Claire Hatton’s Journey To Becoming A Professional Flying Instructor

“I became obsessed with flying on a family holiday when I was 14. I was totally captivated by the excitement of the flight and knew at that moment it was what I wanted to do. Nobody in my family had any connection to aviation though, so we had no idea what was involved in becoming a pilot.”

After some research we visited our nearest flying school and they explained what was involved – and the eye-watering cost of it all! As we were leaving, the flying school manager said to my parents that I would be welcome to come along to the school on Sundays to help out if I would like to. I couldn’t believe it!

Working in the flying school enabled me to learn everything that was involved in learning to fly, long before I was doing so myself. I loved being immersed in the world of aviation and I soaked it all up. I had a lesson for birthdays and Christmas, but I saved up the hours I was earning by working there, ready to start regular lessons when I was 16 ½. I aimed to go solo on my 17th birthday, which I did – the earliest you could do so at the time – and completed my PPL shortly after.

Helping out at the flying school turned into a proper paid job, plus I was now the person who did all the ferry flights, taking the aircraft for maintenance, so I was building my hours all the time. Alongside this, I was saving all my earnings to put into my flying. I did my IMC rating and night rating over the next year, then my multi-engine rating.

By this time, I was old enough to apply for cabin crew jobs, so I applied to all the airlines at Manchester Airport. I was successful in becoming cabin crew for Monarch Airlines and spent a year flying for them and saving every penny for the next steps of my pilot training.

When my season with Monarch ended, I immediately started a full time ATPL course. This was followed by my CPL flying course, then a Flight Instructor course. I passed the test and drove to Gatwick to get it issued the next day – then started work as an instructor the day after, at the school at Manchester Airport where I had worked since I was 14!

I went on to gain my Instrument Rating, then became a CPL instructor, IR instructor and Multi Engine instructor, as staying as an instructor suited me and fitted in with family life.

Throughout my journey, being able to finance the training was by far the most challenging aspect. Not only saving up the money in the first place, but also the added pressure of knowing it was not an endless pot; failure was not an option because the funds would have run out!

The modular route provided valuable experience in terms of flying a variety of aircraft from different places but also, more importantly, an opportunity to get to know a huge number of wonderful people in aviation along the way. The journey to flying for a living is long, expensive and not always easy. There are hurdles. People need to be realistic that it will take time, but each step is exciting and rewarding in itself. To succeed, it requires patience (for all the times your lessons are cancelled due to the weather!) and perseverance – but if it is your passion, it is definitely worth it.”