It seems only fair to ask someone who may have pondered the question themselves, so we asked Simon Hewitt…and here is what he had to say.
“It’s a question I’ve seen a lot on various blogs, web sites etc. over the years and I’ve asked myself many times, especially as I was a late starter to the world of flying helicopters….so here’s my story.
I had just turned 40, had a successful corporate career (my very corporate photo below), but wanted a vocational hobby or ‘thing’ that I could invest my time in, and wanted something different to a cliché Porsche (nothing wrong with Porsches though).
I did a trial lesson in an R22 and was instantly hooked on the challenge to cajole a helicopter off the ground, into flight and land again in one piece. At the same school was a guy who had just turned 17 years old and was prepping for his final practical exam. There was also a retired accountant who had crunched the numbers and decided it was more cost effective to buy an R44 to learn on, he was in his early 70’s. I was somewhere in between age wise. In early 2012 I passed my PPL(H)
That is when the real learning started, through both self-fly hiring helicopters close to home and from Goodwood Aerodrome which happened to be close to where I was spending time for my day job. I loved the challenge and spectacular scenery of flying from Goodwood, along the south coast, and around the Isle of Wight. I joined a few organised trips to spread my wings as it were, into Wales & Le Touquet which pushed the boundaries a bit and helped develop my experiences and skills.
A type rating in 2015 on the R44 seemed a logical next step to progress my fledgling hobby and carry a few more passengers. I decided I wanted to continue flying as a paying hobby so went down the route of studying to pass the commercial theoretical exams needed before embarking on the practical training.
After a couple of failed attempts to study & pass the exams whilst working, I planned a break between contracts in my day job to focus on the exams and was making good progress by March 2020 when the world ground to a halt due to Covid-19. I finally passed the commercial exams later in the year and completed the practical training and assessment in March 2021. I started earning money from flying in April 2021 initially in the North of England flying the R44 and then later in the South by flying the London Heli-Lanes for sight-seeing tourists – so much fun flying passengers around and the excitement of the first-time flights (so far 6 out of 6 wedding proposals on the London sight-seeing flights!)
I’d flirted with the idea of a Flight Instructor Rating in March 2021, as it seemed it could offer a good balance of flying at the weekends, also allowing me to keep my day job Monday to Friday. I completed the Flight Instructor course and assessment in early April. I’m now 51 years of age and a qualified flight instructor.
So back to the question, am I too old to learn to fly? Clearly not! As long as you have the aptitude to learn and can pass the medical needed, then age is not a barrier. Ultimately it depends on what you want to get out of your flying, whether it be a hobby, a paying hobby, part time career, or even full time career. Whatever you decide, flying a helicopter is a truly amazing experience.”
Simon clearly has the determination, but more importantly, empathy and patience which is so valuable to being a great instructor and exactly why you may be seeing more of Simon soon here at Yorkshire Helicopters!