SCOTLAND’S youngest qualified pilot helped earn his wings by building a £5,500 flight simulator in his parents’ spare bedroom.
High-flying teenager Tom Hall constructed a fully-working cockpit, complete with instrument panels and real-world controls.
The 17-year-old can recreate a tricky approach to JFK in a lightning storm while safely sitting in his mum and dad’s Perth home.
The amazing attention to detail helped Tom qualify for a private pilot’s licence last month, making him the youngest in the country.
The Perth High School student built the simulator – with his own cash – so he could get in extra training time as he practised for his licence.
He said: “It’s really realistic.
“My friends always beg me to get a shot on it, it’s much better than an Xbox.”
The simulator works by having a projector display an image against a wall as if it were the outside world.
From inside his hand-crafted MDF cockpit, Tom uses controls specially imported from Swizerland to fly the virtual plane.
The controls and projector are hooked up to a PC with a high-end flight simulation programme.
The experience goes even deeper still, Tom has installed a “butt-kicker” device in the pilot’s chair.
This rumbles the seat whenever Tom guns the engines or makes a landing.
He finished the simulator six months ago, and it took eight months to build.
Though he had a little help from his dad Geoffrey, 47, Tom mostly built the simulator himself.
He funded the project buy selling off his prized collection of plane models, including some treasured Concorde replicas, and writing reviews of flight simulator programmes for websites.
Although not old enough to vote, Tom flew solo for the first time on his 16th birthday in December 2010.
Tom’s mum Dawn, 45, an estate agent, said: “I’m so proud of him.
“At first I thought it was just going to be a wee thing. But as he built it I thought ‘Oh my God, this is bigger than I thought!’”
“We gave him some money, but he generally saved up birthday money and held car boot sales to raise it.”
Dad Geoffrey, 47, a civil servant, said their neighbours were not bothered by sounds of engines roaring around their home: “It’s not that loud when you’re outside the room.
“But when he tries on the butt-kicker you can hear it a bit.”
Tom, who completed his first solo flight on his 16th birthday, added: “I usually spend about three hours a week in the simulator, but about five hours a week when flying tests are coming up.
“I do it after school.”
Tom says he wants to be a commercial pilot, but will have to raise the £40,000 required for training.