What is your background and what got you interested in aviation?
I grew up on the UK south coast so had easy access to Gatwick Airport, and did several summer jobs there including passenger services agent, aircraft cleaner and aircraft caterer. For me flying was always a dream, but knowing how hard it can be to get into I did a computer science degree at the University of Wales and graduated in 1997. I had an interest in computers but wanted something to fall back on if my flying career didn't take off. I did my professional flight training on a UK Civil Aviation Authority-approved ab initio course at Flight Safety, Vero Beach, Florida in 1998-99. I became an airline pilot in 1999 with BA Citi-Express flying the Dash 8-300 and the ERJ-145, I then moved to Monarch and flew the A320/A321 before joining British Airways on the 757/767.
However, in July 2007 I received the news that I had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This put an end to my dream job and I have now embarked on a new career in flight training.
What's it like to find out you've lost your licence?
It's devastating to find out you have lost your medical and that everything you have ever worked for has ended. I also find it very frustrating that we have this rule in Europe. If I were a Canadian citizen with a Canadian licence I would still be able to fly commercially with Type 1 diabetes.
There are two things you can do. Let it ruin your life or get on with it and turn it into an opportunity. My degree gave me the choice of staying in aviation or moving into computing. I decided to stay in aviation because I wanted to pass on my skills and knowledge to others. Both of my parents were headteachers so I have teaching in the blood and decided to enter the training environment. I now work for Atlantic Flight Training.
What are your responsibilities?
I am responsible for the overall management of multi-crew simulator training, this includes utilisation targets as well as maintaining approvals, liaising with the head of training ad of course the marketing side of it too.
What are your day-to-day tasks?
Training student pilots in the simulator on the multi-crew co-operation and jet orientation courses. I also liaise with customers, including airlines. We've recently agreed with Flybe for their new entrant pilots to attend jet orientation course training which will introduce them to Flybe's SOPS and jet handling characteristics/management. A typical day sees me splitting my time 50/50 between the sim and the desk.
What is the market like?
The market is buoyant at the moment because it is being driven by the expansion of many airlines and other markets.
How will this change?
This will only continue to grow as airlines merge and more super airlines are formed, strengthening the market and allowing continued expansion, thus more training requirements. With the introduction of the multi-crew pilot licence, simulators will feature even as courses are tailored to the airlines requirements to equip the modern airline pilot with the glass cockpit management skills required.
What does the future hold?
With the recent investment in modern purpose-built flight school, aircraft and simulators, we are working closely with airlines to tailor courses to heir requirements. A sister flight school, Ayla Aviation Academy, recently started up in Jordan and is continuing the success of the company in the Middle East.