August 28, 2019 | Published by Eddie Stobart

TPN Ireland loaned one of its drivers E20,000 to achieve his dream of becoming a commercial airline pilot – and he now flies for Stobart Air.

HGV driver Barry Mullen was bought a flying lesson for his 32nd birthday and it wasn’t until several months later that he decided to pursue a private pilot’s licence. He’d left school at 15 and gone straight into haulage. But gradually he began to dream of qualifying as a commercial pilot.

He spent several years, studying every day and clocking up the necessary 200 hours of flight time. But even when he had sold his camper van, and maxed out on commercial loans, he still came up short against the E70,000 to E90,000 total bill for his training.

“I was running out of time to complete the next stage of the training, I was 45 years old and I was still E20,000 short. I thought I’d have to remortgage my house but then the MD Seamus McGowan insisted the company lend it to me,” says Mullen. “I couldn’t have done it without them.”

“We could well understand why he loved flying but when he came us to ask for a loan of €20,000 to cover his study, exams and finals as a commercial pilot our first reaction was: why would we do this to lose our best driver?” says then TPN chairman Owen Cooke. “But then we thought if this guy, in
his mid-forties has the ambition and determination to follow his dream, we should help him and not get in his way.

“Barry made all his repayments but we didn’t see him for a year. Then one day he walked into the office in his flight suit,” says Cooke.

In October 2018, Mullen finished all of his qualifying exams and his job-specific training. He now flies an ATR 72-600 from Dublin to a variety of locations, including Jersey and Leeds, for Stobart Air.

“Honestly, it’s wonderful,” he says. “I can’t believe they pay me to do this. After my two days off, I want to go back to work because I want to fly again.”