How did you get into flying? I always had a general interest in it, going to the local aerodrome and watching the aircraft land when I was younger. I found out my eyesight wasn't good enough for the Royal Air Force, but realised that working in the commercial sector could be possible.
What does your job involve? I fly Airbus A320s and A321s to the Middle East, former Soviet countries and down to Africa, including Ethiopia and Sudan. I make four or five trips a month, ranging from two to five days in duration. I feel more of a person than a number at BMed, even though we are now going through a rapid expansion. It's been a really great year in my life – all my ambitions are being realised.
What route did you take to get qualified? When I left school, I knew I would have to fund the training myself, which is tens of thousands of pounds, and I also thought I was too young at 18 to go straight into flying, so I did a four-year engineering degree at Nottingham, to give me some time to mature and have a bit of fun. One summer, I did my private pilot's licence (PPL) and when you first start flying, you just get hooked. So once I finished my degree, I went to the bank, got a loan and enrolled at Oxford Aviation Training (OAT). It is a big ask in terms of money and when I started my course in September 2002, it was obviously coming off the back of 9/11. I had to gamble that things would pick up by the time I finished. Fortunately, I got employment with BMed a couple of months after leaving OAT. BMed traditionally asks for 1,500h of flight experience, but I was straight out of training with around 200h. I am the only low-hours pilot there right now, but I believe the airline plans to hire more. They have been really good, putting me on a slightly different training scheme and so on.
What advice would you give people looking to get into your line of work? You need to be determined and sure it is the right thing to do. If you want to be sure, you can take aptitude tests at places like Cranfield or take some private flying lessons. My PPL was the first time I had flown and it helped me prove to myself that this was what I wanted to do.
What are the drawbacks and advantages of the job? You are typically travelling for 12-14 nights a month, so your friends have to get their heads round the fact that you need some notice to do things. But I love the fact it is not an office job. And basically, I get to fly a multi-million dollar aircraft.
Source: Flight International