Charlie Cook is a 14 year old with a “hardcore passion” – flying aircraft.
For the youngster, who has ADHD and dyslexia, the route to the skies started with an inspirational trip with a female pilot. Charlie explains: “I was flying to a little island and we were kind of island hopping over and because this was a very small aircraft, there wasn’t a door on the cockpit. I was right at the very front and the whole flight, I could not stop looking into this cockpit. It was just fascinating me with all the buttons and all like the levers and all the steering equipment and things like that.”
Noticing her interest, the pilot asked her colleague to help passengers disembark and encouraged Charlie to take a seat next to her. “We were stationed on the ground but we planned and flew back to where we had just come from,” she said.
Charlie’s close encounter in the cockpit was not only the highlight of her holiday, but was something that she’d take back with her from her travels.
Making her passion reality with Aerobility
She took what she called her “pinnacle passion” further with the help of Aerobility, the charity which changes lives by providing anyone, with any disability access to the magic and wonder of flight.
Charlie took part in one of the aviation charity Aerobility’s JAPP courses. The four-part course for disabled youngsters aged 12-18, is specially designed to give them an exciting introduction to aviation and to boost everyday skills in teamwork and organisation. The programme is funded by Children in Need and run by Aerobility staff and volunteers.
Youngsters learn about topics such as principles of flight, how to talk over a radio, what airfields need to be safe and how to navigate your aircraft through the skies. They also have the opportunity to put the theory into practice through multiple flights at the controls of one of the charity’s aircraft.
The only girl on the course
Charlie, who cites former Red Arrows pilot Kirsty Murphy, now at 2Excel, as an inspiration was the only girl on her course. “Actually I didn’t really think about it that much until I sat down one day and went ‘what happened to all the women in aviation?’ When you hear about aviation online it’s usually, and I don’t want to be discriminative to anyone in this place but it’s usually talked about as a man’s job, a man’s world.”
A place to “be myself”
She said flying with Aerobility enabled her to be herself.
“Here at Aerobility, I feel like I don’t have to mask anymore. I don’t have to put up a barrier, I don’t have to pretend I’m someone else. I don’t have to play a role, I don’t have to play a character to fit in with everyone else. I can just be myself.”