Aviation Pathways for Aspiring Pilots (ver 13 – April 2014)

QF32 Passenger Johanna Friis

QF32 Passenger Johanna Friis

“Science, Freedom, Beauty, Adventure… aviation offers it all!”  (Charles A. Lindberg)


“Please help me!”   writes Emily Redmond. “I am currently undertaking my private pilots licence with the intentions of hopefully becoming an airline pilot in future.” “I am just wondering if you could possibly take a short amount of time to give me some tips with regards to flying and the best approach for me. I have read Richard’s book “QF32”  and it has inspired me even more to continue with a career in something I am so passionate about.”

Richard Responds

Thanks for your question Emily.  I receive hundreds of similar requests.  It’s hard to respond personally, so I will give generic answers to suit the many perspectives. Here are my thoughts about possible Aviation Pathways for Aspiring Pilots:

John Barkas in the front seat in Sep 2013.  (John occupied seat 4K on QF32 on 4 Nov 2010)

“Thanks Rich” said John Barkas. “It was awesome to be invited to the flight deck yesterday morning after our chat on flight QF10 from Dubai”   (John had occupied seat 5K on QF32 on 4 Nov 2010.)

  1. Aviation Pathways
  2. Constraints
  3. Training Options
  4. Employment Options
  5. Career Development
  6. Alternate Career
  7. Aviation Industry
  8. Life Plan

Please post your questions at the end of this blog.   I will attempt to answer each type of question. I will update this page with answers to future questions.   So I recommend that you revisit this page occasionally to find new and updated information. Select “FOLLOW THIS BLOG” at the top right of this page to receive updates

Lancet_1918For fun, I will include italicised quotes from “THE LANCET” dated the 28 September 1918.  The report is headed “The Essential Characteristics of Successful and Unsuccessful Aviators” by T. S. RIPPON (Captain RAMC, attached RAF) and E. G. MANUEL (Lieutenant RAF)  (Thanks to Robert Wilson, Editor Flight Safety Australia, CASA for the research)

1. Aviation Pathways

There are many pathways to taking up a career in Aviation.      Careers exist for pilots, engineers, technicians, air traffic controllers researchers and journalists.

Chasing the sunnset  (Photo:  Richard de Crespigny)

Chasing the sunnset (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The best pathway for any person is one that suits the applicants interests, passions, skills,  physical fitness, and financial capability. Aspiring Aviators need the same  Situation Awareness to plan their careers that professional pilots use when flying. My definition of Situation Awareness is knowing:

  • Where you were
  • Where you are, and
  • Where you will be

Review these aspects of your life at least ever year to ensure that your career plan is  achievable and on track.

2. Constraints

2.1  Mental Constraints

“there are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots” (E. Hamilton Lee)

You must remain in perfect mental health to be an effective pilot.    This leading edge industry is flooded with threats, where the survivors live by Neil Armstong’s mantra:

“Expect the Unexpected”

Pilots are the most expert managers of risk.    Pilots identify, classify and negotiate risk as part of their daily functions.    The best pilots (risk managers) are those who possess the mental aptitude to appreciate threats, then develop skills and discipline to manage the risks.    Don’t panic, for even though maturity often comes later in life, aviation’s wiser professionals and experts have always given back to train and mentor the young.

Personal traits expected on joining include:

  • Passion (the Why)
  • Core ethics (values and beliefs)
  • Determination, drive, aspiration
  • Independence of thought
  • Thirst for unlimited knowledge
  • Pride, dignity, respect & empathy for others

THE LANCET – 1918:  …..[the successful pilot] possesses resolution, initiative, presence of mind, sense of humour, judgment; is alert, cheerful, optimistic, happy-go-lucky, generally a good fellow, and frequently lacking in imagination. ..

THE LANCET – 1918:  …. [He]  possess in a very high degree a fund of animal spirits and excessive vitality.

Personal traits you will be expected to acquire throughout your career include:

  • Maturity
  • Confidence, courage and persistence tempered by modesty and even vulnerability
  • Decision analysis
  • Teamwork, communication and leadership

2.2 Pilot Licences


Photo: Byron Van Gisborne

The world’s aviation authorities are currently harmonising with ICAO’s range of Pilot Licences.  For example, the new Australian licences include:

  • Recreational Pilot Licence (RPL):   >= 16 years old, > 25 hrs (20 dual, 5 solo),  Fly within <= 25nm from aerodrome
  • Private Pilot Licence (PPL):  >= 17 years old. 35 hrs experience
  • Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL):   >= 18 years old
  • Multicrew Pilots Licence (MPL)
  • Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) >= 21 years old, 1500 hrs (for fixed wing).  Must undertake Multicrew Co-operation course, and flight test.

The airlines will most likely require a CPL as a pre-requisite for employment

2.3 Financial Constraints

Dad's Turbo Piper Arrow (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Dad’s Turbo Piper Arrow (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Another Dad in Paradise (Photo Richard de Crepsigny)

Another Dad in Paradise (Photo Richard de Crepsigny)

You will need about USD$150,000 to pay for flying training and flying hours to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s licence.   If you cannot finance this training then you must search for less costly entry options via:

  • Airline Cadet Courses (if available)
  • Military

2.4  Education Constraints

Plan to graduate the final year at school with Mathematics and Physics subjects.  The best airlines and defence forces generally require these skills, although they will give more significance to  your personal attitudes, beliefs and behaviour than to raw education scores.

Flight (Love) by the Mode Control Panel light  (Photo: Richard de Crespigny.  Title courtesy Meatloaf)

Flight (Love) by the Mode Control Panel light (Photo: Richard de Crespigny. Title courtesy Meatloaf)

Technology is always changing and improving, so you will have to study for your entire life if you wish to fly professionally.  Pilots undertake training courses and frequent check flights.  In my case I am re-certified seven times every year:

  • 4 x simulator check flights (4 hours each)
  • 1 x day of emergency procedures training
  • 1 x Route Check (QF32 was my 2010 route check)
  • Aviation Medical Certificate

2.5  Physical Constraints

All pilots must possess a current medical certificate to be able to fly.

