Airline Pilot (and Specialist Biomedical Scientist)
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Hi, my name’s John, and I’m here to talk to you about careers in aviation.
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I’m an airline pilot and I work for one of the largest airlines in the UK.
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We fly holiday routes, regional routes all around Europe, going
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as far as places such as Turkey, Cyprus, Black Sea
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and occasionally over to the United States all the way down to places like the Canaries
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and occasionally to Africa.
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So my education has been long and varied.
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I would describe it.
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And that’s not actually required for an airline job.
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The A-levels I did were geography, chemistry, biology,
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and general studies and then went off to university.
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My initial plan was to join the Royal Air Force, and I did zoology
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with veterinary medicine because I needed to have a subject that
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that wasn’t aviation just in case it didn’t all work out.
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The Royal Air Force didn’t work out.
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I became a school teacher briefly and then after two years, a very difficult job.
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I changed direction, went back to university and
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and into laboratory medicine, where I did
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a master’s and a doctorate – ended up in the hospital,
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being an examiner and assessor and quite senior.
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I’ve never really given that up.
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I still do a little bit – pull the odd shift
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and help the hospital out, which works very well for both of us.
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I keep my registration, keep my skills up, and they get a very experienced examiner
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turning up to handle difficult situations.
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Meanwhile, while I was doing that, I was learning to fly
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and I did that all along right from the very start.
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And I worked part time as a flying instructor for a good number of years
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and then eventually got to a point where I could take an airline job.
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And so that’s exactly what I did.
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I simply switched the careers round – did the airlines full time,
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did the hospital part time and and I’ve never looked back there,
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and I like having that varied life of both the airline job and the hospital job. It keeps me grounded.
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So what are the good bits and the bad bits of the job?
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Well, my favourite bits are the travel,
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quite frankly, to sit and look out the window.
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I love the views as we travel all around Europe and fly over mountains
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and volcanoes and cities and and all sorts of other bits of scenery.
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And it’s fantastic and surprising how quickly you get used to
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what you’re looking at – just like on any car journey if you do it often enough you start
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to recognize all the features and know your way around.
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The ability to adapt to change – it’s not unusual to turn up
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to work in the morning and then be told that you’re going somewhere else.
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If you like the kind of job where you do the same thing every single day,
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flying is probably not the job for you.
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You have to be able to just switch up a gear
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where required and move on and put things behind you.
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I guess my main advice really
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would be to be yourself and to know yourself.
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I think it’s really,
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really important to be the kind of person who looks critically at yourself
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and tries to improve,
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and that will come out really,
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really strongly in any interview when when you turn up
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and you can demonstrate
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how you’ve been able to do that and turn negatives into positives.
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You don’t have to necessarily be the cleverest person in the room.
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You just have to be the person who works the hardest and applies yourself the best.
John has parallel careers – working both as an airline pilot and as a specialist biomedical scientist – and has followed an unusual path. After a degree in zoology, his dream of joining the RAF didn’t work out. He became a teacher, before returning to university to study laboratory medicine, and then worked in hospitals.
In his spare time, he learnt to fly and became a part-time flying instructor before making the switch – he now works as a full-time pilot but keeps up his hospital work on a part-time basis.
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More information about Aircraft pilots and flight engineers
The UK average salary is £28,758
There are 37.5 hours in the average working week
The UK workforce is 47% female and 53% male
- Studies flight plan, discusses it with flight deck crew and makes any necessary adjustments;
- Directs or undertakes routine checks on engines, instruments, control panels, cargo distribution and fuel supplies;
- Directs or undertakes the operation of controls to fly aeroplanes and helicopters, complying with air traffic control and aircraft operating procedures;
- Monitors fuel consumption, air pressure, engine performance and other indicators during flight and advises pilot of any factors that affect the navigation or performance of the aircraft;
- Maintains radio contact and discusses weather conditions with air traffic controllers;
- Performs specified tests to determine aircraft’s stability, response to controls and overall performance;
- Accompanies pupil on training flights and demonstrates flying techniques.
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