Female pilot Amanda flies high

PASSION FOR FLYING: Female pilot Amanda Harrison. Inset, The Tiger Moth display team
PASSION FOR FLYING: Female pilot Amanda Harrison. Inset, The Tiger Moth display team
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Many little boys dream of following in their father’s footsteps.

In the case of Amanda Harrison, it was a daughter sharing her father’s love of flying machines.

Now the former Carnforth girl is the only female commercial Tiger Moth pilot in the country.

Amanda’s dad Richard wanted to be a pilot but never had the chance. Instead he turned his hand to making remote-controlled replica planes, which she loved.

Aged 14, Amanda had the chance to go for a flying lesson – and she was immediately hooked.

Leaving school at 15 unqualified to apply for the RAF, she continued with her ambition of being a pilot. After qualifying for her pilot’s licence aged 24, her passion for flying kept growing.

By her own admission, she began to live and work near airfields for easy access. For the last eight years she has lived in Brize Norton, Oxfordshire.

Amanda also found herself falling in love with the Tiger Moth. The 1930s De Havilland-built bi-plane was used as a trainer plane for the RAF and was famously used by fighter pilots before they moved up to the Spitfire.

By reputation it has low power, sluggish controls, no brakes and has to be manually started. But Amanda was hooked, preferring the Tiger Moth over more modern (and safer) planes.

Amanda, now 34, said: “They are easy to fly, but difficult to fly well. They are known as ‘the brick’. It’s a bit scary but that’s part of the fun. You can certainly never fall asleep in this plane!”

She spent some years as an instructor and then one day got a call asking her to fly the Tiger Moth commercially for private bookings. She jumped at the chance.

Amanda has since taken part in the round-Britain Dawn to Dusk challenge and has ambitions to one days recreate pioneer Amy Johnson’s famous flight in a Tiger Moth from England to Australia in 1930. Now Amanda is poised to join the Tiger Moth air display team the T-9s - which she describes as “the geriatric version of the Red Arrows”.

The nine-person display team performs at air shows and other events. Amanda has been asked to join the team next year – as the only female member.

She said: “I’m very chuffed that I’ve been invited to join. It’s very demanding flying. I’m really looking forward to it.”

Amanda loves her profession so much she has now penned a book called Confessions Of A Lady Pilot. In it, she tells how flying has left her fulfilled after feeling sometimes that she didn’t fit in.

She writes: “There I was, flying this aeroplane for real.

“This is me, who has been written off as a kid in school and been written off in so many other fields of life.

“All I would be good for is stacking shelves, I remember one teacher saying to me.

“There I was, floating in this aeroplane. Me, being trusted with this aeroplane and flying all by myself.”

Amanda said this week: “Only 2.5 per cent of commercial pilots are female. Only seven per cent are private pilots. If my book inspires women to become a pilot then that would be great.”