Dundee student flying the flag for female pilots

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Mairi Lewis, with co-pilot Blake Neil.

A woman who has been flying solo since she was 16 hopes she can set a shining example for other would-be woman aviators in Scotland.

Mairi Lewis, 20, fell in love with flying after she was given a taster lesson from her mum for her 14th birthday.

As soon as the wheels of her plane touched down that day she decided she wanted nothing more than to become a commercial airline pilot.

At 16 she took her first solo flight, a full year before she was allowed to sit behind the wheel of a car.

In fact, despite being well on her way to completing the qualifications she needs to secure her “wings”, Mairi has yet to pass her driving test.

She said: “My mum bought me a flying experience when I turned 14, and I knew then that I wanted to be an airline pilot.

“Rather than go to university and then train to be a pilot, I decided to go straight in to the degree programme at Dundee.

“I still have a long way to go before I’m fully qualified, after my next set of exams I will still have 14 more exams to sit before I gain my commercial pilot’s license.

“There is a shortage of women in the industry, and I hope that by gaining my commercial pilot’s license, I can inspire more women to become pilots.”

Mairi is a student at Tayside Aviation, who in association with Middlesex University, offer the one of the only commercial pilot training degrees in Scotland.

An odd quirk of the degree programme means Scottish students who are taking part in the degree programme do not have their fees covered by the Scottish Government, whereas students from elsewhere do.

James Watt, managing director of Tayside Aviation, is happy that Mairi will be the first woman to go through the rigorous pilot license degree programme.

Mairi’s fees are covered, but any potential Scottish students will have to find the £27,000 necessary to complete the degree themselves.

James is worried others – Scottish woman in particular – may not be so keen to follow in her contrails due to the lack of funding available.

“We offer the degree programme at Dundee Airport, with Middlesex University,” he said.

“The programme we offer is one of the few that offers a job upon successful completion of the course, with Logan Air.

“Logan Air is Scotland’s national airline, and there is a definite shortage of Scottish and female pilots across the industry.

“There is in fact a shortage of pilots worldwide.

“What we can’t understand is why the Scottish Government will not offer funding to Scottish students who wish to take part in the programme.

“What we have is a scenario where students from England and other European countries have their fees paid for and Scottish students don’t.

“People from Scotland who want to take part in the programme are being put off training to become a pilot as a result.”

A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The government has met with Tayside Aviation to discuss the delivery of this course and, as the First Minister recently said, we are currently reviewing the regulations governing the award of tuition fee loans.”