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  • New Pilots

    Eastchurch teenage helicopter pilot Paul Smith enjoys sky without limits as one of Britain's youngest qualified flyers

    A Sheppey teenager's head is in a whirl after becoming a qualified helicopter pilot - aged just 19.

    Paul Smith's sky-high ambition makes him one of the youngest flyers in the country.

    Former Borden Grammar pupil Paul Smith up in the air​

    And the teenager, of Kingsborough Manor, Eastchurch, said his feet were still in the clouds - having also just qualified to teach others to fly.

    Paul, a former Borden Grammar School pupil, said: "It's amazing to be given the opportunity to do something I love to do."

    He got the flying bug at 16 after a visit to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, which is home to some of the world's most famous aircraft.

    At 17, while studying for GCSE and A-level exams, he gained his provisional private helicopter pilot's licence - before even passing his driving test.

    Thoughts turned to joining the Armed Forces, but - after being told recruitment opportunities were limited - set about getting his commercial flying career off the ground.

    To gain his professional wings, Paul took a work experience placement in Mallorca, where he flew choppers between Spanish cities and holiday islands.

    Captain Paul Smith has now become a fully-qualified pilot. "I love the challenge of flying helicopters," he said.

    "It's their ability to do whatever you want them to which makes them so exciting. It's the closest you can get to actually flying."

    Paul's parents - Paul, 47, and 52-year-old Sue - are understandably proud of their son.

    His father, who runs Sittingbourne-based health and safety specialists DDS, said: "Everything Paul's achieved has been through his own blood, sweat and tears.

    "He's a modest young lad and I don't think he's quite grasped the magnitude of what he's achieved so far."

    It costs more than £250,000 to own a helicopter - a stratospheric amount for a pilot almost straight out of school.

    So until he is rich enough to buy one himself, Paul is looking for full-time work at a company with a fleet of "whirlybirds" ready for him to fly.

    He knows it will not be easy because it is a position which comes with maximum job satisfaction.

    "The best flight I've taken as a pilot was from the UK to Mallorca," he said.

    "You get to see our country and the whole of France and Spain in a completely different perspective to an airliner. It's amazing."