Desire and objectivity
I try, in life, to be objective. It is not an easy or natural trait, but I believe if you can be empathetic and objective of others and their judgements, you will have a far greater respect for your fellow man and, hopefully, they of you.
In Early flight dreams I address the inherent desire I have to pursue a life of flying planes - it was born in me at a very early age, and I believe I recognised it strongly then. Later, and perhaps importantly, I lost sight of that intrinsic need. What did remain a constant through adolescence and early adulthood is my nerdy fascination with all things winged, and a childish joy every time I got near a plane. In the post Moment of impact I mention the motivating factors that pushed me to really strive to achieve this ambition.
Those factors furnished me with a desire, passion and motivation. On their own, not enough to make it a good life choice for us as a family or even individually.
I realised I must be objective with my own very passionate desire to become an airline pilot. I needed to set aside the exhilaration, joy and love I have for the feeling of commanding an aircraft. It is a serious decision, challenge, commitment and an occupation that is not suited to everyone. What If I were not suited to it, and even if I were, what if the lifestyle didn't fit. Here's a mad stat; Of Balpa members 95% are proud to be pilots (still seems low to me) but only 1 in 5 would recommend it! It is safe to assume that the job is not as romantic as commonly perceived or as my title image portrays. Nor is it as simple to own your seat in the cockpit as Frank Abagnale makes it. A great place to start finding and answering some of the questions is here in the BALPA inside track document. It has plenty of info on the ways to train, basic requirements and pilots lifestyle.
Good pilots have natural aptitude in a number of core skills, specifically they are; hand eye coordination, spatial awareness, multitasking, focus, pattern recognition, monitoring, short-term memory and performance under pressure. In this age most are tested in these. It was my first significant step. My initial thoughts were that if I'm to do this it has to be on an airline sponsored program - I applied to BA and easyJet unsuccessfully in 2011 (pre fatherhood). In 2014, 6 months into my earnest quest I applied again - BA turned me down, easyJet called me for testing. I attended CAE OAA and CTC within two weeks of each other, and I did it pretty cold - not a clue what to expect or having any idea how to prep (your not supposed to, but most do now, with the help of the guys at PAT). I will talk in greater depth about aptitude testing again, but for now lets just say that, it was and is, an intense workout. I didn't meet the standard to be carried through to the next stage, but I thoroughly enjoyed being tested in these facets. Some I did better than others in. I left both places gutted but also inspired and encouraged - healthy self evaluation and discussion helped me feel secure that, although I was not the most gifted on these days, my base level is not bad. I was advised to re-apply, no doors slammed in my face. I know where I need to work and I do daily. Now as I work my way through my PPL I can see where those skills are required, and how able I am to function in the dynamic environment that is an aircraft cockpit.
Then there is the personality traits; Self-discipline, Self-motivation, Self-confidence, Leadership, Teamwork, Flexible and decisive thinking and the many more I list on the "The Route" page. Evaluation of my work history, positions held, successes and failures, mistakes i've made, decisions i've made and honest discussions with colleagues, team leaders, bosses and mentors plus personal reflection of the relationships I have formed has affirmed to me that these are traits I posses to a level that will serve me well during the career ahead.
Finally there is the lifestyle and perceived negative aspects of the job to consider. Throughout this whole process Bella and I have discussed at length the implications of this career move and the possible opportunities it will throw us. But let me just give you a little background. We met in Austria - on my 23rd birthday in a snowstorm! We were both working for Crystal ski, she as a nanny, I as a hotel host (chambermaid/waiter). We fell in love fast and imagined our future in mainland Europe. We went on to work In Gran Canaria, Bella as a kids entertainer, I secured an apprenticeship at a Dive shop and became a Divemaster. After, we returned to the mountains and France - there we got engaged. We married on a beach in Oz whilst travelling. We returned to the Uk for security - for proper jobs and bricks & mortar, for a home for our new family. One thing has been perpetual - the sight of our future in mainland Europe or beyond. We are accustomed to movement, long for it even. I was used to it as a child, and believe that it encourages the understanding that we are free to explore this earth - another message I want for my kids.
So of the negatives, as some may call them - I am not one to address anything as a negative, merely a challenge. When you tell folk you want to be an Airline pilot you'll get 1 of 2 contrasting reactions; 1) Wow thats so cool. or 2) What? a glorified bus driver?
Well here is my response; I have planted enough trees (past the 800,000 mark this year) to know that there is monotony in anything we do for a living, that in aviation there is a lot of automation and a necessity for routine with the side affect being a mundanity. That as pilots who absolutely love the freedom of flight, the restriction to 5 minutes stick time per trip is a frustration. But it should not detract from the truth that, as a pilot, you have worked incredibly hard to be entrusted to and remunerated for commanding one of mans greatest machines, worth hundreds of millions. That you are privileged with the responsibility of the safe and enjoyable transportation of hundreds of lives on great adventures, that you chase sunsets across the sky at 38,000ft and get the most beautiful views of our world.