“Alpine 9, cleared touch and go”. Those words will forever stay with me, coming on the day when I flew an easyJet plane that can seat 156 people for the first time in my life. Glancing across at the runway from the flight deck, I was amazed at how far I had come since flying a tiny two-seater single-engine plane around New Zealand as an L3Harris cadet back in 2019.
My flight training journey is a bit of an unusual one - I studied languages and it was while working as an aviation journalist that I decided to become a pilot. I’ve trained in some amazing locations: New Zealand, Spain, Italy and the UK. But it hasn’t been without its dramas and setbacks - including of course a global pandemic and Brexit. It’s been over four years since I started training, but now I have landed my dream job as a pilot for one of Europe’s largest airlines.
This year, I will be flying customers on routes across Europe from Naples, Italy, as a first officer for easyJet. I can’t wait to take passengers to their hard-earned holidays, on business trips or to see friends and family on easyJet’s fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft. I love travelling and it’s an absolute thrill to be able to help other people do just that.
"This year, I will be flying customers on routes across Europe from Naples, Italy, as a First Officer for easyJet."
Making the switch from cadet to employed pilot is a welcome one after the pandemic, when it sometimes felt as though airlines would never start hiring again. Safety is of course the utmost priority in aviation, but now we also have to consider the needs of customers. Along with the glorious views from the front seat, six-monthly simulator checks are now going to be a feature of my life too. But one of the reasons I wanted to become a pilot was exactly because it’s a challenging career, with new things to learn every day.
You’d be surprised at how many skills from other jobs are relevant to flying a modern aircraft. Teamwork, problem-solving, decision-making, and communication are some of the key competencies required for flying, along with manual handling of the aircraft.
Another important ability is the one to keep smiling and stay positive, even when times are tough. During those Covid lockdowns, when airlines were grounded and no one was allowed to travel, it was the friendships I made and the experiences that I had during flight training that helped to put a smile back on my face.
To anyone who is interested in becoming a pilot, I would urge you to give it a go! I often can’t quite believe that I can take-off and land these amazing flying machines. It’s a feeling like no other.
However, I would recommend doing a lot of research before starting - maybe an integrated course is best, maybe the modular route that allows you to go at your own pace. Maybe you would prefer to start on an airline scheme and maybe you prefer to keep your options open by opting for the whitetail route, like I did. Think about your career goals too - do you want to fly short-haul or long-haul, do you want to work for a big commercial airline, maybe a private jet operator, or is flying seaplanes to far-flung islands your ultimate dream? And crucially, make sure you have a trial flight, just to make sure that flying is for you!
Pilots are always reviewing options in case a diversion is needed when flying, and so another key piece of advice for anyone thinking about becoming a pilot is to make sure you have a back-up plan. Airlines go bust, Class 1 medicals can be lost and major political or world events can impact travel and demand for pilots. Returning to journalism helped me pay the bills during the pandemic, for example.
But, what I can say is that I never regret my decision to switch careers and start flight training. Yes, it’s been a lot tougher than I expected, but so far, the highs have certainly outweighed the lows. I can’t wait to welcome you on board!