Aiming high with Jet Republic

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Dave Simkin is chief instructor for fractional ownership start-up Jet Republic, following a career flying and instructing on fast jets for the Royal Air Force and then on British Airways' Airbus and Boeing 777 fleets

Tell us about your career in aviation and how you ended up at Jet Republic

I first flew at the age of 18 when I was given a trial lesson as a Christmas present. To be honest, until that day, I didn't have any idea what I was going to do with my life. So on 2 January 1979 (in G-BATW as I recall) I took to the skies for the first time and was hooked.

A real turning point. I applied for the RAF and was accepted for cadet entry pilot. During the first three years I trained on the Chipmunk, Jet Provost and Hawk finally ending up on 5(F) Squadron flying the Lightning just two weeks before my 21st birthday.

Three years later, I trained as a qualified flying instructor on the Jet Provost before leaving the RAF as an A1 instructor and making the move into commercial aviation. I joined British Airways in 1989 on the A320, a great aircraft.

I spent 15 years progressing from co-pilot through to training captain before taking the plunge and going to long haul. I loved training on the 777. After 20 years I have moved into another new world, that of business aviation.

 simkin
 Dave Simkin, chief instructor for fractional ownership start-up Jet Republic: looking forward to getting his hands on the Learjet 60XR

As one of the first two senior captains at Jet Republic, what will your role entail?

The office is buzzing with activity and everyone's so passionate about what they do. The first Learjet 60XR arrives at the end of July so that we can start our base training and route flying.

We will be getting in as much route experience as we can in the first few weeks so that we can allow the pilots and flight attendant to get used to the aircraft, the airports and the in-flight service.

After we are established, I will spend more time supporting and standardising the training either from the office or by working with the instructors in the simulator or on the aircraft. I certainly plan to fly on the line from time to time to ensure that I keep in touch.

You've flown military jets and civil airliners in your career, as well as working as an instructor and CAA examiner. How will working for a business aviation operator be different?

It will be the same and different at the same time. We are dedicated to maintaining the highest possible standards. We will have an airline-style operation with proven standard operating procedures, policies and a 24h control centre to support the operation.

It will be very odd, however, flying into any one of 1,000 or so airports around Europe without a fixed schedule as this will be dictated by our clients.

What sort of people are you looking for to become Jet Republic pilots?

Basically, we're looking for pilots who have previously been trained and developed within an environment that has a structured training process and requires very high standards. Essentially our pilots will come from the airlines or the military. In addition to this, the pilots have to have a real desire to make our operation second to none.

What do you expect will be the best bits of your new job, and the most challenging?

The best bit is definitely being involved in such a fantastic adventure right at the start. The enthusiasm is infectious. Also, having just completed the conversion course in Dallas, I was amazed how fast the Learjet 60XR is.

The nearest comparison that I have off the runway is the Hawk, except that this has six seats and a galley! I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the real thing. As for challenges, we will have 110 aircraft with 500 pilots and 220 flight attendants to train and manage.

They will be based around Europe with little face-to-face contact with the Lisbon office, often flying on a commercial service to meet the aircraft on the first day of duty. I think that counts as challenging, don't you?