Case study

Commercial pilot — Richard Hincks

Richard studied for a BA in geography before applying for an apprenticeship with jet2. Discover more about the role of an airline pilot

How did you get your job?

After a few years of flight training I applied to jet2.com for their Pilot Apprentice Scheme.

The apprenticeship lasted ten months and was a brilliant experience. We were able to spend time learning about every aspect of the business and as a result I gained a really valuable insight into everything from marketing and operations to engineering and cabin crew.

I applied for the apprenticeship through the jet2 careers website. It's a relatively straightforward process, consisting of online tests and an assessment day involving an interview, group exercises and other computer-based assessments. If you get through all of those stages, the final hurdle is a simulator assessment.

Gaining a place on the scheme was pretty tricky but jet2 currently hire around 30 apprentices each year.

What's a typical day like as a pilot?

The day starts in the crew room where I meet with the Captain to discuss fuel, weather, routing and any other operational items. We also meet with the cabin crew and then all head out to the aircraft together. We get everything ready for our departure and then start our engines. When we safely arrive at our destination we normally have about an hour or so on the ground before we head back home to do it all again.

Most of the time everything goes to plan but some days can be fairly challenging with ill passengers, bad weather and ATC strikes.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The trust and responsibility given to those in my profession is something that makes the job a huge privilege. It's also great fun and very satisfying to know that at the end of the day you have safely delivered almost 400 people to their destinations.

Also, taking off a 70-tonne jet at 170mph never gets old.

What are the challenges?

One of the biggest challenges can be dealing with foreign accents on air traffic control, particularly in busy airports like Rome.

Bad weather conditions can also prove challenging. It's something we train for regularly but is still great fun to do for real.

In what way is your degree relevant?

It's not necessary to have a degree to get into commercial aviation but for me it was good to gain some life experience at university and it's always useful for my future career too.

What are your career ambitions?

My ambition is to move over to the left hand seat and become a Captain in a few years time. I'm also thinking about moving into flight training.

Later on in my career some sort of management role would be good and the Pilot Apprentice Scheme provides a great foundation for that aspiration - giving a really good grounding in the airline business and Jet2holidays.

How do I become a pilot?

  • Do your research - speak to as many people as possible, visit flight training school open days and ask as many questions as you can.
  • Get involved - think about what experiences you can bring to that all important airline interview. You can do things like working in a ground-based role (like a dispatcher), cabin crew or even volunteering at your local airfield.
  • Be determined - it may sound obvious but though flight training is great fun, it's hard work at times. You need to have sheer determination to succeed.

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