Over the summer, Lucas Bland (Year 13) managed a fantastic achievement, working closely with some of the best pilots and tutors in aviation, he achieved his Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) at Graz International Airport over a period of just 36 days.

Lucas went to Austria in late July with a very clear plan in his mind – he called it ‘Project-PPL-17’ because he wanted to achieve his full ‘pilots licence’ while he was still 17. He arrived in Graz and booked an aircraft and an instructor every day, with no break (apart from for bad weather); his German language skills were somewhat limited and he was only familiar with flying gliders in the UK and had not yet mastered ATC or the required ‘Radio Communications’ licence, or any of the other ICAO/CATE drills, so he had a mountain to climb to pass the 15 or so examinations that he needed to take.

Lucas had to study all of the CATE online modules each and every evening as well as flying at least once and sometimes twice a day, morning and evening. "We would always try to track his flights on the ‘flightradar24’ app," said Dr Bland. "A few times he would go off radar and so we would have a mild heart attack, and then he would reappear #worriedfather!"

Lucas had to remember strange sounding place names, like Laßnitzhöhe, Krems an der Donau and Murska Sobota in northeastern Slovenia, in order to communicate with all the various ATC tower controllers, whilst going outside the various control zones, and communicating to all the ATC operators. Lucas soaked up the colossal workload, and was mostly on-the-go for 14-16 hours a day.

"I am not quite sure how he did it," continued Dr Bland. "The Austrian Flying School management team in Graz were also not sure how he did it – but yet he managed to get though the whole PPL process in under 5-weeks, and flying solo all over southern Austria and Slovenia! He has laid down a new record in Austria and a new record for the Graz Flying School!"