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Pilot Suzannah:

I was born & educated in Portsmouth, UK, and after studying the International Baccalaureate, I went on to do a degree in Spanish and Italian at the University of Bristol. For me it was essential to have a full education, not only as something to fall back on, but also the fact that I really wanted to experience uni life! I've always had an immense interest in aviation, but I don't come from a particularly 'pilot-y' family. I've loved travelling and particularly found aircraft and the notion of flying fascinating ever since I can remember.

The thought of heading into yet more education after my degree was a very scary thought, so in my final year of University I began applying for cabin crew roles as a sort of gap fill before I would (hopefully) go to flight school. During my 2 years as cabin crew for BA, I was lucky enough to interview and be chosen for the Flybe MPL and I started studying at FTE Jerez in February 2019.

Originally I was working towards an Multi-Crew-Pilot License (MPL); a license that nearly always has to be attached to an airline. This became a bit of a problem when in March 2020, four weeks from me completing my course in Spain, my airline sponsor Flybe went into administration. My MPL was heavily weighted towards jet simulator time, with no actual need to get an SEP/MEP rating or a CPL/IR.

With great support from FTE Jerez, I am now converting my license to an Airline Transport Pilot License ATPL, which pretty much includes a load of hour building and a few ratings to gain on the way! The silver lining in all of this though, is that I will be able to take my license and apply to any airline I like, rather than being bonded to one for 1500 hours.

Despite the obvious challenge of losing my airline sponsor during training, I'd say the process has many mountains to conquer. The first for me was moving my life over to Spain for a year and a half, but FTE has some great facilities and the town of Jerez is well connected and pretty, with so much going on, (think beaches, day drinking in town, mountain hikes, outdoor nightclubs, flamenco).

An obvious obstacle is the shear amount of work that pilot school demands of you. There isn't really a way to prepare for it, it really does mentally and physically drain you at times. However, keeping a good group of friends and family around you for support, putting in those hours with the books and CRP 5, and forcing yourself to go to the bar on a Friday night to have some down time, really does help.

The last stand out factor would probably be the fact that out of around 200 students, there are less than 20 girls at the school. There are cadets and teachers from every continent at FTE, and the bar is always full of different languages and cultures - it's actually one of the things that I love about the school. I was used to being surrounded by girls, so it took a bit of getting used to, but it's now only really a problem because there's less people to ask if you need to borrow some makeup.

I hope I'll eventually end up back at BA, or one of the big London based long haul airlines. I think the Boeing 787 would be the ideal plane for me; not too big and not too small! I also like the idea of the central column more than the Airbus side stick, (even though the tray table is appealing), but we can't be that fussy in times like these can we. In 10 years time I definitely hope to be on some ridiculously low hour part-time contract, abusing my staff travel, and high enough up the rankings to manipulate my roster for the best trips.


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