Fenland teenager, 17, awarded his pilot’s licence

WHEN most students return to college next week they will be delighted if they have passed their driving test during the summer - but one high-flier will return to his studies with a pilot’s licence.

Gino Benincasa, 17, was awarded his private pilot’s licence last week and is now fully qualified to take to the air as one of the youngest in the country to have achieved his ambition.

Gino is studying on the uniformed services course at the College of West Anglia’s Isle campus, Wisbech, where he will be the only one among his peers to have a licence to fly.

“I was just over the moon to pass,” he said.

Pilots have to be 17-years-old before they can take their test, and just eight months after reaching the milestone, Gino passed and was awarded his licence.

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With a minimum of 45 flying hours, at least ten of them solo, the test is also a rigorous examination of seven subjects, including air law, meteorology, navigation and radio telephony.

The final part of the examination saw Gino in the air for two-and-a-half hours with an examiner taking him through every aspect of his aviation skills.

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“They test everything from what to do in emergency situations to navigating by chart alone,” he said.

Once back on the ground Gino, of Leverington, near Wisbech, was delighted to be told he had passed successfully and was free to fly.

He made his first solo flight on his 16th birthday, the earliest the law allows, and he was determined to gain his licence as soon as he could.

The teenager had his first taste of flying at an early age as his grandfather Michael Hunt is a member of the Fenland Flying Club based at Holbeach St Johns airfield, near Spalding, and he encouraged his grandson to share his passion for planes.

“I love flying and have always been with grandad - it’s something we share,” said Gino.

He added that he hoped he would soon be able to hire a plane and take some of his friends for a trip through the Fenland skies.

“Gino has been flying with me since he was seven years old and he just loved it,” said Mr Hunt.

But while Mr Hunt, of Newton, near Wisbech, was 55 when he gained his licence, his grandson can now legally fly before he can go in a pub and buy a pint.

“That is one of the things what makes the family and myself so proud of Gino being only 17 years and eight months,” he said.

During a family holiday in America last year, Gino was even able to take to the air in a second world war T6-Texan advanced trainer and a Steerman Trainer Aircraft.

Mr Hunt, 67, said he has always had a love of flying and was given a flying lesson as a birthday present at the Fenland Flying School.

“This rekindled my interest in flying so I went on to qualify with my private pilot’s licence when I was 55 - but Gino has a lifetime of flying in front of him,” he said.

Mr Hunt, who is semi-retired from the fruit industry, belongs to a group of six people who own a Cessna C172 which is based at the Holbeach St Johns airfield.

“The guys at the flying school do a fantastic job and there really is nowhere else in the area which offers the facilites that there are at Holbeach St Johns,” he said.

And just for the record - Gino has already passed his driving test, in May of this year - definitely an upwardly mobile student.

For more information about the Fenland Flying School see: www.fenland-flying-school.co.uk

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