It has been a while since we did an interview, so I am very happy to bring you an Interview with Lauren Richardson, Aerobatics display pilot.
As we all know there are many different types of flying that you can do, so it’s great to have Lauren talk about Aerobatics.
If you don’t know about Lauren, then she is a 29 year old PPL holder who has been flying for around 10 years and displaying Aerobatics for 5. You can check her out in the following video!
Hi Lauren, how did you get into flying?
I’d always wanted to fly for as long as I can remember – from the very first time as a child I asked my parents what the thing was that was drawing a line in the sky over our house. Not being from a monied family I never put too much thought into actually getting into aviation as it was obviously something we as a family could never afford. I decided to leave school when I was 16 to do an apprenticeship in engineering, and when I’d completed that and begun earning a decent wage, I set about saving what spare money I had toward taking flying lessons – I was 19 or 20 when I took my first lesson and loved it.
Tell me about your initial training?
By the time I’d saved enough money to actually contemplate learning to fly (I didn’t want to get into any debt, or start flying without the means to complete my PPL so this took a while), I lived alongside the runway at RAF Halton – home to a small flying club who catered not just for service personnel, but for a limited number of civilians (mostly local) too. I was fortunate to be allowed to join the club and train there to get my PPL.
I spent the majority of my time on the venerable Cessna 152, with a mix of some PA28 and even some Cessna 182 flying to mix things up a little. I remember enjoying the challenge of learning to fly immensely, and I think to date, my first solo is still my proudest flying achievement.
How did you end up flying aerobatics?
People ask me this one all the time, and the answer is simple yet probably quite disappointing. Basically, I got bored. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing A-to-B flying or hiring C152/PA28s to take your mates for a spin, it just wasn’t enough to keep me entertained once I’d gained a few hours. I’ve always needed to be challenged in every aspect of my life or I lose interest. I can distinctly remember one flight where I went out alone in a C152 with no real aim or goal other than to keep some form of currency, when I suddenly realised I wasn’t actually enjoying it all that much. Once the challenge of learning to fly had seemingly finished and I’d got my license, ticked the box, I guess I really needed something else to force me to continue to learn. This is where aerobatics came in (after nearly a 2 year complete layoff from flying after that C152 flight actually). I had a go in a friend of a friend’s Pitts S2A (something I’d always wanted a go in, just so I could say I’d had a go in a Pitts! I didn’t want him to actually turn it upside down…).
After some persuasion I let the instructor demonstrate a loop to me and that was it – the moment I sat there, looking up through the canopy at the ground BELOW me, I was hooked. I had to do more. It was like a hit of a narcotic, an instant addiction, a challenge that I knew would always be far greater than I could ever perceive myself.
- You fly a Pitts Special S1-S, what makes this plane so special?
Just look at her!
In all seriousness, she’s about the best value aerobatic aeroplane you can buy. Incredibly capable but still with the character of a biplane. What’s not to love?
You have achieved so much, how did you manage to progress to where you are at now?
There are many stories to tell but the truth is, everything I’ve done and achieved has been a result of three key elements: sheer stubbornness/determination, intense hard work (that has at times necessitated some heartbreaking sacrifice), and the support and enthusiasm of some amazing people in the community around me.
It hasn’t been easy, it has been harder than I can express in words. At times it honestly hasn’t seemed worth it, but each time I’ve felt low something or someone has picked me up – I have a picture on my wall drawn by a 4 year old girl of my aeroplane flying over her family at an airshow a couple of years ago that I look at every now and then as a reminder. I have a selection of emails from people telling me their own stories of things that my efforts and journey have inspired them to go and do. The messages of encouragement and thanks make all the hardship worth it. To inspire and bring some joy into other people’s lives through my own love affair with flying is a huge privilege and something I hope to never lose sight of.
What advice do you have for anyone who want’s to follow in your footsteps?
Honestly? I’d probably say don’t.
Unless you’re willing to pursue a goal that will cost everything you earn, scare you senseless, make you ache and hurt and cry and wonder why you even bother…
If however, you’re willing to give everything of yourself to pursue a dream, and the dream you have is the same as mine, feel free to get in touch and if I can help I will.
The best advice really is to do what makes you happy. Flying airshows and aerobatics isn’t for everyone but there are a few of us out there who would be lost without it. The sheer joy and freedom is unbeatable, which is why I do it!
What is your favourite aerobatic moves and why?
It’s very hard to pick just one, so I’m going to list a few:
The avalanche: a flick roll on top of a loop. There’s just something joyous about the gentle tumble-dryer experience that needs to be felt to be understood.
Tailslides: straight up until you run out of momentum and thrust, close the throttle and the aeroplane literally drops backward out of the sky on its tail controlled by nothing but gravity. When you get these right they can be insanely violent when the machine transitions from tail down to nose down – it flops very suddenly. I have a video on youtube where you can hear me laughing out loud, they’re so much fun.
- What are your goals going forward with your flying?
Short term:Display a few more interesting types (I was honoured to be given a Russian Yak 50 to display last year and I just LOVED it – more of this please!). Write more articles for the aviation magazines (I’m an occasional contributor for Pilot – with Pitts Special and Yak 50 air tests both published, as well as the odd opinion piece). Do more aerobatic and complex/tailwheel instruction. Fly more. Become a better pilot.Medium term:Do more work as a STEM ambassador and help more youngsters into aviation/engineering. Make a move from engineering for a living into flying. Do more speaking engagements. Fly more. Become a better pilot.Long term:
Learn to fly historic types and end up as a warbird display pilot. Fly more. Become a better pilot.
What are your views on the numbers of female pilots?
Obviously I’d love to have more women to fly with. Big steps are being made forward by lots of different flying groups to open more women’s eyes to the possibility that they might make good pilots, which ultimately is all we can do. Not everyone wants to fly, not everyone can and not everyone is given the opportunity to. All we can do is try to stack the odds in the favour of those that may want and be able to do it.
You are now doing your ATPL’s, what are your long term goals?
I’m going through ATPL ground school with Bristol Groundschool and the Wings Alliance (who I’m delighted to say are supporting me as sponsors for the 2017 display season) as I’m wanting to get my CPL and make a bit of a career move into some form of flying for a living (I display on a PPL and the money raised only contributes to the cost of owning and keeping the aeroplane). Ultimately I’d love to get into commercial helicopter flying but it’ll be a few years before I have any chance of affording to do this. In the meantime, CPL, ME/IR if I can afford it – I’d like to do some varied jobs, maybe in the corporate or air ambulance arenas as I’ve no interest in heading to the airlines.
Is there anything you would like to add?
Flying is amazing, never take for granted the freedom and joy of flight as not everyone gets to experience it. Never stop loving what you do, never stop being scared. The day the dangers no longer scare you or you no longer love what you do, it’s time to move on.
Never give up on a dream, no matter how nuts it may seem. Determination and hard work are often the keys to opportunity.
I would like to thank Lauren for taking the time to speak to us and you can read all about Lauren and her adventures on her website