Story by Claire Elliot
MOST of her friends can’t wait to pass their driving test, but schoolgirl Anna Livesley has gone one better - and become Scotland’s youngest qualified pilot.
The fifth year pupil earned her wings on her 17th birthday last week - less than two years after first setting foot in the cockpit.
Despite being too young to vote or drink, she can now captain a single-engine plane carrying up to six friends, and safely land at Heathrow Airport.
Anna, who trained at Highland Aviation Flying School in Inverness, was ready to take the test last August. But, as the minimum age a person can be awarded their private pilot’s licence is 17, she had to wait.
So until she was old enough, Anna, who’s dream is to become a commercial pilot, learned to handle larger aircraft and qualified to fly at night.
And she did it all while studying for five Highers and holding down a part-time job in a bakery shop to help pay for lessons, which has so far cost more than £7,000.
Anna, from Evanton, Ross-shire, said: “Ever since I was little, I’ve been fascinated with flying. I used to go to air shows and I think that’s what made me want to be a pilot.
“I really liked watching the planes, it was exciting.
“I was delighted when I passed. It’s quite cool. My friends think it’s quite cool, too. Everyone has just started to learn to drive but I can fly a plane.”
To gain her license, Anna, clocked up
more than 50 hours in the air. She also
had to sit seven written exams,
covering various topics including
navigation, geology and
meteorology, which she passed
when she was just 16.
She was only 15 when she first
set foot in the cockpit after
her parents, Iain and Shelagh,
gave her a trial flight as a birthday
She enjoyed it so much that she
saved up and started lessons that
And after just 12 hours in the skies she flew solo for the first time, days after she turned 16.
She was scheduled to fly on her 16th birthday - the minimum age a person can fly solo - but the flight was cancelled, due to adverse weather.
Anna, who had to sit on cushions to see over the dash when she first started flying, said: “I really enjoy it.
“My first solo flight, that was scary, But it was a lot of fun. It was a short flight but I started doing more solo flights after that.
“I also did a solo navigation to Kirkwall. I had never been away that far by myself. But I really enjoyed it.
“Now I’d quite like to fly around Scotland and the west coast. But it would be quite cool to take a trip to France.
“I can fly anywhere as long as I have enough fuel. A fuel tank lasts four hours, so I’d have to make a stop.”
The schoolgirl learned to fly in a two-seater Piper Tomahawk, before going on the fly a four-seater Piper Warier.
She said: “I really enjoy it. I hope to continue to build up my hours and eventually become a flying instructor or an airline pilot and make a living out of it.”
This week, however, she has her feet firmly back on the ground as she sits her Higher prelim exams at Alness Academy.
Her dad Iain, an architect, who took his daughter to Leucher’s Air Show from when she was six years old, said he was very proud of Anna, who once wanted to become the first female pilot of the Red Arrows.
He said: “She’s worked very hard to achieve what she has and put in a lot of effort.
“When she did her first solo flight it was quite scary, seeing this wee girl up in the skies and no one beside her.
“Now if she wanted to fly a plane to Heathrow Airport with people onboard she could.
“We are doubly impressed because in between flying and swatting up on her exams and book reading, she still manages to stick in at school.”
Her instructor Neil Fallen, head of aviation training at Highland Aviation Flying School, said: “She’s a really good student, She picks things up very quickly.
“She’s the youngest student we’ve ever had here to get their private pilot’s licence.
“Even sending her for her solo, it was really strange because there was this little girl who couldn’t drive yet or even have a drink to celebrate.”
He said when she did her solo navigation to Kirkwall airport in Orkney, the air traffic controller was “shocked” when such a young girl stepped out the plane.
He added: “She’s really impressive. It’s still a male dominated occupation and for a girl, especially her age, it’s phenomenal.
“She can now captain a light aircraft and has night privileges as well. Most students tend to do that after.
“It’s been a pleasure to watch her achieve it all, and with relative ease.
“She’s a natural pilot. She has a real skill and talent for flying aircraft.
“She’ll definitely go on and become a commercial pilot. It’s her dream to do that. She’s got the aptitude and enthusiasm.
“It’s been a pleasure to teach her.”