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Aviation stories

Aviation stories

Next chapter: Boeing 747, the queen of the skies

‘Hard work makes dreams come true.’ Some of you, who follow me on Instagram, know about a big career change coming up for me. I promised to share the story of changing from flying passengers on the Boeing 737 through Europe, to my future pilot job, flying cargo on the Boeing 747 all over the world. I am changing airline, and changing base: this winter I will leave Barcelona and move to Hong Kong. This is a long blogpost, but so many people have been following my journey for many months or even years, and seem as excited for me as I am for this change. I hope you enjoy some background information on my upcoming career step.

Gaining flight experience to join a respected stable airline to operate long-haul flights, has been my dream since finally getting my break in aviation. In the aviation market of the last few years, it seemed like too big of a dream. KLM, Lufthansa, BA? There were barely any vacancies. It was not an ‘urgent’ dream: I had a secure job at a big low-cost airline, I was flying over 800 hours every year, I was happy where I was based, and I was on track to become a captain in my airline quickly, also a major career step.

August 2016. But when a vacancy comes out for direct entry first officers on the Boeing 747 and Airbus 330, based in Hong Kong, at an airline with a great reputation, I do not hesitate. I get in touch with some of my former flightschool mates, who are flying several years for this airline, to get a clear idea of life at this airline and in Hong Kong. It seems like the perfect next step for me. I then use an entire weekend updating my flight hours, polishing my CV, and writing the two short essays which are requested with the application. I send my online application, receive an acknowledgement, and that is it.

No news

Eight months pass without hearing anything about my application. In these months I am preparing for the captain upgrade in my airline. I decide to fly one more winter as a first officer, and start the upgrade somewhere at the end of spring: I set my goal on June 2017 to become a Boeing 737 captain.

April 2017. Eight months since my application, I suddenly get an e-mail from the airline in Hong Kong. The flight recruitment team asks me to fill out several forms. I have to read the e-mail three times, before I realise it means that an assessment opportunity will come up for me. I start to imagine my life at this airline, and to move to Asia. I visualise myself flying Boeing 747 for them, it still seems like a surreal unreachable dream.

May 2017. Not much later I get my final interview dates; in July I have to fly to Hong Kong, for two full days of assessments. I am beyond excitement. I feel that if I now give it everything, my life could soon go in a whole new direction. I put the captain upgrade on hold. All my free time I am now studying for the assessments. I know the reputation of their recruitment: a lot of preparation is needed. I study all ATPL subjects, focussing on Meteorology, Principles of Flight, General Navigation and Performance. I also study the airline’s history, the fleet, their network, and besides that the history of Hong Kong.

Simulator training

Not only my motivation and theoretical knowledge will be tested at the assessments, also my flight skills, flying a raw data profile on a Boeing 747 simulator. To prepare for that I book a Boeing 747 simulator and an instructor for 2 hours, at the Lufthansa training Centre in Frankfurt. This costs me a half month salary, but during the short grading I will only have one chance. In this training I am shooting raw data approaches and dealing with engine failures in the middle of the night, as I have a ‘night slot’ on the simulator. It is my first time training in a Boeing 747. I am somewhat nervous, it feels as the ‘final rehearsal’ for my assessment. I am lucky to have a great German instructor, who finetunes my flying in the 2 hours. Afterwards he says he is sure I will pass at least the simulator grading if I will show them something similar in Hong Kong. This kind of confidence boost is priceless to me. To book the simulator is the best decision I could have made in my preparations.

Now we have only one week to go till the assessments. I feel both tired and energetic at the same time from enthusiasm and the non-stop preparations. My social life has been put on hold these last two months, all those nice Barcelona beach days, nights out, not for me. I Skype several hours with a friend; a pilot and professional coach, who also helped me prepare for my previous airline assessment. We practice the final interview, and we find some points where I can improve in how I present myself. A lot of paperwork has to be prepared before the assessments, and I check a dozen times if all files and copies are correct.

