From Cabin to Flight Deck
A Cabin Crew to Pilot story
If you ask a group of trainee pilots what they did before embarking upon their pilot journey it wouldn’t take long before you came across someone who used to work as cabin crew. This is by no means is a new concept, however, why is it that now more so than ever we are seeing more cabin crew follow the route to the flight deck? We’ve spoken to some former cabin crew who are now pilots to find out more about their journey!
Starting my pilot training was going to be (as it is for many) a huge investment for me. It was something I had always wanted to do but as I hadn’t had any exposure to the aviation industry, I wanted to be sure that I would enjoy the industry lifestyle as much as I would enjoy the flying. One way I saw to do this was to join the industry as cabin crew, travelling around the world but also gaining experience within an airline.
Looking back at my time as cabin crew I can say that it has helped in so many more ways than just checking to see if I liked the lifestyle. From giving me great examples to use in competency-based interviews to enhancing my understanding of the roles involved in the day-to-day operation of an aircraft (which helped in my APS MCC training). I loved my year and a half as cabin crew and feel that it has left me more prepared and ready to re-enter the industry as an airline pilot!
I’ve known I wanted to be a pilot since I was 15 so when I finished college at 18 I wanted to find a job within the aviation industry to gain some experience whilst I researched my training options. Cabin crew was a path I was extremely interested in as I felt it would provide me with fantastic exposure to the day-to-day running of the operation and also allow me the opportunity to talk to the pilots and visit the flight deck.
I absolutely adored my year working as cabin crew and would recommend it to anyone who is unsure where to begin their pilot journey. The job gave me the amazing opportunity to travel the world, all whilst gaining invaluable knowledge in my future career field and I found the experiences I had as crew lead to enhancing my ability to succeed at a pilot interview as I had a better understanding of the intricacies of the industry.
When you start flying on the line as Cabin Crew, you get to hear the most wonderful stories about people promising themselves ‘I’ll only do it for a year!’, and then the next thing they know they’ve been travelling as Crew for over a decade. Aviation is an addictive industry; who wouldn’t love the thrill of breakfast, lunch and dinner in 3 different international cities? I think this is why it’s not uncommon for Cabin Crew to stay longer than expected, or, even apply to flight school to train as pilots. Getting some exposure to the flight deck, how airline ops work, and a feel for the industry was key for my progression from Cabin Crew to Pilot. It is an absolutely ginormous financial commitment to make, so taking that time to experience the aviation sector gave me the reassurance I needed to make the jump.
I spent 2 years travelling the world as Cabin Crew before I landed my sponsored flight programme, and so many competency and motivational interview questions experienced during my days assessing for flight schools involved my time as Crew. Coming from not a particularly aviation-orientated family, my time taking tea and coffee into the flight deck in the early hours over the Atlantic, or performing the walk-around in a freezing cold Oslo with the First Officer, were my opportunities to gain an insight into becoming a Pilot.
Besides making the most amazing friends at 37,000ft, being paid to climb Table Mountain, and learning so many life lessons on a jump seat at 3AM, Cabin Crew was completely instrumental in getting me to where I am today; holding a Frozen ATPL license and ready for the Commercial Pilot jobs to get going again!
As Cabin Crew I had one of the most exciting and enjoyable careers in the world, meeting different people and seeing parts of the globe I didn’t even know existed are all memories and experiences that I have brought with me into my training and massively helped with airline preparation.
During my time training as an airline pilot the skills I gained as Cabin Crew were invaluable. From having an awareness of the operational aspects of airline work to being mindful of what your team on ‘both sides of the door’ are up to (Great for CRM!), has all been of benefit to my training giving me some working knowledge of the industry I’m going into.
Sharing my experiences with cadets who had little previous aviation experience has been great fun and hopefully enlightened others as to what the industry is like. I’ve also found that during periods of the intense workload pilot training brings, having an understanding of the fun, enjoyable and friendly career you’re going into is a gentle reminder to yourself of what the end goal is all for helping you push through the difficult times!
What’s going on in the industry?
