B737 Captain, TRI (A), TKI and MCCI
Current location/base: EMA
Previous airlines: DHL, Atlantic Airlines
Previous roles: My previous career was as an industrial chemist
Uni degree? Ph.D. in Polymer Chemistry and Microbiology
Do you speak any other languages? Greek (native), French, German (both to a conversational standard)
Airline training route: Modular ATPL
ATOs attended: Cabair (ATPL ground school), Oxford Aviation Academy (CPL, ME), Coulson Flying services (IR)
Why did you want to become a pilot?
I always loved being taken to the airport by my granddad in Athens and watch aircraft. Those were the days when one could get up close and personal as it were, and the aircraft were smoky and noisy. I loved it! However, there were no opportunities then as there are now, especially in Greece. I compare it to a child wanting nowadays to become an astronaut. They may aspire to it, but they will probably not think of making a career out of it. So, I pursued my other big love which was chemistry. Having undertaken all my academic studies in the UK, I soon worked out that it was perhaps possible to make a career out of flying. But then I had no money. It took a lot of years working as a technical manager before I could go to the bank manager and ask him for loan upon loan upon loan. And he never knew what I was doing with the money until the very end!
How did you fund your training?
Out of my own pocket
Was training a breeze or did you find it a challenge?
It was challenging alright! Firstly the money. Thankfully, I have a very understanding and supportive wife (that makes a huge difference) who made it possible for most of my money to go towards funding my habit.
Then it was the time. I simply could not afford to resign from my very demanding job and do an integrated course. Also, being in my mid 30s at the time, I went into it with my eyes wide open, knowing that it may never come to anything. So, I was working 7 days a week on my day job and 7 nights a week studying for my ATPL ground school. Sleeping, I kept on saying to myself, is for wimps.
And then came the flying part. Up to that point, I could do everything under the radar as far as my day job was concerned. However, for the CPL and ME, I had to go for six weeks to Arizona. So I took some unpaid leave giving very little and misleading information as to why I needed it! With the CPL under my belt, I then had to tackle the IR. The unpaid leave card had been played and I didn’t feel that it would do my career any good trying it again. So I had to think even more creatively. At my company, we had to take a weeks’ holiday between Christmas and New Year and I could take all my annual leave (3 weeks) early January which would give me a four week window in which to do my IR (yes, in the middle of the great British winter). Now all I needed was an instructor who was as crazy as I was and who would not mind working 7 days a week for this particular 4 weeks. Enter David Coulson at Cranfield. A cantankerous old Yorkshireman who simply said,” if you turn up, then I will be here”. So we started on the 23rd of December and finished on the 19th of January with only New Year’s day off.
What was most challenging?
The time/money matrix.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The fact that I am doing for a living what I have worked so hard to achieve. In my various training roles I also try to instil a sense of fun in the teaching I provide to my students. People learn much more readily in a relaxed environment. We have all been in the presence of uninspiring instructors who make us question whether it is all really worth it. I want my students to look forward to coming to work and to learn from their mistakes in a nurturing and positive environment.
What is most challenging about your job?
French ATC strikes. Definitely.
Which Pilot Competencies are of most interest to you?
It is impossible to look at them in isolation. When one is weak, then it will undoubtedly have an impact on others. I am of the view that one has to be critical of their performance and not be afraid to admit to weaknesses. It is the only way that we truly learn and become better as pilots and, indeed, as human beings.
Anything else: I have not been a mentor before - officially at least. However, I seem to be asked quite often to offer advice and guidance to aspiring pilots as well as to some who have been flying for a while but have been affected by COVID-19.
I know what struggle is all about. I have been there. I have great empathy for people attempting a career change, or simply trying to make sense of a confusing time or situation. It feels as if nobody is there to lend a sympathetic ear and give some advice when we most need it. Having a varied work background and a healthy amount of life experience, I can provide a different perspective when one is at a crossroads and unsure on how to proceed.