10 September 1999

ITSUP, UP, UP, AND AWAYFOR ANTHONY

ITS a long, hard slog," says Anthony Bailey of working towards his Airline Transport Pilots Licence, something he hopes to achieve next spring.

Success, though, will allow him to fly virtually anything – including Concorde – and open up a world of new job opportunities for the 40-year-old seventh-generation farmer.

With agriculture in the doldrums – and the 170-head dairy herd and quota sold last autumn when Anthonys father retired – hes keen to have the option of another career at his disposal.

"It seems a good way of making money outside farming. It seems the natural progression," says Anthony whos had a private pilots licence for 19 years and, more recently, has qualified as an instructor and examiner.

Its always been just a hobby, though – providing a break from farming and the chance to meet new people. Even instructing, which hes done for 10 years, is no more than a hobby. "If I did it for the money, I would have stopped 10 years ago."

So tackling ATPL, something that will have taken nearly two years, is a big step – one that will cost about £15,000 with Anthony opting for the intense "crammer" route. It involves time away from home, intensive study spells, evening and weekend work – all this to be fitted around the demands of a busy farm. "Your whole life has to revolve around the courses."

&#42 Academic challenge

Its also a challenge academically. "It comes as a shock to the system to study again," he says. "I never saw myself as an academic. Like most farmers, I was probably more practically-minded." Among his peers are full-time military people. "Theyve had £3m spent on their flying career."

Its a decision he took only after careful thought. All the options were weighed up. Anthony has a full HGV and PSV licence – but driving means long spells away from home and family. There are buildings on the farm with conversion potential – but that would cost money, increase the overdraft and the return would be slow. Contracting is a possibility – but its a possibility for lots of other people, too.

"We are all chasing the same work from farmers who are in the same boat financially – and looking to cut down the amount of money they spend."

The farm, meanwhile, doesnt show brilliant cereal yields. And with milk prices in the doldrums – and the tax regime encouraging the quota to be sold – the sale of the dairy herd has left it without its traditional key enterprise. "Its like taking over a car without its engine and gearbox," says Anthony, from Coldridge, Devon.

&#42 Recoup costs

If he gets into flying as a career, Anthony reckons he can recoup the cost of the course within a year. Even small regional airlines offer salaries of £20,000-plus, with promotion to captaincy taking it up to £30,000 or more. Big-name companies, like Easy Jet, pay more. "The potential income is there," says Anthony.

Its not without risks, of course. Some captains are retired at 55 and the medical requirements are strict – so any unexpected medical problem could render him unable to fly.

Maybe, he says, he should have done it earlier in life. But as a young man the option was to fly or farm. Not both. "It is my one main regret in life that I didnt get that qualification years ago."

With farming in crisis, there might

never be a better time to turn your

hand to something new.

West country farmer Anthony Bailey

could soon be swapping his

overalls for a pilots cap and flying

jumbo jets for a living. He tells

Tim Relf about his take-off plans

With farming in crisis, there might

never be a better time to turn your

hand to something new.

West country farmer Anthony Bailey

could soon be swapping his

overalls for a pilots cap and flying

jumbo jets for a living. He tells

Tim Relf about his take-off plans