Meet the crew

Hear from our crew who operate our civil aircraft…

In the flight deck

First Officer Lee Bailey joined AirTanker in January 2017 under the Cadet Pilot programme, which is helping us to grow our cadre of civil pilots. Here he talks about the experience of completing his training and how becoming a pilot has fulfilled a lifelong ambition.

“I can’t really explain where my passion for aviation came from. As a child, nobody in my family had any connection to the industry. But my earliest memory is of being fascinated by aircraft and the science of flying.

I took subjects like Maths and Physics at school with an ambition to fly with the RAF. However, a history of childhood asthma meant I was unable to pass the RAF aircrew medical. Instead, I joined the Army as an aircraft technician. Eventually, in 2010 after a couple of stints in Afghanistan I came to something of a crossroads. Did I want to pursue a commission in the Army as an Engineering Officer or to follow my heart and try to become a commercial pilot? I just knew that I would always have wondered ‘what if’, so I decided to go for it.

Training to be a pilot is expensive. I had no house and no means of raising a loan so instead I opted to become a licensed engineer and to use this as a stepping stone to fund my flight training.”

The training experience

One of the big challenges is adjusting to flying the A330 from the much smaller training aircraft. It’s a huge aircraft and has a lot more inertia than I had been used to. The type rating course is a mix of three weeks in the classroom and three weeks in the simulator. In the sim you are faced with all kinds of incidents from engine failures to go-arounds, culminating in a Licence Skills Test.

Once in the aircraft itself, I had to complete base training, a series of six circuits – consecutive take-offs and landings – alongside a Type Rating Instructor. I was nervous, but the instructors here do a fantastic job. They are very supportive and know exactly when to offer advice and guidance. I’m currently nearing the end of my line training. This means I fly alongside a training captain to complete a total of 46 sectors [one take-off and landing] to gain more experience. It’s been incredibly rewarding. My first flight was to the Falklands [on the South Atlantic Airbridge] and I followed that by flying into New York’s JFK airport flying for Thomas Cook.

Working for AirTanker

I’m really enjoying my role and I hope to complete my Line Check in the next month or so. Because we operate with a relatively small pool of pilots, you get to know everybody well and understand how they like to work. That’s important in building a rapport, unlike with some airlines where you fly with a different person every day. My advice to any young person thinking of a career as a pilot is to plan ahead. Be clear about how you plan to fund training. Try to get involved in the wider aviation industry to build contacts and most of all… don’t give up!