2013 IPC World Cup Thredbo  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

2013 IPC World Cup Thredbo (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

The medical requirements vary with the pilot’s age and type of licence.

You will need very good hearing, correctable eyesight and above average spatial and hand-eye coordination.

If in doubt, visit an aviation certified medical examiner before you commit to any training to determine your medical ability to fly.

You must know the many personal, physical and educational requirements to join the military if this is your preferred pathway.  The military recruit relatively  few pilots so it is not surprising that they employ only the most healthy and physically capable candidates.

THE LANCET – 1918:  The successful aviator has always the attributes of a sportsman. As a schoolboy he takes part in all forms of athletics and usually played for the school in one game at least. After leaving school he still keeps it up, and probably goes in for other kinds of sport-hunting, shooting, fishing, rowing, golfing, motoring etc. 

You must remain physically fit for your entire career.   If you partake in risky activities such as road cycling, rock climbing or toboggan racing then ensure that you have a backup career available in the event that you become injured and unable to retain a medical aviation certificate.

THE LANCET – 1918:  We found that the best type of pilot was seldom drawn from a sedentary occupation, that those who had lived a sheltered life were not so good as those who had roughed it. …. 

3.  Training Options

3.1  Initial Career Assessment

I recommend a few hours of flying instruction or private flying (with a friend) as part of your initial research before you commit to a career in aviation.

The theory of maths, science, Bernoulli’s theorem, and the fun and thrills of  of high speed flight are different to the physical realities of oil soaked engines, pre-flighting engines on cold winter mornings, and the first time when all senses overload during practice emergencies.

3.2  Private Flying

(Coutesy Santiago de Larminat)

(Coutesy Santiago de Larminat)

Private flying is an excellent method to gain broad skills in diverse areas though often these operations are conducted with unknown  governance, culture, training and standards. If you wish to join the military, then limit the amount of private flying first, as the military generally want to take you before you have acquired “other” skills.

3.3  Cadet Course

Cadet Courses are an excellent way to learn to fly for minimal costs, though you might have to repay training costs if you leave before a bonding period expires.

Cadet Courses may have a pre-requisite of  no flying experience, or up to 240 hours (Multi-crew Pilot Licence) or 1,500 hours (FAA)  flying hours experience.

Whilst the Cadet Course provides the flying required to obtain a licence, cadets often miss out on flying in diverse environments and experiencing the “challenging events” that give confidence, case harden the skills and bullet proofs the character.

To view these thoughts from another perspective, Friedrich Nietzsche‘s famous quotation:

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”

infers that pilots who develop their skills from diverse and challenging flying backgrounds will probably become more resilient than those who experience a stress-free and risk free passage.    (Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath” extends these thoughts.)

3.4 University

Edward Leung after Hong Kong - Sydney flight Feb 2014

Edward Leung after Hong Kong – Sydney flight Feb 2014. Edward has moved to Australia to complete the Aviation course at The University of New South Wales (photo Edward Leung)

I recommend that pilots gain tertiary trained skills.

Universities impart knowledge.  Knowledge will help you get a job.  Knowledge begets confidence.  Knowledge is power.   Knowledge will help you adapt.  Knowledge will help you survive.

Universities provide focussed courses (Science, Engineering ..) for the technically inclined, and Aviation Studies courses for those who wish to bracket most aviation studies.

Aviation Studies courses normally include physical flying lessons.   They also include a broad range of aviation subjects (safety, leadership, law,  crew resource management, performance, aerodynamics …. ) that cover the breadth of knowledge that is needed to gain entry to any airline sector.

Universities also teach you how to think effectively and be better leaders.  Clear thinkers make better decisions.  Making better decisions builds self-confidence.  Self confidence helps us to make the tough and courageous decisions.

It’s best to undertake a university courses;

  • straight after school (when it’s easier to study),
  • during a downturn in the industry (when there is less employment), and
  • when working regular flying rosters (studying in your hotel room!)

THE LANCET – 1918:  The [successful] fighting scout is usually the enthusiastic youngster, keen on flying, full of what one might call the “joy of life,” possessing an average intelligence, but knowing little or nothing of the details of his machine or engine; he has little or no imagination, no sense of responsibility, keen sense of humour, able to think and act quickly, and endowed to a high degree with the aforementioned quality, “hands.” He very seldom takes his work seriously, but looks upon “strafing the lines” as a great game.

THE LANCET – 1918:  ….  The authors, however, desire to express their definite conviction that the less the fighting scout pilot knows about his machine from a mechanical point of view the better.

4.  Employment Options

Your focus after gaining your initial licences is to improve your employment prospects.   Use your time constructively:

  • Improve your knowledge.
  • Grab every opportunity to fly.
  • Use spare time to study and gain more advanced licences.
  • I suggest that it is not in your best interests to spend time in other aviation trades  (cabin attendant, ground ops or customer service) at the expense of gaining flying experience.
(Photo:  Richard de Crespigny)

(Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

4.1  Military

Do NOT join the Military (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to learn to fly for no charge, for this most remarkable flying comes at a great lifestyle cost.

Jim Lovell  (Photo:  Michael Watson)

Jim Lovell (Photo: Michael Watson)

Chuck Yeager on Twitter:   (Chuck was the first pilot to exceed the speed of sound (Mach 1))

Reader asks Chuck:   “Isn’t flying expensive to learn for a profession?”

Chuck Yeager answers:   “Uncle Sam will pay to teach you, if you’re willing to bleed a little!”

The military job is a way of life:  discipline, military history, physical and mental stress, constant study and deployment where and when the military decides.   Your flying training only starts when you acquire the other skills.

The RAAF invested about 1.5 million dollars in the 1970s for my RAAF Academy and pilot training courses, so I had to spend at least eleven years in the force.  Today the costs exceed five million dollars and the bonding period has increased to about 14 years!

