Pilot Profiles: Cam Chapman

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
My father was a Navigator on Tornado GR4s in the RAF and I grew up around RAF stations, so that’s where my initial passion for flying came from.

How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot?
Really it was in my early teen years that I decided I didn’t want to have to do a Mon-Fri 9-5 job that other people seemed to moan about. To know that if you put in the effort that you can be paid to do you passion for work was hugely motivating and as a young teenager I made the decision at this point that this was the career dream for me.

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?
I started to get involved in activities at school like the CCF to help develop me in some of my weaker areas. Sounds cliché but hard work for A-levels allowed me to get into my University of choice to study Air Transport Management – a degree aimed at widening my industry knowledge and understanding. I joined the UAS – University Air Squadron – an RAF volunteer reserve unit which provided flying training, adventure training, and personal development for university students. This further developed me and got me involved in my first real chance to lead people. In terms of advice for others, I’d certainly consider joining a local cadet unit or a gliding squadron, and doing things outside of your comfort zone that develop and push you.

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Hard work never stops – seems like there’s just one hurdle after another but eventually you taste the real thing. It’s important to have goals along the way to keep motivated otherwise you can lose sight of the end goal – i.e. go flying, go solo, get ppl, pass ground exams etc. Every step is a success. It’s also not necessary to do a degree, but University personally helped me develop, and was it not for University I would not be the person I am today and I would not have passed selection – I didn’t have the life experience before that.

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
If we take it from when I joined university, that’s 6 years. But really the journey started before that.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
For me, it was developing my understanding of the industry and learning things I didn’t know – every tidbit of info seemed interesting and just reaffirmed my belief that this was the industry for me.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find most challenging?
The recruitment process. It’s extremely challenging and competitive for some schemes. A huge amount preparation is required, and it’s very easy to get bogged down by the number of applicants and forget that you exactly the same chances as the next person.

Why Virgin Atlantic?
Virgin were one of the only airlines offering a sponsored cadet scheme which offered significantly less risk than other options. The chance to very quickly start flying long haul was also a big pull. I’d also heard about the Virgin work culture – and its true – infectious fun, can-do attitude and a happy workplace – this was evident in my interview for the scheme, and I knew coming out of the interview that no matter what, I had to work for Virgin in some way, even if it wasn’t as a pilot.

Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
Given my degree and general interest for the industry, I’d really like to get involved in some management roles later in my career whist continuing to fly. In the meantime I’m really looking forward to gaining experience on the road to command – a big personal goal.

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