Scotland's youngest pilot juggles second job as street performer
By day as the youngest pilot in Scottish airline Loganair's crews at the age of just 22, Robbie Cockburn is impressive enough, juggling the pressures of flying a plane to some of the country's most far-flung airports, often in challenging weather conditions.
But by night and at the weekend the young man leads a double life with a more direct form of juggling – with flaming sticks, club and knives – as a globetrotting street magician.
Robbie has just finished performing on the Royal Mile during this year’s Edinburgh Festival, where he could often be seen on a 7ft unicycle, juggling dangerous objects, and even contorting himself to squeeze through a squash racquet.
And he somehow manages to fit his performances in around his busy flight schedule by taking holidays and unpaid leave.
Ironically the airman, from Winchburgh, West Lothian started out performing on the streets as a young teenager as a means of raising cash to realise his dream of becoming a professional pilot.
Having his first flying lesson at 14 thanks to a birthday gift voucher, Robbie was set on the fact that being a pilot was what he wanted to do.
He said: “The driving force for street performing stemmed from trying to get the funding for the training necessary to become a pilot.
“My family have been very supportive of every career path I’ve wanted to do and my granddad helped me out but the street performing has helped me get to this point.”
Yet even as a side hustle, his career of street performing has taken off simultaneously. For the past six years, Robbie has successfully landed himself at gigs all across the world. Starting from the age of 18, he has performed in venues as far-flung as Saudi Arabia and Australia.
He described the experience of his first global gig in the Middle East as “eye opening, phenomenal... I’ve never performed in the Middle East before and it was culture shocking. Me and the boy I performed with were treated like Kings”.
And he said that the regional airline has helped his “other” career. He said: ‘Loganair really supported my choice to perform especially as in August airlines are really busy – it can be difficult to get time off.”
Yet he would “never stop performing”, reflecting over the confidence he has gained through it. A pivotal moment being when the established magician Gazzo gave him initially two weeks training as his high school work experience which progressed into a “friendship that has built over the years”.
Looking to the future, he said: “I am first officer at Loganair and I am aiming to be a captain in the near future.”
As for street performing, Robbie says: “My next goal is to learn how to juggle on a uni-cycle blindfolded.”
As long as he doesn’t practice in the cockpit!