I am excited and a little apprehensive although I think I have done as much preparation as reasonably possible. This will change my life completely. Two years of study, testing and hard work lie ahead. There will be long periods away from my beautiful wife. There will be tough times and failures to be overcome. My life savings — and large loans — ride on the outcome. But beyond that the promise of the dream job and the lifestyle that goes with it.
The story of how I got here and what happens next is one I would like to share. If you too find the world of aviation fascinating and strange, if you have wondered how those smart and well spoken pilots are made, if you have ever wished your office was way up above the clouds then perhaps my simple tale will interest you. Perhaps it will be helpful other hopeful pilots, or even change their minds. In either case, it will be worthwhile.
So again, how did I get here?
|BA's new offices at Waterside were especially|
designed to impress and intimidate trainee pilots
The airline industry is cut-throat. Margins are small, risks are high. Competition is relentless, and where money does not absolutely need to be spent, it is saved.
Consequently aspirant pilots face a very tough deal. There are virtually no sponsored training schemes around, leaving the trainees to foot bills approaching £100,000 with no guarantee of success or a job at the end. If you do qualify and find work, you may have to shell out up to £30,000 for type training only to be offered a poorly-paid temporary contract that won't cover your loan repayments. If you don't, you have to somehow find the money to keep your licence and ratings current. It's remarkable that anyone would take this gamble, but hundreds do every year and the competition for jobs for newly-qualified pilots is fierce.
So when British Airways launched the Future Pilot Programme in August 2011, it almost seemed to good to be true. Admittedly, cadets are still expected to contribute a large sum towards their training, but this includes the type rating, line training and the all-important light of a secure job at the end of the tunnel. Guaranteed loans were made available and for the first time in years it became possible for someone with little flying experience or money to become an airline pilot for a major player. Someone, in fact, like me.
I admit it; I only found out about the scheme because my Dad saw it in the Sunday paper. Recognising what an great opportunity this was I immediately applied.
|The all-conquering A320 will, fingers crossed,|
be my new office from sometime deep into 2014...
It would be wrong to claim any real expertise, but I do have a few theories about what helped me through the application process which I am happy to share; but that's for another day.
Fast forward through ten months of paperwork and planning and I am poised to start. I probably wouldn't be here without the support of my wonderful wife, family and friends and — be warned wife, family and friends — I will probably need a lot more support to get through. A huge thank you to them and thank you too for reading — I hope you will stay along for the ride.