Teenager marks birthday with solo flight

A teenage aviator desperate to fly for a major airline made his first solo flight days after his 16th birthday - and was congratulated by a commercial pilot waiting on the runway.

A teenage aviator desperate to fly for a major airline made his first solo flight days after his 16th birthday - and was congratulated by a commercial pilot waiting on the runway.

Matthew Nicholls, of Cambrian Crescent, Oulton Broad, overcame his nerves to make his first unassisted circuit of Norwich Airport watched by his parents.

And at an age where many of his schoolmates are looking forward to owning a car, the young airman could now be on his way to achieving his private pilot's licence before he is even able to drive.

Matthew has been taking to the skies ever since a trial flight last year, and racked up 11-and-a-half hours of flying time before single-handedly taking the controls of the Cessna 150 operated by the Anglia Flight training school.


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He hopes to join a full-time flying school after completing his A-levels at Lowestoft's Benjamin Britten High School so he can pursue his dream of a career in the clouds.

"Before the flight I was shaking so much I couldn't control the plane down the yellow lines on the taxi-way," he said. "But I was not nervous while I was up, and after I landed I couldn't remember what had happened. It was quite lonely and quiet up there but you can't think about anything else; there are so many controls and dials to check."

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After a textbook landing, Matthew was thrilled to receive a radio message from the pilot of a Flybe passenger aircraft who had watched his return to the airfield.

"It was brilliant because that is where I want to be in a few years time. It made my flight," he said.

Matthew's passion for planes has previously driven him to persuade his father Steve, 44, mother Janette, 43, and 13-year-old brother Alex to leave early for family holidays so he can spend the day at the airport.

Mrs Nicholls said she was only aware her son was going solo when she saw Anglia Flight instructor Dale Featherby confidently getting out of the cockpit before the plane moved towards the runway.

"We were very nervous, it was

an agonising 20 minutes," she said.

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