Playing lacrosse at school under the short finals approach to the UK's Elstree aerodrome led to Hangar8 first officer Kelly Cooke aiming for a new goal - the aircraft inspired her to strive for a career in aviation

What first attracted you to aviation and where did you train?

I went to school next to Elstree aerodrome and our lacrosse pitch, where I spent most of my time, was under short finals. After years of fascination, I had my first flying lesson at 16 and loved it.

Kelly Cooke Hangar8
 © Hangar8

After university, I gained my frozen ATPL (airline transport pilot's licence) at ­Oxford Aviation Academy.

How did you get your first job?

I finished my training at the start of the recession, so it was tough finding a job at that time.

I started by working at the Hangar8 head office in its charter sales division. My motivation was to sell enough charters so the company would be short of crew and I could go flying.

The role enabled me to develop a thorough understanding of the business. I learned about pricing, the potential of the fleet in terms of range, performance and weight, and who our main clients are.

I also got to know the brokers and how they work on a day-to-day basis.

You studied history at university. How has a degree equipped you for being a pilot?

I studied ancient history at the University of Bristol, which helped me develop strong analytical skills and effectively cope with time constraints, and so on.

In reality, however, the best thing about doing a degree was that it gave me a solid grounding and three years of life experience, which, in turn, enabled me to make an informed decision about embarking on my commercial training, as it is a huge financial and mental commitment.

I had a great three years studying at Bristol, flying with the University Air Squadron and playing ­lacrosse, all of which gave me commitment, flying and team skills, the basis of which I use every day.

Tell us about your job with Hangar8.

I'm a first officer on the Cessna Citation fleet - we have three CJs, one CJ2 and one CJ2+.

All the jets are available for charter, so we are kept busy around Europe.

My role as first officer ­involves preparing the aircraft for charter, with the aim that when the passengers arrive, they can board and depart straight away.

I also check that everything is okay in the cruise and if the passengers need anything. Customer interaction is one of the rewarding parts of the job.

What are the best bits - and the worst?

The best bit of the job is simply the flying - you sometimes do not know where you will be going until an hour before you take off.

The jets are modern, well-maintained and have great performance, which means I have the opportunity to visit a variety of interesting places. The only slight downside is not being able to make firm plans when you are on duty, but that's the nature of the job.

What do you want to do in the future?

I really enjoy the jet I fly now, so I would like to progress to captain and get some command time. But, ultimately, I would like to move on to a larger jet.

I am waiting for Hangar8 to take delivery of its second Embraer Lineage business jet.

What is your advice to someone who may be contemplating a career as a pilot?

Gain as much information about the various courses and the lifestyle of the job as possible, to allow you to make an informed decision.

A career as a pilot initially means a financial commitment and dedication to the course at ground school, and the ATPL exams are intense. However, the rewards are worth it.

Source: Flight International