Pilot Profiles: Steve Gardner

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?

My first memory of aviation was being taken to Heathrow by my grandparents aged five. We would jump on the bus from Kingston and head for the old viewing platform at Terminal 2.  The hustle and bustle of the apron and the magic surrounding the ability of an airliner to fly definitely sparked my interest in aviation.

How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot?
After a career in the London Ambulance Service as a Paramedic, I decided to reignite my interest in aviation after realising life is far too short. It’s incredibly easy to disregard a career as a pilot as unachievable. I would frequently tell myself it’s a job for academics or the wealthy, both of which I am not. Whilst desperately seeking a route into the flight deck, I came across the Virgin Atlantic Future Flyers programme. It wanted applicants with life experience rather than first class honours and financial support other airlines were not offering. I decided to apply for the programme and soon found myself swapping the front seat of an ambulance for the front seat of one of the worlds most sophisticated commercial jets.

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 would advise anyone with a passion for flying to fight the urge to dismiss it based on background or finances. There are various routes to take to achieve your aspirations of flying and one of the most common themes when talking to fellow cadet pilots is their enthusiasm and commitment to turning their dream into a reality.

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Don’t give up! If you really want to do it you will find a way. Dismiss the opinions of others who dismiss your aspirations and dreams.

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
From first applying for the Future Flyers programme to now has been three years. The application process took approximately one year and I am now approaching the end of my training.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
Operating one of the most expensive and complicated flight simulators has been incredibly enjoyable. I have spent a number of months during my training flying the simulators, from a relatively simple task like starting the engines to managing critical engine failures on take off.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find most challenging?
When I applied for the programme my son Charlie was three years old. It was a huge decision to spend a large proportion of the next two years away from him however I knew a large part of this journey was for him and he was my inspiration throughout this whole process.

If you had your time again, would there be anything that you may have done differently? If so, why?
There are aspects of the training which causes stress and anxiety and its down to you to manage those feelings. If I had my time again I would trust myself more and and appreciate what an incredible journey this is.

Why Virgin Atlantic?
Virgin Atlantic has always been a brand I have been familiar with from seeing them take off whilst stood on the viewing platform at terminal two all those years ago to taking my wife, Chloe and I on our honeymoon to Antigua. They promote a family way of working and create a real sense of belonging from the beginning.

Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
I cannot wait to not only fly a jet around the world and meet all the different people that comes with it but to tell my son that his Dad followed his dreams and is now a pilot for Virgin Atlantic.

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