Why did you train to be a pilot?

After experiencing my first flight in a light aircraft in my late teens, I immediately developed the desire to become a pilot. Nearly twenty years later, after a career in an unrelated field, I decided it was time to follow my dream.

How did you go about choosing a flying school and what aspects were important to you?

I canvassed opinions of pilot friends and on general aviation flying forums. Then I visited the schools in person. I was looking for a school with a modern fleet of aircraft and an excellent reputation in the industry. Secondary considerations were a location that was commuting distance to home and an airfield with instrument approaches.

How did you find out about FTA?

I first discovered FTA online some years before starting my commercial pilot course. The website and Facebook pages were very useful sources of information as was the visit I made to Shoreham in person.


What qualifications did you take before starting your course?

I didn’t undertake any qualifications specific to aviation as my career was in an unrelated field. I have an honours degree in computer science and a BTEC in electrical and electronic engineering. I also have several professional qualifications related to my previous career. As far as aviation goes, when I started my course, I had a PPL(A) with a night rating and all the experience prerequisites to start the training. I had completed the ATPL theory exams by distance learning.

How long did it take from finishing the course to securing your first interview and your first job offer?

My Commercial Pilot's Licence (CPL) was issued on 19th August, I accepted a job offer on 14th October, and I started the type rating on 13th November - all in the same year.

How did you hear about the job opportunity? Can you tell us a bit more about your role?

As with most industries, networking is hugely important in aviation. I told everyone I spoke to about my plans for changing career. I joined several aviation-related organisations, and I went to meetings, lectures and conferences. It was through one of these contacts that I heard about the opportunity. My role is a First Officer with a passenger airline that flies turboprop aircraft. I fly short-haul regional routes around the UK flying anything from two to six sectors per day.

Can you briefly outline the application/interview process for the role?

As I had heard about this opportunity through my network of contacts, I applied directly to the company by sending my CV and a covering letter. I was interviewed a couple of times over the phone and then put through a simulator assessment. I had to travel to Dublin to undertake an assessment in a full-motion simulator for a type of aircraft that I had never flown before.

An experienced captain and the head of training were in the simulator. I was given a profile in advance which I studied and memorised. It consisted of a SID, some general handling, a hold and a procedural instrument approach and landing. It was both exhilarating and nerve-wracking, but it was a very fair way of assessing candidates’ suitability. They were not looking for perfection, but they needed to assure themselves of a fundamental set of skills on which they could build.

How long have you been in this job and how are you enjoying the role (if applicable).

I’ve been in the job four months now. I’m enjoying it immensely. I’ve found it hard work – the learning never stops – but the hard work is what makes it enjoyable. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be as rewarding.

Can you describe a 'typical' day in your job? 

A ‘typical’ day means getting up at 5 am and starting work at 6.15 am. After divesting myself of metals and liquids (yes, we have to go through airport security in the same way as passengers) I arrive in the crew room and check all the briefing material for the day’s flights. Depending on the routes, I may have to complete a load sheet and arrange for the aircraft to refuel. Once the briefing is complete, and we’re happy we can undertake the flights safely, we make our way to the gate.

The captain will visually inspect the aircraft, and I will start preparing the flight deck. That involves powering-up the systems, running tests and checking everything is working as expected, programming the FMS and then getting a route clearance from Air Traffic Control (ATC). Once the passengers are seated, the captain and I will run through some checklists, start the engines and run through some more lists. Then we’ll taxi out to the runway and start the flight. That pattern continues until all the day’s flights are finished.

What are the most enjoyable and rewarding aspects of your job? 

A good landing is always enjoyable and rewarding! But I enjoy the challenge of flying an efficient and safe flight and doing so to the best of my ability. I also enjoy climbing up through the clouds and seeing the sun every day. The views when airborne offer a very different perspective on the world, and I never tire of looking out the window.

What are your aviation career goals - what would you like to do in the future?

I would like to fly a wide-bodied jet from the left hand (Captain’s) seat on long-haul routes. I have twenty-five years until mandatory retirement in which to achieve my goal.

Any regrets?

Only that I waited so long to pursue my dream of becoming a commercial pilot. Since quitting my previous career, I haven’t looked back even for a minute.

What advice would you give to aspiring pilots?

Learn as much as you can – not just about flying but about the entire aviation industry. Meet as many people as you can and don’t be afraid to ask them for help and advice. Join clubs, associations and organisations. Go to meetings, lectures, talks and conferences. Put yourself out there. Aviation is as much about people as it is about aircraft.

Do you have any regrets?

Only that I waited so long to pursue my dream of becoming a commercial pilot. Since quitting my previous career, I haven’t looked back even for a minute.

Since his interview Rob started a new role as First Officer for ASL Airlines, Ireland.