Steve worked at our school as a flight instructor before moving on to a role with the airline.
He reflects on his early days learning to fly, life working as an instructor before sharing his exciting news about a promotion with his employer, Loganair.
For some, learning to fly is an interest sparked by an early experience or inspiration from family, for others it's ingrained. Steve is someone who acknowledged his love of aviation early on, as he explains:
Throughout my childhood, I'd been interested in aircraft and aviation. I think that initially, it was the mystery of it all; how aeroplanes fly, and all the complicated systems they use. I used to watch the aircraft take off and land at my local airfield with my dad. It wasn't until I was nearing the end of my GSCEs when I knew that becoming a pilot was what I wanted to do.
After deciding that becoming a pilot was my ideal career, I continued with my A-levels with the intention of enrolling on a university course combined with practical training. I thought it was best to have a trial flight to see if I liked flying; until this point, I hadn't flown except for going on holiday. There is nothing that compares to taking off and being hands-on at the controls. I was in complete awe. Flying was most certainly one of the more memorable moments in my life.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE FTA FOR YOUR PILOT TRAINING?
After finishing the university course, I started my hour building over the Summer of 2015 and began searching for a flight school where I could train towards the CPL and IR courses. A friend pointed me in the direction of FTA after we had discussed the pros and cons of some of the more prominent flight schools.
IN PARTICULAR, I WAS WON AROUND BY THE VALUE FOR MONEY OFFERED BY FTA. THEY HAD A MODERN FLEET, OPERATING FROM A BEAUTIFUL AIRFIELD LOCATED ON THE SOUTH COAST and SEEMED VERY PROFESSIONAL, FRIENDLY AND RELAXED.
Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to view the school (something I would recommend doing), but I certainly wasn't disappointed when I arrived for my first day.
Before securing a role with an airline, Steve spent some time teaching others to fly at FTA. 'The top 10 skills required to become a Flight Instructor' is an article we recently covered on our blog (click here to read more). An exemplary student himself, Steve seemed to be the perfect candidate to teach others to fly...
WHY DID YOU TRAIN TO BECOME A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR?
Becoming an instructor was something I'd considered after finishing my flight training, although I didn't look into it much more than that. I was lucky enough to be offered a job with FTA on the Operations desk, and the more I became involved with the company, the more an instructor role appealed to me. As luck would have it, I received a call asking if I was interested in becoming a flight instructor for FTA, as part of a new partly-sponsored apprenticeship affiliated with the Honourable Company of Air Pilots.
HOW DOES LIFE AS AN AIRLINE PILOT COMPARE WITH THAT OF AN INSTRUCTOR?
There are undoubtedly many differences as you'd expect, but also many similarities. Within an airline the goal is to transport passengers/mail to their required destinations, and so really the job is getting from A to B. Whereas with instructing, the aim is to teach a student how to fly, so much more emphasis on the flight is focused on bettering the flying technique rather than just travelling to a destination.
Some of the similarities relate to the structure of the pre-flight and flight duties. For example, before the flight itself various pieces of paperwork need to be completed; the tech-log, load-sheets etc. During the flight itself, the basic checklists and flight monitoring aspects are completed at the same point, and the techniques learnt in a flight lesson are the same techniques used when flying with an airline.
DO YOU HAVE ANY REGRETS (IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY)?
The only thing that disappointed me is the fact that money was tight when I was hour-building. As such it meant I didn't have the money to pay for landing fees. I would have loved to explore lots of airfields and surrounding areas, but unfortunately, I wasn't able to. Hindsight is a beautiful thing though. Who's to say if I'd started my training at a different time, gone to a different school, decided not to become an instructor etc., that I would be in a different place than I am today? I am delighted with my career at the moment, and consider myself to be extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to become an instructor working in such a beautiful part of the country. It's also led me to my current airline job with Loganair so I'd say everything's worked out pretty well, I certainly have no regrets.
I MAY BE BIASED, BUT I WOULD STRONGLY ENCOURAGE ANYBODY TO BECOME AN INSTRUCTOR. FOR ME, ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT REWARDS WAS GOING THROUGH THE TRAINING PROCESS AND SEEING A STUDENT PASS THEIR TESTS AND KNOWING THAT WAS BECAUSE OF MY INSTRUCTION.
But there are various other benefits as well. I think any instructor would agree with me when I say you learn to fly an aircraft when you become an instructor. After passing the CPL and IR courses I thought I must be a relatively good pilot, but becoming an instructor takes you to a whole new level of ability.
Flying skills are seriously enhanced, multi-tasking and flight management abilities are improved, along with communication and decision-making skills.