THE LANCET – 1918:  ….  Flying Overseas:  There is certainly a cumulative strain on the pilot, greater than any other form of aviation. Duties overseas consist of: (1) artillery observation; (2) offensive and defensive patrols; (3) trench strafing; (4) night bombing; (5) day bombing ; (6) long reconnaissance and photography.  

THE LANCET – 1918:  ….  One of the greatest strains on the pilot’s nerves is when he sees one of his friends go down in flames, or, after arriving at the mess, he learns that so-and-so is missing. When this occurs with monotonous regularity it is very hard for the pilot to maintain his mental equilibrium. There is no branch of the service where losses are more keenly felt.


Alexander after taking an F/.A-18 Hornet to heaven and back. 2011. (Photo RAAF)

4.2.  International Airlines

(Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

(Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

QF1, Sydney Dubai, October 2013.  (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

QF1, Sydney Dubai, October 2013. (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The best international airlines only recruit well trained and experienced pilots.     The airlines do not teach you to fly, they simply show you their standard operating procedures and convert you to their aircraft.

The aircraft, pay and conditions are superior, but you will be employed to ultimately be a captain and the highest flying and leadership standards are expected.

You will need about 1,500 / 3,000  military/civil hours respectively.

The international airlines generally employ pilots with jet experience from the military, and turbo prop and jet airlines.

4.3.  Regional (Domestic) Airlines

(Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

Bombardier Dash 8 at Tamworth Airport (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The regional airlines live in the middle of the pilot “food chain”.   These airlines operate on razor thin margins, so all costs are trimmed to provide the legal minimum requirements.

You might be able to join these airlines with the minimum of 240 flying hours (Multicrew Pilot Licence) or 1,500 hours (FAA).   Be prepared to pay for your training costs if you leave the company before your bonding period is repaid.

The need for regional flying is growing.   For the regional aIrlines in Australia from 1985 – 2008:   (RAAA conference  Sep11)

  • The number of regional airports has reduced down from 268 to 138
  • The number of airlines has reduced from 53 down to 27
  • BUT the number of passengers has increased from 1 million up to 6 million

4.4.  Tourist Industry / Outback / Crop Dusters

(Helicopter tours on the Big Island -

Blue Hawaiian Helicopters tours on the Big Island. Kona (the island’s second airport) and this heliports are deposited on top of and covering many black lava flows. (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

4.4.1 Tourist Industry

I suggest that for other than retired pilots, that the tourist industry be planned as a brief “means to an end” to acquire flying hours on your journey to a jet airline.

Flying in the tourist  industry is one of the best ways to build up your hours prior to joining an airline though the repetitive nature of the flying limits your full potential.   1,000 hours flying the same 1 hour sector produces less learning experiences than 300 flights with random routes and destinations.

4.4.2 Outback Flying

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger”  (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Ryan Bullock asks:  “I currently have an option to fly in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia for a year and also for a cadet-ship with a regional airline.   Which should I pick”.

Ryan, I would accept the offer to fly in the NT then take the cadet-ship with the regional.  The exciting outback experience will provide a great foundation for any commercial airline position.   I also think that early in a pilot’s career, that time is best spent laying a broad range of core skills and experience than to just acquire seniority in an airline.

I recommend all pilots early their career take up opportunities to fly in the sparsely populated areas the world (Australia, Alaska, Canada, New Guinea, South America ….).    Imagine this (brief) sojourn similar to a medical internship – the pay and working conditions might be poor, but you will gain immeasurable experience, confidence and resilience whilst also having fun learning the basic practicalities of flight, navigation and performance, all without the distractions that come with congested skies and over-controlling management.

Outback pilots quickly acquire the maturity and many of the basis hands-on flight skills necessary to start a flying career.   You will gain responsible and be able to  appreciate and manage the diverse threats and stresses such as navigation, weather, cold/hot temperatures, poor aircraft performance, aircraft mechanics, poor airfields and sometimes troublesome passengers.

Many of our most valuable life-lessons are learned from challenging experiences, and those who have seen more will be more armor-plated to anticipate and manage future risks.   You will probably inadvertently scare yourself a few times and learn to appreciate the benefit of not skimping on your fuel orders and weight and balance limitations.   You will also probably come to appreciate the technical complexities and risks of low flying.  More importantly thought, you will start to appreciate your skills and limitations and become aware of when it is prudent to stand with the birds on the ground rather than to launch into the unknown and into potentially dangerous weather conditions.

4.4.3 Crop Dusting

I recommend avoiding Crop Dusting and other low level high performance flying jobs. Except for military and helicopter flight, it’s almost always safer to he higher than lower in the air.   Crop Dusting pilots work in an almost exclusive environment of severe risks and stresses:  limiting performance, time, dust, visibility, wires, fatigue. So  save the Crop Dusting career until you have thousands of hours experience and the maturity to know your aircraft’s and your body’s limitations – your friends and family will thank you for this decision!

5.  Career Development

Pilots are more personally responsible now for their personal and career development than at any time in the past.

Sydney Runway 34  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Sydney Runway 34 (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Sydney Runway 34 with simulated 125 metre minimum visibility required for takeoff  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Sydney Runway 34 with simulated 125 metre minimum visibility authorised for Low Visibility Takeoff Procedures. The highest concentration and teamwork is required during the takeoff as the pilot in command transitions his thoughts through about eight phases of actions-response during the ground roll: (< 72 knots, <100 kts, 100 kts, > 100 kts, V1 – 20 kts, V1, > V1), rotate)  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Aviation has irrevocably changed with the arrival of low value add airlines in our flat globalized world.

Airlines are financially more challenged now than ever before.    One analyst put it succinctly:  “the yields are asymptoting to zero!”.   The world’s airlines were expected to return a $3 billion profit in 2012 on $631 billion in revenues. That’s a razor-thin 0.5 per cent margin.” (IATA Jul12)   This low margin means that the airlines now have little profit remaining after paying dividends to stakeholders to allocate for mentoring pilots and their careers.

