A Zimbabwean mother based in the UK has helped her 18-year old to become the UK’s youngest qualified commercial pilot.
She made an unbelievable sacrifice of selling the family home to help fund his dreams.
Seth Van Beek got his license to fly passenger airliners after he completed 18 months of training and clocked up 150 hours in the air before he passed with flying colors.
He set his sights on being a pilot since the age of eight, and selfless single mom Frances, 42, sold their three-bedroom home to fund his dream.
Van Beek, from Preston, London, is now the UK’s youngest licensed commercial aviator — a record previously held by Luke Elsworth, who became a pilot at 19.
He had to move to Greece for the intensive $110,592 flight school course and is now looking for a job. He hopes to one day fly for British Airways.
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“Flying has always been my dream. There was nothing else that I had ever wanted to do, and there is nothing I would contemplate doing. You don’t have a single epiphany where you realize that you want to be something or do something, it comes from experience,” he said.
“My mom was an avid traveller when she was younger, and when I was a boy she’d take us on holiday to see the world. I loved everything about flying — even the fact that a 300-tonne tube of metal can basically be shot up into the air and fly for up to 12 hours. As I grew up, my love became a passion, and I’m so grateful that the experience of training didn’t discourage me like training can.”
Van Beek said he took “very naturally to flying” and describes it as “an honor.”
“When you are flying manually, you are in charge. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s exhilarating, and that means flying’s an honour. And I’ve always felt safer flying in a plane, or flying one, than travelling on a bus or driving a car — though I do have a driver’s license!
“People have to chase their dreams, and I’ve been so lucky, being able to make my dream my career because of my mom. None of this would have been possible without her — I love her to pieces!”
Van Beek left school in Zimbabwe after his General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) at Carmel School and Christian Brothers’ College(CBC) Bulawayo.
He then attended Egnatia Aviation Training College after passing gruelling entrance exams in January 2018, aged 16.
In April 2018, having turned 17 on March 4, he then began 18 months’ training at the prestigious Mediterranean flight academy.
Though he could have trained in the UK, Van Beek said he chose to learn in Greece so he could break the world record — and “because the weather was better”.
One of 14 students, the teen sat through 14 exams, alternating between learning theory and practical flying at Kavala International Airport every three months.
He took to the skies up five times-a-week during his practical stints, initially for just 60 minutes, but eventually flying for five hours over Greece.
Van Beek also completed three theory-based courses — the ATP Integration Course, Jet Orientation, and Multi Crew Cooperation. His total theory study time totaled 828 hours, often revising late into the night.
His average exam score was an impressive 90.6 percent and he graduated in September at the top of his class, getting his license from the European Aviation Safety Agency a month later.
The new pilot said he was inspired by his mother, Frances, who had “always supported my dreams and told me that I could make it if I worked hard.”
Frances, who also has a 14-year-old daughter, sold their home in Milton Keynes and downsized to a flat, to free up $110,592 for her son’s course, plus accommodation fees.
“She made huge sacrifices for me, and I couldn’t let her down. I had to achieve and to succeed. I wanted to be top of my class so that I could show her that it was worth everything. The hours of study, the stress — and her decision to sell the house so that she could set money aside to one day finance my training. And she’s well and truly proud!” Van Beek said.
As for his proud mom, she said her son’s achievement is “overwhelming.”
“I didn’t have a proper education, so I have always pushed Seth to make sure that he accomplishes what he really wants,” Frances, who is a finance manager originally from Zimbabwe, said.
“For years I have told him that as long as he has faith and believes in himself, he will be able to achieve anything he sets his mind to. To think he’s the youngest licensed commercial pilot in the UK — it blows me away.”
Egnatia Aviation Training College said that of 1,500 former students to graduate with the Greek school since 2006, Van Beek was the youngest.
And the Civil Aviation Authority said the youngest qualified pilots from 2018 were two 21-year-old males — three years Van Beek’s senior.
A letter of recommendation from instructor Captain Dionysios Kouris described the teen pilot’s manual flight skills as “smooth and effective”.
The director of training at Egnatia Aviation Training College, said: “Exemplary student would be the characterization that best describes Seth Van Beek.
“Seth demonstrated all the qualities of character a successful airline pilot should possess: discipline, punctuality, commitment, will to evolve constantly, kindness, team spirit combined with leadership skills. These aspects of character combined with the advanced professional airline training he received by our Academy created a cadet who graduated among the top of his class and without delays.
“Graduates like Seth are certain to have a prosperous career ahead and make us proud of having been Egnatia Aviation students in the past.”
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