I am happy to bring to you the first of our pilot interviews, this is an interview with Paul Whittingham, A320 first officer at easyJet. I plan to have more of these going forward to help all student pilots understand what the job is like and the different routes people take to get a job.
What route did you take for your pilot training?
How long did it take?
4 years from start to finish, but this was deliberately slow. I started training in 2008 when the world was apparently ending and no signs of any recruitment, so it didn’t make sense to rush through the training. The APTL exams took the longest, 2 years which I did from home.
What was the reason you took this route?
No other choice! Only secure loans were offered for integrated training which I just didn’t have the means to do. The modular route was my only option.
Do you have any advice for people following the same path?
Don’t stress too much with the details, there’s many schools and routes for modular training but the all end up with an fATPL, so don’t stress about which is ‘best’ just do what suits you.., financially or due to location. Do what is most likely to get you there, my experience is that airlines aren’t too fussed where you did your training, whatever the integrated schools might say, as long as you have a license and pass their own assessments. That said airlines cosy up to integrated schools and most major airlines will recruit almost all people from them. Be prepared to get overlooked for those to try various angles to make contacts and find a job. You need a bit of luck on your side, to be in the right place at the right time.
How long did it take you to find your first job?
From finishing training in mid 2012, I had a job offer by sept 2013. This was from easyJet as part of an internal part-sponsored scheme. I worked for them in their operations department, a job I’d gotten whilst doing my exams in the hope it may lead somewhere at the right time.
Tell me about the type rating?
The type rating was tough, working your way through pretty much every failure possible on an Airbus with only experience of a twin prop is quite a leap. But it’s perfectly doable, it requires some dedicated time, we did it as a group away at CTC and lived together during the 6 weeks, it was an intense time, all your spare time taken up with preparation and sim sessions. It was fun too though!
What is your day to day job like?
Every day has a different start time and finish time. Each week starts and ends of a different weekday with a different number of days off and there is no pattern I.e. A random roster pattern. You work with different people every day. Sometimes early starts, other times late finishes. Your day could be 6 hours long or more than 13 hours depending you your route. 2 sectors or up to 6 at some bases but only 4 for me. So it’s extremely varied and you have to be prepared for that. But it’s great, you start in briefing room meet your capt and go through flight plans, weather, routes etc. Walk out and prep the aircraft then off you go. You’re away from an office, no managers breathing down your neck, you have complete autonomy, besides keeping the captain happy and sticking to SOPs of course. The days can become very tiring, and at times monotonous if doing the same routes in height of summer, it’s easy to become complacent. But as far as jobs go it’s well paid eventually, and when the aircraft is on the ground you aren’t working anymore, no emails to reply to no stress about targets or projects. You turn up and do your job, then go home. You don’t get that with many well paid jobs these days.
Do you have any advice for people wanting to be a pilot?
Do your research about what’s involved, both the training and the job, make sure it’s really what you want as it’s a long and expensive road. Once you’re decided, commit to it and don’t give up! There was no other option for me than to complete training and find a job, no plan b. I know people with ATPLs that have not managed to find a job, it’s a lot of money down the drain. If your older than 30 then get it done as quick as possible, especially now as recruitment is happening all over, it’s a good time to get qualified. Being in my 30s for type rating and line training I found it challenging, I think people in their early 20s find it easier (old dog, new tricks and all that). Either during or after training, try to get a job in the industry, anything you can as this is something employers do like to see, it’s shows commitment and who knows where it may lead. I took a £10k pay cut and a 2 hour commute for my first job in ops for a cargo airline whilst trying to pay for my own training, far from ideal, but this job helped me to get into easyJet which resulted in a paid type rating and a job as FO, it works and is an extra angle to try. Overall enjoy the training and your hour building, you’ll probably never afford to do so much flying again for fun. Go abroad where possible, UK is very expensive to fly.
If you would like to contribute your story then please feel free to contact me.