You are the master of your destiny.  There are no fairy god mothers who will mentor you and guide you through your career.   However, great things happen when preparation meets opportunity.  So if you are to remain resilient as a pilot in aviation, then you must take charge of you own career:

  • study  assiduously for your entire career,
  • read and cross reference  every possible aviation book,
  • learn from every crash and near miss,
  • socialise with the other pilots when away from home base – don’t retreat to your room to play computer games.
  • join the Royal Aeronautical Society and the Guild of Air Pilots and Navigators.

    Damaged lift on QF32's wing tips  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

    Damaged lift on QF32′s wing tips (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

  • don’t use paper.  Build then continually update your personal Knowledge Management (KM) system which is your repository and cross-reference for your aviation knowledge.  (100% of my aviation knowledge is stored in a structured PC based knowledge management tool that is hyper-linked, indexed and constantly updated.)  I will write more about KM in later articles.
  • be confident flying your aircraft,  Be unafraid of your aircraft.  Wear it like a glove.
  • maintain your hands-on flying skills!  Don’t fall into the trap of believing that hands-on flying skills are not needed in new highly automated aircraft, for your job is to guarantee the safety of your passengers whether your aircraft is stalled, inverted, spinning or on fire (QF32 p 102).  (Proof:  Of the 4269 fatalities from commercial jets between 2003-2012, 39% (1648)  were due to Loss of Control In-flight and 18% (765) during landing! (Boeing Summary August 2013))

THE LANCET – 1918: The skilful pilot appears to anticipate” bumps.”  He is invariably a graceful flyer, never unconsciously throws an undue strain on the machine, just as a good riding man will never make a horse’s mouth bleed.

Knowledge, training and experience gives you confidence and courage to face the risks, make the best decisions and hopefully in the worst case survive the events that you had never trained for nor expected.

A380 Diversion Fuels from London Heathrow  (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Putting the A380 Diversion Fuels from London Heathrow into practice.
I arrived into Heathrow on Sunday, 27th October 2013 at 6:30 am, exactly when the St Jude’s storm passed overhead Heathrow and the LHR QNH (pressure) dropped to 978 HPa and the winds were fluctuating through their highest velocities.
Many international airlines had cancelled all flights to the UK.
We carried fuel sufficient to arrive at then hold at Heathrow for 90 minutes (15 tonnes holding fuel), and then (if we could not land) divert to Frankfurt (20 tonnes diversion fuel). (We selected Frankfurt as our alternate because our normal alternate airports: Manchester, Gatewick, Stansted, Paris and Amsterdam had anticipated the worst and closed themselves for diverting aircraft!)
(For info: The normal QNH setting is 1013 HPa. I (and the meteorologist in Sydney that I spoke to pre-flight) was aware that the lowest London QNH recorded was 960 HPa, recorded during the The Great Storm of 16 October 1987) (Photo: Richard de Crespigny, May 2010)

6.   Alternate Career

Security is a swear word!   You will never find security in aviation and it’s an illusion for those who think that they have it.

You will become personally resilient when you have mitigated for a loss of your aviation career. As part of your risk analysis and being prepared for the unexpected, I believe that every pilot should have a plan for an alternate (secondary) career in the event that their primary career is halted due to ill health, airline retrenchments or a bad experience.

Heath Calhoun (Courtesy Richard de Crespigny)

Heath Calhoun at the 2013 IPC World Cup, Thredbo (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Three examples suffice:

  1. In 1976, my 18 year old friend found that his aviation medical was permanently cancelled after he was knocked unconscious for the second time whilst playing football.  He was subsequently forced to leave the RAAF Academy!
  2. I started my computer company shortly after joining my Airline as I calculated that I had a 50% chance of being retrenched in event of an industry down-turn.
  3. Hundreds of pilots’ careers came to a quick end as a result of the 1989 Australian pilots’ dispute.

Pilots can purchase “Loss of Licence” insurance in the event that they cannot renew their Aviation Medical Certificate.   However I consider the cost of this prohibitive for the return. Rather than taking Loss of Licence insurance, I recommend that when you have found your first job in an airline that you study to acquire a backup career in another profession (building, law, finance, computing …).   Ideally choose an alternate career that complements aviation (ie computing, electronics, engineering ..).

7.  Aviation Industry

The World’s aviation industry has been reliably doubling every 15 years (since 1972).  This growth is expected to continue over the next twenty years.

The number of passenger kilometers travelled will triple between 2010 and 2050.   To meet this expected demand, the number of aircraft (in service) will double (from 20k to 42k) and 1,500 aircraft must be built every year through till 2050. (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)

Forecast Air Travel Growth 2013 to 2033  (Courtesy Airbus)

Forecast Air Travel Growth 2013 to 2033 (Courtesy Airbus Global Market Forecast 2013-2032)

More pilots will be required to fly double the number of aircraft (2010-2050).

498,000 new commercial airline pilots will be needed to fly the new aircraft over the next 20 years (2013-2032)   (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook):

  • 114,900 – Asia Pacific (excluding China)
  • 77,400 – China
  • 99,700 – Europe
  • 85,700 – North America
  • 48,600 – Latin America
  • 40,000 – Middle East
  • 16,500 – Africa
  • 15,200 - Commonwealth of Independent States

By 2050, six billion of the world’s 9 billion will be living in regional hubs (megalopolies or megalopoles) separated by about eight hours flying time.  (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)

2050 - 70% of the world's population living in megapoles connected by VLA (A380, B747) and internally serviced by smaller A320-A350 and 727-787 aircraft.

2050 – 70% of the world’s population living in megapoles connected by VLA (A380, B747) and internally serviced by smaller A320-A350 and 727-787 aircraft.  (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO)

7.1.1  Asia

Expect many jet pilot jobs to surface in Asia over the next two decades.   Asian opportunities will help you accrue significant jet command hours in a minimum time as part of your journey to the larger international carriers.

