BGS Student Stories – Steph Smith

In this series of blogs, we hear from Bristol Groundschool students about their time studying with us and why they chose to become a pilot.

Steph Smith dreamt of becoming a pilot from a young age. After 15 years of working in the industry as an aircraft engineer, she is starting her ATPL studies with a Bristol Groundschool scholarship awarded by the British Women Pilots’ Association.

Here she shares her story about why she chose to become a pilot and her advice to other women looking to become pilots.


How did you get into flying?

For me, the love of aviation started at a young age. I grew up attending airshows and visiting aircraft museums, living close to Duxford meant it was a regular place to visit during the holidays. My first flying experience was in a glider at the age of 10. My Dad had a trial flight that day and I declared loudly that it looked awesome and I wanted to try! The next thing I knew I had a parachute on and I was preparing for my first ever winch launch. After that I was well and truly bitten by the flying bug, spending every weekend and school holiday on the airfield.


Why did you choose to pursue a career as a pilot?

All I’ve ever wanted to do is fly, forever staring skyward and watching everything fly over, jealous it’s not me flying. Being a pilot was one of my childhood dream jobs, along with being an astronaut or a vet. When I left college there were no cadet pilot programmes open and I didn’t have the money to self-fund my training, so I decided to train as an aircraft engineer instead. After 15 years in the industry, I’ve decided it’s time to finally train for the dream job and use all the knowledge gained as an engineer to support my learning.


Why did you apply for the Bristol Groundschool BWPA scholarship?

I have been looking into training options for CPL/ATPL since I completed my PPL last summer and Bristol Groundschool has a good reputation and came well recommended by people I know for the ATPL theory section. The course suits my needs to study while working full time but is also near enough to travel to for revision courses.


What are the main factors you would consider when choosing where to study your ATPL theory?

Flexibility and the ability to study from home are very important to me, as I’ll be undertaking my studies while still working full time on a rotating shift pattern. Good reviews and former students successfully gaining employment in commercial aviation roles are something I also looked for. I know a few people that have used or are currently studying with Bristol Groundschool for their ATPL theory, so I asked them about their personal experience and opinions of the training.


What advice would you give other women looking to become pilots?

Just go for it! Whether you want to fly for a hobby or for a living just take the first step and approach your local flying club, they will be more than happy to guide you along the way. Aviation may seem to have always been a male-dominated industry, but now it is becoming more diverse and women are taking on the roles previously seen as stereotypically male in increasing numbers.

There are lots of networks out there that specialise in supporting women in aviation. The British Women Pilots’ Association has been a great help to me, I’ve made friends with pilots at varying stages of their aviation journey and it’s been a wealth of valuable experience, support and guidance.