People often say "I can tell you used to be an instructor" now I work for an airline. I believe it helped a lot with getting my job. So whether you want to become a career instructor or even want to bridge the gap between training and an airline job, instructing will undoubtedly pay dividends.
WHAT ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS DO YOU THINK AN INSTRUCTOR NEEDS?
Indeed, many of the skills used as an instructor are learnt or improved throughout the FI course itself and the subsequent flight instruction. Flying abilities need to be relatively good; the flight instruction course includes a "pre-entry flight assessment" to assess necessary skills. I think they're mainly looking to see if you can fly and communicate at the same time, one the significant requirements when teaching. In my view, the biggest asset to an instructor is that they are passionate about what they're doing and want to teach.
It is a win-win for the student and instructor if they have this quality. As the one providing that training, you want to be the very best pilot and instructor you can be, which allows the student to be the very best pilot they can be, something that happens when you enjoy what you do. I couldn't think of anything worse as a student if I was being taught by an instructor that wasn't that fussed about the job.
DESCRIBE YOUR TYPICAL DAY AS AN AIRLINE PILOT
A typical day for me now consists of meeting with the rest of the crew at our report time, collecting the paperwork, assessing the weather and any relevant NOTAMs and deciding the fuel required for the flight. Once this is complete, we make our way through security and head to the aircraft to prepare the flight deck and cabin before boarding the passengers. Sticking to our schedule is an important aspect, so we have to make sure that we complete all our duties in good time. During the flight, we keep a log of any clearances given to us by ATC, monitor the fuel, again asses the weather and prepare and brief for our landing. On some day we can fly up to 6 flights, and when we're not carrying passengers, we're transporting cargo for Royal Mail to the Scottish Islands or operating the night shift flying cargo down to East Midlands.
Working as an instructor followed a similar pattern, I would come in the morning and see what the schedule looked like, work out how and when I would need to brief the students and any specifics that the lessons need to include. You check the Weather and NOTAMs with the student, (before the flight). After a brief for the particular lesson both the student and myself would head to the aircraft and conduct the flight, allowing the student to do as much as possible, and provide instruction where necessary. On return, we would fill out the aircraft tech-log with the flight times and debrief any critical points from the flight, both good and not so good.
WHAT DID YOUR INSTRUCTOR TRAINING INCLUDE?
My training comprised initially of a precourse assessment flight to see if I would be a suitable candidate for the course. Then I started on the ground-school which initially explained techniques on how to teach and the use of communication. As the course progressed, I was taught how to brief, teach and debrief each lesson. As for the flight itself the instructor leading the course would teach myself, then in the next lesson, I would return the lesson and "teach the teacher" (a common phrase used on the course)!
I also had to give "long briefs" which would involve a presentation of some description aimed at providing a more in-depth description of the aircraft systems or particular flying techniques. At the end of the course, there is a final flight test which involves a "long-brief" on a particular subject, a preflight brief for the lesson to be taught during the flight and a debrief after the flight. During the flight once departed the "lesson" would begin, followed by a safety element such as stalling, possibly a navigation element and whatever else the examiner decides to throw at you! An exciting part of the course is spinning which may be conducted as a separate flight. You learn the skills to enter, but more importantly how to recover from a spin, a fun flight especially for an aerobatic enthusiast.
WHAT DID YOUR AIRLINE PILOT TRAINING CONSIST OF (AFTER FTA)?
My first week with Loganair consisted of filling paperwork and meeting various members of staff from the head office in Glasgow. During the latter part of the week, we received training with regards to dangerous goods, first aid, and crew resource management along with many more subjects. After this, I was sent to Stockholm for five to six weeks for the type rating where our simulator was located. The type rating provides training on systems and flight operations for a specific aircraft type. The course had two elements, the first of which started with computer-based ground-school training on all the aircraft systems, with a multiple choice test at the end. The second part was practical instruction in the aircraft which again covered all the systems but mainly focused on the emergencies, in particular, engine failures. Again a test at the end, of course, was completed by a Loganair examiner.
Back in Scotland the line-training begins which involve more training on actual passenger flights, as incorporating all the newly-learnt skills from the sim when flying for real can be difficult. This part of the training standardises the company's standard operating procedures and also focuses on pilot monitoring aspects of the flight. In these flights, you get to see first-hand weather, technical, ATC and passenger issues. At the end of the course, there is a final line-check to ensure you meet the required standard, providing this is passed you are released online as an airline pilot.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE AS A PILOT...
At this point, I don't have any specific plans for the future.
I do miss the instructing side of flying so progressing towards training captain, or going back and completing the instructor upgrade courses would be great.
Aside from that, for now, I'll build some experience as captain for a year or two, and see what opportunities await after that.