  • 192,300 new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)
  • Asia is now the largest (and fastest growing) air transport market in the world with 948m passengers, followed by North America (808m) and Europe (780·6m) (IATA 2013).
  • Asia is the machine driving most of the aviation growth as an estimated 2 billion Asian (and Indian and South American) people increase in prosperity and become eligible to take low cost flights
  • 30% of the industry is now based in Asia Pacific (Tony Webber, 2011)
  • 45% of aircraft traffic will be in Asia Pacific region in 2050. (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
  • 45 new airports are being built in Asia over the next 5 years. (IATA Jun 2011)
  • 40% of the worlds cargo market is in Asia  (IATA Jun 2011)
  • The worlds largest order of 234 aircraft was recently made in March 2013 by Lion Air of Indonesia, a company that formed only thirteen years ago and currently has 18,000 workers.
  • Understand the benefits and opportunities offered by the ASEAN Open Skies Agreement to open up the Asian markets in 2014 for unparalleled access.
  • Japan’s Low Cost aviation market has potential growth of at least 400% over the next few years as Bullet Train Passengers change to faster-cheaper low cost airlines (i.e. Jet Star Japan)  (Deutsche Bank – 2013)
  • Hong Kong airport’s two runways were 96% fully utilised in 2013 and will be saturated by 2016.   The airport currently services 370,000 flights over the past 12 months (an average of 65 flights per hour, close to its  upper cap of 68 per hour).  (Norman Lo Shung (Director-General, Civil Aviation Department, Hong Kong, 2013))
  • I recommend that you view Hans Rosling’s excellent presentation that expertly explains the origins of the emerging affluent China and Asia economies.  Draw you own conclusions for opportunities in air travel.
Air Traffic growth by region (Courtesy Airbus)

Air Traffic growth by region (Courtesy Airbus Global Market Forecast 2013-2032)


  • Airbus forecasts Asia-Pacific to be biggest regional market by 2032.  (AGMF Sep 2013)

Long Haul

  • 93%/99% of long haul traffic is/will be flown between 42/90 Aviation Mega Airports in 2013/2032 respectively   (AGMF Sep 2013)
Aircraft Demand by Region (Courtesy Airbus)

Aircraft Demand by Region. Aircraft aircraft orders (split by size) shows that aviation growth is centered in Asia Pacific & the Middle East (Courtesy Airbus Global Market Forecast 2013-2032)

Airbus Backlog 2013

Asia’s sphere of influence! Aircraft orders shows that aviation growth is tilted towards Asia Pacific & the Middle East (Courtesy Airbus Global Market Forecast 2013-2032)

7.1.2 Middle East

The Middle Eastern airlines are defining aviation’s future for the next 50 years.  The Gulf has established itself as a key aviation hub from the perspective of linking continents by air.

40,000 new commercial airline pilots will be needed over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)

The Middle Eastern carriers (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Flydubai) placed  a staggering US$162 billion order for aircraft at the Paris Airshow in November 2013.  Emirates placed a US$99 billion order (list prices), the  largest aircraft order in history for 200 aircraft comprising: 35 Boeing 777-8Xs, 115 Boeing 777-9Xs and 50 Airbus A380 aircraft.  Emirates has so many aircraft on order that they will need 19 new pilots to train EVERY DAY for the next decade to meet demand.

7.1.3  Europe

114,900 new commercial airline pilots will be needed in Europe and the CIS over the next 20 years (2013-2032) (Boeing Pilot and Technical Market Outlook)

European aviation is also doubling about every 15 years.  European air traffic controllers are expecting demand to double between 2013 & 2025-30.  In an already congested airspace, controllers are transitioning to four dimensional control (latitude, longitude, altitude, time) .   (Richard Deakin, CEO, NATS, presenting the RAeS Brabazon lecture, Nov 2013)

7.2.  Drone, Pilot-less Aircraft

I think that there will be a sustained need for pilots well up until 2060.

Israeli UAV at the Paris Air Show - Jun 2013  (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

Israeli UAV at the Paris Air Show – Jun 2013 (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

The air force is already researching -flying autonomous fighter aircraft

The forecast aircraft deliveries for Boeing and Airbus aircraft shown below are all for piloted aircraft.   Although Airbus is researching pilot-less aircraft,  do not expect to see pilot-less large aircraft in commercial passenger operations until at least after 2030 and only after the technologies have been proven on cargo aircraft (operating in shared airspace) for many years.

7.3. Aircraft Production

The demand for and production  of new aircraft is at an all time high:

  • 32,100 commercial passenger jets will be delivered over the next 20 years, worth almost $2.5 trillion  (Flightglobal Fleet Forecast July 2013)
  • This is the busiest year in 15 for maiden flights:  Airbus A350 (June 2013), Boeing 787-9  (Sep 2013) and the Bombardier CSeries (Sep 2013)
  • The worlds fleet of 20,000 commercial aircraft will more than double to 42,000 aircraft by 2050  (Alain Garcia, Former Airbus CTO, 2014)
  • The newest Airbus A380, Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 aircraft will probably be flying until 2060.

7.3.1.   Boeing predictions – next 20 years (Jun13)

Alexander  with Randy Neville (Boeing's 787 Chief Pilot in the 787 Flight Simularor in Seattle Jan 2012 (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Alexander with Randy Neville (Boeing’s 787 Chief Pilot in the 787 Flight Simularor in Seattle Jan 2012 (Photo Richard de Crespigny)
Congratulations to Randy who piloted the 787-9 on its first flight today over Seattle. (18 Sep 2013).

