Over many years we have trained many student pilots who have gone onto further flying whether that be for pleasure or as a career, each and every student we work with has been part of the Bristol & Wessex community.
One of the recent successes we have been aware of, and as a flying club have played a part in, has been with Debbie Thomas who has recently started working for easyJet as a First Officer on their fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft.
We felt this would make another interesting case study to help inspire the pilots of the future or for anyone wanting to make an amazing career change and so we asked Debbie Thomas some questions:
Can you give a little background about yourself and your aviation career so far?
I was initially introduced to flying by my dad when I was 14, he decided to do his PPL and used to take me along, the bug had well and truly bitten, and I did my PPL at Welshpool and Gloucester Airport when I was 17 years old. I spent the next few years having a great time flying around locally with my dad and friends. I then finished college and University to study Maths and Astrophysics with the intention of pursuing a commercial pilot career. Unfortunately, I had to change my career plans shortly after when 9/11 had a severe impact on airline recruitment. Luckily, I had my degree to fall back on, and went into modelling and simulation engineering on aerospace projects including Airbus, Boeing and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet. During this time I also had my little family, getting married and now have 2 wonderful children.
Then 3 years ago at age 37, preparing for my youngest child to go to school, I decided I was not ready to give up on the dream of becoming a commercial pilot and paid Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club a visit down the road from me. I went to talk to them about renewing my PPL after 17 years of not flying. That day I met Mark Bills, who was very encouraging and convinced me I wasn’t too old and should get back into flying. So, I booked in some lessons with Lavinia for my renewal flights and not long after had my shiny new licence in hand! I had some hours to build before having the required hours for the CPL, again the school was amazing, and Andrew Sinclair was brilliant and helped me with my hour building and develop my flying skills getting ready for the CPL and IR. Their support was amazing and really helped me in my quest!
Alongside this studying for my ATPL theory exams, I then went on to do my CPL and IR at Aeros, Gloucester, and shortly after finishing my training, I applied to the easyJet Amy Johnson Scholarship and was offered a place on the course and a job as first officer, which I started in July 2018, I am now finishing off my line training. I feel very lucky to have had this very quick and straight forward path into an A320 cockpit, it is totally amazing and everything I dreamed of.
How did you find out about Bristol and Wessex Aeroplane Club?
I live close to Bristol Airport, and looked up the flying clubs operating from there.
I wanted to fly from Bristol Airport so it was logistically possible to fit my flying training in with school runs and work, and the people at the school were so friendly and supportive, I liked the atmosphere of the club.
What training did you complete at Bristol and Wessex?
I renewed my private pilots’ licence after being lapsed for 17 years and then went on to complete my hour building to start the CPL. Since renewing my PPL here I completed my CPL and IR at Aeros, Gloucester, MCC/JOC at CRM Aviation, White Waltham, and now I am a First Officer at easyJet.
What advice would you give anyone looking to get a PPL or even a commercial pilots licence?
Never give up! and never think there isn’t a way, there is always a way! I had to find a way to juggle ATPL theory, hour building, a job, 2 children and family life, which time wise and financially is very challenging. But through talking to flying schools, I found the modular route was very flexible, which I could do at my own pace and fit in around my other commitments, but also still allowing me to finish in 2 years.
It is a unique, challenging and satisfying hobby and career, where no two days are the same and the learning never ends.
What are your ambitions for the future?
Settle into life at easyJet and work my way up to Captain. Hopefully I will be able to combine my pilot career with my Aerospace Engineering experience later in my career.
We wish Debbie well in her new career with easyJet and would like to thank both Debbie and easyJet for making this article possible.
If you would like to find out about obtaining your private pilot’s licence, renewing your PPL or adding on a night rating please get in touch with us or visit our PPL page to find out more.