“What I really love is how many of the non-technical skills I had developed through my experience as a high performing athlete have been the building blocks for my career in aviation. What is even better is being able to combine these old skills with many new skills to create an individual who is motivated, enthusiastic and always keen to improve.”
In the recent past, if you’d have told me by the end of 2017 I’d be training to fly an airbus for a leading airline in Europe, I would have probably laughed and not believed you. In March 2015, you’d have found me somewhere on the slopes of the Austrian Alps racing my way round plastic poles drilled into the snow, either for a competition or just a training session. Back then, my life was very much focused on one day making it to the World Cup circuit and the Olympic Games. All pilots have their stories of how they ended up at the commands of a multi-million pound modern airliner, but I can probably take a guess that none you have come across one quite as quirky as mine!
For most pilots, they follow in the footsteps of a family member, or make their passion developed from their experiences as Air Cadets into a career. Some perhaps have an interest in aeronautical engineering and end up becoming pilots because of their love for the metal structures that have been evolved for life in the air. I have no connection to aviation at all, asides from having spent many hours travelling around the world to find the snow! Towards the end of my teenage years, careers I was considering long term included becoming a volcanologist, a physiotherapist and a sport scientist.
However, my path changed. My journey into the world of aviation began one evening in my little “marshmallow” car (an affectionate name the kids I’ve worked with at a local youth organisation use to refer to the vehicle I drive). There I was, driving along, minding my own business, whilst my parents and I were on our way to a lovely meal out at a Chinese restaurant (ironically called “Wings”) to celebrate their wedding anniversary. We came across this rather complex roundabout, which I negotiated with no problems at all, displaying some very smooth, slick driving skills. As I accelerated onto the dual carriageway with an elegance, my father says “You’re quite good at driving now. Your driving has come a long way.” I merely replied with a thank you, not aware of where he was going with such a comment. A few minutes later, he came out with “Would you like to have a go at flying?” as we pass Farnborough airport, “I think you’d be quite good at it.” Shocked, I sat there processing it and I just replied “Why not?” Without realising quite what I’d just committed to.
Fourteen EASA exams, 800 hours of classroom lessons, many more hours of independent study and more than 150 hours of flying later, I found myself graduating from Flight Training Europe in Jerez, a mere two years after the last time I carved my way down a snowy slope somewhere in Austria. The transformation from an elite athlete to a fledging airline pilot has been an incredible experience. What I really love is how many of the non-technical skills I had developed through my experience as a high performing athlete have been the building blocks for my career in aviation. What is even better is being able to combine these old skills with many new skills to create an individual who is motivated, enthusiastic and always keen to improve.
It has been one incredible adventure so far and I shall look forward to everything life in the air will have in store for me! However, I will not forget who I was and how my past endeavours have contributed to my current career. It is what makes me unique. Going forward, I hope to be able to share all I have learnt with young people. I aim to inspire them and highlight the importance of sport; how it is a fantastic teacher of life lessons and skills which will help any child thrive in the workplace, as they grow into confident adults who can work as both the team player and the team leader. Opportunities are always there, you just have to look for them and be ready to take them. Therefore, it is up to each and every one of us to make the most of life and live it to the fullest! I hope to show people they can embrace life’s opportunities, pursue their ambitions regardless of the barriers and become stronger & more resilient because of the challenges they face in achieving their goals.
*For more details on my background, please refer to the Résumé page.