Let’s talk Brexit, EASA licences, COVID-19 recovery and MPL support
There’s no disputing 2020 came at us from all angles. With COVID and Brexit combined things have been tough for the industry this past year but it’s not all doom and gloom. A Brexit deal and the vaccine have injected some fresh hope and 2021 has kicked off with things seeming a bit more positive than they did previously. But what exactly has been said and how does this affect you?
Brexit and EASA Licences
For lots of us Brexit has meant having to consider converting to an EASA licence, with some airlines even saying they wouldn’t consider candidates with UK CAA licences. The effects of COVID have meant many authorities are in lockdown and have been unable to meet the demand for transferring licences by 1st January 2021 and so the CAA have issued an extension. EASA licences must now be issued before 31st March 2021 if you wish to transfer your licence away from the UK CAA. You can read the CAA publication on this matter here.
Alongside this announcement the CAA issued a validation form, which you can find here. This form allows the use of EASA licences on UK G-registered aircraft. Flight crew carrying a non-UK CAA licence who wish to operate a UK-registered aircraft must carry a general validation form with their licence at all times under ICAO rules. This form is valid for two years under UK law.
If you wish to discover more about the changes being made due to Brexit the UK CAA have a YouTube channel.
It’s all anyone has talked about for almost a year now. Thousands of pilots have lost their jobs and the industry is in turmoil, but will it stay like this? After BALPA’s controversial announcement many industry professionals were unhappy, with the heads of four competing ATOs (FTA Global, FTEJerez, Skyborne Airline Academy and VA Airline Training) uniting to issue a statement in support of the pilot training industry in retaliation.
No one knows for sure how long a recovery will take but with companies such as Ryanair already looking to recruit it may be sooner than anticipated. In contrast to the advice given by BALPA, CAE released an article predicting the industry will require 27,000 new pilots from the end of 2021 due to uncontrollable factors such as retirements.
“Fundamental factors influencing pilot demand prior to the Covid-19 outbreak remain unchanged. Age-based retirement and fleet growth were, and are expected to remain, the main drivers of pilot demand.”
It’s important to remain positive in the current situation and if you have found yourself out of work try to do what you can to stay connected. If you’re looking to renew or revalidate licences Aviation Insider offers a variety of support from online training material and simulator sessions to Jobcentre help.
Aviation Insider was one of the first aviation-approved suppliers to the Jobcentre helping hundreds of pilots over the last few months with the application. The funding is a discretionary award and each case is looked at individually.
For those people who are also struggling with the mental challenges of the pandemic, Aviation Insider have recently announced a partnership with several leading mental health and wellbeing companies, in an attempt to offer our support.
The MPL is a fairly new concept in the world of aviation but before the pandemic hit, many viewed it as the ultimate training route. Tagged from the beginning of your training, the MPL offers cadets the opportunity to spend more time in the simulator learning company SOPs and MCC skills.
Unfortunately the structure of the MPL route left no room for flexibility and many students have lost their tags and been left facing £65,000 additional fees to convert to CPL licences. However, after months of stress and worry there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. It has been agreed that MPL cadets who are unable to complete base training will have the option to apply for a MPL licence with type rating privileges restricted to “Cruise Relief Co-Pilot”.
“The issued licence would be a valid ICAO-compliant licence and would preserve the validity of an applicant’s completed theoretical knowledge exams. In addition, this would give pilots the option of obtaining single pilot CPL/IR privileges in compliance with FCL.405.A MPL (b)(2) and FCL.325.A CPL (A).
To remove the “Cruise Relief Co-Pilot” restriction, the pilot would need to submit evidence of having completed the required base training, provided the type remains valid on his/her licence.”
This announcement I’m sure will come as a huge relief to many, whom until now have had to consider giving up their dreams entirely due to the astronomical expenses associated with retraining.
It now looks as though the MPL is set to stay, with suggestions of “white-tail” MPLs in the future. Catch up on what was said about the MPL at Pilot Careers Live here.
