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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 14:21 GMT
First flight for teen's airline
Martin Halstead
The 19-year-old has set up airline Alpha One Airways
A teenager dubbed "the baby Branson" saw his first flight take off on Monday after launching his own airline.

The maiden flight for Martin Halstead's Alpha One Airways left Southampton Airport on Monday morning, bound for the Isle of Man.

The 19-year-old pilot, of Oxfordshire, who dreamed up the idea in a coffee shop, said he was "excited and numb".

Although the first flight took off on Monday, the twice daily service does not start until 21 November.

The company, which is hoping to carry 75,000 passengers in its first year, has bought one 18-seat BAE Jetstream 31 aircraft and is planning to lease another.

'Just a number'

Mr Halstead said Alpha One will be a ticketless airline and complimentary in-flight refreshments will be included in the price.

He said the company would travel routes that are too small for larger airlines, and two more from the Isle of Man, to Edinburgh and Cardiff, were planned for a later date.

Alpha One Airways was originally set to operate between Oxford and Cambridge, but that route has now been ditched.

I'm probably the only airline boss in the UK who will actually fly the planes
Martin Halstead, airline boss

Mr Halstead, who secured an air transport licence at the Oxford Air Training School aged 18, is convinced that, despite the sceptics, he will succeed this time.

"Age is just a number. I plan to bring an innovative, 21st Century approach to regional aviation and I also have an older, experienced team to call on," he said.

Educated at Abingdon School in Oxfordshire, Mr Halstead gave up his A-levels in 2003 to pursue a pilot's career.

He was struggling to find work as a pilot so decided to launch his own airline while discussing his career with friends in a coffee shop last year.

"It's very difficult to get a job in the industry at the moment so I thought I would start my own company," he said.

"I'm probably the only airline boss in the UK who will actually fly the planes."

He funded the project by selling his first business, airline simulation software company EMAtch, which he launched at the age of 15.

Mr Halstead, who now employs 26 staff, said he was honoured to be compared to Richard Branson.

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