Being playful and allowing a childhood dream to take flight

My parents always encouraged my sister and I to experience the world. They wanted us to be open-minded, to understand that the way we lived wasn’t the only way to live.

I grew up in the Middle East and travelling was a big part of our lives. We were always visiting somewhere wonderful. That’s when my fascination with flying started.

Back then, it was still possible to go into the cockpit and meet the pilot. British Airways had a children’s flying club, the Junior Jet Club. I remember taking my logbook to the captain for him to fill in the flight details. Being in a plane was the most exciting place to be. Flying offers a unique view of the world, putting everything into perspective.

As a teen, I contemplated joining the RAF. After passing the assessments, I got to the final stage, the medical, but unfortunately, allergies held me back.

I explored being a commercial pilot but was worried that by making it a job, flying would lose some of its shine.

Instead I became an engineer and then an accountant. Now I’m a coach. I’d been a sports coach in my teens and loved it. I’ve always been people-person. People have always shared their frustrations and aspirations with me. I’m known for my ‘tough love.’

Permission to take off

A significant birthday brought with it an incredibly thoughtful and generous gift from my partner: flying lessons.

I would spend three months in San Diego learning to fly a Piper Cherokee, which still uses the same engine design as a WW2 Spitfire.

I was lucky to have been given a generous nudge towards my dream, but don’t let that be your default. Nudge yourself! Remember that you certainly shouldn’t wait for permission from anyone else.

I was surprised how anxious I was given my excitement. I went into it with confidence, almost child-like in my belief that I could just fly but then the adult kicked in. I knew that whatever decision I made in the air would determine if I made it back down to earth.

I thought ‘I’m never going to be able to fly without someone next to me.’ Eventually something shifted. Reminding yourself of what you will achieve and how you’ll do it will help you persevere. Remember everything takes practice!

More than a pilot’s license

The experience revealed how I liked to learn. A bad experience with one aggressive instructor really spoiled things for me. I lost that joy.

Then I met Kristina, a seasoned pilot and instructor. She was kind and smart and she brought home to me the importance of finding an instructor or support that is tailored to you and your needs. It’s the same with coaching.