One of my mentors told me...Your aviation career shouldn’t be a small chapter but a big book of adventures you can read later. These are words I remember to this day and am proud that I continue creating interesting chapters of my career and life.
Hello everyone. My name is Rashid. I am 27 years old and currently a Boeing 737 pilot for a major airline here in Canada. Prior to this I was a Q400 Check/Training Captain as well as a CRM instructor for our regional subsidiary. Over the course of my 9 years in aviation I have flown cargo on B1900/C208B aircraft, been a flight instructor and worked in ground operations for aviation companies in flight dispatch, crew-scheduling/planning and ramp operations.
My journey to the flight deck has been an almost crazy adventure that when I look back even surprises me. It does however, make me quite grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had and all the people I’ve come across as well as the friendships that will last a lifetime.
Although I always had an affinity towards aviation as I was always traveling with my parents when I was young, flying was never my primary plan. I had no relations, no specific introduction to aviation and events of post 911 restricted me from starting my flying career or even considering it.
I was like any teenager going through my phases of figuring out what I wanted to do in life. From computers into coding, web development and graphic design to focusing my full efforts towards Law and Business as I finished my Cambridge University’s GCSE/A Level program. I still have a strong belief in continuous learning and attend university part time working on my business degree.
I enrolled at the Lahore Flying Club in Pakistan in 2011 to start my PPL (Private Pilot License) after being introduced to a local pilot at my parents business. Although the initial plan was just to do my PPL there, I ended up completing all my training (CPL/IR) the subsequent year and moved back to Canada. This is where my story really began.
After a brief vacation in Charlottetown with the family, I decided to get on a bus with a box of my things, a backpack and made my way to Moncton Flight College. A bizarre decision on my part looking back, but it turned out to be one of the best things I did for myself.
It wasn’t easy initially, coming back to Canada years later, being far away from home, into a new province and not knowing anyone there. I admitted myself into a modular program in order to convert my CPL (Commercial Pilot License). I completed an online ground-school to convert my licenses and also worked at the airport as a ramp crew member. I stayed with that job for a few years as it provided travel benefits meaning I could go home, it also helped me learn a lot more that goes on operationally.
Today I am flying the same aircraft that I once helped load/unload, de-ice and clean. To gain even more experience I also accepted another job as a Flight Coordinator for a local cargo airline. It was a Type C dispatch where I learned more about flight watch, flight planning, customs requirements, dispatching requirements and even charter operations.
I completed converting my flight licenses and enrolled directly into a full time Flight Instructor program at the college. In addition, I picked up my third job at the school, dispatching aircraft for the students and clients. I had an extremely busy schedule during that time as I'm sure you can imagine. After I graduated from the 3 month program I was offered my fourth job; a Flight Instructor position where I taught domestic students in Moncton. I kept up with all my jobs for many months until I knew I’d have to make some changes.
Later that year I accepted a position at our Fredericton campus where our college obtained contracts for Chinese Airline pilots for their training. I made the move to focus solely on my flight instructor position and building up my hours. Teaching in an ESL environment made me a much better instructor. I exceeded and beat my student progress targets, maintained a perfect pass rate as an instructor and pushed harder to learn more everyday. It was some of the most rewarding work I’ve done with some great memories alongside my good friends. During this time I also completed my ATPL exams and converted my Single Engine IFR license from Pakistan to Canadian Multi Engine IFR.
I was then was offered a position in Halifax to fly Cessna 208B for the cargo airline I worked for in Moncton. It was my true first IFR job and I did some amazing flying and learned a lot through the intense weather the east coast of Canada had to offer. As I was ready to upgrade I was offered a position on our Beechcraft 1900 aircraft out of Hamilton. I accepted the position as it brought me back closer to the Toronto area and my family. The B1900 was an excellent, capable work horse that was my introduction to true multi engine IFR flying. No autopilot, just pure hard work. It was definitely some of the best flying I’ve ever done and memories that will last a life time.
As I trained towards my upgrade on the B1900, I received an offer to join Westjet Encore, a regional airline which grew to be the second largest operator of the Q400 in the world. I had the opportunity to fly brand new aircraft and fly all across Canada and parts of the US. By my 25th birthday I completed my training successfully and became a Captain. I then moved into the training department conducting line-introduction for new pilots. As my comfort levels increased I took on more responsibilities as a Simulator/CRM instructor and completed my line-checker course as well.
I truly enjoyed my time working with some amazing people in all departments who taught me a lot and found a new love for our country having flown nearly everywhere and exploring as much as I could. I made some amazing friendships along the way and picked up many new skills as well.
As the opportunity arose I accepted my flow offer to move to the mainline carrier which is now my current position, a B737 First Officer. The journey still continues as I write this for you amidst the COVID-19 crisis which will be a new chapter for all our careers going forward.
Over the last few years I started my Instagram channel (@pilotrashid) sharing my adventures, answering questions and connecting with new pilots globally. I remember starting in the aviation world, good information was hard to come by. I hope to change that as much as I can whilst in aviation.
My biggest advice to upcoming pilots in the industry is to never stop working hard. Help your friends, colleagues and build yourself up as a team. Our aviation world is small and we need good pilots not only of skill but of good heart, strong values and great professionalism. Never stop learning and growing yourself as a person inside and outside of aviation. Good luck to all of you!
Pilot Rashid has a large Instagram presence, go check out his great content!