In May 2012 at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport, in the United States, Ryan Irwin, here on the right, had no idea that the following year he would be at the command of a Ryanair Boeing 737.
Yet after 18 months of training in the Oxford School of Civil Aviation, the Irish low-cost airline has indeed officially welcomed him aboard - at only 19 years old.
He will, of course, begin his career as a co-pilot, but his age makes him one of the youngest airline pilots in the world, even if Brussels Airlines did do the same in 2010. Taking control of a medium-haul aircraft having just reached the age of majority is a rare case, although the legislation does allow it, at least in the countries governed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) such as those of the European Union.
The ICAO in fact stipulates the minimum co-pilot age on a commercial aircraft as 18 years old. To be captain, it takes three years more and at least 1,500 flight hours. Nevertheless, these are standards that can be tightened or loosened, for each member country, should a request be made, and of course accepted by the organization.
For the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), to be co-pilot on a commercial aircraft at 18 is simply not possible. The FAA requires a minimum age of 21 and 1,500 flight hours in order to gain access to the cockpit right-hand seat. For the left-hand seat, that requires two years more, plus 40 hours of additional training. At 19 years old, Ryan Irwin will therefore have to wait a little longer before applying on the other side of “the pond”.