A former Flybe pilot from Co Down has told how he still has ambitions of a return to the skies - despite landing a new job delivering food orders.
Stephen Lynn (29) had only been in the cockpit as a fully qualified pilot for 10 months when the airline went bust in March.
The young Holywood man had just spent £100,000 on an 18-month pilot training course in Spain where he lived for the duration before joining Flybe in Belfast.
On the night of March 4, Stephen lost his job as the company entered administration, just as he was sat in Edinburgh airport waiting to refuel to return to Belfast.
A few months later, Stephen is one of the lucky ex-Flybe crew to find employment and has swapped his 30-tonne plane for a three-tonne van delivering food orders for Streamvale Farm based at Dundonald.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Streamvale's popular open farm, which receives thousands of visitors a week, closed to the public.
To maintain an income to help feed the animals, farm director Chris Wilson started an online food shop selling fresh milk and other dairy products, and later expanded by selling fruit, veg, bakery and meat products from local suppliers.
Although he enjoys the driving experience, Stephen is longing to get back in the air and has already applied for other pilots' jobs, hoping to be based at Belfast City airport once more.
He recalled the moment he realised he was out of work.
"It was a real shock to us when the news of Flybe going bust came through," said Stephen. "I was actually sitting in the plane at the gate in Edinburgh airport trying to refuel to return to Belfast when I first realised.
"All we were told was that there was a problem and we would not be refuelled. It was only when I switched on the mobile phone that the real bad news came through.
"In the end I had to wait for another plane coming up from London that had enough fuel on board to take my passengers back to Belfast. We swapped aircraft and I was the third last Flybe flight to land in Belfast that night."
Lockdown meant there was no chance of Stephen getting another job, so he returned to stay with his parents who were shielding.
"I actually just had sale agreed my first home in Holywood when the Flybe news hit so I had to pull out of it in the end," he explained. "I stayed at home locked down with my parents for a few months when my friend Chris Wilson from Streamvale Farm asked me to run a few deliveries as the demand for his food rocketed.
"I started with Chris at the start of July and am now working four days per week delivering food to most areas of Northern Ireland.
"Although we have real early 5am starts, I am really fortunate to have found a job as many of my former Flybe crewmates are still unemployed. It says a lot when some of them who are pilots with 40 years' experience cannot even get a job stacking shelves in a supermarket."
He added: "As much as I enjoy it I need to get back in the air to follow my passion as a pilot.
"My starting salary at Flybe was £29,000 per year so I still have a lot of that training fee to recoup. I have applied for a job at Stobart Air which would mean being based at the City airport again, so fingers crossed I get it."