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Flying High A Sixth Former’s experience piloting with British Airways

Date Posted: Wednesday 27 November 2019

When asking their pupils what they want to be when they grow up, teachers across the world will hear ‘pilot’ mentioned as a popular career.  For one pupil at Ashford School, their dream is getting closer to reality.  Here, Sixth Former Camilla describes what inspired her love of flying and her experience of participating in British Airways’ pilots training programme.

“Back in 2016 I attended a trial flight at Lydd where I was given the opportunity to take off, and carry out some basic procedures in a PA-28.  Flying over the south west coast piqued my interest in flying and the aviation industry as a whole.

I started my lessons a year later in a Cessna 152, a small 2 seater aircraft.  After going through the basics of take offs and straight and level flying, I soon learned about the complexities of flying a plane, such as circuits, radio work, emergency procedures and pre, post and mid- flight checks.

At 16 I did my first solo flight which solidified my desire to join the aviation industry.  The full weight of the responsibility of being the only person that could bring the plane down safely hadn’t occurred to me until I had taken off.  Flying solo was a hugely adrenaline-inducing experience and one of the most freeing and exciting moments of my life.  The exhilaration of flying somewhere new and exploring the beauty of different areas is something I had never experienced before.

In April 2019 my sister and I attended a Pilotcareers Live seminar in London.  It was a brilliant opportunity to meet a variety of different people within the aviation industry.  After listening to a lecture from British Airways where they expressed their desire to start a cadet programme, I decided to enquire about work experience, or future apprenticeships they might currently have available.  I signed up to their job alerts and a notification about a pilots’ work experience placement landed in my inbox a few weeks later.

I submitted my CV, filled in some standard questions and details and sent my application off.  Soon after, I received an email inviting me to British Airways’ Waterside headquarters to take part in an assessment day.  A couple of weeks later, I was contacted with an offer to attend the placement in September, as was my sister.

For the first round of work experience, we returned to Waterside, where we were given a tour of the area and learned in detail about the company’s history.  The experience was invaluable; not only did I learn about the intricacies of how British Airways operates, I also found out what steps I need to take in order to pursue a career as a pilot.  It was brilliant to meet pilots who each told us how they got into flying and how they secured jobs at British Airways.  This really opened my eyes to the challenges of working in the aviation industry and how much training I will need to undertake.  I really hadn’t been aware of how much is expected of pilots in terms of their training, leading a healthy lifestyle and being able to respond to emergencies and act quickly.

In the October half-term we completed the work experience.  This time, we were at Vanguard House, the main engineering hub for Heathrow’s Terminal 5 which gave us an opportunity to have a proper look around an Airbus A320 and a Boeing 777.  It was a fantastic week which gave us an even deeper insight into the aviation industry but the highlight was, without doubt, using one of the simulators to land a Boeing 767.  Whilst it was a simulator, the experience felt very real and firmly cemented my ambition to become an airline pilot in the future.”