02.08.20 Past Master Group Captain Marcus Wills & Holly Palmer-Davison

Coachmakers’ De Havilland Scholarship winner achieves licence


Holly Palmer-Davison (pictured above), our Coachmakers’ Sir Geoffrey de Havilland Flying Scholarship winner in 2016, has completed her training and qualified for her Private Pilot’s Licence. Holly is a Photographic Retoucher specialising in advertising imagery for the Automotive industry, and Past Master Group Captain Marcus Wills asked her for her thoughts on her achievement. Holly told him:

“The Scholarship created a wonderful opportunity for me to learn to fly and, given my interest in vintage aviation history, it was a unique chance to learn to fly in a Tiger Moth. Many hours of study and training have taken place since the selection day when I was interviewed by PM Marcus Wills and Liveryman Neil Sheath from the Coachmakers, and a team from the Cambridge Flying Group (CFG). I was overwhelmed and delighted to be selected.

“The Scholarship has really opened up the world of aviation to me, something I never thought would be possible. It soon became apparent that through this scholarship I was to learn a lot more than just how to fly the Tiger Moth. Knowing how to operate such an aircraft, safely and confidently, not just in the air but on the ground, is paramount and something the CFG has stressed from the very start of training. I firmly believe that the knowledge of sound airmanship that I have gained has been a testament not only to the aircraft but also to the environment in which I have been able to learn: nothing comes without extra consideration when operating a vintage aircraft. There are no luxuries, even brakes to name but one example! There is certainly no time for complacency when it comes to operating any aeroplane, and certainly not with a Tiger Moth.

“The engineering elements of the course were as, sometimes more, important that the stick and rudder parts. I now understand so much better how the old aircraft and I stayed aloft, thanks to the people – engineers all – who designed, built and maintain these wonderful machines.

“While I am waxing lyrical about the Tiger Moth, in these days of fly-by wire and modern systems I am often told that it preserves the very best of handling skills, as relevant now as they ever were in the 1930s when the Dh82A first flew.

“My journey to the PPL has certainly been challenging. An open cockpit biplane is not the easiest environment to learn in, but I think it certainly the most rewarding. Before being awarded the scholarship, I had no previous experience of flying other than as a passenger, so it has also been all I’ve known and for that, I feel privileged. Of course, the PPL milestones will always be very special but the fact I have been so lucky to be able to do it all in the iconic Tiger Moth that the Coachmakers’ Scholarship made possible for me is the real honour. Its quirky nature has given me excellent grounding for other aircraft I hope to go on to fly and every flight has left me smiling at the end – even if it did prove frustrating at the time!

“For making this opportunity possible I will never be able to thank the Coachmakers enough; it really has been a life changing experience. The CFG as a whole has been incredible. It has been the best environment to learn in and the ethos that everybody plays a part and helps out is what makes the group really special. The support from members and instructors is second to none; they have become an aviation family that is a joy to be a part of. My instructor and mentor, Steve Barratt has been a constant inspiration and I can’t thank him enough for his help and dedication throughout my training. I look forward to many years flying the Cambridge Tiger Moths and perhaps, one day, I will take up instructing so I can contribute and return something to the future of aviation.”

PM Marcus Wills adds: “Our De Havilland Scholarship is slightly unusual among our portfolio of aerospace awards in that it appears to concentrate on learning to fly rather than developing as an engineer. But Holly’s experience and her remarks epitomise what we are overall aiming to do with this award. It has given her a life changing experience, and clearly enhanced general knowledge of airmanship and flight safety, as well as the engineering principles of flight, so very important within and even on the fringes of the aerospace and air travel industries.”

Holly, we are proud of you!