Hello from springlike Oxford!
The other day, while recording our podcast with Joss Buchanan, principal at King William’s College, he told us one of the most wonderful stories about an old pupil.
We were asking about extracurriculars at King William’s, and Joss told us about young Carl Luebbert, a German pupil who had a penchant for flying. King William’s is a short walk from the Isle of Man’s small airport, so Carl quickly signed up for lessons, and spent his Saturdays flying to Belfast and Liverpool and back.
Fast forward a few years, and Carl is taking his first flight as a captain for British Airways. And the route takes him back to where it all began — he flies from Heathrow to Belfast, directly over the Irish Sea and King William’s, a tiny speck on the Isle of Man. Appreciating the symbolism of the moment, Carl took a quick picture of the school from the cockpit, and sent it to Joss, who was sitting thousands of feet below in his office at school!
We thought this tale was a beautiful vignette of what a monumental impact a boarding school stay in the UK can have on the life of a pupil.
We loved it so much, we wanted to bring it to you in this little one-off post, in case you missed the podcast. So we got in touch with Carl, to hear more about the special influence King William’s had on his career…
King William's as seen from the sea
How did King William’s influence your career?
I wouldn’t be where I am today if it hadn’t been for the school being more than just an academically good place to go. They do pride themselves on every kid finding their spot there, and I certainly did.
I joined the Mancs Flyers Aeroclub there, where I met these Cathay Pacific captains. They essentially lived the career that I decided one day might be for me. Mr Buchanan had me disappearing for flights on the weekend. I’d say: “I’ll be over in Liverpool today sir, and I’ll be back in the evening!”.
I couldn’t get my Class 1 medical in Germany because my colour vision was off. But through socialising and staying at mates houses around the island, I met someone who told me you could get it checked by the Civil Aviation Authority in Gatwick, where they had new ways of assessing it.
I went about two weeks before I was about to take my IB exams and passed. I was basically just at the right place at the right time, but the reason I was at the right place at the right time was because I was in this safe environment, hanging out in this little hut of a flying club.
The Isle of Man airport is within a 10 minute walk from school!
Can you tell us a bit more about what it was like joining King William’s from Germany?
I came in 2001, I had just turned 16. I suppose I was a bit disgruntled with the German school system at the time and I wanted to go abroad. I’d been a glider pilot in Germany since the age of 14, I was interested in my sport and my flying, and King William’s was great for that.
I went for a three-week trial period and I just fell head over heels for that way of school: living with your mates, the international identity… By German standards I’d just scraped a D in English, but they basically stuck me with another kid who loved aeroplanes and we just talked aeroplanes all day in my broken English, and within two or three weeks I was pretty much fluent, the language was never an issue again.
Joss Buchanan was my history teacher back then, as well as my house master. If I was struggling he’d knock on my door that evening and ask why I was struggling with my essay. I felt like he genuinely wanted me to do well, and that was very new to me.
How else did King William’s influence you?
The whole place just made me walk a bit taller, take a bit more pride in things. You suddenly got responsibilities.
When I’m hiring for British Airways, I still consider people these days maybe some of my colleagues would rule out. It’s a King William’s attitude — everyone has a place somewhere, there’s more to a person than what they can just do academically. King William’s builds community, they build character, because they have the capacity to go and spend time on an individual. What more can you ask for?