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Nick Davidson Flying Scholars gather at the Festival of Flight with Andrew Walters (Chairman) for the announcement of the new Biggin Hill Airport awards in support of the charity.
Left to right: Pilot Officer Steven Inch RAF (2015 scholar); Andrew Walters, Chairman, Biggin Hill Airport; Captain Gary Merchant, NDMFS Administrator; John Harrison (2014 scholar) and Jack Hawkins (first 2017 scholar)

The Nick Davidson Memorial Flying Scholarship, a registered charity, received a welcome boost at the weekend when Biggin Hill Airport offered  a 3-year sponsorship plan valued at £30,000.  The money will support the

“The airport has a long history as place for inspiring young men and women and helping to build their dreams.  This is owed to its strong heritage, with roots laid by the Royal Air Force.  In the years since WW2, the top class flying displays here have attracted audiences that have always seen inspiring performances in the air, notably the RAF’s ‘Red Arrows’ team who has flown here consistently since 1965” said Mr Walters.

“The Biggin Hill Flying Scholarship Award will be open to young men and women in the age range 15 to 25 and will provide a valuable stepping stone towards a professional flying career” added Mr Walters.

Two Nick Davidson scholars are now well established on the path to rewarding professional aviation careers.  John Harrison from Horsham, the 2014 Scholar, is in the final stages of qualifying for his Airline Transport Pilots Licence (ATPL) – the most senior category.  Steven Inch, whose family lives in Biggin Hill, was awarded the 2015 Scholarship.  Soon after gaining his licence, he applied to the RAF for pilot training and was accepted.  After completing his officer training  at the RAF College at Cranwell last year, Steven opted for fast jets and is now in the training scheme that he hopes will lead eventually to flying the front-line Typhoon.

The first Nick Davidson Memorial Scholar for 2017 is 19-year old Jack Hawkins from Cambridge who has been allocated to the Surrey & Kent Flying Club for his PPL training which is now well under way.

The recipient of the first Biggin Hill Airport Flying Scholarship Award has been selected from  among the 85 young applicants to the scheme made earlier in the year.  He is a young man with equal merit to Jack Hawkins, as assessed by the selection panel.  Burning with well-directed enthusiasm to be a professional pilot, 18-year old Ben Akhtar is already a keen paraglider pilot and a former member of the Biggin Hill Squadron of the Air Training Corps.  His father is a family GP with a surgery in the village.   Ben will commence his flying training with the EFG School immediately

The Nick Davidson Memorial Flying Scholarship scheme is supported by companies with strong interests at the airport.  The co-sponsors include Adams Aviation Supply Company, Shipping & Airlines, the Surrey & Kent Flying Club and EFG Flying School.

Administration for the Nick Davidson scholarship scheme is based at London Biggin Hill Airport under the auspices of Captain Gary Merchant, an airline pilot and professional colleague of the late Captain Nick Davidson.   Short-listed applicants are interviewed and assessment tests may be required.  The ability to pass the CAA medical examination is a pre-requisite.

Details of Nick Davidson Memorial Flying Scholarships for 2018 will be announced shortly and posted on the website

See Editorial Note with background to the career of the late Captain Nick Davidson.  The Davidson family has funded all scholarships up to this point.

Editorial background

Nick Davidson was a Captain on the British Airways Airbus A320 fleet.   Following his time as an Instructor at Biggin Hill during the early 1990’s, he flew night mail in light turbo-props with Willow Air from Southend Airport.  As his career developed, he transferred to City Flyer at Gatwick flying UK and European passenger services.  He joined British Airways in 1998 as First Officer with the Boeing 757 fleet, moving to long haul on the 747 as  Senior First Officer.   In 2008, he proudly gained his command and joined the Airbus fleet as Captain.  He passed away in 2012 from terminal cancer.

His long-standing flying friend Gary Merchant, a Captain with Easyjet, who  has  followed a similar career path, explained the background to the original legacy.

“When Nick became terminally ill in 2011, he discussed with me the terms of his Will.    He wanted a positive action for the benefit of aviation to be created after his death.    The idea of a worthwhile scholarship for a deserving young person was born” he said.

“I accepted the responsibility to nominate the most suitable candidate from applications received.  The winner of the scholarship was to have proved  by interview to be a highly motivated individual who had already shown initiative and commitment  to an aviation career.  As all the flying training was to be at Biggin Hill Airport,  the most likely candidates will be local – i.e. within a radius of  15 miles” said Gary Merchant.

Gary first met Nick when he joined the Surrey and Kent Flying Club in 1990 to learn  to  fly and Nick was his instructor. They became firm friends, Nick eventually convincing Gary to become a commercial pilot.



Photo credit:  Georgina Godfree


Issued by Biggin Hill Airport Ltd –

Media contact is Simon Ames – PR Coordinator – M: 07785 745857