Kat

B787 Senior First Officer and Cadet Liason Pilot

Virgin Atlantic

Previous airline/s:   

Flybe, First Choice (which merged with Thomson now TUI), Thomas Cook, GSS

Previous role/s (pre pilot training):

TEFL teacher, glider tow pilot, PPL Flying Instructor for 2 years as part of my pilot sponsorship.

Uni degree? 

Russian, Phonetics and Linguistics at UCL

Airline training route: 

Modular ATPL via the KLMuk instructor sponsorship route in conjunction with Cabair

ATO/s attended: Cabair College of Air Training

Why did you want to become a pilot?

I started gliding while I was still at school and realised that I loved it so much I had to find a way to carry it on - I'd got addicted. I joined the university gliding club and that became my main focus for the entire time I was there.  By the end of uni, my degree subjects had become a mild interest and my hobby had become an all-encompassing passion.  I had to find a way to stay in the air. Through gliding, I'd met so many pilots from different walks of life all with exciting and varied flying roles, so I knew it was possible. As soon as I understood about becoming an airline pilot, I had this dream of being able to buy my coffee beans in a great little deli in New York, my hair dresser being in LA, going for run along the beach in Cape Town and my favourite bar being in Sydney. And, of course, having something fun to fly back home on my days off.

How did you fund your training?

I won a PPL Scholarship from the Honourable Company of Air Pilots (GAPAN), hour built by towing gliders, then won an instructor sponsorship by KLMuk/Cabair for all my commercial licences.


Was training a breeze or did you find it a challenge?

A challenge, all self-inflicted. I felt disadvantaged coming from an arts subject background and I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of material to learn in ground school.  Once I'd understood my success would be about my level of application, not my prior knowledge and I'd gained self-confidence through small wins, I found a technique and gained strength to push through the tough bits.

What was most challenging?

The biggest challenge was picturing the outcome. Everything I had to achieve seemed so enormous that I couldn't imagine what being at the end of it would look and feel like. I often struggled to see the connection between what I was doing on a day to day basis in the classroom with eventually being able to fly a huge airliner. Once I started the flying part it became a lot more fun, although still pressured, but it was still hard to relate flying exercises in a 4 seater single engine propeller aeroplane to an airline operation.  I broke everything down into small chunks and focused on the goal nearest me. It did feel a bit of a surprise when I reached the end, looked up and the next step was the jump into the professional world of flying a Dash 8 Q400 for Flybe.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

There are too many things to single out just one. I love the variety of how one day or one month is never like another. I love "doing distance" and looking at the world from our privileged viewpoint. I love how we work together as a crew, with people you've never met before, building firm friendships after just a few days of working together. The feeling of all that combined with executing a well-managed long flight, flying an efficient approach, where you've anticipated everything correctly and as you touch down it's like the icing on the cake. It's everything.

What is most challenging about your job?

Managing sleep patterns can be challenging when flying long-haul.  Not just when you are away down-route where you must be well-rested for the return flight, but on your days off too when you have flown a night flight home, as is so often the case. Sometimes your energy levels aren't where you want them to be to enjoy your time off properly and that can feel frustrating. Everyone is different and finds ways to handle it. For me, I avoid making any big plans the day I Iand back home.

Which Pilot Competencies are of most interest to you?

Communication.  In our multi-crew environment, good communication is key to a successful flight.

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