By Jennifer Cairns 05 Dec 2022 6 min read

My unexpected journey of becoming a Pilot

Meet Carl... now an Airbus A320 Pilot at Eurowings Europe. However, he very much stumbled into the aviation industry! Read on to find out more about his unexpected journey and career path.


Did you always want to be a Pilot?

"Ever since I was a little boy, I´ve always dreamt of taking to the skies and becoming a pilot” couldn´t have been more wrong of a reply if someone would ask me how I came across a career in aviation. Life simply didn´t point me in that direction, at least not at first and like many other things, life is full of surprises, curiosities, failures and in retrospect it´s always interesting to look back
on how things turned out and the outcome of certain decisions made.

 

So, how did you end up a Pilot?

The seed in the field of aviation was sowed when I was about 20 and not really sure what I wanted to do in life. What I was sure of however, was that I liked to travel and didn´t want a “normal” Monday to Friday job. I have a sister who´s in the same field who brought up my curiosity for aviation and, after passing the pre-tests, I applied to a government funded MPL program but due to a limited number of available slots I didn´t make it and was placed as a reserve in case someone would drop out.

Just on the finish line. Failure number one. I was not yet ready to step outside my comfort zone and apply to a self-funded program. Instead, I applied to the Air Force and after had undergone extensive testing I was one out of four candidates that year who got accepted into fighter controller training (similar to civilian ATC). Fighter controller is a position usually of a Non-commissioned officer (NCO) which meant I had to go through basic military training and basic NCO training before starting the fighter controller training. The fighter controller training is very mentally demanding, whereas there are continuously performance evaluations where as many as up to 75% of each course don´t make it to the end. I was one of them. Failure number two. 

 

How did you deal with this setback?

I didn´t get myself down because of this bump in the road. The military had taught me valuable skills such as teamwork, group dynamics and my physical and mental limits, because in the end if you don’t know yourself well enough, how can you then make use of your full potential in a dynamic, task solving team? 

It was now time for me to revert back to my backup plan in aviation. I applied to a self-funded Integrated program that was planned to take 18-24 months in Iceland (!?) and a few days after my 22 nd birthday in the summer of 2014 I moved to Iceland. Little did I know then that I would spend the next almost 5 years of my life there on what essentially is a lava rock in the middle of the Atlantic where, more often than not, it's raining sideways.

It turned out to be some of the best 5 years of my life. Flight training in Iceland was interesting and very rewarding with a healthy mix of beautiful views and challenging flying weather where careful planning and weather analysis were essential.

Having the flight school located at the only larger international airport in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean meant not only great experiences in our flight training but also, we were visited by guests such as Airbus A350 test flights, military aircraft and the Antonov An-225 Mriya to mention a few.

Great friends were made because after all, we were stuck there together. When finished the theoretical part of the training I took a job at the airport, at a handling company loading the airplanes and later working in operations handling different kind off airline operational matters. I know that me getting a job during flight school was frowned upon by some members of the school staff due to my decreased availability for the practical training but sitting home waiting for decent flying weather and scratching my belly doesn´t pay any bills or gives me a pilot job any faster and besides, this job gave me valuable experiences to put on my CV and surprise surprise… just about a week after finishing the last part of flight training I landed (pun intended) my first pilot job as a first officer at one of Iceland’s major airlines with the Airbus type rating scheduled in the following month.

The main reason for me being hired? My experiences in the operation of the airline gained from my job. This was in late 2016 which was in the middle of a booming market globally where airlines hired a lot of pilots directly from flight school and offered fantastic working conditions.

Let’s fast forward a few good years of cross- Atlantic flights, great memories and experiences to early 2020. By then I had moved from Iceland after 5 years due bankruptcy of the airline in 2019 and I was currently flying for a wet lease operator all over Europe, basically living in my suitcase at different hotels depending on where work took me. Suddenly Covid-19 came crashing through the door and basically froze the entire industry. I was laid off and went from being decently paid to nothing.

I know for many colleagues and people in the industry this was a hard blow to their life situation. For me, I chose to look at it differently. This was the perfect time for me to try new things, something different. During Covid I enrolled to some university courses to gain academic skills and for the first time in my career I didn´t have to work in the summer which is usually the busiest season for the industry. 

Covid came and went and I got my old job back in the early summer of 2021. The pandemic changed the industry but at least
we were happy to be back to a somewhat normal reality up in the air again. As the market slowly recovered, new opportunities
arose and since the spring of 2022, I´m working for Eurowings Europe. I´m home and I´m happy. Follow the rest of my journey on LinkedIn

 

A few tips if you want to become a pilot:

Know your value – don´t settle for employers or companies offering sketchy contracts or questionable social benefits. It undermines the entire industry.

Be flexible – the first job is always the hardest to get and sometimes that means relocation abroad, sometimes far from home and families.

Have a backup plan – the journey to become a pilot isn´t a straight line and sometimes the dream doesn´t work out. There are plenty of factors that are out of our control such as the global economy, pandemics etc.

Be unique – have a skill or an experience that make you stand out from the crowd.

 

Trust the process and remember to enjoy the ride. Apply for Pilot roles now.

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