A FINDON father spent his 56th birthday piloting a commercial flight to Italy alongside his son.
Monarch Airlines pilot John Sharples was joined in the cockpit for the first time on a commercial flight by his son Luke, 24, on Saturday.
Despite the return trip from Birmingham to Turin only being a short one, both men enjoyed the occasion.
Luke said: “It felt completely normal and just like any other flight until I would look over and see that it was my dad I was talking to. It was a short flight so I don’t think it really sank in until we got back to Birmingham, as we both were focused on the job at hand.
“All in all it was a very enjoyable day and I’m glad my dad had a memorable birthday.”
John said: “I was very proud to be flying with Luke and he proved to be an excellent co-pilot. I hope that my flight with Luke will be the first of many.”
There was a turnaround of one hour once they arrived in Turin during which time they refuelled, reloaded the flight computer systems and inspected the aircraft.
Later that evening, they celebrated John’s birthday with a meal in Birmingham city centre.
First officer Luke, who now lives in Birmingham, regularly travelled with his father on flights while growing up and has cited John as his inspiration for becoming a pilot.
“Aviation was all I knew from a young age,” he said. “The house was full of books that were either flying related or an aviation manual of some kind. I started logging flying hours towards my pilot’s license from the age of 14 and I was flying before I could drive.
“I was very fortunate to have seen so much of the world and industry growing up, going away on trips with dad and back then, before the ‘locked flight deck door’ policy, I was sat in the flight deck watching it all first hand. I’ve tried other jobs in different industries but nothing compares to flying.”
In 2007, at the age of 17, Luke completed his private pilots licence, and later studied with CTC in New Zealand, before being taken on as one of a group of 18 (CTC) cadets who joined Monarch in February 2012 on the Airbus A320/321.
Nils Christy, Monarch’s chief operations officer, said: “This is a rare treat for us and is very fitting that this very special flight took place on John’s birthday. I am sure that this will be the first of many flights that they will enjoy together.”