INTERVIEW WITH @MEGA.AVIATION
SUNDAY, 28 MAY 2017
I was approached by Pav, an aspiring pilot with a brilliant idea; creating a space online where pilots flying various aircraft can share their experience and advice to those wanting to follow in their footsteps. You can find my original interview at https://megaaviation.wixsite.com/pilotstories, alongside other pilot’s stories to their route to 37,000ft!
1. Tell us what made you want to become a pilot
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to fly. I still vividly remember a conversation I had with my Dad whilst I was still young enough to be having bedtime stories about flying airliners and travelling the World. As I grew older, I would watch the gliders soaring over my home just outside of Newcastle. The club eventually let me join when I was 11 years old after pestering them for a year, and after my first flight in a Puchacz glider I really caught the ‘flying bug!’. My time at the gliding club (and later the Air Cadets) made me realise that I didn’t just love flying, I enjoyed working as part of a team, meeting new people and sharing experiences with those with similar interests to mine. I still feel unbelievably lucky that my job enables me to experience all those things daily!
2. Where did you train and describe your experience training there
I was originally meant to study in Ireland, but unfortunately the company went into liquidation before I had the chance to start. During this time, the Irish Aviation Authority contacted CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and I started shortly after was originally planned, with Oxford honouring my initial entrance exam and deposit with the previous school. I decided an Integrated course was the best way for me to study, and I sat my ATPL Ground School exams in Oxford before going on to do my Multi Engine CPL in Phoenix, Arizona. The final part of my Frozen ATPL took place back in Oxford, where I flew multi-engined aircraft using only its instruments for my Instrument Rating.
3. What aircraft did you fly during your initial training?
As mentioned previously, I started flying gliders, and then I went on to fly Piper Tomahawks in the North West of England. At the time I could use a percentage of gliding hours towards a PPL, but I decided to go the Integrated route for my full Commercial Pilot’s Licence. At Oxford my course were one of the first to fly their brand new Piper Archers, with glass cockpits with Garmin 1000 instruments. We then went back to basics flying multiengine Piper Senecas, with conventional instruments. I believe that Oxford now have an all glass fleet, but I love that I got the chance to fly both!
4. What was your hardest part of training?
As I had previous flying experience, I found the ground school the hardest. Although I’ve always been conscious that maths is important for becoming a pilot, it’s never came naturally to me and I found wrapping my head around a couple of maths heavy subjects such as General Navigation challenging. The ground school was intense, with school exams as well as the 14 ATPL exams adding up to a total of 39 exams in about 6 months. If I didn’t understand a certain subject, I couldn’t focus too much time on it as then the other subjects would suffer. It was definitely a huge lesson in time management, and I had to change my way of learning things as I used to waste time writing pages and pages of notes!
5. What advice would you give to aspiring pilots?
Honestly, becoming a pilot is a huge financial commitment. Ensure you are aware of all the costs involved, the initial flight training, the type rating, any extra exam or flight fees. The company I initially chose to train with went bust, never ever give a flight school the full sum of money at once, and ensure you know exactly who you are giving your money to!
Apart from the financial side, enjoy the flight training, ensure you are prepared and be ready for your whole life to revolve around getting that pilot’s licence; it certainly isn’t easy but you’ll meet some amazing people and have some incredible experiences along the way.
6. What has been your best moment in the air?
It’s hard to choose, there are a few moments flying that I look back on fondly! I was lucky enough to fly 14,000ft in the Canadian Rockies before I was old enough to fly solo in a Duo Discus, which was a whole different league of glider that I was flying back at home.
As part of my flight training at Oxford I had 3 flights Upset Recovery Training in an Extra 300, with an F16 pilot as an instructor. As well as learning new flying skills, I had the opportunity to learn some aerobatics which I’m not sure I’ll ever have the chance to do again, including inverted spins and Lomcováks, as well as flying in formation with @pilot_shi and his instructor (who used to be an astronaut!).
The first time I flew the 737 is a favourite memory too; it was such an incredible feeling advancing those thrust levers for the first time and knowing that all the hard work was worth it!
7. What is your favourite destination to fly to?
I love flying home into Newcastle over the coast past St Mary’s lighthouse, hearing the familiar accent on the other end of the radio, and then departing past the gliding club I learned how to fly.
Apart from home, Lisbon has to be a favourite as I love the approach over the suspension bridge, and I love flying into island destinations with their bright blue waters and sunshine!
8. What is the biggest misconception people have about your job?
A lot of passengers still believe that women are unable to become pilots; British Airways’ studies showed that 20% of those questioned thought that women can only become cabin crew. Their study continued to show that girls didn’t think of flying as a career due to a lack of visible role models, and because they were told it “was a man’s job”.
Often passengers initially think I’m cabin crew, and in the last week alone I’ve had 3 passengers comment on the fact that I was flying the plane. I’m hoping that by the end of my career that it’s commonplace for women to fly planes too!
9. Was there something you wish you did prior to starting your flight training that would be beneficial for aspiring pilots to do?
I feel lucky that I’ve wanted to become a pilot from such a young age; I don’t think I would have done anything differently! spent my summer in the year before taking my GCSEs writing to every airline I could think of asking for career advice, and I was always very focused on the end goal of a career in aviation. I feel that gliding was a fantastic way to start, and I gained a lot of useful experience from my time in the UK’s Air Training Corps too.
I was unlucky with the flight school I was initially going to use going into liquidation, and looking back I was naive in believing that after achieving my frozen ATPL I wouldn’t have to invest more money to achieve that end goal. There were hidden costs along the way from the beginning, and it’s rare for an airline now to pay your type rating. Advice I received was from a different generation of pilots, and I hope current pilots will be honest talking those aspiring to fly about the financial side of things!