Pilot Profiles: Victoria Smith

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
I have had an interest in planes and aviation for as long as I can remember. My dad is a serious ‘avgeek’ and he took me for my first flight in a Cessna 152 when I was 18 months old. Growing up I found myself at every air show and air museum that we could get to. When I was 9 years old we went to see the red arrows and I told my dad that one day that was what I wanted to do.. fast forward a few years and I finally got the opportunity to fly something red – just a little bigger!

How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot?
This interest in aviation continued all the way through school. At around 14 years old I had the opportunity to sit in the flight deck of a flight that my uncle was in command of. I was fascinated and it was not long after that I found myself telling the school careers advisor that I wanted to be a pilot. Her response was ‘that’s not really a ladies job, why don’t you consider cabin crew?’ – which made me want to do it even more! When I left school I worked as cabin crew for 10 years but I was always determined to end up on the other side of the flight deck door. I learnt so much flying as cabin crew and I tried to make the most of every opportunity it gave me. The skills I developed being cabin crew have been extremely valuable throughout my training.

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 applying for various cadet schemes when I was around 20 years old and each time I would get a stage further. You have to be resilient and instead of getting down about a rejection make sure you learn from it and try again. Eventually I secured a place on an airline cadet scheme but the biggest hurdle for me was finance. I wasn’t able to fund the course and in the end I had to turn it down. Schemes such as the VAA Future Flyers scheme are opening up the career to people who otherwise might not have had the opportunity. My biggest piece of advice is – don’t give up!!

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Do whatever you can to immerse yourself in the industry. There are opportunities to work as cabin crew, ground crew or behind the scenes in the office and operations. Every bit of experience you can get will benefit you and all of these jobs will help you develop skills that will be valuable down the line. If working in the industry isn’t something that you can do then join the air cadets – even as an adult you can join as an instructor and they will train you up (this was my next port of call had this not happened – they were processing my paperwork when I got the call to say I had got this job!). It will involve putting in a lot of hours but is a fantastic opportunity to get involved and hopefully meet some interesting people.

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
A long time! I applied for my first cadet scheme when I was around 20 years old (I’m now 31). My struggles with regards to funding the training myself combined with the fact that things had slowed down a bit for ‘cadets’ in the industry meant I left it for a few years. Eventually I received the e-mail advertising the Future Flyers scheme and remember thinking that sounds like winning the lottery! I successfully applied when I was 27. This was followed by almost 2 years of external training, eventually joining the airline almost 2 years ago.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
I think my favourite day so far has been base training – this is where you take the plane you are going to be working on and fly it for the first time. You fly between 6 and 12 take-offs and landings with a training captain next to you and it’s the most amazing feeling. This was made even more special by the fact that we took the plane to Prestwick near Glasgow (I spent 8 years in Scotland so I see it as my 2nd home!).

Why Virgin Atlantic?
Virgin Atlantic have always been an airline I have aspired to work for (in fact it was one of the first airlines I applied to as cabin crew at 18 years old – I didn’t get in!). The brand has a great presence in the industry – the airline is pioneering and fun but it also feels like a family. It really is a great place to work!

 

 

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