In the third instalment of our Q&A series, following on from Jack Roberts’ story last week, we also caught up with another Air Tanker and Kura Aviation student Johnny Patterson who also has an interesting story about how he made it to the right-seat of an Airbus A330…
Hello Johnny, lets start with how you got into flying…
I love the sensation of flight, I always have. I was fortunate enough to go on a number of overseas holidays with my family when I was younger and always looked forward to the trips to the airports and the flights themselves. I vividly recall being invited up to the flight deck on a flight to Greece when I was 8 years old. The Captain and the First Officer were brilliant and allowed me to “fly the plane” by initiating a level change up to FL 350, I adjusted the altitude and the plane gently pitched up and climbed. I rushed back to my mum and dad, telling them I flew the plane! I was hooked.
Above the feeling you get whilst flying, I enjoy the challenges it brings and the dynamic nature of the industry. When you combine these factors, together with the brilliant people and the every changing views it’s an unbeatable place to call your office.
So following on from this young interest, at what age did you actually start flying and did you have a previous career?
I started flying when I undertook the integrated course at Oxford Aviation, previously undertaking various ad-hoc flights whilst on holiday, or as birthday presents but I didn’t have a PPL beforehand. Prior to staring at Oxford Aviation I finished university obtaining honours in Business Studies and Management.
Does anyone else in your family fly?
My grandfather was a navigator in the Second World War, but no one else in my family flies either professionally nor for recreation. I am proud to be the first!
That’s pretty impressive, you must be very proud of your Grandfather, just as I’m sure your family are with your achievements! You mention that you completed your training with Oxford Aviation on an integrated course, how did you find it?
Yes, I completed my training at Oxford Aviation undertaking the integrated course because I felt this more consolidated and shorter footprint would allow me to successfully enter the market quicker. The instruction was good, professional and the experience second to none. My colleagues were from a diverse background having done all manner of flying in various countries. This made for an excellent learning environment, however my timing to enter the market was far from perfect.
In 2009/10 the aviation market was flat, jobs scarce and I struggled. I self funded an A320 Type Rating on the guarantee of employment with an Asian low cost carrier, only to be let down after successful completion of the TR course and spending 4 weeks in Kuala Lumpur. My debt was significant and I reluctantly took a full time position in the engineering industry while I could wait for future opportunities.
I selected Kura Aviation from multiple others because after only one meeting you understand this is not solely about the business side, but the personal side. They take an active, invested interest in your development and offer professional, tailored support where required. I was nervous about re-entering the industry after some time away but the Kura team made it an enjoyable, educational and ultimately successful experience.
The BESTPILOT course has everything I needed, from the grounding in Pilot Fundamentals (PF), to the Advanced Jet training (AJT) sim, MCC/JOC and finally the interview preparation in Advanced Airline Preparation (AAP). I know now having gone through an A330 Type Rating course that the AJT experience helped me enormously when dealing with the workload, management and multiple failures you experience daily during this period. The course is well structured, has a natural flow to it and if you need additional support in a specific area the team are always there – at no charge!
That can be a difficult thing to find in the aviation training business! How did you find Kura and what is different about their BESTPILOT course, how did it help you gain employment?
I was very fortunate in my timing this time around and was offered a First Officer role with AirTanker on the A330 only 3 months after finishing the BESTPILOT course. Kura Aviation got my CV in front of the right individuals and when invited for interview and the simulator check I felt prepared and confident. I took the opportunity to do additional preparation at Kura prior to the interview and the door was always open with current airline professionals always available. The course, together with a lot of hard work, facilitated my job offer and I would recommend to anyone modular or integrated that they consider Kura.
Have you started your type-rating with AirTanker?
I am half way through this now, so can’t really comment further other than to say it’s going well so far! I will be finished the TR early May, with base training 11th May if you’d like to come back to me then…
What stage are you up to? Line training etc, how is the company and how is life as an airline pilot?
The company is excellent, with only 85 pilots you are not simply a staff number and you are able to establish relationships with the majority of the flight deck and cabin crew as well as the operational team that help the business function. It’s unlike any other airline with future potential to become a Sponsored Reservist and take on an active role in military flights as well as offering a dynamic civilian destination list with our various customers. I am still pinching myself that my first airline job is on the A330!
It’s a great achievement and we can see you’ve worked hard to get here. With that in mind, what advice would you give to anyone aspiring to follow in your footsteps?
The aviation industry is littered with stories similar to mine of individuals who have graduated at the wrong time, or been unfortunate in the route they chose. My advice is don’t ever stop trying, or believing you can achieve. I spent years in an industry I had little passion for and since I graduated flight school have got married and become a father. It will not, nor has it ever been easy for most of us, but the rewards are worth it, I guarantee it.
Great words Johnny, so finally, what does the future hold and where do you see yourself in the future?
I want to consolidate myself in AirTanker as a trusted, professional and valuable team member with aspiration of command at some time in the future. For now, learning all about the aircraft and the industry from the inside will keep me busy enough!
Thanks for your time Johnny and good luck with the base training!