Former Gresham’s pupil flying high after fulfilling childhood dream

Former Gresham's School pupil Josh Brewer, who qualified as a pilot at the age of just 20. Picture:

Former Gresham's School pupil Josh Brewer, who qualified as a pilot at the age of just 20. Picture: KAREN BETHELL - Credit: Archant

When Josh Brewer's boyhood dreams of becoming an RAF fast-jet pilot were shattered because his asthma meant he failed the medical test, he felt his world turn upside down.

But, thanks to his own dogged determination, and the support of his devoted family, the young aviation fan finally achieved his ambition of taking to the air, and, a few weeks ago, became one of the country's youngest commercial pilots at the age of just 20.

As a pupil at Gresham's School, Holt, Josh was a keen member of the Combined Cadet Corps and, when he won an RAF-sponsored gliding scholarship as a teenager, the experience firmly cemented his plans of becoming a pilot.

'Flying has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember,' he explained. 'All I ever wanted to do was to be a fast-jet pilot and fly tornados.'

After studying at Reepham High School and College, Josh applied to the RAF for training, but in spite of a supporting letter from his GP saying the asthma he had suffered as a youngster was no longer an issue, he was turned down.

'I was devastated and in tears, I felt my dreams pretty much shatter there and then,' he said.

A stint as a lifeguard at Pinewood Park Leisure Club, Upper Sheringham, followed, but, after attending a seminar run by private pilot training company CTC Aviation, Josh became more determined than ever to pursue his childhood ambition.

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'I realised that I still had a chance, so I chased it as hard as I could,' he said.

His only hurdles were passing the stringent Civil Aviation Authority medical, and finding the £100,000-plus needed to pay for the training.

His mother Amanda, who is a receptionist at Cromer Hospital, and his step-father, offshore worker Dean Mingay, agreed it was too big a chance to pass up and told Josh that, if he got through the medical, they would do whatever they could to help.

'Josh had the aptitude and the determination and we knew he would never be happy doing anything else,' Mr Mingay said.

Following a gruelling eight-hours at Gatwick airport Josh got the news that he had passed and the couple, who live at Holt, came to the decision to sell their four-bedroom Sheringham home to buy a smaller house and pay for his training, with other family members also offering to chip in.

'I was just so grateful and felt incredibly lucky to have the support of my family behind me,' Josh said.

After winning a place with CTC, which accepts only 5pc of the 50,000 applications it receives each year, he embarked on a two-year training course, including nine months of flying training in New Zealand.

Passing near the top of his class, Josh, whose parents now live at Holt, was almost immediately offered a job with EasyJet and took his first passenger flight to Germany a few weeks before his 21st birthday, which he celebrated on February 3.

'It was an absolutely amazing moment; the best day of my life,' he said. 'It lived up to every expectation I had and more.'

Now based at Orly airport, Paris, Josh regularly flies to European destinations including France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece, and, despite his young age, says fellow crew members – and passengers – have every confidence in his abilities.

'I have had nothing but completely positive reactions,' he said. ' I don't think people care about my age as they know that, no matter what, we are all highly trained.'

His ambition now is to become a captain and, after a long and emotional journey to achieve his dream, he says he has no regrets.

'I suppose it would have been awesome to fly at twice the speed of sound, but I am honoured to be doing what I'm doing now, I think it is what was meant to be,' he said.