My cousin was in the wrong place at the wrong time but I'm living our dream for both of us

21 year old Mansoor Wamala, a student at Liverpool University, is learning to become a pilot
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo)

A man overcame personal tragedy to keep his dreams alive.

Mansoor Wamala, 21, from Liverpool city centre, is currently training to be a pilot. He was inspired to enter this profession while on a flight as a child.

Speaking to the ECHO, Mansoor said: “The pilot noticed me and said, do you want to have a look inside the cockpit? That sparked it to be honest. I asked my mum, ‘who are those people in there?’ She said, ‘they are pilots.’”

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From there, Mansoor and his cousin Abdul Mayanja both shared a hobby and wanted to become pilots. Mansoor, who is originally from London, said: “When I was growing up me and my cousin used to watch history YouTube channels, the Red Arrows, just because it just interested me. He was about four years older. He joined the RAF air cadets. He was getting opportunities for flight experience.

“I enrolled at 16 and was there until I was 18. I was introduced to engineering and flying concepts. I was taken to airbases.”

However, tragedy struck in 2017. Abdul was giving friends a lift home on 25 August when a female passenger felt ill, prompting them to stop in Well Street, Stratford, in London.

As Abdul and his friend sat on the wall, they were approached by Sean Obazee and Braeden Henry, who asked: "What ends you from?”

Abdul was then shot in the back with a shotgun. He later died in hospital. Obazee and Henry were jailed for a minimum of 30 and 31 years respectively for murder.

The incident was devastating for Mansoor, but he vowed to continue his dream. He said: “My cousin inspired me. He was one of the youngest typhoon pilots at the RAF. He was 19 when he was struck dead.

“That shocked me. It hurt me a lot. I was like, I'm never going give up. In order to fill the pain in my heart, I have to fulfil the dream of both of us which is to become pilots.”

Mansoor continued to work and completed a scholarship which gave him 13 hours of flying. He said: “This was the first time I've ever been given control of a plane. From that, it gave me more confidence that I was able to do it.”

However, finding further opportunities was difficult. Mansoor found it hard to pay the fees for further programmes and felt there was a lack of people from working-class, ethnic minority backgrounds like himself entering the profession.

Mansoor wants to encourage to become pilots
Mansoor wants to encourage to become pilots -Credit:Andrew Teebay Liverpool Echo

He said: “I'm from a single parent household. We didn't have the right financial circumstances at home. But I thought, I'm not going let that restrict me.

“I did my research and I found another company called Air League. I didn't get accepted the first time I applied in 2021. It was heartbreaking but I thought I'd try again. The next year was when I joined the University of Liverpool. They provide flying alongside the course.

“I had to pay a £5,000 fee alongside my actual tuition fees. Then I spoke to my aunt who works in the council in Newham. They provide something called The Youth Empowerment Fund.

“They granted me £2,500 and then the rest I had to lend off to my family members. I started the course and work at the Liverpool Flying School based in Speke.

“Now I’m in the final year of my aerospace engineering degree. I've completed 20 hours of flying through the university programme and an additional five hours through the Air League programme.”

As a trainee pilot, Mansoor has only flown in smaller aircraft, but is planning to become a commercial pilot once he has completed the required amount of training. Mansoor is also enjoying living in Liverpool. He said: “I love the accent. I can't get enough of it.

“I love the people here. They've been so welcoming. Every Scouser I've met at university, on nights out, in my accommodation, the receptionists, people in hospitals, shops - everyone's been lovely. I felt at home very quickly. On top of that, the community here, which you see at Africa Oye, Halloween and student nights.

“I’ve had the chance to go to Anfield and watch Liverpool play as well. I feel like I've grown into a man living in Liverpool.”

Mansoor is also a talented basketball player, which he says has helped his training as a pilot. He said: “I’d like to thank one of the basketball teams, called Hustlers United. I've been able to release my stress and calm down.

“It's helped me grow as a person. It's something really close to my heart. It helps all the other aspects of my life. Being sharper in class - this is really important if you want to be a pilot.”

Mansoor is keen to encourage others from similar backgrounds to become pilots, and feels as motivated as ever. He said: “I feel like these setbacks helped build resilience in me and put fire in my belly to achieve it. Sometimes when you have it all laid on a plate, you don't appreciate the value of it. I've also gained a purpose as to why I'm doing it.

“You realise there's a huge gap in the market for people from a black background, from a poor background. I want to inspire others.”

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