A Q&A with Richard, Pilot for Virgin Atlantic
Taking a short break out of the clouds, we spoke to Richard, Pilot for Virgin Atlantic, as he tells us about a typical day and how he made his way up in the aviation industry.
Q: You’re now a pilot for Virgin Atlantic where you’ve been for two years, what was the process in getting there?
I started my career at Oxford Aviation Academy in Jan 2009 where I did six months of ground school, covering 12 topics. I had to get at least 75% in each exam to progress. I was pleased to find I passed with all of those and after that, I went out to Goodyear in Arizona to start my commercial pilot license and then back for the final part – the instrument rating back in Oxford.
That was the easy part, as the next step was to find a job! Finding a job with an airline wasn’t easy as there are lots of freshly qualified pilots and not many jobs to be filled. I was halfway through the interview stage with Cathay Pacific when I got an offer for EasyJet. The advice was to take the first one that is offered…so I did!
I started with Easyjet as a Cadet in June 2011 and within six years I was a Captain with them, it was a steep learning curve.
My dream has always been to work for Virgin Atlantic so I applied to them and an opportunity for a job came up. I’ve been with them since September 2017. To be a Command here can take between 8-13 years so I have a way to go yet -but enjoying every second of it!
Q: What aircraft are you currently flying and how does it compare to other models you have flown?
I’m currently flying an Airbus 330-300 and 330-200. I’ve only ever flown Airbus 319/320 at Easyjet. It’s very similar but just less responsive to a pilot input and can be a struggle to slow down!
Taxing takes some practice and you also have to land the nose gear as it’s so long. I’ll hopefully get a go on the A350-1000 soon!
Q: What made you want to become a pilot?
Who doesn’t like a plane? The fact I get paid to see the world….occasionally with a drink in hand and spend most of my downtime on the beach….someone’s got to do it.
Q: What’s a typical day for you?
Every day is different.
Q: What’s the best bit of the job?
Free holidays, great people to work with and having days off during the week means going to the gym and shopping are so much easier than a weekend!
Q: And what parts are the biggest challenge?
Without a doubt, tiredness!
Q: Do you prefer long or short haul flying? And why?
Both have got positives and negatives to them but if I had to pick – probably long haul as I get more days off and the flying isn’t as brutal
Q: What do you enjoy most about working in the aviation industry?
Because you fly with different people every day you have to make an effort to get to know people quickly. You can have some of the best trips with people you barely know
Q: During your 10 years within Aviation, have you seen more women coming into the industry?
There are a few more, but it hasn’t been a remarkable change for me as I have had women around me from the start.
Q: What are your thoughts on pilot flying hours and current regulations around tiredness?
The hours are fine but it’s everything else that goes with it. Getting to and from and around the airport adds a lot of extra time on. Tiredness doesn’t seem to be taken that seriously if I’m honest. Having an hour sleep during the night before landing an aeroplane with 260 people on doesn’t seem enough but unfortunately that’s they way the industry’s always been.
Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to become a pilot?
It’s a great job, well worth the training, but it does impact the rest of your life.
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