Hong Kong

July 2017. I fly to Hong Kong from Barcelona with the airlines A350. It is my first time flying with this airline as a passenger, and a great experience for me. In Hong Kong I meet my Dutch friend Marike, whom I actually met through Instagram! She is a very successful pastry chef, living in Hong Kong for many years. For me it is my first time in this city, possibly my future home. Marike invited me to stay at her apartment, and in several days she shows me Hong Kong Island, the beach, different areas, restaurants and the nightlife. We also go for dinner with one of her best friends, who happens to be a captain at the airline I am applying. A great opportunity to learn again more about the life as a pilot for this airline. I am so grateful for Marikes hospitality and friendship. When the weekend is over it is time to move to the airport hotel, booked for me by the airline. It is time for the assessments.

The assessments

The first assessment day, I am beyond nervous when I wake up. A bus takes me to the interview location. The assessments take two full days. In order to go to the final interview you have to pass the first day. I meet 3 other candidates for the Direct Entry first officer position. We start off with paperwork, and then a group exercise. The next round is a theory exam, 50 questions to be answered in 60 minutes, without a calculator and a passmark of 70%. It is more difficult than I expected. But I have no time to moan or reflect on how good or bad I performed in the exam, as immediately I have to go into the 747 simulator. The instructors are great, but my nerves predominate. I fly not as good as during my training earlier that month. Before I know it also this part is done, and I have to return to the hotel and wait. In the evening they will send me an e-mail, stating that either I passed and can go to the assessments of the next day, or that it all ends here for me. It is now 15:00 and I can expect the e-mail between 17:00 and 18:00. What to do? I start to look up several questions from the theory exam. When I find a question that I had answered right, but last minuted changed to a wrong answer, I feel so devastated. My dreamjob is so close, but I feel it slipping away. I go to the hotel gym and try to stop my mind from driving me mad, and pass the time with a work-out and loud music in my ears. From 17:00 onwards I refresh, refresh, and refresh again my mail. 17:28, an e-mail pops up: ‘Final interview day 2 invitation letter.’ It turns out I passed and got through to the very last round. I cannot describe how happy and relieved I feel, it goes beyond words.

A330 or B747

The next day it turns out 2 of the 4 candidates from yesterday did not get a positive answer last night. A busy programme for today, with a company briefing, medical exam, English language assessment, personality test and then the big final interview. In 1,5 hour I have to present myself, who I am, why I want to join the airline, tell about situations I have been in when flying for my current airline. They conclude with a lot of technical questions, in which all the preparation turns out to have not been in vain. They ask me if I prefer to fly the A330 or B747, they can assign me to either of the fleets if I pass. I explain my preference for the B747: I know that the roster of the A330 has a better reputation, but I think the transition from Boeing to Boeing, B737 to B747, will be smoother as to the Airbus. Especially as they tell me the training will be intense and very short. Besides that, I really long to fly worldwide, and not initially regional Asia only, ánd I love that I will fly cargo on the 747. I used to work for Martinair in operations, I planned the routes as a dispatcher, and after joining the cargo pilots for a week as a supernummary on the MD11, it sparked hope that one day I would also fly cargo. There is a family kind of atmosphere amongst the cargo pilots, it existed in Martinair, and according the 747 pilots I spoke to, it also exists in this airline. It is a special kind of operation, with a lot of night flights and a lot of last minute changes, as the schedule is less stable than passenger schedules. To top it off: it is an iconic airplane, that will not exist for too long anymore. It feels safe to join the B747 fleet in this airline, for if they change the fleet, the pilots can join on another fleet.

I feel very happy after the interview. They don’t reveal if I have the job or not, I will have to await an e-mail within the next 2 weeks. But my gut feeling says now that I don’t have to worry. I meet with my friend Marike again, she has made me a Michelin star-worthy cake, we enjoy it on her roof terrace in central Hong Kong and then we celebrate the end of the assessments in the nightlife of Hong Kong. The next day we hike up to The Peak of Hong Kong Island, and I feel on top of the world. I love this small buzzing metropole, surrounded by nature, hiking trails and beautiful islands. I see myself living here, I feel with all my heart that this has to be the next step in my career and in my life. That evening I board the A350 to return to Barcelona. Will I be back, and if so, when? And will I then train B747 or A330? A weight is lifted off my shoulders, now that the assessments are done. I reflect on the last few months. A lot of hard work has been put into the preparations.

