My name is Matt Langridge. I’m 36 years old and from the UK. Three and a half years ago, I was competing for my third Olympic rowing medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Now, I have completed my first solo flight with Skyborne Airline Academy. Here is my story of how I went from an Olympic rower, to training to become a commercial airline pilot.
From a young age I always dreamed of becoming a pilot. I can still remember my first flight; a novelty flight from Manchester Airport just before Christmas. We circled the airport and midway through Father Christmas appeared to give presents to all the children. While everyone else was overcome with excitement at seeing Father Christmas in his red suit, I was fascinated by the pilots in their smart uniforms and the incredible aircraft.
But, as well as aviation, I’ve also always had another passion – rowing. I started when I was just 14 by joining Northwich Rowing and won the Junior World Championships when I was 18, fuelling my love for the sport. I realised that If I was going to achieve my dream of competing in an Olympic Games, I needed to prioritise rowing, as the lifespan of an athlete is much shorter than that of an airline pilot. So, as an 18-year-old I packed up my life in my hometown of Northwich in the Northwest of England to move to the national rowing training centre, based just outside of London.
During my 15-year rowing career I competed in four Olympic Games, winning Silver in Beijing (2008), Bronze in London (2012) and then finally achieving my ultimate goal of being crowned Olympic Champion, winning Gold with the men’s eight in Rio de Janeiro (2016).
Having achieved one of the sport’s biggest accolades, I felt it was now a good time to bow out of life as an athlete and revisit my other great passion of aviation. Having come from a sporting background, I had two main criteria when researching potential flight schools; quality and consistency of training. Rowing is a sport that requires four years of training, seven days a week, for 49 weeks of the year. All for one six-minute race. So, for me it wasn’t just about picking a flight school where I could obtain my licence, it was about picking a school with the ability to train me to be the best possible pilot I could be.
During my research I looked at every avenue from the small modular schools to the larger, integrated ones. It was at this point that a friend of mine (who is a pilot) suggested I look at Skyborne Airline Academy. When I first visited Skyborne’s HQ at Gloucestershire Airport, I got a feel for the quality of training that would be delivered by the entire team and the pioneering quality of the academy. Skyborne was founded by three aviation and educational experts and their experience in the industry is unparalleled to other flight training schools, which also helped me to make my decision. Coming from a sporting background, I understand the importance of consistent high-quality training and its role in achieving success.
The other thing I feel stands out about Skyborne is that it is an airline-focused academy. All the training from day one is delivered in a manner that is designed to prepare you for life working for an airline – my ultimate aim. This again has great parallels to my sporting career as every day of training was targeted to that one race in four years’ time.
I am currently in phase two of my Integrated ATPL course at Skyborne’s fair weather base at Castellón Airport in Spain.
To find out more about my pilot journey, be sure to come back soon and check out my next blog post on my core flight training so far.