Teen has never been on a plane, but can fly helicopter solo

A UK schoolboy who can fly a helicopter solo has revealed that he's never set foot on an plane.

James Westwood took flight on his 16th birthday and can fly the aircraft by himself.

But he's not always wanted to take to the skies - and revealed he's never been in an airplane or even left the country.

Westwood, from Woolhope, Herefordshire, doesn't even own a passport, despite being able to get behind the controls of a chopper and take to the skies.

The college student, who works part time as ground crew to help pay for his flying has had a few bumps along the way, but nothing has put him off from following his dream of becoming a professional pilot.

"I have been around helicopters all my life, being able to fly a helicopter is so much fun, I love every minute of it," said Westwood.

"At this point, I can fly solo and have operated a helicopter in the air on my own.

"People think it's really funny that I haven't ever actually flown on a plane before, I've never even been on holiday… I don't even own a passport."

Westwood conceded "it might sound weird", but said "it's never bothered me".

"I have been a passenger in a helicopter which is fine, but I much prefer being in the pilot's seat, controlling the helicopter myself," he said.

"If I was to fly a plane I would have to land on a runway but in a helicopter I can land in my garden. Why would I want to be in a plane?"

Unlike his friends, he won't be showing his driver's license around college; instead he'll soon be able show his pilots' licence and will need a helipad to pick them up.

It's quite odd going to college and hearing everyone talking about getting their driver's licence because I'm about to get my helicopter license - so it's different to the usual," said Westwood.

"I have flown in helicopters my whole life and have been guided on how to use them, I would probably have a go at aeroplanes but generally would stick to helicopters.

"I suppose it would be cheaper driving a car to the shop, but flying is definitely cooler."

Westwood first flew a helicopter solo on August 27, 2019, the day he turned 16.

"I started training when I was 14 and I'm finally at a point where I can fly solo, at the moment I'll take myself up in the air and do a few circuits in the airfield," said Westwood.

"I've always been interested in machinery like quadbikes, tractors and stuff like that, so this has become natural to me and I definitely prefer helicopters to things like football."

Westwood is only one step away from having his licence, he will take a flying test when he is 17 and will be able to fly all over the country all by himself - he then hopes to gain his professional license when he's 18.

He has even come across moments that could have put him off but has managed to not let it deter him from his dream of becoming a professional pilot.

"It hasn't been completely smooth but in anything you do mistakes can be made so it's about developing your skills and learning from your mistakes," said Westwood.

Although he can hop into a helicopter and lift off, he has never set foot in passenger plane.

"I've never been in a holiday jet because I haven't had the chance and obviously don't have a passport… I'll go abroad one day I guess, but for now I prefer flying helicopters."

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