Duncan Burch jokes that "not having to clear the driveway" is the biggest bonus of swapping the winters of Canada's eastern provinces for the year-round sunshine of Dubai. But the 53-year-old, who joined Emirates in 2003 after a succession of jobs with Canadian charter and low-cost carriers, says career security, the airline's modern fleet and a flexible schedule are among the advantages of being an expatriate pilot in Dubai. That and the chance to fly for Emirates for another 11 years, including eventually - he hopes - on the Airbus A380. "It would be a great end to my career," he says.
How did you start out?
I grew up on Prince Edward Island and joined the military in 1974, becoming an instructor on [Canadair] CT-114 Tutor aircraft, and also flying the Canadian version of the [Lockheed] P-3 Orion. I left after 14 years and went into the civil market.
Who did you fly for?
I worked for six companies over the next 15 years, mostly in the charter market, on McDonnell Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 757s and ultimately Airbus A320s. The longest stint was nine years with Canada 3000, which folded after 9/11. My last jobs in Canada were for Sky Service, a charter company, and three months with Zoom Airlines, flying domestic, to the Caribbean and Europe. But by 2003, I was just about to turn 50 and looked at the expat market, where I thought there would be better progression.
What was it like making a major career change relatively late?
I'm one of the older guys here. When I joined I was too old to be a first officer, but couldn't become a captain, so I spent a year as a ground instructor on [Airbus] A330s and A340s. Then Emirates decided to open up a direct entry route for captains and in 2004 I became a captain flying A330s. I did a conversion course to A340s and I can fly both. I'm also a type rating instructor, so I spend two-thirds of my time flying and one-third as a simulator instructor.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I've always had a passion for training, since my military days, but also love flying, and here I get to do both. I do about 65h flying a month, and 20h of simulator training. I'm also involved in the national cadet training programme [to encourage young UAE citizens to become pilots], which has its challenges, but is tremendously rewarding.
Where do you fly?
I do about three overnights a month and I like Emirates' rotating bidding system, so every five months I get first choice of flights. Last month, I did Beijing and Hong Kong. This month, I'm doing Paris, Frankfurt and London. I've also done Tehran, Amman and Karachi.
What about the Dubai lifestyle?
It's the sort of place where you can do anything you have the desire to do, with all the big city attractions. I'm a [ice] hockey fan and play regularly, but they also have leagues for soccer, baseball, rugby and cricket. The accommodation the company provides is very good and the tax-free environment doesn't hurt. Education is subsidised and company healthcare is excellent.
Emirates recently raised the retirement age to 65. I am 54 in September so I could have another 11 years. My name is on the list for the A380, but if I don't make it, an option would be to move to the 777. I've flown with airlines where you could say there have beenchallenges. So as long as I'm happy, I'm going to work until they kick me out.
Source: Flight International