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Bringing a wild horse into line

What does a fleet manager do?

At London Executive Aviation we have a wide range of aircraft types available to meet the different needs of our customers. These range from Beechcraft King Airs right through to Embraer Legacy 600s and, from 2009, a Gulfstream 450. The company selected the CessnaCitation Mustang to be at the core of the fleet, and my job will be to ensure we have the right crew, with the right training and rating to maintain our availability to meet the demands.

How many Mustangs will you have?

Our first aircraft will be with us in January, then we have four more arriving in April, followed by a further five aircraft later in the year and early 2009. Our biggest challenge is not the delivery of the aircraft but more the training of pilots. Eventually, FlightSafety will have a Mustang simulator at Farnborough, but at the moment the European Aviation Safety Agency has only approved one of the simulators at Wichita, with a second going through the formalities now. Those simulators are in huge demand in the USA as they have full Federal Aviation Administration approval, so there are not as many slots as we would ideally like.

Do you get to fly the aircraft too?

Very much so. I will be one of the first four pilots to get the rating and will be responsible for both line training and then type examination as we bring pilots through. The first stage will be learning the Garmin 1000 avionics system, although it looks very intuitive. The Mustang is key to the type of flights we do for our customers from the UK to Paris, Brussels, Switzerland or the South of France.

What is your background and how do you get a job like this?

I came quite late to commercial flying. I had been managing the drawing office at Bradwell nuclear power station. I had a trial flying lesson, went on to do my private pilot's licence and then worked through the ratings, getting my basic commercial pilot's licence at Southend. That gave me my instructor's rating and I was able to get my hours up by doing part-time instructing at Southend Flying Club. By then I had my full CPL, and a friend was working at LEA and I was able to get some freelance work flying the Piper Seneca. In 2003, aged 42, I quit my full-time job and joined LEA as a King Air captain. After two years I moved on to the Cessna Citation II and have already logged more than 4,000h.

So will you be recruiting more people that have followed a similar route?

We will be looking for up to 40 commercial pilots to fly the Mustangs - first officers with a minimum of 700h experience and captains with air transport pilot licence-level ability and total time of more than 1,500h. It is going to be a busy time for us as we introduce this great aircraft into the LEA fleet.

Where will these pilots be based?

Although LEA operates out of Stapleford in Essex, we will be using Luton, Farnborough, Stansted, London City and Biggin Hill for our general Mustang flights. Of course, we go where our customers want to go.

Do you have any regrets about quitting the nuclear industry to become a professional pilot?

No regrets at all. It is a dream job with a great company. I never wanted to be an airline pilot and I have a strong affinity with general aviation. I like the Citation jets and to combine this new aircraft with both training and operations is absolutely ideal.