Pilot Profiles: Ben Bohan-Jones

What was it that initially triggered your interest in Flying and Aviation?
Both my Father and Grandfather were in the RAF as Engineers. They both followed their careers into civil aviation which saw me get regular visits to the hangar as a child and visits to the flight deck during flights to and from family holidays. I remember vividly the amazing panoramic view from the flight deck windows, the sheer amount of instruments and switches and how I just didn’t want to return to my seat. My grandparents lived relatively close to Heathrow Airport; I remember my Father and I sneaking out to go and watch the departures and arrivals from the airport which inevitably escalated and contributed to my early interests in aviation.

How did you decide that you wanted to become a Pilot?
Having always known I wanted to pursue a career in aviation, I joined the Air Training Corps at the age of 15 with the recommendation of a neighbour, I didn’t really know what to expect. Within two weeks of being enrolled, I experienced my first flight in a light aircraft , the RAFs Grob Tutor. To this day, I still haven’t forgotten the adrenaline rush and sheer excitement I felt during that flight. What was a 20 minute flight felt like 5 minutes. I took every opportunity I could to do more flying which led to a powered Gliding Scholarship which saw me achieve my first solo at the age of 16. It was this moment of flying an aircraft solo that gave me the confidence to know that I could pursue this as a career.

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?
Following my solo flight, I applied to go back to the Squadron as a staff cadet and was successful. Every weekend was given up to volunteering at the Squadron to show them my dedication and commitment. This was eventually rewarded with further flying training which after a very enjoyable two years saw me attain my probationary instructor & eventually senior instructor rating at the age of 18 and 20 respectively. Alongside this, I was still attending my local Air Training Corps Squadron, where I was awarded various flying scholarships leading to my PPL. Not going to University, I worked in various Finance roles during the week to earn a living whilst instructing and flying privately at weekends to build hours and help fund my intention of attaining my commercial license.

My advice to others is without doubt to join the RAF Air Cadets and obtain a membership for The Air League. Both organisations give you a great foundation, teach you many skills and can help make flying more affordable through Scholarships and funding. It allows you to participate in activities that others might not have the opportunity to do, inspiring new interests you might never have otherwise known and importantly makes you stand out from the crowd that little bit more.  I would also recommend studying (where possible) scientific/mathematic subjects to make the theoretical side of flying a lot easier.

What general advice would you give to aspiring Pilots?
Never lose sight of the end goal. Always remember that initial spark which ignited your interest in Flying/Aviation. You may experience setbacks, challenges that might seem unachievable, however with  motivation, determination and hard work you will get there. It is an industry that is going to test you for the rest of your career so expect regular challenges. Try and immerse yourself in aviation at various levels, it will help broaden your understanding of the industry giving relevant life experience also. Take part in challenges or events that might push you out of your comfort zone, you will learn a lot about yourself!

How long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
From my first solo, to flying my first commercial passenger flight it has taken 12 years. However in practical terms of applying for airline schemes, it took me approximately 4 years following rejections and setbacks along the way.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find to be most enjoyable?
My whole journey has been enjoyable, it’s difficult to define a single aspect as the journey has been so complex and varied. Points that stand out the most are probably meeting so many new people who I now consider to be friends for life. Flying an empty Airbus Jet for the first time was an incredibly moment in my journey and one I will never forget, it was a brilliant conclusion to the end of training and a huge motivation to begin a new career.

Which aspect of your journey into Aviation did you find most challenging?
Having never considered myself an academic, I felt the ATPL ground school syllabus and exams to be the most challenging part. It was an intense period of 6 months where we had to pass 14 exams on various theoretical subjects. It was certainly a huge learning curve where I learnt that something which may seem impossible really is achievable with some grit and hard work.

If you had your time again, would there be anything that you may have done differently? If so, why?
There isn’t much I can say I would do differently, as each set back, challenge or decision has in some way led to me flying for Virgin Atlantic. However, I feel that studying more scientific/mathematical based subjects during further education would have been an advantage to my theoretical studies.

Why Virgin Atlantic?
As cliché as it sounds, I’ve always been inspired by Richard Branson and his ethos to work after reading a number of his books. Having worked in various roles before becoming a Pilot, I knew that working for Virgin Atlantic was a completely different environment, one of family, inclusion, fun and stepping outside of the ordinary. The Virgin experience that is so widely spoken about is truly unique and very desirable to be a part of, so naturally I have always been drawn to the company and the brand.

Which aspect of your future role and career are you most excited about?
I’m most excited about exploring the route network, developing my skills,  meeting new people and hopefully one day in the future being able to fly the next generation of aircraft.

Read about Ben’s time with our flight planning team

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