In March 2020 I was hosting the seminar programme at a pilot careers event, Pilot Careers Live, in Dublin. Flybe had just gone into administration, yet we were still talking about a pilot shortage: because that was a genuine concern. We knew things would slow down a little as operational airlines were ‘bound to quickly recruit Flybe talent’, but we were confident that recruitment would pick up again quickly.
There’d been a bit of fuss about whether we could shake hands during the event and, if I am honest, I didn’t take this ‘pandemic thing’ everyone was talking about that seriously. I know I am not alone.
Around this time, Stuart Beech (Resilient Pilot’s Co-Founder and COO) and I had been chatting about another project we wanted to do together which focused on how to better engage and enable our next generation of pilots.
By the time we next spoke, we were all taking COVID more seriously. It was evident that travel was going to be restricted and our industry impacted. We figured it may take around six months to settle and decided we’d put our original project on hold and set up a team of mentors to help keep trainee and newly qualified pilots engaged whilst they waited a little longer than anticipated for their first interviews.
So, we started forming a small team of volunteer mentors from our own networks and Stu started learning how to build a website.
Then came the redundancy announcements from around the world and very quickly we shifted our thinking: Pilots of all experience levels were losing their jobs and it was clear that we needed to be able to support the entire pilot community, not just those new to the industry.
We went live with our website on 6 May 2020.
Little did we know that one year on - we’d still be very active; our services would have expanded well beyond just mentoring; we would have a team of over 70 mentors and coaches around the world; we’d have been able to employ young aviators through the UK Government’s Kickstart scheme; and we’d have launched Resilient Crew to provide support for the cabin crew community too. (and Stu would have created one of the most complex websites our platform has known! Big pat on the back there Stu).
Keeping Crew: Supported. Current. Connected
We developed this vision early on -
Supported: Free mentoring and coaching, peer support and wellbeing help
Current: Enabling crew to maintain competencies and renew/revalidate/refresh skills in the sim. We’ve even managed to secure funding for redundant pilots in the UK through the DWP to achieve this, but we’ve also negotiated ‘crew friendly’ rates to ensure costs for those not eligible for funding are as manageable as possible.
Connected: Free, regular events to keep you in the loop; our #avtalent campaign to help career transition (whether interim or long term); and collaborations with businesses whose values reflect our own.
Our original foundations have proven to be the backbone to all we do. It was very important to us that wellbeing was our primary focus; if you’re in good physical and mental health, you will cope better with the ups and downs to come.
Being aviation professionals, pilots and cabin crew are keen to find a way to maintain competency, despite the lack of flying and access to training departments, simulators etc. And for them to feel good and have positive wellbeing, they need to know they are doing what they can to maintain competency. So, finding innovative ways to practice core skills was important.
Our mentors and coaches have created some excellent resources to enable this and we have several really exciting initiatives to launch in the early part of our 2nd year – all of which have been created in-house, by crew for crew.
Our industry is multi-cultural, but there is always more we can do to improve equality, diversity and inclusion and we are committed to playing our part.
Wellbeing is at our heart, developing resources to maintain competency provides practical skills retention solutions, and diversity is an all-encompassing commitment for us.
We’ve also been heartened by the support from within. What a great feeling of togetherness our pilots and cabin crew around the world have shown. The willingness of people to offer their time for free as volunteers to help others has been incredible to witness. But, also those who have offered their support to deliver webinars over the past year.
Since we launched our weekly #wednesdaywebinar feature we have been proud to host a raft of incredible speakers on a variety of topics. By our one year milestone, we will have hosted 47 #wednesdaywebinar's which have been attended by anywhere between 30 and 500 crew; and in January 2021 we launched monthly #CrewRoomChats to plug the gap left by the absence of crew room and cruise banter.
When we launched Resilient Crew in April 2021, we also launched two more regular, online events: #TuesdayTuneIns (currently hosted fortnightly and now alternating with fortnightly #CrewRoomChats) and monthly #its5oclocksomewhere socials (remember that justification when you arrive at your down route hotel ‘well, it’s 5oclock somewhere….’?!
Our Resilient Pilot and Resilient Crew network is now 5,000 strong and continues to grow; and we’ve maintained our position to not make money out of our colleague’s misfortune.
We are not-for-profit.
What little revenue we generate covers basic costs, but we are actively seeking funding and revenue generating options to be able to sustain Resilient Pilot, recompense those who commit their time to it; and continue offering and evolving our support to meet the needs of our members around the world.
The impact of the pandemic on our industry and the people who love it is, sadly, going to be felt for a good few years yet. We also believe that there is now a far greater appreciation for the need to have a greater focus on wellbeing across our industry, so we believe what Resilient Pilot and Resilient Crew offer, will be valued even beyond the recovery.
Providing we can secure funding, we are here for as long as we are needed.
Karen is Resilient Pilot's Co-Founder and CEO. For further information on the resources available to help Pilots and Cabin Crew stay 'Supported, Current and Connect' visit the rest of our website here.