  • Airlines will need 35,280 new jets worth $4.8 trillion as the world’s fleet doubles over the next 20 yrs (this is a 3.8% increase from Boeing’s prior 20-year outlook)
  • Anticipates a surge in Asia-Pacific travel that will keep production rates at jet factories rising
  • Airlines will need 24,670 single-aisle jets worth $2.29 trillion at list prices, up from 23,240 forecast last year
  • Trend is for less or flat demand compared with previous forecasts for larger or smaller acft

7.3.2.  Airbus forecasts

(Graph: Richard de Crespigny)

(Graph: Richard de Crespigny)

29,226 new aircraft required  (US$4.4 trillion) up until 2032 (next 20 yrs):

  • 20,242 single isle
  • 7,273 twin isle
  • 1,711 very large aircraft

29,226 new aircraft  up until 2032 (next 20 yrs):

  • 10,409 to replace older aircraft
  • 18,817 for growth

20,000 new helicopters up until 2033 (Tom Enders, 13 Dec 2013)

8.  Life Plan

Though I am not qualified to advise others about how to plan their lives, I list some of my thoughts below in case they might help others.   My observations have been gleaned from discussions  with pilots throughout their lives, noting the types of plans that succeeded, and those that did not succeed.

I think that there are four keys to happiness:

  • good health,
  • dignity
  • meaningful work/purpose, and
  • love.

When you acquire these keys, you will find the comfort a that comes from leading a full and rewarding life.  You will also have the confidence to ride through life’s vicissitudes of successes and failures.

8.1   Good Health

Pilots start their careers with good health.   So you must strive to remain healthy not just for your career’s benefit, but also for your happiness and personal well-being.  Keep fit, establish a healthy diet, and socialise.

THE LANCET – 1918:   When they have finished flying for the day their favourite amusements are theatres, music (chiefly rag-time), cards, and dancing, and it appears necessary for the  well-being of the average pilot that he should indulge in a  really riotous evening at least once or twice a month. 

Vestibular System (Photo R de Crespigny)

Inner ear – Vestibular system (Photo R de Crespigny)

8.2   Dignity

Every person needs dignity and respect.  You must however act respectfully to be respected.

Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King & Mahatma Gandhi  understood the “WHY” that underpinned their core values and beliefs, maintained their dignity, put others first, and as a result, peacefully changed the world.   

To respect the person you see in the mirror:

  • Work hard and don’t be afraid to fail.   Indeed welcome failure for the lessons and wisdom that it provides.  Accept the hard realities in life, even unfairness.  When life is not going your way, avoid focusing inwards and harnessing anger and regret.   Instead, keep your morale and ambitions high, look ahead, work hard and continually challenge yourself.    Perceive what others see as obstacles as motivators that power and direct your persistence.
  • Honesty is the simplest path to self-respect.
  • Be kind to, and find good in yourself and others.  Take yourself out of the center for you do not matter!   It’s what you can do for others (particularly the disadvantaged)  that counts, not what others can do for you!

8.3  Meaningful Work/Purpose

Meaningful work/purpose consists of:

  • doing every day what you love and excel at,
  • getting encouragement and support to develop your skills, and
  • being respected for your action and opinions.

For parents of future aviators, the most important thing you can do is to encourage you children to discover their own passions, then to enable your children to pursue their passions.    Don’t spoon feed them, rather help them clarify their thoughts, develop plans, then be a catalyst to help them help themselves.  (See also Motivating our Youngest Generation)

For the aviators reading this, your task is to get your aviation licences, flying experience and with these requisites gain access to a satisfying aviation job.  Your mission throughout is to maintain your motivation to excel:

A380 at Sydney International Terminal (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

A380 at Sydney International Terminal (Photo: Richard de Crespigny)

  • “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” (Confucius)
  • “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”  (Farrah Gray)
  • “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.”  (Les Brown)
  • Never procrastinate.   “Do it now!”   “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now”, and
  • “Equilibrium is the precursor to death!”
  • Please read my later blog “Torches

Work with your “heroes” instead of starting out alone.  You have insufficient time and resources in aviation to learn everything from your own mistakes.  You’ll gain knowledge and experience quickly as an “apprentice” in a successful team.  Indeed joining  a passionate and successful company and doing what you really want to do in your life might be even more rewarding than continuing with a Master or Ph.D degree.

You must act respectably if you want to be respected:

  • Act like a CEO, because that’s what you are in your aircraft – not a back office employee.
  • Be present.  Meet, greet and talk to your passengers – don’t hide behind the flight deck door.  Empathise with the crew and passengers, ensuring that their interests are at the center of all your thoughts and actions (the WHY).
  • Be happy, fun and positive!  You control the attitude that you project.   Indeed, the Captain sets the atmosphere for the passengers and crew on every flight!   Make your attitude an award winning and world famous attitude that welcomes others and “makes their day”.
  • Be honest.  Tell passengers the truth (full and open disclosure) and be prepared to give a personal guarantee.
  • Always expect and plan for the unexpected – that’s what your passengers expect!  Never admit to being bored in an aircraft because others will think that you are not thinking about and preparing for the unexpected.    Would you like hearing brain surgeons telling you that they get bored during their surgeries?
  • Be confident but modest (even vulnerable) for you never know it all.   Indeed the minute that you think you know everything  is the second before you do something really stupid.

8.4  Love

The essence of life is to love and to be loved.

Follow your passion Sam Harris, work hard, reach for the stars and come fly with me! (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Follow your passion Sam Harris, work hard, reach for the stars and come fly with me!
This photo taken in April 2010 (Pre QF32 incident). Sam wrote to me later: “I was on your flight where it was delayed by 2 hours because of a frozen pipe in the lavatory. You let me sit in the captains seat and shut down 2 computers when we were in Sydney and gave me some info on the plane. I have got 5 hours on my junior flying licence. “
Sam subsequently flew his first solo flight on his 15th birthday on the 19th of Jan 2013.
“I am chipping away at my licence so hopefully I could be a captain for the A380 one day.. “
(Photo Richard de Crespigny)

For junior aviators, I recommend that you wait until your aviation career is kick-started before you  do get “hitched”.

The pilot’s life opens up exciting opportunities to travel and to meet many remarkable people.   But your career path requires great sacrifices (financial, mental and physical) before the good positions become available.   You might need to position to remote areas or to Asia and the Middle East to gain flying experience (hours).

It is a special person who can happily settle into the life of the pilot’s spouse. So as a fledgling pilot, take your time, socialise outside aviation and find the best person who you love, is confident and independent.

