Middle East supplement: Profile – no bigger job

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Capt Cliff Chetcuti, 41, is a Maltese citizen and former Air Malta pilot who is Emirates' chief flying instructor for the Airbus A380. So far, he has helped train 130 pilots to fly the superjumbo

How did you end up at Emirates?

I trained as a cadet with Air Malta in Scotland and got to know Dubai while flying A320s there. Air Malta was a great airline, but I felt all I would be doing is flying across Europe for the rest of my career and I wanted something more. This was 1992 and Emirates was still a young airline, but I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity.

I did the interview in Frankfurt and was selected. Everyone thought I was crazy to leave the national carrier to join an airline that was not well known.

What was the job, and Dubai, like then?

I started flying A310s, and then A300s, as first officer, doing a lot of routes to Asia, including into the old Hong Kong airport - when you landed, you realised your thighs were shaking.

The social scene at the time was very family-oriented. You would always get invited to barbecues, but there wasn't so much in the way of shopping malls and cinemas.

emirates 
 © Emirates

How did your career progress from there?

One of the great things about working for Emirates has been the opportunities to advance your career. They asked for pilots to become CRM (crew resource management) facilitators, which I did. I got my command in 1999. I became a line training captain, then a TRI (type rating instructor) and then a TRE (type rating examiner). I transferred as a TRE to the A330 fleet.

Where did your involvement with the A380 start?

In April last year, I did the training and flew as relief crew on the inaugural flight to New York in August, going on to show the aircraft in San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was great flying demo flights over the Golden Gate bridge.

What do you like best about your job?

I consider myself to have the best position in the industry as chief flying instructor on the A380 with an airline like Emirates. I don't think I could want anything more. I get to fly the biggest aircraft in the world and the challenges never stop.

A big part of my job is developing training programmes for the A380 in the simulator. It's like having a multi-million-dollar toy to learn from.

What do you like now about Dubai itself?

I am still loving it here. There is more to do in sport and culture than when we first moved here. I have two boys: the 16-year-old hopes to make the Olympic sailing team. My younger one is into snowboarding, drumming and football.

At weekends, I sail competitively, and it's interesting what you can learn about teamwork which you can apply to your daily job. About 80% of those I sail with are pilots, so lots of huge egos and we're very procedurally driven. But we never talk shop.