Q&A WITH A PRIVATE PILOT
15 June 2015
I became fanatical about aircraft after watching a helicopter crop dusting when I was 4 years old. I can still remember the pilot wearing shorts and waving to me as I leaned on a five bar gate!
Have you always flown private, if not why did you shift to private?
My career is mostly in the airlines. I was approached in 2009 to assist in the set-up of the business jet operator I now work for.
What is your favourite route and why?
I love the French Riviera. Approaching Nice or Toulon from over the coast on a sunny day, you have a beautiful contrast of sandy beaches and crystal clear blue waters with boats bobbing along in the harbor, to the green hills of Castellane and Manosque in the background. You can’t beat it.
What is your favourite aircraft and why?
Like most pilots, you tend to feel fondly about your current type and your first commercial type, so Airbus 320 series but the Super Puma helicopter will always have a place in my heart.
What is your favourite airport/terminal and why?
Has to be St Maarten because of how close you can be to the base of the runway, but it can be quite challenging when you have hundreds of tourists watching your landing on Maho beach!
What’s your favourite part about being a private pilot?
Lot’s of variety and no day at work is ever the same.
What has been your most challenging flight?
We took G-NOAH (an Airbus A319) on a charter into Easter Island in 2011 whilst completing a tour around South America. Due to the island being so remote, a lot of planning went into that route, such as in-depth fuel re-clear planning and at what point we decide to divert and return to the mainland whilst ensuring we do not compromise the safety of those on-board. A real challenge, but a once in a lifetime location!
What is your most memorable experience as a pilot?
As a young Captain at Caledonian Airways, my late-father sat on the jumpseat to Palma and back on a glorious summer.
How glamorous is it being a private pilot?
Ha. It’s not at all! Carrying bags, hovering and polishing the cabin after a long night flight is not glamorous but that’s not why we do it. We do it for the enjoyment our passenger have when flying on-board.
What has been the oddest on board request?
In March 2015, we had a charter operate into Kittila, Finland, for a Northern Lights Holiday. The passengers were so eager to see the lights, we were asked if we could circle around the northern tip of Finland to find the lights. In the end, we circled for an hour watching some spectacular views. It was really pleasing to fulfil a passenger’s lifelong ambition.
How do you find being a passenger on flights?
I still enjoy travelling as a passenger and I’m always looking out of the window to see where we are.
What’s the oddest thing you’ve ever seen whilst flying?
A weather balloon falling back to Earth.
Worst flying experiences?
In my airline days, being mid Atlantic with 350 passengers who were returning from a cruise when most of them suddenly came down with the Norovirus. Not pleasant…
What do you do when you’re not flying?
Lot’s of family time and two sons keep me busy. I’m a keen runner too and lucky enough to live only one hour from the Lake District for hill-walking.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to become a private pilot?
If anyone really wants to fly, they should go for it, never give up and enjoy different types of flying as they build up experience first.
Chief Pilot Captain Tim Pennington