The British billionaire is a hero to 21-year-old Stokes, who began her flying career as a stewardess.
She talks to AAP about life as a Virgin Australia trainee pilot.
Sydney-born Stokes started her airline career serving coffee to passengers as part of Virgin's cabin crew - a stepping stone to her goal of becoming a pilot.
She went from cabin crew to cockpit, taking up flying lessons in her spare time.
"It's the industry I love, so any job in it was a bonus," Stokes tells AAP from Virgin's Adelaide training base.
After two-and-a-half years as a stewardess, her eagerness and customer service skills were noticed by cabin crew management, who asked if she'd like to apply for the company's pilot cadetship program.
Stokes was up against nearly 1200 applicants but she became one of eight people selected, taking a giant step closer to her dream.
"It was the most exciting news I'd ever heard in my life," Stokes recalls.
"I was ecstatic. It's all I've ever wanted to do, it's all I talk about, it's my life."
Being part of the Virgin Flight Training Adelaide program at Parafield Airport is intense, says Stokes, but she enjoys the pressure.
"It's good because you don't get bored and you don't get lax with what you have to do.
"It is a serious occupation so it's good that the pressure is kept on."
The program has been operating since 1982 and at the end of Stokes' 13-month course the cadets will have their commercial licence.
The training is divided into theory and flying days, and the hours can be long.
To cope, Stokes says it's important to look after your health.
She says getting to bed early, having a good diet and exercising go a long way to staying fit for flight.
"If you do notice that you're tired you tell someone. No one ever flies if they're not feeling 100 per cent ready for the flight and that includes being tired or not being well."
Once she's a commercial pilot, she'll undergo a medical check-up every year.
Stokes has dreamt of being a pilot since she was a young girl.
She describes her first flight as enthralling - she was seven years old on a family holiday from Sydney to the Gold Coast.
"I've really just never seen any other career that was for me," she says. "I've always loved flying in anything, at anytime, every day."
Stokes will complete her training in December.
Then, she will be a first officer on the Virgin Australia Regional ATR fleet for a period of about three years, or the equivalent of 1500 hours.
"It's not work to me because I love it so much," Stokes says. "It's definitely where I want to be in life."
Stokes says it was amazing to have Sir Richard as her first passenger on a test flight.
She admits being nervous, as Sir Richard has been her hero for a long time.
"Having someone like that as your very first passenger is a bit daunting but it was more exciting than nerve-wracking."
There was no room to be shy either - the flight, back in May, was in a tiny Diamond DA40, four-seat single-engine aircraft.
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When she completes training, Stokes is keen to take on the Indian Ocean route to South Africa, as she admires the country's beauty.
"Los Angeles is stunning as well," she says, "and I think eventually I would love to be able to go to London."
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Article taken from Yahoo travel
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