We spoke with Fred Charlesworth, a student pilot. He kindly shared his path to becoming a student pilot, and an insight into his lifestyle such as his daily schedule to the financial costs of the training needed.
Fred also shared key pieces of advice for aspiring aviation professionals.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the aviation industry?
For me it really came down to having the opportunity to get involved in a job which was wildly different from your average ‘’9 to 5.’’
Aviation has always presented itself to be one of those industries where there’s challenge but also opportunity to make something of a unique career.
I brought my desire for this sort of lifestyle together with my passion for flying forged in my teenage years to lead me to pursue professional flying as my career.
Can you detail the path you took to become a student pilot?
I began working towards my Private Pilot’s License in 2017, this acted as the first step in gaining some insight for flying and aviation as a whole. In and around flying on the occasional weekend and being in the school through the week, I did what I could to develop my soft skills to accompany my academics and the flying training.
For me, this was largely through avenues like the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, some volunteering and working a few weekend jobs to gain some additional life experience and build some soft skills for starting out in the industry.
After completing my GCSEs, I went on to study Physics, Biology and Geography at A-level as well as finishing my pilot’s license shortly after turning 17. In late 2020, I was accepted onto an integrated (f)ATPL course coming out of 6th form.
With that in place, I left home and started the first element of my commercial training around 4 weeks after leaving school in the summer of 2021. That leads me to now, currently around 4 months into that phase of the journey.
What is your schedule like as a student pilot?
It’s fairly intense. I’m currently just over half way through studying for and completing my written ATPL exams. This phase of training lasts just under 7 months and involves full days in the classroom through the week accompanied by evening study and usually working the bulk of the weekend. It’s a tough process, but working alongside experienced instructors and my fellow course mates it’s been a brilliant experience so far.
Nonetheless, as true for any pilot, I’m looking forward to getting back into the cockpit in the coming months once I’ve completed my stint in the classroom. From that point, flying several times a week and progressing towards my next licenses and ratings over the coming year to qualify for a frozen ATPL to move into the job market.
Can you share what it costs financially to do the training?
Self-sponsored flying training has unfortunately always been expensive. My advice would be to shop around and find an ATO which suites your needs from a budget standpoint but also one which you feel you’ll fit in with.
The course that I’m on enabled access to student finance through completion of a degree alongside the flying, essentially enabling me to offset part of the training costs to a later date, that definitely incentivised the route I’ve taken from the addition of a degree and from a costs standpoint.
Something else to consider is scholarships and bursaries, they range from a few hours instruction to entire training courses. Here in the UK, we’ve organisations like the the Air League and the British Women’s Pilots Association that sponsor various scholarships on an annual basis.
This is definitely another avenue to research when you’re looking at stating your training. My best advice is to do your due diligence when planning your training and take time to make any major decision, particularly financial commitments.
How do you manage the effects on your mental health of intensive training?
Managing wellbeing is definitely a key aspect to life in training. The events of the last 18 months have placed further emphasis on this through the challenges of the pandemic within the industry. It’s best to maintain blocks of exercise in your weekly routine and not to compromise on your essentials like sleep and a decent diet.
The training process is a character builder, but it’s best to treat it like a marathon rather than a sprint.
How long will it take you to complete the training and become a qualified pilot?
All-in-all, just shy of 5 years from day one of my first license to completing my UPRT course at the end of my training. However, the ab-initio course I’m on would enable you to gain your frozen ATPL in just over 18 months from having no previous flying experience.
Hopefully, I’ll enter the job market just before my 20th birthday in early 2023. It’s unclear right now as to what opportunities will be available come then for low hour pilots, but it looks like the industry is picking up from the pandemic at a steady pace. So, I’ve some optimism for the future in that respect.
Do you have any particular career aspirations?
I’ve no defined end goal or definitive route I’d like to go down. There’s such an array of different jobs out in commercial aviation. People are often mistaken to see the airlines as the be all and end all of jobs for commercial pilots, it’s simply not the case.
A definite highlight would be the opportunity to get into ferry flying at some point as well as flight instruction. However, I’m keen to see what opportunities are available down the line – the more unique the better.
What 3 tips would you give to an aspiring pilot?
1) Firstly, really invest in what you want to do from a work ethic standpoint. Try to get in the books and learn about flying before you even really step foot in a cockpit, this definitely helped me breaking into aviation. When you do start flying be keen to debrief your trips and pre-read ahead of your next flight.
Essentially, be your own boss and set your own standards for how you want to conduct your training. Being rigorous and keen to improve is a definitely the right mindset you want moving into any form of aviation training.
2) Don’t underestimate networking. Aviation is a small industry, you’ll hear it said and it’s true. Meeting others in training and those out in the industry is valuable for getting solid guidance for how best to go about getting to where you want to be.
Also, you never know who might be sat at the other side of the interview table ten years down the line. So, keep in contact with the people you meet along the way and try build a decent reputation with what you do.
3) Finally, just enjoy whatever stage you find yourself at. As with any journey with an end goal, it can be easy to wish you were further ahead in that journey and doing something bigger and better. Simply, take time to step back from the immediate and reflect on what it is you’re really doing.
Even now, admittedly, I pinch myself from time to time. Frankly, I love what I do and wouldn’t change it for anything.