A380 Senior First Officer
Current location/base: Dubai
Previous airline: CityJet
Previous roles: Ordnance Survey Pilot, Flight Operations Coordinator
Uni degree? I am halfway through a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics
Airline training route: Integrated ATPL(f)
ATOs attended: 43 Air School (South Africa), Bristol Flying Centre and Bristol Ground School (to convert my ICAO licence to a UK one)
Why did you want to become a pilot?
I grew up living between Duxford and Stansted airports and I used to love listening to the big jets flying overhead, and seeing old bi-planes occasionally zooming about. I was so interested in airplanes - where they were going, who was flying them.
My first holiday abroad with my family, we flew from Gatwick on a BAE146 and the flight was the best part of the holiday for me. I remember the pilot showing me and my sister the cockpit, and letting me press a button which made the airplane turn (in hindsight it was clearly just a light switch) but I was absolutely hooked!
As I grew older, my favourite subject was Physics - finding out how things worked - so after my ‘A’ levels I took myself down to a local flying school to have a trial lesson and that was that.
How did you fund your training?
A loan from HSBC and some generous assistance from my parents. I worked in between finishing my training in South Africa and converting to my UK licence in order to save up to fund the conversion training.
Was training a breeze or did you find it a challenge?
Training is all about learning your strengths and weaknesses. There were definitely some things I found easier, and some harder, and actually this is the same all through your career - I think learning that you need to work on some things, and develop others is a big part of becoming a better pilot.
What was most challenging?
For me, it was my confidence. Trusting myself that I knew what to do, and not beating myself up too much when I got something a little wrong. I remember being so nervous about going out to practice spins solo that I hid behind a hill and did orbits for 40 minutes and then told my instructor I had done a bunch of spins. Another student told on me and I was sent back out the next day with strict instructions not to chicken out again. I finally forced myself to do one and it went fine. Once I started to relax and trust myself a bit, it became much easier and more enjoyable.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The challenge of it - every day is different. You are exposed to such a variety of environments, people, challenges, cultures, countries... it is always exciting and rewarding. As a long haul pilot I have been fortunate to travel a fair amount and visit some incredible places I never would have otherwise have seen. I have landed into Basra in Iraq, seen hundreds of tiny fireworks displays over the UK from 35,000’, and flown over the North Pole. I also love how dynamic the industry is - it is always growing and expanding and there is such a world of opportunity for anyone in it, if you’re prepared to work and learn.
What is most challenging about your job?
Early on in my career, I would have said the constant assessments because sim checks are stressful. But as I’ve gained more experience I think now I would say managing your own work-life balance. It can be fatiguing, and you do miss out on family events and things with friends, so you have to focus on the great aspects of the job and not let the stressful side take away from that.
Which Pilot Competencies are of most interest to you?
To be honest, I love how they all link with the others. You cannot have good decision making without good situational awareness, you cannot create a good team environment without good communication. They are always evolving, and as a pilot you are always developing your own methods and skills.
Anything else you would add?
I’ve been doing a little mentoring through online chats on LinkedIn and a via website I run. I have coached a small number of people while they were studying for their ATPL theory exams as well, and done some presentations in schools on the pilot life and how to become a pilot.