BEng Aerospace Engineering, 2000
Chief Flying Instructor Helicopters, Bliss Aviation
Working as a pilot
Becoming a pilot was an aspiration for Jim as long as he could remember. At the age of 18, his passion led him to his first flight at the controls of a Cessna 152, a 2-seated aircraft primarily used for training and personal purposes.
While studying at the University he had a subsidised trial lesson in a PA28 warrior followed by a short flight in an R22 at Elstree. 'This first flight in a helicopter was like a lightning strike for me and changed what I wanted to do for the rest of my life' he says. 'I got my Private Pilots Licence PPL(H) in 2006 while working as a Project Engineer for an aerospace company.'
After saving for 3 years, Jim went to the USA to achieve a Commercial Pilot License (CLP (H)) and also managed to gain an American instructor rating. 'When I returned to the UK, I was sponsored to convert my US instructor rating to a European instructor rating. I then travelled the country looking for work as an instructor and was finally taken on by Airways Aviation in April 2012.'
As a Chief Flying Instructor, some of Jim's daily responsibilities include helping students to obtain their PPL(H), ensuring all training given is to standard and writing and amending operations and training manuals. 'My day-to-day activities vary depending on bookings and the weather. Every day is different and you have to come to work ready for anything. My responsibilities don't change but the amount of work I do does.'
Some of the companies he has worked for are AmSafe Bridport as Project Engineer, Centrax as CNC Operator and at West Hoe Fun Park (family business). 'During my placement year, I was working with British Airways at the component overhaul centre at Heathrow which gave me an idea of what an engineering base looked like.'
Advice and future plans
It's clear that Jim's determination over the years has paid off, from his initial training to his current position as Chief Flying Instructor, both in Bournemouth. His degree still contributes to his current job role on a daily basis. 'It gives me a deeper understanding of the principles of flight and general aircraft knowledge. It also made gaining my license easier as I felt I already knew some parts of the course.'
For those who are looking to get into a similar career, Jim stresses the importance of having a strong love for aviation as the sacrifices are not often reflected in the pay scale. 'Should you achieve your goals, the view from the office is much better! Having a good backup career is also a fine plan if you lose your medical.' Future plans for Jim include branching out into other areas of commercial helicopter flying, possibly in other countries.
'I would like to take on pleasure flights, sling work and VIP Charter. It's also been an ambition of mine to start a flying school of my own one day.' We wish him the very best of luck with everything.