Lucy Tardrew: Pilot

What was it that initially triggered your interest in flying and aviation?
Being accepted into the University Air Squadron – I was hooked after my first lesson!

How did you decide that you wanted to become a pilot?
Once I got the flying bug, there was nothing else that I would have considered for my career.

Once you decided you wanted to follow a career in aviation, what were your initial steps to turn this ambition into reality?
I spent six months in Texas getting my US Commercial Pilot’s Licence and then six months in San Diego as a flight instructor.

How would you advise somebody who aspires to do the same?
The route that I took has now been made much more difficult by the CAA, as they like future pilots to go through the entire course with an approved school. This has, however, made initial training much more expensive.

What general advice would you give to aspiring pilots?

1. Book an aviation medical to ensure that you are not colourblind and that you don’t have an underlying medical condition that would prevent you from gaining a Class One medical certificate.

2. If you are set on becoming a pilot, then bypass university and spend the money on flying training instead.

3. Commitment, persistence, determination and perseverance are qualities that are all needed to get through the intensive training course, as it’s a long, demanding and at times extremely difficult course.

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
I got my private pilot’s licence aged 21 and joined Virgin seven years later.

Which aspect of your journey into aviation did you find most enjoyable?
My most enjoyable and interesting aviation experience was flying small executive jets (Learjets); the aircraft was great fun and challenging to fly and the work undertaken was very varied, such as air ambulance and transporting VIPs to various destinations.

Which aspect of your journey did you find most challenging?
Getting my first job! After qualifying as a pilot I spent six months looking for a job, as an airline had just folded and there were a huge number of experienced pilots on the market.

If you had your time again, would there be anything you’d have done differently? If so, why?
No – I have loved everything about my career in aviation!

Why Virgin Atlantic?
It’s simply the best long-haul airline to work for, in my opinion!  The routes, aircraft, working conditions and operational support are all exceptional, but it is the PEOPLE that make it the best airline!

Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
I have just been trained to assess future pilots at interview, so I am looking forward to ensuring that the calibre of our pilots continues to be of a very high level.

What women have inspired you?
The adventures of all the aviation pioneers such as Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson and Beryl Markham really intrigued me when I was starting out. In other fields, Tracy Edwards, Ellen MacArthur and Dee Caffari have all really inspired me with their achievements at sea.

How do you think women’s equality has evolved and what needs to happen next?
I think that people’s perceptions of the male and female role have evolved, but there is still some way to go.  Ultimately, there is no reason why there can’t be an equal number of male and female pilots, so that the standard stereotype of a pilot can be dismissed. This will only happen if more girls consider a career in aviation, as there is still a real imbalance at the pilot training stage.

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