Tom achieved his degree in aeronautical engineering and now works as a senior first officer for Fly Be.
As a child, I was always fascinated as to how an aircraft was able to take off and land so easily. I suppose that’s what initially sparked my interest in flying, and I never really lost the interest from there.
Although becoming a pilot doesn’t necessarily require a degree, it does help. I studied aeronautical engineering at university which really helped me with my flight training as it gave me a good understanding of the principles of flying. However, in terms of securing a job, the degree discipline didn’t matter – the important thing was the flight training.
I did my flight training at Flight Training Europe, a training school in Jerez, Spain. I spent a lot of time researching flight schools as it is important to go to one with a good reputation. I also really prepared for my interview with the school, which is just as well as it was like an in-depth job interview, involving psychometric tests, personality tests, hand to coordination tests etc.
I would recommend anyone thinking about becoming a pilot to thoroughly research the flight schools out there. Flight training is very expensive and the good schools have links with the airlines, which is a real asset when looking for jobs. For example, I found out prior to graduating from the school that it had recommended me to Fly Be, the airline that I now work with. The recommendation resulted in me getting a job interview. Following the interview, I was invited back for a simulator check, which I passed. I was then placed in a holding pool, and I was offered a job as soon as a position became available.
I have now been with Fly Be for a few years, and am now a senior first officer. My day-to-day tasks include undertaking checks (weather briefs, flight plans, air traffic restrictions, the serviceability of the aircraft etc), sitting down with the captain to brief each other on the flight’s pertinent points etc. Although the captain has overall responsibility for the flight, we share the flying with one of us flying the aircraft to the destination and the other flying it back. The pilot that is not flying is responsible for the paperwork, radio calls and gathering the weather report on arrival.
I love the variety of my job as although I’m essentially doing the same job every day, no two days are ever the same. I fly to different destinations across Europe, working with different people on a daily basis. And whatever the weather is like in the UK, I always get to see sunshine! Although the variety is definitely the best thing about the job, paradoxically, it’s also the worst. I have to work shifts, which can mean working stupid times and long hours. And if there is ever a problem with the aircraft, this makes the shift even longer. Planning anything outside work can sometimes be a nightmare, and I often don’t get weekends off.
Sometimes I do think that I would like to fly long haul, but I’m not entirely sure if I would like the even more disruptive work/life balance that long haul brings. I do want a captaincy eventually, and following that I would like to progress my career into the training of new pilots.
For anyone thinking of becoming an airline pilot, I would really recommend that they join their university air squadron, get some flying experience and obtain a Private Pilot's Licence. I also volunteered with the air cadets, which I think also helped as it made me stand out from the crowd. The airline industry has always been very competitive, but in the current climate, it is even more so now. Therefore it is really important to do something that helps you stand out from the many other newly qualified pilots also job hunting!
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