We recently caught up with A320 Captain for Tap Air Portugal, Alessandro Fumo, about what it means to be a Captain in 2021. He shares his thoughts on how to remain active while working in a demanding pilot job, the pros and cons of the job, and his hopes for the future of aviation.
How long have you been a pilot? Tell us a little bit about your career so far.
I did my first flight in 1997 in general aviation. In 1999, after passing the Alitalia “ab initio” course selection, I started my formation to be an Airline Pilot. I finished the course in the spring of 2001, but after the events of September 11, I saw my hire for the pilot jobs delayed by 1 year.
In September 2002, I joined the airline, Alitalia where I flew ERJ145, ERJ170 and MD80 as a First Officer. Alitalia went bankrupt in 2008 and laid off 800 pilots – I was one of them.
Because I could speak fluent Portuguese, I was able to join TAP Air Portugal, where I always flew the A3XX family, either the A319, A320 or A321. Today, I’m a Captain and still living in Lisbon.
What do you love about the job?
I love everything in this job! It’s a dynamic job with big responsibilities. It is exciting.
“I love everything in this job!”
What’s the hardest part about the job?
Sometimes the workload is enormous. We have to have the capability to prioritise events and try to do what seems to be the best choice.
Jet lag is an occupational hazard. How do you cope with it?
Personally, I don’t do long haul flights because its very difficulty for me to manage the jet lag with my personal and family life.
Your job involves sitting in a cockpit for long periods of time. How important is it for you to remain active in your free time What do you do to keep active?
Our job is very irregular; sometimes you wake up at 3am, sometimes you fly all night long and sometimes you finish work very late at night. It is very difficult to have a healthy lifestyle so it’s important for me to play sport. It helps my mind and body fight the irregularities of the job.
What do you do to keep active?
I regularly train in the gym, and I also do some kind of aerobics, usually playing soccer with friends.
How important is it for you to maintain a healthy diet? What would you usually eat during a flight?
It’s very important, but it can be very difficult while working or during layovers. There are different ways to try to be healthy during work, for example on the medium and short haul flights, you can bring your food from home.
At TAP Air Portugal, we have the option to request a diet meal, so based on your schedule, your flight is automatically boarded with your special crew meal.
What do you do to look after your mental health as a pilot?
A healthy life-style, a good diet and training helps me to be balanced in my mind. And of course to rest too.
“A healthy life-style, a good diet and training helps me to be balanced in my mind.”
How do you spend your time during layovers?
Well, it depends on various factors! It can depend on which city I’m in, the weather, or if I have something to do on my PC.
If I’m in a city for the first time, it’s a good option to go for a walk to learn about new places. If I’m in a very well-known city to me, I prioritise rest, training in the hotel gym, reading and relaxing.
Your “movement” also depends on the crew; you can have good company, so you choose to go out to socialise. But, of course, it would not be like this if it was raining! Every layover could be different!
Do you have a favourite place for take offs and landings?
Actually, I have favourite cities where to stay. To me, take offs and landing are very similar; there is a runaway, an SID or a STAR.
What’s the most difficult thing you’ve had to deal with during a flight?
I think that the weather, in some circumstances, is the most difficult thing to manage.
What are the perks of the job?
It’s an exciting job, and the days are always different. It gives you the possibility to travel, and to know different countries and cultures. It’s still a well payed job, depending on the company where you work.
“It’s still a well payed job, depending on the company where you work.”
What are your thoughts about the future of your profession?
We need to breathe; what we are living through now is a nightmare. Nightmares end when we wake up, so this nightmare will end eventually. When? I don’t know, but it will.
The shame in this situation is, like always during any crisis, the workers are always penalised through a decrease in salary and a deterioration in work conditions.
However, I want to be optimistic and believe that the aviation world will come back to be the same, or similar, in the next few years.
“What we are living through now is a nightmare.”
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