High flyer: How to become a pilot

EasyJet pilot Andrew Mitchell tells how he made his high flying dreams a reality.

Andrew Mitchell, 29, is a captain with easyJet, who got his job with the commercial airline based on his excellent education. He won the JN Somers scholarship from the Guild of Air Pilots and Air Navigators (Gapan) in 2001 and has been flying the skies over Europe ever since. Working closely with Gapan, Andrew hopes to encourage young people into a career in flying and create opportunities for them to receive the training they need. We spoke to him about his career.

How did you get started?

I was in the air cadets for four years while doing GCSEs and A-levels. I got an RAF flying scholarship when I was 17, and that was my first taste of flying. I completed about 20 hours of flying up in Scotland – it was really exciting stuff. From there, I continued down the RAF route. I took an aeronautics and astronautics engineering degree at the University of Southampton, and then I was sponsored by the RAF on a university bursary scholarship to be a pilot. After that, I did three years with the air squadron, also in Southampton. I did about 100 hours on the bulldog aircraft. Unfortunately, at the end of my time at university I developed an eye problem and that became a bit of problem, especially in the airforce. I was 21 at that point, and my eyesight went outside of the limits they allow so I couldn’t carry on in the airforce – that’s when I started looking into the civilian world.

 

So, you were determined to continue flying?

I was offered other careers in the airforce, but by then my mind was made up – I had done a lot flying prior to that and enjoyed it. I finished university in 2000 and then I saw the advert for the Gapan JN Somers scholarship and applied. JN Somers was a test pilot and a very well-known one within Gapan, and when he died he left a trust fund of money to be used for scholarships. His wife has taken over and continues to sponsor them – it’s absolutely fantastic.

 

Do a lot of people apply for scholarship?

It does get a lot of applicants but not as many as it deserves. Maybe because people think it’s unobtainable. It’s amazing because they are so good and people don’t think they are available any more.

 

What did the scholarship allow you to do?

It paid for my Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL) course in Jerez de la Frontera, Spain. It lasted four months and is a residential, integrated course where everything is included – accommodation, food, ground school, social facilities – and you live on base. The airport runway is just next to your room!

 

How many people where doing the course?

The school has a capacity of 100 to 120 people but when I was there it was probably about 80 to 90. My course was about 12 people, and there were just two girls. It is still a very male-dominated industry, but it’s not uncommon to see a female flight deck and the most recent winner of the JN Somers Scholarship was female, so there are encouraging signs that things are changing.

 

What are you taught on the course?

There are two parts to it. There is the ground school which is made up of 14 different subjects, including meteorology, aircraft technical performance, navigation and all the basic information you need to be able to fly an aircraft commercially. The first five months are purely ground school, followed by exams and then onto the flying. For the rest of the course you spend half your time flying and the other half studying the rest of the ground-school subjects.

 

So, what it is like being a commercial pilot?

One thing about flying as a career is that you have to get used to doing tests. You never seem to stop doing tests! Even now I am being tested twice a year in a simulator and have to take two medical tests every year as well. You have to be quite thick-skinned at times, and you also have to be good at taking criticism and learning from it, not taking it in a negative way.

 

Where do you fly now?

I started with GB Airways (which has now been taken over by easyJet) after finishing in Jerez. I do shorthaul European destinations to place such as Spain and Portugal. The furthest we go is to the Canary Islands and Morocco in Africa, and we also go to Greece and Cyprus, and down through Egypt as well.

 

What is your favourite aircraft?

Probably the ones I am on now: the Airbus A321, part of the A320 family.

 

What do you think of the double decker A380?

I just think that it’s an amazing piece of engineering. For my degree, we tried designing aircraft and I discovered that making aircraft that big is not an easy job! What’s interesting with Airbus is that the flight deck on the A380 is almost identical to the flight deck I fly on. There are actually only minimal differences across the entire Airbus family.

 

What is your favourite airport?

We get to go to some quite challenging and interesting places. Innsbruck in the Swiss Alps, Gilbraltar in Spain and Funchal in Madeira are the most rewarding – there are amazing views out the window!

 

Do you have any tips for potential pilots?

Academically, science and maths are important, and I would also suggest getting involved with the Air Training Corps and the University Air Squadron. Get in touch with Gapan, who can offer some fantastic advice. Anything that adds to your CV, gets you experienced in teamwork and building up leadership skills is helpful. Look for scholarships and keep trying, because even if you are unsuccessful it’s great experience and shows dedication. People can be impressed if you come back for a second interview because it shows that you are committed.

Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth gamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SEN IT Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: IT EBD Teacher job in Runco...

SEN Maths Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Maths EBD Teacher job in Run...

SEN Maths Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Maths EBD Teacher job in Run...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teachers required, vario...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game