Mark Hearn, UK MD of Patek Philippe, has achieved some excellent results in the luxury watch market. Now, focusing his ambitions on learning to fly, he shares his experiences with Platinum Resident
Mark Hearn is one of life’s enviably positive people. His sheer exuberance coupled with solid business skills and acumen has helped him make the UK division of Patek Philippe highly successful. He is just as driven away from the boardroom too, finding the time in his busy schedule to achieve his life-long ambition of learning to fly.
‘In life we have certain ambitions,’ he says, ‘and my dream was always to learn to fly. It’s a throwback to the fact that when I was 13 my father took me in a plane he used and allowed me to take the controls with a co-pilot sitting next to me. That experience sowed the seed of my ambition.’
When I was 13 my father took me in a plane he used and allowed me to take the controls with a co-pilot sitting next to me
Like many of us, Mark had to put his childhood ambition on hold but in the past two and a half years he has realised his dream.
‘You reach a certain stage in your life where you have done lots of things for other people whether it’s children, family or work colleagues. Three years ago I’d reached that stage and thought ‘now I am going to do something I want to’. It was the right moment.
‘My first lesson was a birthday present from my wife. She has always known that I wanted to learn to fly. It’s an expensive hobby, at roughly £150 an hour for a lesson plus the cost of equipment, but expensive is always relative and if it’s been your life-long ambition then it’s worth every penny. The truth is if I hadn’t been in the watch industry I would have trained to become a private pilot.
Though yet to take his pilot’s test, Mark has clocked up over 40 hours of flying and looks back fondly on the start of his new hobby.
On your first lesson the adrenaline is unbelievable but you get a bigger adrenaline buzz when you first fly solo. I remember that day vividly
‘On my first lesson I flew with my instructor from my home aerodrome in Redhill, Surrey to Lydd in Kent and back again. It was so exhilarating. If you fly about 2,000 feet in the air you are near enough to the ground to see things in detail but far away enough to feel like you are flying. The sense of freedom is enormous and you get to fly from little aerodrome to little aerodrome.
‘On your first lesson the adrenaline is unbelievable but you get a bigger adrenaline buzz when you first fly solo. I remember that day vividly. I’d been flying with my instructor for 45 minutes when he told he that he thought it was the right time to try flying by myself. When he walked away from the plane he said he was confident in my ability and that I should just do everything I’d been taught to do as usual.
‘I remember taxing the plane, a Cessna 152, across the tarmac and doing the pre take off checks then waiting for clearance to line up and take off. I was extremely excited but also focused. Once you are up in the air there is a moment of course where you realise that you’ve got to come down again and if you get the landing wrong you could kill yourself but because you’ve been so well trained, the moment soon passes.
‘When I got out of the plane I suddenly realised that I’d been up in the air by myself and what I had just achieved. Once I’d got the aircraft up and down once I knew I could do it again. So I repeated the procedure six or seven times and was happy to do some more circuits but my instructor said that was enough!’
So what would Mark’s advice be to would-be trainee pilots? ‘Positivity is really important,’ he says. ‘If you are negative you are always going to be thinking about what can go wrong. If you are positive you will always think about what can go right.’
He also recommends finding a first class instructor you trust completely, who inspires you and who you have a good rapport with. Someone who will give you practical feedback is essential too.
If I lost an engine in a plane I feel very confident I could get it on the ground and I could walk away
‘My instructor is great,’ he says. ‘If I lost an engine in a plane I feel very confident I could get it on the ground and I could walk away. That’s because I have a belief in myself and my instructor has trained me so well I know what I am doing.
‘You also need to be prepared for a long commitment time wise. As well as putting in the hours learning to fly you need to schedule time in to study for your exams. Pilots need to understand how planes work and why the weather is so important so studying is crucial. It’s taken me two and a half years to rack up 40 hours of flying but if you love something, however busy you are, you will find a way of doing it.’
Due to work commitments, Mark is yet to take his pilot’s exam but when he does he’s already got his fantasy flight planned.
‘I would fly from Redhill to Le Touquet in France with my youngest son, who has already got the flying bug. We would take two sets of golf clubs with us, land at the airport, play a round of golf, have lobster for lunch then if he’d passed his flying test by then I would let him fly back. That would be the perfect day. As long as he lost at golf!
The correlation between enjoying a great career and flying is not lost on Mark. ‘Learning to fly has reinforced my life philosophy,’ he says. ‘If you do something as important as your work you need to enjoy doing it. I have been very lucky throughout my career I have always loved it and flying makes me feel the same way.
‘It gives you a great sense of freedom and is one of the best sensations you can have. You just pull the throttle back, go down the runway and take off and the feeling you get inside is amazing. Without a doubt it is one of the best experiences in life.’