High-flying Paolo Messina sometimes literally bursts with pride as a result of his sporting achievements when he takes off from Southampton Airport.

Paolo is a senior member of the British Airways CitiExpress cabin crew based in the city and in his spare time enjoys success in the world of bodybuilding, which does put his uniform under great strain.

As Paolo builds up his muscles for his next competition, it is sometimes all too much for his BA shirt and trousers.

"It has been known for the seams of my trousers to split or buttons to come off my shirt after training for an event,'' said Paolo, who flies on services to Jersey, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Brussels. "Luckily there is always a needle and cotton around and my colleagues help me out with quick repairs.

"Now I have a uniform which is really too big but at least it gives me more room.

"Sometimes passengers ask me if I am a bodybuilder and ask me about how to keep in shape."

Weighing in at 14st 8lb, Paolo is now working up to take part in his next big bodybuilding contest in the hope that he will carry off the trophy in the Mr Britain Championship later this year.

Paolo, whose home is in Sicily, first began pumping iron while he was undertaking his national service as an officer in the Italian navy, but after he moved to Britain his interest in bodybuilding grew, leading to him to take the title Mr South-West of England two years ago.

"Bodybuilding is a sport. It is definitely more than a hobby as it does affect how you live your life and it needs great commitment if you want to be a success,'' said Paolo, who has his own private pilot's licence and hopes one day to swap his job in the aircraft cabin for sitting up on the flightdeck. Sometimes Paolo spends three or four hours in the gym, five days a week, lifting weights and working out in the lead-up to a competition.

"It is an art trying achieve the perfect shape. Everything has to be in proportion,'' said Paolo.

"I think I can get better. It's all a matter of building up muscle tissue.''