We wish you all a happy and healthy 2021 and look forward to seeing breaks in the clouds as the industry takes off once more!
If you wish for any further advice on the information covered in this article please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bridging the gender gap in aviation
Why is it that only 6% of pilots globally are female and what can we as an industry do to change this?
During the Second World War women were responsible for flying 80% of all ferrying missions, delivering over 12,000 aircraft between them, so why is it that in the year 2020 – almost 80 years later – women only account for 6% of all pilots globally? After the war was over and the men returned from overseas, women were expected to return to their previous roles in the home and it was almost as though their incredible work in the air force had been forgotten. It wasn’t until the late 1960’s/early 1970’s when the world of aviation saw their first female commercial pilot and despite numbers growing steadily, the industry still remains one of the least diverse, with careers such as law and medicine seeing a huge increase in the recruitment of people from minority groups over recent years.
As a little girl I had never come across a female pilot so growing up it was never a career I had even considered, mostly due to lack of exposure. It’s difficult for someone to dream of being something that they’ve never seen so it’s critical for us to inspire children’s imaginations from a young age and put female pilots out there as visible role models in an attempt to educate young girls that it’s a fantastic career option for them too. It wasn’t until I was 15 years old before I realised that becoming a commercial pilot was my dream but I was hesitant to research any further at first as I was under the false impression that I’d had my epiphany too late. To me it felt as though anyone I’d ever met who aspired to fly planes for a living had come to this grand conclusion when they were in infancy and had been obsessed with all things aviation since then, leaving me feeling as though I didn’t want it enough because that didn’t fit the way I’d decided my future career. When I began my training at the age of 19 I was shocked to discover that almost every one of my female peers had experienced this exact same feeling and in fact its common for women to choose their careers later in life than most men.
We need to teach our girls that it’s never too late to pursue a goal and to do that we must stop creating these invisible barriers; unfortunately it’s still not uncommon that schools and careers advisors are under informed on this subject and it’s not unheard of for people in positions of power to attempt to dissuade their female students to pursue what they wrongly perceive to be a “mans job”. Companies such as The Female Lead are taking fantastic strides towards encouraging schools to look out for their young women and help them find their voices; “The Female Lead Society” is a school’s programme that helps shape discussions around female representation and ambition. The programme is made of 30-45 minute sessions, focusing on a range of topics from careers, feminism, friendships, money and lots more.
One of the most regular comments I receive from people upon discovering I am a pilot is “Oh you must be ridiculously clever”. There’s a common misconception that to become a pilot you have to be great at maths and physics and you need a degree, this isn’t the case. Almost all flight schools now only require you to have 5 GCSEs Level 4/C Grade or above including English, Maths and Science (ideally Physics) and you’ll find a lot of students begin training straight after leaving school. It’s certainly not necessary to undertake a university degree before attending flight school, though many do so they can have a “back up plan”. Personally I spent a year working as cabin crew and gaining some industry – as well as life – experience before embarking upon my training as I didn’t wish to incur more costs by attending university and racking up a student loan on top of training fees! STEM subjects have always traditionally been viewed as “boys subjects” but with the help of schools enthusing girls to show an interest in these subjects we will see a rise in females interested in aviation and, as a result, a career as a pilot.
Another factor in why we’re not seeing more women consider flying is a lack of information regarding maternity support and raising a family. For decades women have worked as flight attendants alongside bringing up children so why should that be any different as a pilot? Airlines now offer a range of part time contracts allowing pilots more flexible working patterns making it easier to have a good work life balance. As well as this companies are beginning to offer better maternity benefits and support for their employees looking to have a baby, and in 2019 BALPA launched its industry wide “Baby on Board” campaign in a bid to make airlines take note and put an end to statutory maternity pay and encourage those airlines lagging behind to re-evaluate their policies.
