HE’S always been a high-flyer and now he really has earned his wings.
Martin Russell has become Scotland’s youngest commercial pilot at the age of just 21 after landing a job with a major airline.
The former Royal High pupil first took a plane’s controls just three years ago, but now regularly navigates a Boeing 737 through the skies with almost 200 people on board.
Martin, who lives in Barnton, flies across Europe and north Africa and said he had dreamed of becoming a pilot since watching jets heading in and out of Edinburgh Airport as a youngster.
He said: “I’d always wanted to fly, I don’t know whether living by Edinburgh Airport made me want to do it as it’s not in the family at all.
“Luckily it turned out I was quite good at it and it’s a privilege to do a job like this and obviously a lot of responsibility.
“It’s a massive challenge for me, but the captains I work with have a huge amount of experience and that brings you on a great deal as a pilot.
“I don’t think age is important, so long as you meet the stringent standards that they set out for you.”
Martin started training at Oxford Aviation Academy in January 2010, where he studied theory ranging from electrics to the principles of flight.
He spent six months in Phoenix, Arizona, completing his basic flight training in near-perfect flying conditions before returning to England to finish the 18-month course in crowded skies above London.
Gaining his pilot’s licence, which can cost £100,000, also saw him complete six months’ on-the-job training with Thomson Airways, including flying from Gatwick to Alicante on his 21st birthday.
As a first officer he is second in command to captains on medium-haul routes from London to destinations including southern Spain, the Balearic Islands, Greek Islands, north Africa and the Canaries.
“It is really exciting and great to work for such a major airline,” Martin said.
“A lot of people think it’s just about pushing buttons but it’s a lot more than that.
“The busiest parts are leaving the airports and the arrival phase, which is the most rewarding and exciting part when it all goes to plan. I haven’t flown anyone I know yet. A lot of my friends joke and ask which plane I’m flying then say they wouldn’t get on it.
“But I don’t think age should be a barrier and hopefully I prove that.”
John Murphy, director of flight operations at Thomson Airways, said he was pleased to have Martin aboard.
“We’re thrilled for Martin, it’s a fantastic achievement for someone so young.
“We’re really pleased that Thomson Airways is able to train up young talent and we look forward to welcoming the next generation of pilots.”
Clear for take-off
TRAINEES must be 18 to begin working towards their Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL), which permits them to be in command of an aircraft and be paid for the work.
By then, though, they must hold a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and have completed 150 hours’ flying time, including at night.
Would-be pilots must also pass the highest standard of medical examination.
Training is available at various locations, including Perth and Dundee.