A 14-year-old schoolboy has become the youngest Brit to fly solo in a powered aircraft – three years before he’s even allowed to DRIVE.
Junior aviator Maksim Ferguson bypassed British laws – which will not allow him to get his wings until he is 16 – by travelling to Canada for the privilege.
Canada is the only country in the world where a 14-year-old is allowed to fly on their own.
Teenager Maks received a certificate after he took to the skies at Burlington, Ontario, Canada, on Monday April 15 at age 14 years, one month and 28 days old.
He was joined by dad, Vincent Ferguson OBE, 54, who runs his own ecological incineration business, on a two-week mission to get him in the air.
Despite being challenged by typical Canadian weather, which saw high winds and even snow, Maks, from Mawdesley, Lancs., managed to cram in as many lessons as possible to achieve his dream.
For his first ever flight Maks took off alone in gusty conditions in a Piper PA-28 single engine, four-seater aeroplane, ascending to 1,000 ft.
In 15 minutes he navigated the chosen flight path and communicated with Canadian air traffic control, before successfully touching back down at the airstrip.
Maks said: “I wasn’t expecting to go solo when I did.
“They had cancelled nearly all the flights as the weather was so bad and I thought that any opportunity to fly had gone out the window.
“Then we got a call from the Chief Flying Instructor saying let’s head out, who then said I was ready and I could go solo.
“It all happened so fast and I was so nervous sitting there on the runway in the plane by myself.
“It also didn’t help that my dad and all my instructors were stood right beside it filming me and taking pictures.”
Over the next couple of days, with improved weather, Maks went up again, totting up over two hours’ solo flying time.
Maks’ UK flying instructor told him that, as he had been taking almost weekly lessons since he was eight-years-old, he was experienced enough to fly solo by the time he was 12.
Maks and his dad had originally planned for him to fly to Australia to when he was 16 so he could fly solo 12 hours before he would have been able to in the UK.
But when they found out about Canadian law they set new plans in motion.
Before Maks could fly he had to pass a Class 3 Canadian Medical Certificate, which he did in the UK.
He had to reach the minimum ten hours’ flying time in Canadian skies, which includes performing stalls, spins and spiral dives – not allowed for safety reasons in the UK.
He also had to pass an aviation exam, the PSTAR Examination, and the ROC(A) and English Proficiency Test to correctly communicate with Canadian air traffic control.
The high-flying teen hopes one day he will be an RAF pilot or commercial airline pilot.
“The funny thing is, my dad was once terrified of flying, but he overcame his fear and got his pilot licence when I was really young,” said Maks.
“I’d grown up around planes because of my dad and absolutely loved flying from my very first lesson.”
Maks’ father went with Maks on his own. Mum, Victoria, who is 38 and works for the family business, and little sister, Charlotte, 11, were too scared to go along.
Vincent said: “I still remember the day I took the stabilisers off Maks’ bike when he was a little boy and I felt that same anxiety as when he went cycling away from me all those years ago, albeit on a far greater magnitude.
“I was petrified, it was two weeks of hell for me, but Maks took the whole thing in his stride and flew like an absolute professional. I am so proud of him.”
Maks has loved flying since he was five-years-old but took his first official flying lesson at ANT (Air Navigation & Trading) in Blackpool, Lancs., when he was eight.
Maks’ flying instructor, Russell Whyham from ANT, said: “Maks is by far the youngest pilot we’ve ever trained in our 70+ year history.
“He’s been obsessed with aeroplanes since his first lesson and he’ll hopefully one day join the elite list of ANT student flyers who go on to become commercial airline pilots or similar.
“His level of training, skill and dedication has meant that he’s been ready to fly solo for a number of years now and the only thing that’s held him back is his age.”
Sadly Maks will not gain a place in the record books, as the World Guinness Book of Records does not recognise achievements with an age limit.
In January 2019 this year, Ellie Carter was named the UK’s youngest pilot when she flew a powered aircraft on her 16th birthday.