Important e-mail

August 2017. It is one week after the assessment. Today I am scheduled to operate as a safety pilot, which means I am on the jumpseat observing, while a brand new first officer gets training from the captain. We operate a long flight, almost 4 hours. When we arrive at our destination at the stand I switch on my phone and check my e-mail. There it is, the e-mail offering me the much desired job, starting in December, and on my preferred Boeing 747. Crying I call my boyfriend (joining the adventure in Hong Kong!) and my parents in the turnaround, out of sight from the passengers. In the next days I call a whole lot of other people, receive the contract and resign from my current airline.

As I am writing this I am preparing the big move to Hong Kong. I only have 6 more weeks flying the Boeing 737 from Barcelona, and then some time off. A lot needs to be done: pack, sell things, drive to Holland, sell my car, loads of administration, and also prepare for several exams that I have to make upon arriving in Hong Kong. Above all I try to enjoy all the time that I have ‘left’ living in Europe, making trips and plans and enjoying the city of Barcelona. It is with the biggest excitement that I start this adventure. I know it will take a lot of hard work and studying more to make my dream come true, but it will happen!

Aviation stories

Bush flying in South Africa

It is extremely hot, we have been flying for 1,5 hours. I already made five touch and go’s, at five different airfields. I just came from Rooiberg, a private grass strip. It has power lines at the end of the runway, over which the aircraft could only barely climb in the current density altitude. Rundu Bundu, the next field, gets visible. I descent to 200ft AGL to make a runway inspection. Out loud: ‘The approach is free of obstacles, it’s a gravel strip, I don’t see any potholes, just some giraffes on the runway… ehr what?!’ I continue the low pass, descent a bit lower, but the giraffes don’t move an inch. They just stare at the brightly coloured Cessna 172 that approaches them. This is Africa!

Curiosity regarding bush flying, vague plans to travel to Africa as a low-timer, and hunger for new skills and flight experience outside of Dutch airspace got me in South Africa. I am ready for a week full of adventure at Sky Africa. Sky Africa is situated at Brakpan airport (FABB) since 1981, at half an hour drive east of Johannesburg International Airport. The team is specialized in bush pilot training courses. It is also possible to build some flight hours, affordable and in a fantastic environment. Frequently pilots from Lufthansa, TAP and Qantas come to Brakpan during their layover, to rent an airplane and make a nice bush trip.

Sky Africa Cessna 172

Back to basics

The first two days of the course consist of the ‘foreign license validation.’ I meet my instructor Glen, an ex-airforce pilot with thousands of hours of experience flying at the South African bush. The program starts with several briefings: the rules of the Johannesburg TMA, high altitude operations and precautionary landings. When Glen concludes that my theoretical knowledge is sufficient, I am allowed to start preparing my first flight in the African airspace. It is back to basics: no GPS, no assistance of VOR radials or other navaids, but purely the map, pilotage and dead reckoning. With the map spread out on the table I juggle with my calculating disc and plot the route. We will fly for 2,5 hours and visit several landing strips. I force myself to remember all landmarks for my cross country check tomorrow, where I also have to make a diversion.

Racetrack or runway?

Upon arriving at the airfield the next morning, I understand the presence of several dixi-toilets right next to the Brakpan runway: it is time for the monthly car-race. When there is air traffic, the race gets temporarily suspended. Peculiar, but for the flying club it is a good source of income. In the clubhouse I take the mandatory Air Law exam, and prepare for the check flight. Unfortunately the wind picks up, and is out of limits to use runway 18-36. However, there is also a grass strip at Brakpan, direction 03-21, that has not been used for ages. In fact this strip is not even included in Brakpans Airfield Information. Is it an option to use the strip? I jump into an open truck with my examinator, and we drive over the grass strip to inspect it. The grass is of medium length, and there are not too many humps and potholes. Runway 21 it is, let’s go!

