Pilot Profiles: Chris Harrison

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
Coming from a non-aviation background as a youngster and going on family holidays I have always wanted to fly. My first long haul flight to Florida was with Virgin Atlantic. There was something magical about the whole idea of flying.

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 joined the Air Training Corps at 13, completed my Duke of Edinburgh award, flew at various RAF stations with the cadets for free and did numerous sailing qualifications. I would advise someone not to be just run of the mill – education is important but everyone has GCSEs, A-Levels and a Degree these days. You need to stand out from the crowd and show willingness to do something different and out of your comfort zone. The Air Cadets and Duke of Edinburgh Award offers this relatively easily and economically. After leaving school there were no sponsorships and I ended up self funding my flight training. I visited various flying schools to find the best place to gain my flying licence.

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Determination, determination and more determination. You might think it’s all autopilot, nice hotels, sunny destinations etc but when you’re in flight school learning about principles of flight and some navigation equipment which hasn’t been used since the 1960s it’s sometimes difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Your heart has to be in it from the beginning but the rewards are definitely there to be reaped.

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
I’m now 35, I started modular ATPL course when I was 19. When I started it took a long time to get an airline job so I became I flying instructor for a year. I paid for a type rating which included a job with Ryanair on the B737. I’ve always wanted to work for Virgin Atlantic and applied as soon as I had the required hours. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be for the time being so I moved on to Jet2.com and then to Qatar Airways flying the Boeing 777. With long haul experience up my sleeve I applied to Virgin Atlantic again and was offered an interview. I’ve now been working at Virgin Atlantic for 2 months and loving every minute!

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
All of it has been enjoyable in strange ways. I’ve met a lot of people from different parts of the world, some friends for life (thank you Facebook!). I’ve experienced low cost airlines through to a Middle Eastern 5 star airline, been to some weird and wonderful places but the most enjoyable part for me would be finding out I’d passed my assessment for Virgin Atlantic. I’m still not convinced it has sunk in just yet.

Why Virgin Atlantic?
Virgin Atlantic was the first airline I ever flew long haul with so there was always that happy memory in the back of my mind. Virgin Atlantic has a reputation worldwide for being prestigious, fun and dynamic. At Virgin Atlantic you are a person and not a number when speaking to anyone in the company, having only been here a couple of months I have settled really well.  During the first week of training we were taken out for dinner by our managers, in other industries this may sound completely normal but at previous airlines this never happened!

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