Established in May 2020 as a direct result of Covid-19, Resilient Pilot was created to keep Pilots and Cabin Crew Supported, Current and Connected. As the pandemic hit and flights were grounded, it wasn’t long before the redundancies unfortunately commenced. With many aviation personnel out of work, it was important for us to establish a support network as a priority, hence our signature offering was born – Mentoring.
From ex-military Pilots to current airline personnel, we have a team of over 50 mentors supporting aspiring, cadet, experienced and even retired Pilots in these difficult times. If you haven’t already and would like to connect with a mentor, please learn more about our fantastic team here.
Our mentors selflessly offer their time free of charge to support the aviation community, yet many of our team also haven’t escaped the devastating impacts of the pandemic – including Darren. Whilst supporting his mentees, our mentor Darren has had to overcome many hurdles in his recent flying career. His resilience however shown through his journey back to the flight deck is a true inspiration, and something we would like to share…
February 2020 – The writing on the wall
Headlines were starting to emerge of a so-called Virus causing disruption in China. The echoes of uncertainty swiftly materialised into flight booking cancellations, and hence came an announcement to Darren that his company were potentially going to struggle to keep everyone employed. Foreshadowing a difficult time ahead, Darren and his colleagues were asked to accept either a 25/50/75% pay cut. Fast forward to March 2020 and a fellow regional carrier unfortunately saw its demise.
Currently staying in a crew hotel on the Isle of Man where pilots of the fallen carrier were also residing, despair filled the room as crew struggled to get home with their lives having changed so rapidly in a matter of hours.
The Last Flight
This day also spelt the last flight for Darren. The coming days, weeks and months were met with melancholy and a deluge of company updates such as news of a short term lay off clause in their contracts spelling an indefinite period of no income. Shocked the company were able to keep employees on without pay (even though furlough was an option), Darren took on the role of ‘Base Representative’ and together with two of his colleagues and his Base, collectively fought for each other to be enrolled onto a furlough scheme.
Acting selflessly on behalf of approximately 70 crew, Darren and his two colleagues helped to secure an extension to the redundancy process which as a consequence, provided an additional months pay until Mid-August enabling crew and their loved one’s short-term financial relief whilst they navigated a distraught period filled with stress and anxiety. Unfortunately, August was the final straw and with two months notice for Cabin Crew and three months for Pilots all personnel were officially laid off.
So, What Next?
With no income, it was easy to be swamped by worry and sadness, yet Darren realised he needed to be proactive. Even in the thick of the pandemic, his journey back to the flight deck started NOW.
After weathering 18 months of no flying following his redundancy, we are delighted to announce Darren has now secured a new flying position with a regional UK carrier in the left-hand seat! But how did he get there? Let’s rewind…
Firstly - Networking
Determined to remain positive, Darren immediately set about trying to plan and pave his way back into aviation. The first avenue he took was through ‘Networking’. Speaking to as many people as possible. Darren knew this would broaden his chances of finding work by keeping up to date with industry developments, insider knowledge and grapevine rumours of potential vacancies.
He set about contacting ex colleagues, aviation figure heads and industry experts to gain their insight and advice. From emails to LinkedIn messages, the pandemic exposed the power of the virtual world, one that needed to be effectively utilised in the current job climate.
Second on Darren’s to do list was joining Resilient Pilot as a Pilot Mentor. A consultant rep as previously mentioned, Darren had a great passion in offering support and advice to fellow industry personnel. Many depended on him, and this sense of community wasn’t something Darren was willing to live without either. Since joining Resilient Pilot Darren has duplicated this support to our mentees seeking to overcome hurdles and become even more resilient as they navigate these challenging times.
Step Three – In Person Volunteering
As much as Virtual volunteering helped to fill a void, Darren also became involved in the great organisation that is Project Wingman. Wearing uniform, interacting with other crew, all whilst helping to support the NHS was a great experience and brought a huge amount of solace. Many of the NHS staff were overwhelmed that Pilots and Crew who had also faced great hardship were still wanting to help others – further demonstrating how incredible we know those in our industry are.
But what about employment progress?
As much as networking was essential to find industry employment contacts, the caveat to this was making sure if approached, Darren would be able to react immediately. As Darren described it, it was like preparing to go to war – you needed to ensure your ammunition: an up-to-date CV, all essential flight documents and LinkedIn profile were primed and ready to press send as soon any door opened.
One day in his networking journey he decided to message the CEO of a large UK regional airline asking for any potential vacancies. To his surprise he received a swift response stating they would soon be looking to hire pilots. Nonetheless applications shortly opened…
This month was set to be bittersweet. Darren’s former employer had recently been in touch to enquire about welcoming him back to the airline. Whilst waiting for the contract to arrive, his company unfortunately collapsed – another huge blow to the industry which consequently felt like a second redundancy to overcome. However, very soon after, Darren was invited to attend a Pilot interview for a UK regional carrier.
Having not flown for 18 months, with an expired type rating, and up against applicants with far more recency than himself, Darren wasn’t convinced the outcome would be positive. However, the following day Darren was offered the job!
Networking had demonstrated his positive nature, improved his reputation, and found an opening. His previous proactive talks with licensing authorities to overcome the complexities that Brexit subsequently created, had meant his licence came back swiftly and he was ‘armed’ to act as soon as a job offer was on the table. Darren’s ethos of not waiting for the opportunity to come to you, instead finding them yourself is crucial in Resilience Building. Make sure you’re actively updating your CV, applying to vacancies, speaking to individuals, and getting your ‘tools’ ready.
This is where Resilient Pilot can help.
We’re here to keep you Supported, Current and Connected. Whether you’re looking to chat with mentors to improve your CV, network through #crewroomchats, stay up to date with industry knowledge by attending our #Tuesdaytuneins or refresh your flying skill at one of our ‘Skills Refresher Days’ we’re here for you. Enrol onto our Pilot Performance Programme and make yourself as employable as possible.
After successfully passing his LPC, Darren will soon complete his first passenger flight this month. Since completing his check, we asked Darren what he thinks helped him most in a transition back to the flight deck. Much to our relief he confirmed flying competency ‘comes back fairly quickly.’ Through jump seats, revision of procedures and flows there’s things you don’t forget and certain things that your memory needs to be jogged with.
He felt his biggest weakness currently is his ‘instrument scan’. After previously feeling competent in monitoring all instruments effectively, this will take some time to re-master and achieve as operations re-commence.
But one of the biggest challenges he’s also currently facing is adapting to a new reality of life. Whilst feeling so lucky to have secured a flying job, it hasn’t come without sacrifice. From having to make the difficult decision to move away from his family to a new base, being a Pilot isn’t always easy. The aviation industry has always been a challenge, but for so many one we could never live without. We can’t wait to see more of our Resilient Pilots where they belong and hope this blog has provided inspiration and hope as we navigate a recovery together.
Darren is an ( ATR ) rated Captain and one of our great Resilient Pilot Mentors. To connect with Darren and meet the rest of our team, visit our ‘Supported’ page.