Examination flight

This illustrates the mentality of the pilots at Sky Africa. The grass strip is very short, the only way to take-off is by early rotation, taking flaps, and building speed in ground effect. So there we go. Next to the normal parts of a CPL check, I also have to show a spin and spiral dive recovery, and pass for ‘low flying’. I have to fly at less than 50ft AGL, soaring over the fields with a high power setting and the nose trimmed up. Love it, where else would this have been possible?! I am satisfied, and so is the examinator. There are no rules ‘from throttle to bottle’, so when we return at Brakpan he pours me a nice glass of ‘Suid-Afrikaanse’ wine. I can now operate as PIC on any South African registered single-engine piston.

 

Giraffes during a runway inspection

 

Wild animals

Now the adventure truly takes off. My instructor knows the nicest landing strips, with the most wonderful names: Klipriver, Zebra, Driefontein, Bierman Estate… every few minutes I make a touch and go at a new strip, always preceded by an accurate runway inspection. It is important to notice obstacles in the climb direction, at the end of the runway. This is of more importance than I initially realized: because of the heat and the high elevation there is hardly any climb performance. On full power we hardly exceed a 200 ft per minute climb rate. I practice several techniques: short-field take-offs and landings, different slopes, softfield- and crosswindlandings. It is an intensive way of flying, and I can quickly log 50 landings. I experience a lot of fun and freedom while flying, and increase my self-confidence. Here you learn to fully control your airplane, to learn its limits and work with them.

Kunkuru

Specific skills

The last night of the course we land at Kunkuru; a beautiful lodge in the middle of the bush. We will stay for the night. Approaching Kunkuru we announce our arrival. The rangers assure that the runway is free of wild animals. This is no luxury: earlier that day I almost filetted a springbuck with my propeller. Despite an extensive runway inspection, the springbuck jumped onto the strip immediately after my touch and go, while I was climbing out. In this way the course teaches me the specific skills required for bush flying. I also learn several facts about survival, wildlife, and technical maintenance; every bush pilot should for instance be able to change a V-belt, in case he gets stranded somewhere.

The week passes by so fast. The moment arrives of my last full stop landing at Brakpan. Through my headset I hear Glens voice: ‘Now that was beautiful darling.’ And that is exactly my thought: what an amazing experience!

Bush pilot course information: 

My bush flying course took place at Sky Africa. They offer standard programs on a C-150, C-172 C-182 or a Piper Cherokee. In consultation you can also create your own program, to your personal needs and budget. I chose for more flight hours, and a less luxurious stay. Besides Sky Africa there are many other schools and flying clubs that offer bush pilot courses.

A foreign license validation maintains valid for 60 months, or until your own license expires. The validation consists of a written Air Law exam, a general flight check with an instructor, and a cross country navigation flight with an examinor. This check is approximately equal to a CPL exam. If you are not completely current, it is recommended to have a check-out flight first. Finally you can shorten the time for paperwork, by sending all documents in advance. That way your license will be ready when you arrive in Africa.

Feel inspired?

Earlier I wrote and published this article in Dutch, it was printed in a Dutch aviation magazine. The article inspired some pilots (low-timers and airline captains) to contact me. Some decided to take a bush flying course themselves! I figured that it would be worth translating my article, and to publish it on my website. Perhaps, more people get inspired to have a bush pilot experience. If you do, please let me know? Finally I would like to share this Youtube video, which completely inspired ME back in 2012 to research about bush flying and take the course 🙂 :

Aviation stories

Flight deck dynamics: captain Marek

The flight deck is a special office, and a very small one: just over two square meters. In this little closed space pilots can spend hours together. Is there an intimate atmosphere? There can be. Normally it’s just the two of us in the front. ‘What do you guys talk about all the time?’ cabin crew often wonders. They assume it’s kind of boring, only one other person to talk to, while they are in a cabin full of people. Every day in the flight deck is different. Some days are filled with smalltalk, silly jokes, and there are days with deeper, more personal conversations.

 

During several phases of flight pilots keep a ‘sterile flight deck’: we keep all communication to a minimum and relevant to the operation only. But during cruise flight there is time to talk, and on a long flight there is actually a lot of time to talk. When you are stuck together for hours, you can get to know the other person very well. Where I want to go with this story, is a day that I will never forget. It is a day I work together with a captain from Eastern Europe, let’s call him Marek.

