The Thomas Castle Aviation Heritage Scholarship trust has announced its 2024 scholarships

Now in its fourth year, the Thomas Castle Aviation Heritage Scholarship trust's established and respected scholarship was set up to provide young pilots greater flying and opportunities within vintage aviation post-Private Pilot Licence (PPL). Each recipient will receive five hours of instruction on the de Havilland Tiger Moth from the trust’s Sywell Aerodrome home in Northamptonshire.

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However, flying is just one aspect of the syllabus. Fostering engineering and aircraft husbandry skills – as well as an understanding and empathy for both airframe and engine – are of equal importance to the continued operation of a historic aircraft.

Tasks such as cleaning and post-flight inspection increase a pilot’s understanding of their aircraft and ensures there are no nasty surprises the next time they fly. Knowledge is absorbed by osmosis, not just formally in a classroom.

Centred around 1941-built Tiger Moth G-ANTE, better known as ‘Tom’s Tiger’, TCAHS trust was formed in 2019 by Sywell stalwart Ian Castle following the loss of his son, Thomas, in an aerobatic training accident. Tom was passionate about all aspects of vintage aviation and aircraft restoration. Working with Ian, he helped rebuild G-ANTE, before going to gain his PPL and solo his beloved Tiger. Ian explained: “Thomas used to look after it, maintaining and cleaning it – spending time ensuring the aircraft was in fine fettle almost every day. I wanted to find a way to do something in his memory and to keep his legacy alive. The Trust came about because Thomas was so enthusiastic about all aspects of aviation, but particularly vintage aviation. The thought that came to mind was to form a trust around ‘Tango-Echo’, which was effectively Thomas’ aeroplane, and to let people around his age have the opportunity to fly a vintage aircraft.”

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Thomas Castle Aviation Heritage Scholarship de Havilland DH.82a Tiger Moth II G-ANTE - the heart of the Sywell-based trust TCAHS

The Tiger Moth is a culture shock from modern light aircraft, but it fits the purpose it was designed for. The minute you stop doing everything you need to do to fly the aeroplane, it lets you know about it. It’s easy to fly, but hard to fly well. To date, nearly a dozen scholarship recipients have now soloed in ‘Tom’s Tiger’ thanks to the TCAHS.

In a testament to what the trust does, and the respect garnered by both Ian and Tom across historic aviation, several organisations have given their unrivalled support – including the Light Aircraft Association, Ultimate Warbird Flights, Little Gransden-based Vintage Engine Technology (better known as Vintec), the Light Aircraft Association, de Havilland Support, Audley End-based Vintage Fabrics and Henstridge’s Aircraft Coverings. Additionally, several well-known warbird and display pilots have offered their services as instructors.

A close friend of Tom, Richard Grace, of Sywell-based Air Leasing / Ultimate Warbird Flights said: “To say that Tom’s passion for the Tiger Moth was infectious was an understatement - he lived and breathed everything about it down to the most minute detail. He strived for perfection in every field and achieved everything he set out to due to hard work and the understanding for that which he set out to achieve. He was as much an engineer as he was a pilot, a rare combination in its own right, but even more rare to have that level of aptitude in the vintage aviation sector.

“Unfortunately, it was not until after Tom’s death that I first flew a Tiger Moth and came to realise what a fantastic aircraft it is. The Tiger represents a truly fantastic route into vintage aviation. The aircraft is rewarding to fly in so much as to get the most out of it you must understand its every idiosyncrasy and how every element of it works.

Truly immersing oneself in aviation is near a necessity if you wish to succeed within the industry, but luckily its very enjoyable at the same time. It is those who are already immersing themselves, or are willing to do so, that the Thomas Castle Aviation Heritage Scholarship are seeking.”

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Thomas Castle Aviation Heritage Scholarship de Havilland DH.82a Tiger Moth II G-ANTE over Pitsford Water near Sywell with Richard Grace TCAHS

The scholarships are open to pilots holding a current PPL aged between 18 and 35 who want to get involved with vintage aircraft. Ian notes: “It’s not a scholarship for people who want to come along, do a few hours, and move on. We’re looking for people who want to take this sport or this industry forward like Thomas wanted to. It’s vitally important to foster that enthusiasm in people and encourage them to look after these aeroplanes and keep them flying. We’re keen to find people who want to get involved with the aeroplane as opposed to flying it. Everyone joins in with the operating of the aircraft as well as the flying. Immersing yourself in the right environment, with like-minded people, is an equally valuable way to learn.”

There will be five scholarships available in 2024. With applications opening on May 1 via the trust’s website at www.tcah.co.uk, last entries must be received by May 31.

The TCHAS are holding an event at its Sywell on April 27, to launch this year’s scholarships with visitors welcome by air and road. For more information, please contact trust pilot Danny Williams on 07597159961.