It is essential that your partner grows and develops independently as you grow and develop, and that he/she is able and happy to support any children at home alone whilst you travel abroad.

For when you are married, I forecast that your priorities will/should change.    Where your career was priority one in your early years, your career now shifts down into second place as your family responsibilities increase.

My wonderful wife Coral had clear priorities.   When our children were about ten years old.  A friend asked Coral what her priorities were in life.   Coral’s answer surprised him:

  1. my husband,
  2. my children, then
  3. myself.

Coral reasoned that if she looked after me, that two parents would do a better job of raising our children that one parent.   She also understood that she would be left at home with “just her husband” as company when the children grew up and left home.

THE LANCET – 1918:  The majority of successful pilots are un-married, and our own observations tend to show that marriage is a definite handicap owing to the increased sense of responsibility.    If a man marries after he has flown several hundred hours, and flying has become automatic, marriage may not apparently affect him for some time. In some cases it may even make him steadier and more careful, but sooner or later it will in most cases have a definitely , deteriorating effect.
THE LANCET – 1918:  The unmarried man (faced with the possibility of crashing whilst doing his first solo) in most cases dismisses the thought or takes the risk in the same way as a horse-rider puts his mount at a fence in strange country. The married man has the knowledge of what death may mean to his wife and family, and, moreover, has the opportunity in many cases of discussing it with his wife and manufacturing in his own home a condition of nervousness which eventually becomes so great that he confesses to his instructor that he has completely lost his nerve.


I have saved this subject for last, because it is the subject that least motivates me.

My career aspirations have never been motivated by money.  I have observed that those who are obsessed with money never achieve a healthy perspective of “how much is enough”.  They continually grasp for more, compare their wealth to others, and so are ultimately never content.

I have worked hard throughout my entire career,  thrown security to the wind and taken every opportunity that was within my grasp.

I have found that the skills that I have acquired along my journey have value and are appreciated in many industries. From passion, commitment and perseverance comes skill, and from skill comes rewards.

This is my career and I would not trade it for any desk job!

Where from Here?

(Photo: Lee Gatland)

(Photo: Lee Gatland)

Emily Redmond, thank you for your question (at the top of this article).    I hope that I have helped to answer some of your queries.

Never give up on your dreams, for the rewards are commensurate with the risks and opportunities you take as your career progresses.    Fulfilling careers await for those who are brave enough to find them and and who rise to the challenges.

Security is both a swear word and an illusion.   Where and what you end up flying depends upon what opportunities you seize along your passionate journey.

Aviation is not an easy career choice.  You’ll have to learn and research for every day of your career, face the mental challenge of continual re-certification and physical challenges of working extreme hours and perhaps sometimes in extremely risky locations.

There is a piloting job waiting for every person who has the health, intelligence, drive, and commitment to forge their way into this leading edge, high tech, high risk career.   The graphs in Section Seven suggest that the aviation industry will continue to double every 15 years .

Discuss the topics I have listed here with other pilots.   Ask opinions from retired pilots who have successfully navigated a lifetime of aviation’s challenges.   For these old and wise pilots are the true heroes, with memories laced with nuggets of wisdom gleaned from occasional  errors in judgement and experiences surviving  fate’s unexpected and unthinkable events.    These mentors deserve your highest respect, for they are the world’s best risk experts who worked day-in, day-out in the most leading edge, high tech and risky industry and protected their passengers from harm.

If I have had good foresight and luck in my career, it is only because I have been standing on the shoulders of these past aviation giants.

If you could be so fortunate …..

My final mentoring support comes from the last paragraph in Jim Collins great book on Level 5 Leadership, entitled “Good to Great”:

2014 Sochi Paralympic Games skier (slalom & giant slalom)  Jess Gallager

Jess Gallagher – 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games skier (slalom & giant slalom)

“When all these pieces [from “Good to Great”] come together, not only does your work move towards greatness, but so does your life.  For in the end it’s impossible to have a great life without having a meaningful life.  And it’s very hard to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.  Perhaps then, you might gain that rare tranquility that comes from knowing that you’ve had a hand in creating something of intrinsic excellence that makes a contribution.   Indeed you might also gain that deepest of all satisfactions knowing that your short time here on earth has been well spent and that it mattered”.

My very best wishes to you as you embark on your safe, happy and fulfilling career.   It won’t be easy – but I promise fun and rewards and that you will matter!

Be strong, and shine!


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  1. Hi Richard,

    I have just finished reading your outstanding book.

    When will ‘Big Jets’ be published and open for the public to own? – I cant wait much longer!!

    I am seriously interested in all aspects of aviation and I strongly believe that, aviation is where my future will lie, as a pilot. I am a 16 year old New Zealander and live in Palmerston North. I have roughly 10 hours of flight time so far in C152’s and DA20’s – I’m not far off solo!

    I’ve always loved flying and been interested in Aviation. Its only been over the last 3 of years, I have been involved and constantly researching and educating my mind with any and everything to do with it. I hold a Class 1 Medical certificate – so I am ‘good to go‘ ahead with this career, which was very relieving. I look forward to in the next decade, going to live in Australia, as I have been there many times and loved it, and hopefully securing a job with Qantas ideally, if not Qantaslink, If there are good sights for the future of Qantas that is.

    I am passionately interested in every inch of particular aircraft like the A380, A330 and B717, Q400. Any new information is music to the ears.

    I plan on undergoing my training through ‘Massey University – School Of Aviation’ studying a B.Av (3 Years). They use DA40, DA42 (twin engine) aircraft. I will also apply to of get into the RAAF. I would love to fly fighter jets, or tanker aircraft. (KC-30-MRTT), or even an Orion. Could you give me a possible insight into what your thinking is of this move?

    Why are airbus side sticks independent, and I know there is a situation you can use both of them at the same time. What situation is this and why?

    How come when the A380 is parked, the tail is left in an awkward position? Hydraulics??