I meet Marek in the crew room. We are scheduled to fly four sectors together today, and it is the first time that I meet him. He is based elsewhere in Europe, and works in my base for only a week. It is very likely that we will only fly together today, and that after the job is done we will never meet again. We introduce ourselves, prepare the flight paperwork, and together with the cabin crew we proceed to our aircraft to get ready for the first flight.

In cruise flight Marek clearly feels like talking. Some of my colleagues are more quiet and reserved, but this man is really out to get to know me. He is almost 60 years old, with plenty of flight hours and stories under his belt. Usually the journalist in me, eager to learn about a person, comes out. But Marek steers the conversation to revolve around me. So I tell him my story. I tell him about my flight experience, my time at University, my switch from journalism to aviation, my struggles to get a job, about my career plans, and about my family. ‘Are your parents proud?’ ‘Yes, oh yes they are.’ I tell him how I feel about living abroad, being an expat, about my passion for mountains and traveling. He wants to know all, and I feel comfortable telling him all.

With some colleagues you simply connect. Today is such a day. On this long day flying together there is a special atmosphere. Work goes smoothly. We have an excellent connection as professional colleagues, but also from person to person. Marek asks about my dreams for the future. He listens and comments, and sends out signals that he is somewhat proud of the young woman that he got to know.

‘I don’t know if I should tell you this’

Together we operate four flights, and now we are at the last flight of the day. We land, vacate the runway, and taxi to our stand. We shut down the engines, and perform the final checklists. It has been a long day. Before I leave the flight deck, captain Marek tells me that he had a good time working with me: ‘It has been a lifetime since I flew with a girl. It was such a great day for me.’ I smile. Then he gets more serious. ‘To be honest Eva, I will never forget this day.’ He pauses. ‘I don’t know if I should tell you this. My daughter… I had a daughter. She would have had exactly your age now. And all day I was wondering if she would have been anything like you?’

I look at him, and see the dynamics between us today in a whole new light. This hits right into my heart. But through his behaviour I notice that, despite the questions all day long, now is not a moment for questions. Marek instructs me to leave the airplane and take our paperwork with me to the crew room. Later, in front of the terminal building, we say goodbye and go our separate ways.

I am deeply touched. Never will I forget this day.

Aviation stories

Do passengers react differently to a female pilot?

To work in the flight deck, means to work in a male dominant environment. Over the last few years, more and more women have joined as pilots, also at the airline I work for. My colleagues and myself react to this with nothing but enthusiasm. Male or female, the consensus is: gender does not matter in judging one’s abilities to operate an aircraft. However, as female pilots we are still a rare species.

 

When passengers notice that it is a female pilot taking them to their destination, they often react to this. My experience is that their reaction is usually very positive: I get smiles, thumbs up, generally a surprised look followed by a smile. They ask if they can take a picture, or make a little smalltalk. I am used that people don’t react indifferent when they see me in my uniform, even when walking in the terminal. They will usually give a second look, point, smile, or look a little surprised.

Standing out

When you stand out, in this case by statistics, this naturally triggers a reaction. The encouragement and surprised-but-positive reactions give a daily boost. But sometimes, the reaction is a not so positive one. When I decided to write about this topic, despite all positive experiences, a particular situation came to mind:

‘Ehm. That is not the pilot, is she?’ ‘You? Pilot? You have got to be joking! This does not feel right. Tell me, do you even know the left from your right?’

I am in the flight deck, we are on the ground in the turnaround. This is the time on the ground, when the passengers of the flight we just completed are at their destination, and disembark. We prepare the next flight, while new passengers board the aircraft, and we will take them to their destination. As flight crew we complete the necessary paperwork, check the weather for the whole route, decide on the fuel that we order, prepare the departure, discuss how we will fly, what specialties we have to take into account for this particular flight, and then do the checklist to see if all that had to be done, is done.

Welcome on board

After all the preparations in the flightdeck, I get out of my seat to make myself a cup of coffee in the front galley. Passengers are still boarding. I get a smile, I nod and smile back. While I pour some hot water into my coffee mug, I hear a female passenger that just got on board of our airplane, ask to the purser: ‘Ehm. That is not the pilot, is she?’ Surprised I look in her direction, and we catch each other’s eyes. I reply: ‘Yes, she is the pilot, how are you madame?’ The woman looks somewhat confused, but smiles and shrugs.

