What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot? This answers both the first two questions in one hit. My Aunt was Cabin Crew, so I spent a fair amount of my childhood on trips to Heathrow and Gatwick and would always be amazed by these huge flying machines. As I got older I spent more time quizzing her on what it was like to fly and then when I went on my first holiday abroad I apparently spent the whole flight with my head glued to the window just watching the world go past, that led to an invite to go up to the cockpit and I was hooked from that point on.
Once you decided you wanted to follow a career in Aviation, what were your initial steps into turning this ambition into reality? How would you advise somebody who aspires to do the same?
With no Air Cadets around me when I was younger I didn’t really consider a career in aviation until I was picking my subjects for higher education. Initially I thought the likelihood of achieving my dream of flying for a living was zero due to suffering with hay fever when I was younger and the costs associated with training. I therefore decided to pursue a career in Engineering with a local Aerospace and Defence Company, thus staying close to aviation and the fact they had a Cessna 152 I could gain my PPL at a reduced cost, which I did back in 2011.
The best piece of advice I can give for anyone who wants to follow a career in Aviation is to never give up and look at all your options. I started out my working life as an Apprentice engineer and still believe that this is the best way into a career in Engineering, I have achieved all the same qualifications as those who went to university but it was all funded by the company I worked for and I was earning along the way. At the same time I was constantly looking at ways to achieve my lifelong ambition to fly, it took over 6 years of applying for all the schemes out there and even wrote a letter to Richard Branson at one point asking if Virgin would run a scheme, two years later they launched the Future Flyers Programme and after twice being unsuccessful I kept working on ways to improve, taking on board the valuable feedback and on my third attempt was offered a coveted place. Nothing that’s worth having, ever comes easily.
How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
I wanted to fly from a very young age, it was only when I started working that I looked at gaining my PPL though, and that journey started back in 2009 when I managed to persuade one of the pilots who flew for the company to instruct me in his spare time, on the company’s Cessna. After a year and half of training I gained my Private Pilot Licence, 6 years on from that I have finally started the journey to become an Airline pilot.
Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
I would say without a doubt the best part for me so far was ‘first solo’ whilst doing my PPL. I can vividly remember it was a cold crisp November Friday afternoon, not a cloud in the sky and after an hour of flying the circuit my instructor, he hopped out and said ‘Why don’t you take it up yourself’. Landing 7 minutes later, being congratulated by Air Traffic Control I finally felt like a Pilot and it is one of those memories that will stay with me forever.
Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find most challenging?
I would say the disappointment of unsuccessful attempts has got to be the most challenging. The whole process from initial application, completing aptitude testing, interviews with the flight school, interviews with the airline and then finally the results take a good few months. For that whole time period it is constantly on your mind and all you think about. Receiving the news that you have been unsuccessful is really hard but that is the reason that you must never give up on something that you want and if you are prepared to put the effort in then you will be rewarded.
If you had your time again, would there be anything that you may have done differently? If so, why?
Perform how I did during my last application on my first attempt with Virgin! In all honestly I probably wouldn’t change much, I value the fact that I have had a career in engineering prior to embarking on my flying career and feel that it has developed me as a person and given me valuable life skills.
Why Virgin Atlantic?
I have always loved how Virgin does everything a little differently. They are constantly looking at how to be different and it really hits a chord with me, they aren’t just a professional airline, they are a professional airline with a personality. The aircraft fleet that they are building is a big attraction as I hope to explain below.
Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
I am really looking forward to flying a multi type fleet. Virgin have one of the youngest aircraft fleets in the world and under the current arrangement I am potentially going to have the opportunity to fly the Airbus A330, A340 and A350, all offering their own challenges and all used for different routes, therefore enabling me to fly the majority of the Virgin network. Pilots can also take on secondary roles within the company, one such role focussing on the engineering / technical side of the aircraft and I am looking forward at using my engineering skills gained during my previous career to add an extra element to my primary role within the company.