Bev’s flying journey: a story of perseverance and positive attitude
Amelia Earhart said “the most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity”. To aim for a goal and keep on moving despite multiple hindrances is admirable. Bev Reardon, 2023 BWPA SkyDemon Flying Start Scholarship winner, tells us about the importance of perseverance during the ups and downs of her flying journey.
As a child, I dreamed of flying. I vividly remember looking up at every passing aeroplane and building ‘flying machines’ in my garden. As I grew older, the dream began to fade. However, that childhood fascination was rekindled after witnessing paragliders landing on a beach in Turkey in 1999. In 2016, I finally decided to take a leap and began my journey into the world of paragliding at Airways Airsports at Darley Moor, Derbyshire.
Being five foot one, and weighing 45kg, is less than the ideal criteria to be a paraglider. In addition, my first paragliding flights did not go as well as hoped. In the first attempt I faced ‘guillotining’, where the metal wire that tows the paraglider into the air got cut because I strayed too far away from the line. For the second flight, I forgot to attach a radio and bruised my feet. To make matters worse, another paraglider pilot criticised me calling me the worst student he had ever seen, leaving me shattered and discouraged. However, despite these setbacks, I remained determined to continue my paragliding journey and returned to do my third attempt the next day.
My third attempt was also not great and I started to doubt my abilities, but a conversation with a fellow trainee, who emphasized the importance of a positive mindset and perseverance, changed my perspective. From that point on, I approached my training with a more positive mindset, focusing on my own progress rather than comparing myself to others. With time and dedication, I began to improve and eventually earned my Elementary Pilot (EP) rating. I spent countless days at the airfield, practicing and learning from my mistakes, which led to smoother flights and increased confidence. Finally, in August 2017, I achieved my Club Pilot (CP) rating, marking a significant milestone in my paragliding journey.
After achieving my CP rating, I had plans to continue my paragliding journey with ‘hill conversion’ training, in which I intended to learn how to fly from hills and mountain sites. However, my progress was halted due to two shoulder operations, which completely stopped me from paragliding. During this period, my fitness level dropped and I felt a decline in my strength. As a result, I had to put my training on hold until I could regain my fitness and motivation.
In August 2020, after a long hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic and recovery from shoulder operations, I returned to the hills for paragliding training. Due to the ongoing challenges with my fitness, I found it difficult to carry my pack up the steep hills in the Derbyshire Peak District. This made my take offs jumbled and awkward. However, my determination to continue was unwavering. The moment I ran off the side of the hill and felt the glider lift me into the air was a truly magical experience. The silence, accompanied only by the sound of the wind, was remarkable, and the adrenaline rush was incomparable. As I flew over a busy road and safely landed in the landing field, the support and camaraderie from fellow pilots and instructors were incredibly positive and reinforcing. Even onlookers seemed to be in awe, and the sense of achievement was overwhelming.
Unfortunately, my magnificent paragliding journey faced a major blow during the August Bank Holiday weekend in 2021. Despite crowded launch conditions, the temperature at almost 30c and swarms of flying ants, I decided to launch. However, I miscalculated and ended up hitting earthen ramparts, causing multiple injuries. Initially thinking it was just bruising, I eventually sought medical help the next day and discovered I had a broken left ankle, a broken right metatarsal, and damaged muscles and ligaments. The severity of the injuries left me shaken and my confidence shattered.
During my recovery from my paragliding accident, I decided to transfer my passion for air riding to learning how to fly gliders. I had an unforgettable first trial flight in April 2022 at Staffordshire Gliding Club. The speed and angle of take-off filled me with awe and excitement. Learning to fly gliders brought me a sense of fulfilment that I had been missing since my paragliding accident. However, another setback occurred when the motor glider accidentally injured my foot while being pulled out of the hangar. This resulted in another broken ankle and forced me to use crutches, preventing me from flying for another six weeks.
After recovering from my injury, my ankle was still weak, which affected rudder input while flying gliders. Frustrated, I decided to book a course of five lessons in a Cessna 152 at Tatenhill Airfield to maintain continuity during bad weather. Surprisingly, I enjoyed flying the Cessna more than I anticipated, as the rudder input required was less than in a glider.
During a meet-up with BWPA members on 30 July 2023 at Tatenhill Airfield, I was chatting to another member who owned a Microlight Eurostar EV97, and at her suggestion, I organised a trial flight in the same aircraft with Black Country Microlights, based at Otherton Airfield, Penkridge. It was love at first flight, as I felt an instant connection with the aircraft. The microlight was beautiful to fly and extremely responsive. Now, weather permitting, I fly every week from Otherton Airfield. I have made friends with other pilots and my experience, confidence and knowledge in aviation is expanding. I am also working through the syllabus for the National Private Pilot Licence (NPPL).
Despite lacking sporting prowess and coordination, my desire to become a pilot never wavered. Though frustrated and teary-eyed when comparing myself to others, I refused to give up. Through this journey, I learned not to measure progress or success against others. A positive mental attitude is the key. I may never be the best pilot in the world, I may never be the student that clubs celebrate, but eventually, I WILL be a pilot… and that is all I have ever wanted to be.
The camaraderie, advice and encouragement I have found with the BWPA has truly boosted my confidence. Meeting other female pilots who are happy to share their advice and experience, is so valuable to those at the beginning of their journey. This interaction is not only encouraging, but also reveals that others have faced similar challenges and conquered them, providing inspiration and motivation. I only wish I had discovered BWPA decades ago, because I would have found my route into flying so much earlier. I enjoy volunteering with the BWPA and feeling a part of something so much bigger, and know I can give so much to all other women who dream of flying.