By Simon Hacker; first published in June 2018
Laura Mayer’s CV could induce vertigo. At 21, she’s just bagged a commercial pilot’s licence (CLP), making her one of the country’s youngest airbourne professionals.
But Laura, who grew up in Wotton and now lives in Uley, is hardly easing off the throttle: she’s also now aiming to take the seat as a flying instructor with Freedom Aviation at Cotswold Airport.
Laura first took off at 16, with an aviation scholarship at the airbase near Cirencester.
“It opened my eyes to thousands of career possibilities teenagers would otherwise never hear of, from aerial photographer to mechanic as well as piloting,” she told the Wotton Times.
“The scholarship gave me the opportunity and, as the old pilot saying goes, once you’ve experienced the freedom you’re well and truly hooked!”
If that makes it sound easy, Laura stresses that the hurdles to success have been high.
“Undeniably my parents pushed me, but I threw myself into as many jobs around Wotton to give myself as much financial backing as I could.
“Aviation is an expensive game and I was by no means from a rich background – anything’s possible if you work hard enough though.
“I completed my GCSEs at KLB and then went on to sixth form, completing my training for my Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) alongside my A-levels.
“Having your PPL lets you hire an aircraft and fly with anyone who is willing – or should I say daring?”
Lauren then faced a tough choice. “It was difficult because I saw all my friends preparing to go to university, but I just knew it wasn’t for me.
“I loved being around aeroplanes, so I was determined to make my hobby a career.
“It felt like a very bold move and I questioned whether I was making the right decision, but KLB and my family supported me and I never looked back!”
Not that her choice avoided more academic slog: “After about a year in operations at the flying school I left to focus on my study for the Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence, which cane in the form of 14 aviation theory exams that I had to self-study for and pass.
“From there I had to build up my hours, so I was back with Freedom Aviation.”
Laura’s immediate award was clearance to start piloting further afield.
“I flew from Jersey to the very tip of the Shetlands, and we crossed the channel into France where we did loads of coastal and mountain flying, which was unforgettable.
“The opportunity meant I qualified to fly in cloud and at night-time.”
With sufficient hours notched up, Laura began to study for her commercial pilot’s licence, training at Gloucester Airport, where she got to grips with safety issues and competence in flying passengers. She qualified in April 2018 with flying colours.
So what’s next? Now back at Freedom Aviation once again, Laura is undergoing a Flying Instructor (FI) course.
“This is what I’ve dreamed of for a long time and I’m close to finishing.
“Hopefully I’ll be a fully-qualified instructor this summer; I can’t wait to teach something I’m so passionate about.
“Being an FI will mean I can instruct trial flights where people can experience flying for an hour, be it for their bucket list or as a start to something more.
“I can also teach people to become pilots, and lead to them gaining their own pilot’s licence.”
Following the FI licence, Laura’s next big goal is to pass as an aerobatic pilot, but for now you may not have to look far to witness her skills: in her latest role, Laura is often to be found flying over Wotton!
To find out the requirements for a private pilot’s licence, check out freedomaviation.co.uk, where you can also book trial flights.
Rounding off the interview, Laura added: “I’m so grateful for the incredible ongoing support from my family, friends and Freedom Aviation – if I have one message it’s for women and younger people to look up and think about the opportunities of aviation!”