Even today there is still a stigma that women are less capable of flying planes than their male counterparts and that comes largely from out-dated stereotypes and prejudices. Women undergo the exact same selection process, training and testing as men so there is absolutely no reason why we should be less competent in control of an aircraft. This point of view is held less so by fellow pilots and airlines but still appears to be an issue with passengers who have potentially never flown with a female pilot and so fear the unknown. You’re never going to change the opinion of everyone but by exposing these people to more and more women in the flight deck and attempting to narrow the divide within the industry the comments will be fewer and far between. The thought of dealing with negative views can be off putting when considering career options but with a strong support network of like-minded colleagues it can certainly take away some of the anxiety. Something that I found extremely beneficial during training was spending time with the girls I was training alongside, as you’ll often find they’re experiencing the same stresses and concerns as you. I’ve made friends for life through the industry and the worries I had when starting training about being the odd one out and feeling isolated were squashed almost instantly when I realised there’s a huge array of incredible women all willing to offer advice and a helping hand on any topic.
Potentially the largest contributor as to why we see fewer women, and minority groups as a whole, in the flight deck is down to the cost of training. With fees exceeding £100,000 in some cases its no surprise the industry is struggling to attract a diverse group of people, with women being less likely to take risks than men particularly where money is concerned. Although there are a few schemes around to help out with funding, such as the British Women Pilots’ Association (BWPA) who offer a number of different scholarships each year, in recent years we’ve seen fewer airlines offering sponsored schemes and the price of training rising. There are certainly airlines that have been very vocal in displaying a desire to increase their number of female pilots and a few initiatives have been born from this; the easyJet Amy Johnson initiative launched in 2015 with the goal of increasing their percentage of female pilots to 20% by 2020 and Wizz Air’s Cabin Crew to Captain programme aimed at supporting employees with their career goals to become pilots, as well as to promote gender equality in the aviation profession with a pledge for 25% of their pilots to be female by 2030. It’s important to note that these schemes have not been developed to discriminate against or exclude our male colleagues (everyone is allowed to apply, not just women) but rather to entice more women to apply for the role in the first place because if you’re excluding 50% of potential applicants from the beginning you’re not hiring the best people possible.
If completing training in under 2 years isn’t necessarily a priority for you and you’re prepared to take a little more time or even if you’re looking to continue working whilst you train, a fantastic way to keep costs down is by pursuing the modular training route. Modular training allows you to choose where and when you complete your training, giving you the benefit of being able to budget appropriately, rather than spending a large upfront sum like that required for integrated courses.
It’s clear that there isn’t just one factor to the gender balance problem in the industry and there’s not one singular resolution to solve it either; however there are plenty of realistic and achievable things we can be doing to increase the global percentage. We have a responsibility to inspire our girls from a young age and show them that becoming a pilot is a viable career option. We need to educate our educators and encourage them to promote the career to girls and boys alike. We should be providing little girls with female role models and more than anything we should be making the career more accessible to everyone, not just those that have the money to pay for it. It’s going to be a long road but with the progress we’ve already made and the awareness continuing to grow, it’s more than achievable that we can begin to close the gap and start get people to realise that girls fly too!
Do you dream of becoming a pilot?
Do you dream of becoming a pilot? 5 tips on how to pass the pilot training selection.
When I came to the conclusion that I wanted to become a commercial pilot at the age of 15 I had no idea just how much work awaited me. The flight schools that train future pilots run a robust selection process as a way to determine which students they believe are most likely to succeed in training and possess the traits desired in a commercial pilot.
An important thing to note about these pilot aptitude tests is that the applicants ability to pilot an aircraft is not directly assessed so it isn’t always necessary for you to gain flying experience prior to attending an assessment day, however, there are other ways you can prepare.
Tip #1 – Practice Aptitude Tests
Different schools use different aptitude testing programmes in order to assess their applicants so before attending an assessment day I’d recommend researching what type of test is used by the flight training organisation that you’ve applied to. The aptitude tests will judge your literacy, numeracy, spatial reasoning, reaction time and multitasking skills so it’s useful to get in some practice so there aren’t too many surprises on the day. There are plenty of online platforms that allow you to purchase a subscription to their preparation material and they’re well worth the money; if you know of someone else attending an assessment day around the same time as you, you could always split the cost of the subscription to keep expenses down. At Aviation Insider we’ve partnered with pilotaptitudetest.com to help provide aspiring pilots with the best possible aptitude training so you can be as prepared as possible before the big day!
