Dad overcomes fear of flying to help son, 7, 'become a pilot' after mum's death

·4-min read

A dad had to overcome his fear of flying to help his seven-year-old son complete his first flying lesson and become one of the youngest pilots in the UK.

Andrew Newson, 53, from Leeds, West Yorkshire, has always been terrified of flying, so when his son Jacob expressed an interest in taking lessons, his mum Andrea, 49, was planning to go with him. 

When she died of breast cancer last December, Newson realised he would have to get over his phobia to help his son, as he took the controls of the Piper PA-28 Cherokee at White Waitham Airfield, in Maidenhead.

Jacob has had a love for planes and flying since he was a toddler, spending a lot of his time fundraising for different charities including the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund which supports RAF veterans.

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Jacob Newson, 7, undertakes his first flying lesson and is pictured with his dad, Andrew Newson who overcame his fear of flying to take him. (Caters)
Jacob Newson, 7, undertakes his first flying lesson and is pictured with his dad, Andrew Newson who overcame his fear of flying to take him. (Caters)

"Before Jacob was born, we used to visit the RAF Warrington air show every year and when we visited whilst Andrea was pregnant with Jacob, she said he was really kicking when the plane flew so we joked from that moment that he would become a pilot," Newson, an advanced emergency medical technician says.

"When he was born, we got him a little flying suit and he just became more and more interested in aviation from there.

"He first began fundraising in 2019 and he managed to raise £6,500 for the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund, which led to him being invited to a lot of different RAF air bases.

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"After his first fundraiser, we had offers from a few private pilots to take him flying but we were concerned that he was too young and it would scare him so we wanted to wait a while," Newson continued.

"I have always been terrified of flying so the plan was always for Andrea to go with him but she passed away at the end of last year so I decided to take him myself.

"I was really nervous driving to the airfield because it's one of my biggest fears but the whole event took over and I was just so happy for Jacob that it distracted me from being worried."

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Jacob's parents took him to flying shows when he was just a baby. (Caters)
Jacob's parents took him to flying shows when he was just a baby. (Caters)

Speaking about the big moment Jacob had his first flying lesson alongside himself and instructor Mark Green, Newson said: "All the way down there he was so excited and he loved the entire experience.

"He was fascinated and mesmerised by being so high up in the air and looking down at the people and landmarks; he was a bit apprehensive when Mark said he could take the controls but he held onto them for a little while with a big smile on his face.

"We got up to about 3,000ft (914m) and he just put the controls in his hands and told him to be really gentle.

"He thought he had officially become a pilot and as soon as we landed, he asked when we could go up again."

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Jacob with his mum, Andrea, who passed away from breast cancer, and dad, Andrew. (Caters)
Jacob with his mum, Andrea, who passed away from breast cancer, and dad, Andrew. (Caters)

Jacob's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2019 and died in December 2020. 

Later this year, the father/son duo are planning to climb Yorkshire's three highest peaks - Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough - to raise money for St Gemma's Hospice in Leeds following the death of Jacob's mother.

"We have always been so proud of Jacob's achievements and everything he has done," Newson adds.

"If his mum was still alive, she would have been blown away by it all and so proud that he managed to complete his first ever flying lesson.

"She was so proud of him and was amazed by his love for the RAF.

"Since this journey started, we have become a lot closer and I'm so happy I get to watch him complete all of these amazing things that Andrea dreamed of him doing one day".

To donate to Andrew and Jacob’s fundraising, visit their JustGiving page.

Additional reporting Caters.

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