Then a big man, who got on the airplane together with this woman, takes a little step forward. I am still standing in the galley. He turns in my direction: ‘You? Pilot? You have got to be joking! This does not feel right. Tell me, do you even know the left from your right?’

Male chauvinist

In my head, there is a brief moment of short circuit: This rude, middle aged man, standing in front of me, towering over me, staring at me. Left from right? Does this man have a daughter? Then how did he raise her, with what values and beliefs, and has he taught her dignity and self-respect? Where he gets the nerve..? Ah well, quick now, he is actually waiting for an answer:

‘Left, right? Who needs to know about that? I got my pilot license when I found it in a pack of cornflakes. Enjoy your flight sir.’

I nod and smile, and walk back into the flight deck.

Aviation stories

How did I become an airline pilot?

Besides why I chose for this profession of soaring the skies at 37.000 feet, the next question is how did I manage to get where I am today? I get lots of questions of which school I attended, how I afforded this, and how I got a job. There are many different routes, but this is my story in short.

Regarding flight schools and taking the modular route or an integrated course, I researched mostly online. Internet will give you a ton of information. I visited several information days of flight schools in Holland. I chose to follow an integrated course: this is 2 years of full time studying. Everything is done in this period to get a frozen ATPL: all theory exams, flight hours flying single engine and multi engine, an instrument rating, all practical flight exams and an MCC course. I applied to the Dutch flight academy ‘Nationale Luchtvaart School’ (now CAE Oxford Aviation Academy), and passed the assessments to start flight training.

Pilot loan

How did I afford it? Flight training is very expensive, so I understand this question. When I started my training in 2008, there was a Dutch bank that offered ‘pilot loans’. If you got accepted in a flight academy, you could apply for a loan at this bank to fund your studies. I afforded my flight training by getting a loan, and as we speak I am still paying off this debt. The bank now stopped with this construction, so these ‘pilot loans’ are something from the past.

I started flight training in october 2008; this was exactly the start of the ‘global financial crisis’. All I could do now, was study hard: get the highest grades possible, and pass all my exams at once. I knew getting a job at the end of the course would be extremely difficult. In 2010, when I graduated, the market was full of cadet pilots, and hardly any jobs, not even for experienced pilots. Welcome in the pool of unemployed cadets.

Pool of unemployment

Two long years I did everything I could to get a job, and kept improving my skills and CV. I tried to find work in an airline: if it was not as a pilot for now, then in another position. I managed to get a full time job at Martinair operations, where I worked as a dispatcher and crew scheduler. In the mean time I applied everywhere. I considered every airline, big or small, business jets, turboprops, open applications. I networked, I called airlines, I uploaded my CV into countless online databases. I spent hours of checking aviation websites and forums online, looking for chances. I made summaries of all the theory subjects, and invested in some more reading material to keep my knowledge sharp.

Living for the future

And there was more. I completed a bush pilot course in South Africa. I joined the editorial staff of the Dutch Airline Pilots Association and wrote voluntarily for their magazine. To obtain a certificate that would increase my chances on the German pilot market, I completed a German language course. I trained regularly on an expensive Boeing 737 simulator, to be ready anytime for an assessment. I kept my license and medical valid. For two years my whole life revolved around getting a pilot job at an airline. All my time, money and energy went there. I was only living for the future.

Airline interview

Then one day, in september 2012, I got the invitation for an assessment at the airline I am currently flying for. I knew that my time was now, otherwise maybe never. I felt a lot of pressure. But the night before the assessment I slept ten hours nonstop! I was so tired of preparing, and at the same time relaxed; I knew I had done everything I possibly could to prepare. I was ready. With this attitude I started my simulator assessment. My nerves did not ruin things for me, and I flew the best assessment I could think of. This was followed by an hour of technical an personal questions.