Tip #2 – Get in contact with current students
A great way to get an insight into what’s currently happening at the training organisation you’ve applied to and find out some more about the company is by talking to current students and getting advice from the people who have just been through the same process that you’re about to go through. Making contacts early on will help you throughout the rest of your career as you’ll always have someone around to give you advice/guidance and it will show the companies you’re applying to that you’re personable and forward thinking.
Tip #3 – Brush up on your mental maths
It isn’t necessary to be a maths wiz to become a pilot however having the ability to do mental maths (particularly the 3 times table) to a good standard will help you massively. Most flight school maths assessments will be a simple GCSE level multiple-choice test designed to assess your ability to quickly but accurately work out maths questions under pressure. Whilst flying, a pilot will be required to work out their top of descent (TOD), rate of descent (ROD) and time en route amongst other things so having a fair level of mental maths ability is desired. I’d recommend practicing your mental maths to the point where you feel confident that you will be able to complete the questions within the allotted time (the YouTube channel techmath has some very helpful videos on quick multiplication and division tricks that I found very useful when practising for the assessment day). As well as mental maths testing you might be required to undertake numerical and verbal reasoning tests too so it’s important that you get some practice in theses areas as well. Aviation Insider has developed online practice material in order to assist you in preparing for any flight school or airline that may require you to undertake these assessments.
Tip #4 – Do some research into the industry
It is absolutely vital to keep your finger on the pulse with the latest news on the aviation industry. Interviewers want to see someone who has a genuine interest in the role of a pilot and aviation itself, as it shows dedication and commitment. It isn’t unheard of for interviewers to ask candidates to tell them about some recent aviation related events that have happened recently as a way to see how well prepared you are for the interview. Arm yourself with 5 or so interesting things to discuss relating to industry news just in case you’re required to call upon this information. Keeping your knowledge of the industry current is also a useful way to show a passion for aviation and gives you something to relate your answers to in order to provide another layer to your interview.
Tip #5 – Think of some good interview examples that satisfy the key competencies
Interviews are the one constant in every job application. No one particularly enjoys doing interviews but it is the best way for a potential employer to see what you’re like in person and decide whether you’re the right fit for the company. Pilot interviews are heavily competency based so I’d recommend thinking of real life examples where you have demonstrated the skills that are looked for in a pilot. Potential questions include:
- Give an example of a time when you have worked as part of a team.
- How do you cope with failure?
- Tell me about a time where you have lead a team.
- Give an example of a time when you’ve had to make a decision under pressure.
- Tell me about a time when you’ve had to work to a timescale when completing an important task.
- Give an example of a time when you’ve had to break the rules.
When answering these questions I would recommend using the STAR method to structure your responses. The STAR model allows you to answer the questions efficiently without waffling and forgetting your point.
S- Situation: Set the scene.
T- Task: Establish the end goal.
A- Action: What did you do?
R- Result: What was the outcome of your actions?
I would also suggest relating your answers back to becoming a pilot and how these skills will help you in a flying career, as this is ultimately what the interviewers are looking for. And don’t forget to prepare some questions to ask the interviewer at the end!
Overall, although the thought of the application and assessment process can be daunting, as long as you prepare yourself and show that you have a genuine interest in aviation, it’s more than doable. There are plenty of platforms out there aimed specifically at helping aspiring and qualified pilots alike to achieve their goals and prepare for the challenges that face them.
With a newly launched website and app, Aviation Insider is becoming the go to source for pilot information, services and products. Our aim is to provide you with a comprehensive package of products and services that enable a pilot to manage their career from start to finish, from “thinking about becoming a pilot” through to getting your command and more.
It’s an unprecedented time for the aviation industry right now and everyone involved has to pull together. Aviation Insider will do whatever it takes to help pilots remain current and keep inspiring the future generations to pursue this wonderful career.