A pilot talks about a life in the clouds

12th February 2019

The beauty with the aviation industry is how many roles it covers and how much opportunity people have to move around the sector and explore different paths. Take Louise* for example – she started out in Air Traffic Control but moved into being a pilot, and has now been a Captain for 25 years. Here she tells us about her career so far.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Nothing is ever a typical day. Report can be any time Once at work I’m never there for less that 9.5 hours – a quick transatlantic is 7 hours, report is 1.5 hrs before and there is about an hour after. A more typical day at work is around 12 hours and the longest is 16. Report. Meet crew, flight and cabin. Brief. Go to aircraft. Prep aircraft. Board passengers. Fly. Land. Debrief. Obviously travel at either end is variable depending on start point.

How has your career progressed?

I was an Air Traffic Controller, and I had sponsored training which led to flying. I’ve spent the last 30 years with one company, 25 as Captain.

What do you love most about working in the aviation industry?

Travel. Meeting people. The mix of cognitive and physical skills.

What is one of your fondest memories from your aviation career?

First take off in a commercial airliners. My cheeks ached from grinning as we broke through the cloud at 16,000 feet.

What one piece of technology will have the most significant impact on the aviation industry?

Improvements in man / machine interface. Specifically improvements in auroflight programming.

What do you believe are the key challenges that need to be addressed within the sector you worked?

Fatigue. Down skulking in the training process. The expense of getting started means good people cannot gain access. I had sponsored training and was very lucky, but not everyone is.

What’s the greatest misconception people have about your job?

They assume we only press buttons and the plane does it all.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into your job / sector?

Stay focussed. Work hard. Believe in yourself.

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