Job

To conclude the interview I got a firm handshake from the captain that had assessed me. He told me to start preparing for my type-rating on the Boeing 737: I had the job! This in now 4 years ago, and to recall this day still brings the biggest smile on my face. For those of you out there working hard to get a job, maybe for several years already: don’t give up! Keep working hard, keep improving. Many of us have been in this situation. Keep faith that you will get to that flight deck seat: you will, but it takes constant work, and the right attitude.

Aviation stories

From journalism to flying jets

‘Why did you want to be a pilot?’ It is a frequently asked question, and my story provides not the most obvious answer. It was not my childhood dream. My dad was not a pilot, nor anyone else in my family. I never ever imagined myself behind the controls of an airplane, until just before getting my ‘Bachelor of Arts’ degree, at age 22. Today I find myself flying jets for several years. So what happened between then and now?

 

In highschool I was a bookworm who excelled in languages. I had no clear idea where I wanted to go in my life, so I chose a broad range of subjects. I wanted to keep all options open, and therefore I also included all beta subjects. Probably I would ‘never in my life’ deal with these formulas again. With the goal of broad knowledge I struggled my way through maths, chemistry, and physics.

Challenging career

Growing up we all dream about our future. I was an eternal dreamer. In my head I created so many different possible futures. What would be my ideal job, and my ideal life? Holland, my country, is great, but I wanted to live abroad. To experience living in several countries would even be better. I did not want to work 9 to 5 with the same people every day. I desired to feel a real passion about my job. Together with her love for literature and writing, this Millenial narrowed it down: journalist! I would create insightful stories for respected media. I would live my life to the fullest, which in my eyes included living abroad, traveling, and a career that would always challenge me. How to get this lifestyle as a journalist? I planned to figure it out along the way, and started at University.                                      

Journalist in doubt

And so I studied literature and journalism. With several freelance writing jobs I payed for my study, and got experience in the field. I loved all the writing assignments. I got to interview famous Dutch authors, and truly enjoyed putting their words into the best articles I could. My grades were good. And then, doubt hit me. What if I was not on the right track? The kind of life I was aiming for required an amazing network, the best writing skills and building a name for myself. What if I would not succeed in all this, and be average at best? What if I ended up glued behind a desk, feeling envious when writing about the people who lived the kind of life I wanted to have? I tried to shake off these doubts, told myself that with attitude and perseverance one can reach a lot.

Several people noticed my doubts regarding a future in journalism. It was my mum who said: ‘Eva, why don’t you visit a flight school? See if this is something for you?’ Wait. What? I didn’t understand her comment. ‘You often express your admiration for the job of airline pilot.’ I did? It turned out I did. Several of my friends confirmed that I had sighed more than once ‘what an amazing job pilots have’. Apparently I had this subconscious dream inside me, and the people around me actually discovered it before me.

Could I be an airline pilot?

Now that my subconscious dream was out in the open, it became clear to me: indeed, I had always had this big admiration for the people flying jets. At the same time a voice inside my head told me this would be absolutely unattainable for me. This conviction is why I had always pushed this fantasy right back, deeply into silence. Could I be an airline pilot?

Some months went by. I researched as much as possible about the aviation industry, education, what the life of a pilot is like, and what it takes to become one. I graduated in maths and physics, with all those formulas I would never deal with again. It turned out I already met all the criteria to apply at a flight school. I realised that the profession of a pilot completely matched with my ideal kind of life. This job would bring more than I could have ever imagined for myself. And it might be attainable, if I dedicated myself to it. Becoming a pilot went from never crossing my mind, to something that became my ultimate goal. It was now time to stop dreaming and take action.

Dedication

I worked hard that year. I wrote my thesis ‘The change in literary culture’ to graduate University. At the same time I prepared for my flight school assessment. I spent days in the University library, and nights researching aviation websites. I was in the final stage of writing my thesis, when I got the invitation for an assessment at the flight school I hoped to get into. When I received the news that I passed the selection procedure, I was over the moon. I remember dancing in front of my mailbox, with the letter in my hand stating I got accepted to start flight training.

This brings me to the next question I get asked a lot: how did I become an airline pilot? I hope you enjoyed my personal story. – Am I happy I made the switch, and is airline pilot my dream job? Yes, absolutely yes!