Hi my name is Allison Couch! I am a student enrolled in the Integrated Airline Transport Pilot License (IATPL) program at the Brampton Flight Centre near Toronto, Canada.
I had always been attracted to aviation, even at a young age, probably because of my father who was an Aircraft Maintenance Engineer and the biggest aviation enthusiast! My incredible journey began when I was a young girl growing up in Singapore. While I was born in Montreal, Canada, at a young age my family moved half way around the world when my father was transferred to a posting in Singapore. From being around industry professionals, attending airshows, and sitting in the jump seat in a Boeing 747 as a child (while the airplane was on ground I should add), I knew I had found my passion . . .
Following my high school years, and wanting to pursue a career in aviation, I studied Aviation Management at Georgian College, in Canada. After graduation I worked for Ornge Air (an Air Ambulance service provider) as their Aerodrome Conformance Specialist overseeing the inspection and maintenance of more than 80 helipads across the province of Ontario. While working full time I was able to take-up flying lessons and earned my Private Pilot’s Licence. My work at Ornge Air provided me with experience in aerodrome conformance and standards.
Though wanting to be up close to live airplanes, I moved into maintenance planning at Skyservice Business Aviation where I learned much about the business aviation sector and corporate aircraft. I subsequently became infected with the “travel bug” and joined Emirates Airlines in Dubai as a Flight Attendant, as I needed to get out and see the world. And more importantly, I needed to build-up my savings to continue commercial flight training. While working as a Flight Attendant, I used to have in depth discussions with the pilots during cruise to hear about their personal journey to the flight deck.
I took advantage of the time in Dubai to further my education and obtained a Master’s Degree in Aviation Management and completed a diploma course in Aviation Security Management. While I enjoyed the international experience and learning as a member of the Emirates team, I made the hard decision to leave my career as a flight attendant. I saved enough money to return to Canada and enrol as a full time student pilot to obtain my frozen ATPL in 13 months! I’ve been fortunate to have gained diverse experiences in the industry and I know too this will go a long way to become an even better pilot.
A part from flying, my father always challenged me to get out more. I followed his advice and joined Women in Aviation and The Ninety-Nines. Both are great organizations that support, encourage and mentor female pilots, and indeed support all women wishing to enter any career field in aviation. I met some incredible ladies who have been there for me, through every step of my career. I even did a term as President of the Upper Canada Chapter for Women in Aviation International and currently I am the Chapter Secretary for the First Canadian Chapter of The Ninety-Nines female pilots organization. I think one way to give back, is to be an example to all—young and old—that want to learn to fly or advance their careers to the next level.
Becoming a commercial pilot can be a fulfilling and rewarding career, but it does take discipline, commitment and hard work to achieve your aspirations. Flight school is really intense and expensive! I must carefully budget and be disciplined in my spending habits. Also, I don’t have much of a social life anymore and little time for personal hobbies. However, I am fortunate to have a supportive circle of family and friends that continue to support me though my training. I know the results will be totally worth it.
I am enrolled in advanced flight training commonly known as an IATPL (Integrated Airline Transport Pilot Licence) program. The training is intense and consists of both actual hands-on flying along with hundreds of hours of ground school instruction. The program is comprised of 5 phases, namely, 1) Private Pilot License, 2) Commercial License and Night rating, 3) Multi-engine rating, 4) Instrument Flight Rules rating and 5) Airline Transport Pilot training. Currently, I hold a Private Pilots License and Night Rating. I am only a few flights away from my Commercial Pilots License flight test and then I will be able to progress on to the Multi-engine and IFR rating.
In 10 years or perhaps a bit beyond, I see myself flying as Captain for an international airline and maybe soon after I would want to diversify into additional roles, such as safety and emergency management where I could contribute to improving our industry-leading safety record. And while the COVID-19 crisis is creating much uncertainty, I am hopeful governments and all of us will be disciplined and united as we battle the pandemic, to quickly bring the virus under control.
Some advice I would offer anyone interested to become a pilot would be the sooner you get started—the better. Take advantage of the many youth programs that are available such as the Air Cadets, where you can learn to fly even when you are still in high school. I would also encourage anyone with an aviation interest to get involved in the many organizations available that offer comradeship and support to start and grow your career. There are many great organizations such as Elevate Aviation, the Northern Lights Aero Foundation, The Ninety-Nines, Women in Aviation International, and here in Toronto, the Urban Pilots Network that encourage, support and mentor young aspiring aviation professionals. And don’t forget, there are numerous scholarship opportunities available for both men and women that can lessen the financial burden of not only flight training, but also lessen the cost of higher education such as college and university.
Also . . . always, always, always network with your peers and others in the industry. It’s a small world where everyone is supportive of one another.
The aviation world is made up of an extraordinary and unique group of people, who share a passion for the industry with energy and enthusiasm that isn’t seen anywhere else. It’s contagious—and a little bit crazy—but once you’ve been a part of it, there’s no turning back.