeria I will. It’s a rough area to fly in but it makes you a better pilot when you come out.”

The important thing, Byron said, is a refusal to give up despite the odds: “Some days I get down and feel like it’s not going to happen, but once I’m back up I think, ‘I will get myself back to the place I need to be at".

“My mother has helped me a lot. She’s been there emotionally and financially when she could be. She’s the backbone of my dream. She was the one who took me to Heathrow to sit on the roof for most of the day on the weekends even when it was cold.”

He added “When your child is only about seven or eight, you have to have a lot of belief in them to travel to Heathrow in the cold or the rain. For all she knew, it could have just been a hobby and I could have changed my mind at any time. She’s been such a positive role model.”

Though he has no doubts that like Dumbo – the Disney elephant who used his big ears to fly despite the taunts – he will achieve his dream.

And his daughter, Cache, has already vowed to take to the skies herself in his honour.

The father-of-one said: “She is three and she’s interested in aircraft now as well.
“If she does want to get into aviation, she’ll have me there to steer her in the right direction.”

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