After more than 20 years at the controls of a variety of aircraft types for a number of airlines, Alan Carter still loves his work at Viking Airlines and is keen to encourage the next generation of would-be pilots

How did you start in aviation?

Funding my private pilot's licence while in the sixth form at school, primarily from working as a car park attendant, fuelled my desire to be a pilot. After leaving school at 18, I was fortunate to be sponsored by my parents to attend the Oxford Air Training School.

Where did your career take you from there?

With a shiny new commercial pilots licence, I applied to every air taxi, air charter and airline company in the UK. All to no avail, until my uncle laid the carpets of the chief pilot of Dan-Air, an introduction ensued, and the next six years were spent as a happy co-pilot on the BAe 748 turboprop and then the Boeing 727.

Alan Carter Viking Air
© Viking Air
 Carter: still looking forward to each new flight for Viking Airlines

My career was off and the next 20-plus years would see me flying the Boeing 747 as a captain for Virgin Atlantic, Asiana and Korean Air; the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 for Avient and the Boeing 737 for Thomsonfly, Jet2, Neos and Viking Airlines.

No two days can be the same working for a charter airline like Viking. Tell us about some of the flights that you do?

I find the flying in Viking fabulous. One day you can find yourself spiralling down over an Iraqi airport while trying to liaise with the US Air Force. Then the next day flying visual approaches around some beautiful Greek islands. Or flying down to Banjul in Gambia, clocking up the same number of flying hours as if you had just flown to Hong Kong in a 747, but with twice as many take-offs and landings.

You also try to help would-be pilots find their way into the industry. How did that start?

I realise how difficult it is to break into the airline business. It seems that options are limited for "newbies" unless you have a bottomless pot of money. So I started a Facebook page to offer advice to those taking that first step on the aviation ladder, or who dream of becoming a pilot. With over 3,500 members, I spend around half an hour every day replying to questions and giving advice. If I have helped just one person to succeed then I would consider this to be a success.

I have set up an independent company called Simufly, offering access to flight training for qualified pilots and flying experiences for the general public on full-flight Airbus and Boeing simulators. One of our options is an orientation course for newly - or soon to be qualified - pilots, where we offer advice as well as running through a generic simulator interview assessment using current interview techniques.

What would you say has been the highlight of your career?

At age 30, I was told by the purser on my first flight as a 747 captain that she had two passengers who wanted to say hello. They were my mother and father who had secretly arranged to accompany me and I had never felt so proud. In fact the video of that flight is on my Facebook page.

Where do you go from here?

Having clocked up 17,000h on the flightdeck, I am looking forward to the next 10,000, and who knows, possibly more aircraft types. I am excited at what we can do with Simufly, and how we can help to project to all how fabulous this industry really is.

I am also a freelance consultant for recruitment agency Aeroprofessional and I have been working with a dedicated literary consultant on a book detailing my first 30 years, which should be published soon.

And I still look forward to my next flight with the same enthusiasm as I did when I strolled out across a wintery Aberdeen ramp as a 19-year-old on my first line training flight to the Shetlands, and I know how lucky I am to do what I do, and call it work.

Source: Flight International