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Pilot Richard:

My name is Richard and I am from The Netherlands. I grew up in Zandvoort, a beach town which is famous for it’s Formula 1 circuit and sandy beaches. Nobody in my family is in aviation but they are very adventurous on my dad’s side. My passion for aviation started back in 1996 when I set foot on an airplane for the first time in my life. I was 7 years old and we were on our way to Medan, Indonesia for the wedding of my Uncle and Aunt. From what I remember, the plane was a McDonnell Douglas MD-11 or DC10 operated by Garuda Indonesia. I was allowed to visit the cockpit during the flight and I remember bright light coming through the windows and all the buttons and switches on the overhead panel. Little did I know that my first experience on this plane triggered my fascination to become a pilot myself. Ever since that day I have been fascinated by flying.

For me the most exciting thing about flying isn’t the technical or engineering side. For me the most exciting part of flying is flying to different destinations around the world and experiencing new countries, new cities, new food, new cultures. It is the people that I meet on my trips that broaden my views of this world. Don’t get me wrong I think it is amazing to fly a plane and I never get bored of the views you get at 40.000’ but the experiences you get from travelling the world are unbeatable.

In 2008 around the start of the economic crisis I left university because I wanted to become a pilot. Unfortunately this was the worse time to start flight training so I decided to wait for 2,5 years before applying. In 2011 at the age of 23 I started my flight training via EPST in the Netherlands. They outsourced almost everything at Oxford Aviation Academy which was later purchased by CAE. It started with 7 months of theory in Oxford. After 14 EASA/JAR exams we moved to Goodyear airport in Phoenix, Arizona in the United States for the flying part. This has been one of the best times in my life so far. The flying, the things I did outside of flying, it really was an incredible 7 months. Something I am very grateful for to have experienced. I flew over 100 hours in a Piper Warrior PA32 and a Piper Seneca PA34.

After passing my check ride for my Commercial Pilot License (CPL) it was time to head back to Oxford again. There, I spent 5 months of flying on the PA34 behind screens to get my Instrument Rating (IR). The final part of my training was back at EPST for the Multi Crew Cooperation (MCC) and the Advanced Jet foundation (AJFC). These are essential to learn how to work together with another pilot and to understand the basics of flying a jet aircraft. I enjoyed flight training a lot, I wish the flying part in the USA was longer so I could have spent more time there.

After 23 months of continuous training I graduated in 2013. Shortly after that I started my type rating via CAE Parc on the A320 to then join easyJet as a contractor. I got to fly to all kinds of airports in Europe from the busiest airports in Europe to windy Keflavik and CAT C airports like Funchal on Madeira Island. I was also based in Geneva for 8 months which is where I learnt a lot about visual approaches and hand flying. After 3.5 years I really wanted to fly long haul and see the world. That's when I joined Emirates in Dubai on the Airbus A380. I really enjoyed my time flying for Emirates, sure the night flights were tough sometimes but I had great colleagues at Emirates and the destinations were amazing. Life in Dubai was not too bad either!

In 2019 my wife and I made the very difficult decision to leave Emirates and Dubai for personal reasons. I miss Emirates and Dubai very much and I think a lot about my time there. After 2.5 years the end was there and I joined British Airways on the Airbus A320. The pain of leaving Emirates was softened by thinking that I had joined a reputable legacy career where I would have a lifelong career as a pilot ahead of me.

Then COVID-19 came and crashed the party and disrupted the aviation industry and the world. There is no denying that this virus can be dangerous for certain people. Unfortunately the damage that is done will have a tremendous impact on the future of thousands of experienced pilots and cadets. I will be affected by this as well and my time at British Airways will end prematurely after the company decided that, because of my low seniority, I am selected for compulsory redundancy. After nearly 7 years as a commercial pilot my career has suddenly come to a standstill.

Like every pilot on a flight you try to have a plan B in case of an emergency. But reality is that right now, it is extremely difficult to come up with a plan B. The world is in turmoil and chances of finding a job in aviation will be very small. I don’t know what the future holds for me but I will have to be flexible, I will have to adapt to the new situation. I am convinced that my experience and professionalism will get me back in a seat. I have over 4000 flying hours on an Airbus A320 and Airbus A380, I have seen a lot of airports around the world and I have flown to all continents (except for Antarctica). I am far from done and I am sure I will return to the skies.

Looking back at my career so far there are a few things that I wish I could tell my younger self:

1. Make sure you really understand the impact it will have on your life when you take on so much debt to become a pilot.

2. Do more research! In 2008 I did not have the possibility to talk to pilots on Instagram and ask for their advice. Do it! Find real pilots on Instagram or LinkedIn and ask if they can help you answer some questions. Being a pilot also comes with its challenges and unfortunately not everyone shares the real pilot life online. Be picky who you choose to talk to. You can always send me a DM @RichardintheWorld and I’ll be more than happy to help.

3. Know your Worth and Respect yourself. I basically chose a pay-to-fly scheme in Europe to start my career. Because I did that I also started my career with a huge debt. The financial pressure is real and most airlines do not understand the situation young pilots are in these days. Do not sell yourself short.

One of the reasons I started my Instagram was to share the real life of a pilot. To show a future generation of pilots that its not as glamorous as some people on social media portray it to be. I want to give people an honest look inside the life of a pilot. My biggest advice that I want to give to every young aspiring pilot right now, is to wait 2-3 years before starting any flight training. We have a long few years ahead of us and I truly believe that you should not invest that money right now on a pilot license. Wait until the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the upcoming economic crisis is approaching its end. Get a degree now and then start your flight training.

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