June 16, 2019
To celebrate Father’s Day we chatted with three high-flying Virgin Atlantic dads, along with their sons or daughters.
They all work here at the airline, in safety critical roles, which means they sometimes have to work together. But what exactly is it like to work with your nearest and dearest? And what’s the flipside? It turns out bumping into your dad at work can be very cool.
Bob Ilett is one of our captains and his daughter Claire is a turnaround officer. Two very different roles, working closely together to make sure everything and everyone is onboard and ready to go before a flight departs. Both jobs come with heaps of responsibility and you need to be able to deal with all sorts of unexpected situations during the countdown to departure. We asked Bob and Claire what it was like the first time they were allocated the same flight:
“It was quite a long time ago now but I remember being excited and scared at the same time,” Claire says. “I was proud to be working with him, but equally as eager for everything to go completely smoothly. No problems or delays. Luckily it was all plain sailing, and to date we have a 100% OTP (on time departure) record when working together, though hopefully this blog post isn’t tempting fate!”
“The first time Claire was due to despatch my flight I think we were both a little nervous about it,” continues Bob. “There was much banter from our colleagues in the check in area and on board, so the pressure was on! Once we got into it, though, it was a departure as any other. Claire was, and still is, very professional and diligent in her role, and of course the departure was a few minutes ahead of schedule, and we even managed a couple of photos for posterity. Our 100% OTP record is still intact, and long may it last – subject to it being a safe one, as I’m sure Claire would agree.”
Roy Novell is a technician in our engineering team at Heathrow and responsible for dispatching aircraft. His job involves signing over the aircraft to the captain before departure. And sometimes, the captain happens to be his son Chris. We asked him about growing up and how his dad influenced his current career:
“My dad didn’t try to push me in to aviation, however, it was obvious from an early age (about 5) that I had a keen interest in flying.
“He was obviously delighted at this and always supported me as I tried to get on the ladder. My first experience in light aircraft flying was in aircraft belonging to one of his fellow engineers based in Toronto. I was hooked from that moment. I joined the air cadets, completed an RAF flying scholarship and flew solo at 16 years old. During all this I was able to accompany my dad on some work trips and also managed to get a ringside seat for a 767 engine change in a Heathrow hangar. I was lucky enough to get sponsored by a charter airline and so my professional career began. I’m sure my wife and my mum must get fed up with the aeroplane talk! As for influencing my career choice – he made me realise that I wasn’t clever enough to be an engineer so I became a pilot…
“I’m glad to say that, here at Virgin, we have really great and friendly relationships with the engineers. This comes from mutual respect for our trades. I have a great insight into the engineering profession and understand how skilled they are. As for working together, primarily we keep it professional! It often confuses my colleagues when I call him dad or chat about mum. We have had people not believe we are father and son and have used our IDs to prove it. Hopefully I’ve been a good enough son and he’ll make sure my aircraft is ok. It’s great that he’s able to see me at work and introduce me to his colleagues.”
Roy is understandably proud of what his son has achieved. “When I check his flight out and present him with the logbook for him to accept the aircraft, I just tell him don’t break it because I have to fix it. Then I watch him taxi out and take off and say to myself “that’s my little boy”. When I go onto the flight deck he introduces me to the rest of the crew as his dad!”
John Margetts is also one of our captains, and he sometimes gets to fly with his daughter Shauna who is a member of our cabin crew team. We began by asking him what it’s like to travel the world together, not on an annual family holiday, but as part of the day job.
“I know and really appreciate that it’s a very special thing to be able to take your daughter to work with you, especially when you do such a privileged job as this.
“I absolutely love getting the chance to see the world with Shauna. Pilots are no longer able to show our friends and family the wonderful views we see on the flight deck firsthand, from amazing sunsets over the Atlantic and huge thunderstorms over China, to the breathtaking northern lights. So to be able to share experiences like this with my daughter is very special, and I enjoy every minute of it. We are very close and have always had fun together, especially when travelling, and being able to continue this at work is brilliant.”
Shauna is equally effusive, and has no doubt her dad’s job influenced her career choice. “Yes it did!” she agrees. “I’ve always loved going to work with dad. He always seemed to have such a great time at work so I thought ‘I want to enjoy my job just as much as he does’. Flying with dad is great fun. I’m very proud of him, he’s done every job from fixing planes to flying them. I know if dad’s name is on the roster we are going to have a good trip no matter how short.”
So will any of them be seeing each other on Father’s Day?
“Sadly not,” says Claire. “I will be working at Heathrow, and I believe Dad is off to Barbados but I’m sure we will celebrate, along with my sister, when he’s back. It might take us a few weeks to actually find some time to get together, but we’ll definitely do something!”
“This Father’s Day I’m off and Dad’s working,” says Chris. “My mum also worked shift work so trying to organise getting together has always been challenging. Although I live 300 miles away in Cornwall I see my parents regularly. It turns out they run an excellent all-inclusive free hotel – ideal for a commuting pilot! I have two boys of my own so will be spending it with them at home in Cornwall. I could do with some new socks! Perhaps when Dad finally retires it will be easier. He talks about retiring but I don’t think he could leave his planes. I joke that he will have to use moisturiser on his hands instead of grease and oil!”
“This Father’s Day I will be working and Shauna will be enjoying some time at home,” says John. “Perhaps she might want to look after the dog and her younger sister so I can take mum away?”
”Dad’s off to Boston and I’m on days off so we will have to FaceTime!” Shauna says. “But we’ll have a Father’s Day roast when he’s home.”
Here’s to all the dads out there in the world of aviation – Happy Father’s Day to you all.