A Guiding Light

Early in 2016, Zeth Devenish was pulling canecas (Portuguese pints) for tourists in the Lighthouse Bar in the Marina de Lagos when he was confronted by a large, friendly gentleman wearing a T-shirt loudly proclaiming ‘Instructor’. 

WORDS Chris Freer

Being a chatty barkeep, he inquired about the nature of the ‘instruction’. A quick glimpse gave the impression that it was not related to marathon running or gymnastics. In fact, the man he was serving was Malcolm Howland, the owner of the renowned FLY365 microlight school. Operating out of Lagos airport, the school provides air experiences and tourist flights as well as instruction in three-axis and flexwing aircraft. This chance meeting set Zeth on a path that has led the 21-year-old to become the youngest British microlight Flight Instructor.

Zeth admits that post-recession job prospects in a tourist town were not bright. He saw his future mapped, stuck in the tourist industry until business recovered. At the time, he had no interest in or knowledge of aircraft or the mysteries and pleasures of flight. He was simply touting customers for any kind of work to pay the rent. A brief chat with Malcolm revealed that he owned a small powerboat at the airfield and needed the bottom cleaned. A messy job for which he would pay cash or kind. The ‘kind’ was a flight over the local area in a C42. Karma guided Zeth to the flying option.

Born in Huddersfield with a roving ‘oil man’ as a father, Zeth grew up in Spain, Zambia and Madeira. At ten, he ended up in Lagos with English as his sole language. Chucked in at the deep end, he worked his way through the local school system. This brought the benefit of fluency in two languages and the necessary sagacity to fit seamlessly into two cultures. The meeting with Malcolm was a totally unexpected game-changer. 

Those who have flown with Malcolm, an 8,000-hour instructor, soon discover that he has a relentless dedication to passing on his passion for flight. He gets his passengers onto the stick and rudder soon after take-off without much instruction. He explained the rudiments of the flight controls to his young barista and was impressed by the fact that there was little need to repeat information. Zeth smoothly put into practice the flow of brief commands. On that first flight, Malcolm recognised Zeth as that ‘once in a lifetime’ pupil who possessed a natural gift for the milieu. 

As an ex-military chap, Malcolm soon had Zeth ‘on parade’ at the airport with a string of dogsbody jobs: cleaning hangars, feeding the guard dogs and cutting the never-ending grass. Malcolm paid for the work with more lessons and a more formal agreement that Zeth would aim for his licence. After 17 hours of flying and some ground school in the excellent control tower classroom, Zeth went solo and was hooked. The hook then went both ways. Malcolm had been bringing in ‘locum’ instructors from the UK to help with a busy daily flying schedule, especially serving the tourist trade and the air experience flights. But if Zeth got his Private Pilots Licence, NPPL (M- for microlights) he could take passengers. Malcolm’s suggestion, although self-interested, changed Zeth’s life forever.

Even though he felt comfortable in the air, Zeth admits to having a crisis of confidence. It was a sudden and radical change from pulling pints to pulling a control stick, especially with some unsuspecting tourist in the right seat. Zeth quickly achieved his licence with a further 40 hours. Soon afterwards he was putting in at least 10 hours a week through the sunlit skies over Cape St Vincent. His passengers were young and old, and some even signed up for the flying school. Through COVID, FLY365 were fortunate to keep going thanks to strict rules applied to the open-air nature of the activity and relative isolation. As Zeth accumulated hours, his mentor gently mentioned that what he really needed was another permanent instructor, especially one who was fluent in Portuguese. The die was cast.

By the Autumn of 2021, Zeth had accumulated 275 hours and decided to go for his FIR (Flight Instructor license). In October, he completed a crammer month at the famous Gap-Tallard airfield in France. Under the direction of Chief Instructor Marcus Dalgety he added 18 hours to his logbook in a Skyranger. He also rose to a new level in his understanding of teaching skills and the technical points of flying. In January, senior CAA examiner Fiona Luckhurst arrived from the UK. She put Zeth through the rigorous tests for his flight instructor licence, which he passed with ease. 

He was duly presented with his very own ‘Instructor’ shirt and raised several canecas that evening from the customer’s side of the Lighthouse Bar. 

FI(R) zeth_Devenish@hotmail.com +351 926 265 048

CFI Malcolm Howland info@Fly365.co.uk +351 932 244 177


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