    Because you have had the best of both worlds, flying Airbus Aircraft and Boeing Aircraft, what is your opinion of most Boeing Planes going fly-by-wire now? (Like the Boeing 787, featuring an artificial sense of control when the pilot pulls back on the control column?)

    Is it your opinion that it really is safer (speaking for example in extreme circumstances)? Yes you might have control when flying a Boeing aircraft (over computers – Airbus) but it would be a lot more difficult to handle, wouldn’t it? Whereas (as you mentioned in some interview) that the computers in an Airbus plane would command any control surface(s) up/down in order to sustain straight and level flight (stressing the control surfaces). But the ‘pilot’ (of the Airbus aircraft) would have ‘no-idea’ this is all happening when all he can see is that the plane is flying straight and level. If all wires responsible for control surface inputs to/fro that cockpit were severed, would that mean that the plane is ‘stuffed’? I suppose the reality of this happening is about the same chance of ALL mechanical systems responsible for control surface inputs failing/disconnecting. So Airbus planes are safer? There are more pros vs cons when you weigh them up, for airbus. Is this why Boeing are going to fly-by-wire?

    Jake van Lienen

    1. Hi Jake,

      Airbus sidesticks are independent due to technology and safety constraints. The engineers in the 1970s were unable to design sidesticks that provided sensitive physical feedback from the opposing sidestick. They were probably also concerned about a “single point of failure” affecting safe flight. Future airbus designs might provide feedback between the sidesticks.

      There is NEVER an occasion when both pilots should provide sidestick input. Only one pilot should be flying at any one time. However, the “Side Stick Priority” push button is used if one pilot wishes to take control from the other pilot (in the case of incapacitation or faulty sidestick).

      The tail plane position is set to zero after landing, probably to prepare for another takeoff, assist with refuelling and to return the control surfaces to the reference (datum) position.

      You will have to wait for my big jets book about the fly by wire questions. Airbus/Boeing Fly-By-Wire aircraft are statistically 8/6 times safer than their non fly by wire aircraft respectively. (hull loss).

      The A340 and B777 both share the (practical) lowest hull loss rate of about one hull loss per 9 million flying hours. I think the A380 is too new (zero hull losses in 8 million flying hours so far) to be statistically relevant.

  2. Jean-François Vivier · · Reply

    Dear Richard,

    I just discovered your website and this article is one more proof of your devotion to our passion, world and industry.

    I would like, once again, to say how much your book has changed my (recent) pilot life. This is such a lesson for life, piloting and career management.

    I am this young French man who contacted you on Linkedin. I am still working at Thales Avionics and I still working hard for my PPL which might be passed really soon.

    I am really proud to be part of all the people who work hard every day in order to improve aviation industry and particularly flight deck technologies. The evolution in avionics is coming fast and the changes will improve the crews’ workload, safety and efficiency. Having read your story with QF32 and knowing the A380 (which incorporates lots of Thales equipment), I am more motivated than ever before to ensure the evolution succeeds.

    I still have your book QF32. I store it at my office so I make sure it remains within an easy reach. By the way, I lent it to one of my colleague who is in charge of innovative solutions for cockpits and avionics. He was one of the managing engineers for our Odicis project and also our Avionics 2020 project (displayed last year at the Paris airshow) which I suggest you to look at on the internet. He also really appreciated your book and I’m sure it helps him create impressive technologies and ideas for tomorrow’s avionics.

    I want to tell you that my invitation to visit our offices in Bordeaux and our cockpits demonstrators is still standing, whenever…

    Best regards.


  3. Byron Van Gisborne · · Reply

    Dear Richard,


    Photo: Byron Van Gisborne

    I want to start by saying that normally I don’t read books like novels that have no benefit to me so I normally stick to textbooks etc.. I don’t know why I decided to download the book but it was just calling me out and I’m very glad I did read it (it took me two days I didn’t put it down).

    This book and your story had some fantastic lessons to be learnt from the normal person to the experienced flight crew. The things I learnt from this and which also reinforced some of my own principles and standards are the use of team work, discipline, high standards, leadership.

    I took a lot of information out of this book and absorbed it like a sponge.

    My career goal is to become an airline captain. Even starting my career and first flight late and at the age of 24, I believe I will make it to the position I want and as you know aviation has hurdles and nothing goes exactly right. But so far I have been forced to do it the hard way and have a real appreciation for my licence, what it means and takes.

    I met an A380 pilot from Qantas at a wedding (Gary Cox) he was a great man and quiet funny I asked for he’s advice as I normally do from the more senior pilots he said “have you thought about a legal career and laughed” I think it was he’s way of probing me to see if I had the “bug” for aviation, and we got along well.

    Another thing in your book was the use of mentors. I could not agree more and I am very thankful I have Capt Craig Baker from Virgin Oz (A330) assisting and guiding my career. I think that young pilots and some older ones don’t get “it”. It is very important to put your ego aside and gather all the information and help that you can get. Not all of it will be useful, but that is up to you, although any help is good help and no question is a bad question.

    I finally got my Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) last year after four years of slogging it out in a full time job and a lot of hiccups. I am starting a full time flying course tomorrow – 48 weeks of 5 days a week from 8 am till 5 pm.

    There is no point flying in a career solo if you can put a few minds together. So I plan on taking the lessons I learnt in your book and applying them to my career. I will also to continually help other aviators and guide them where possible.

    Thank you for the fantastic read, and your experience. I learnt a lot more than I ever thought I would.

    1. Dear Byron,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am very pleased that some of my life’s lessons have helped you in planning your aviation career.

      Don’t worry or be distracted by other people’s disparaging comments about aviation and avoiding aviation careers. Opportunities in aviation have never been better for those who dedicate themselves to the challenges of flying, technology, teamwork and leadership,

      Work hard, play hard and you will reap the rewards.

      Best of luck on your fledgling career. What you get out of aviation is absolutely commensurate with what you put into it, and then later give back to others (mentoring).

      I expect to hear great things about you!

      Kind Regards, Rich

  4. Deanna Jones · · Reply

    Is is too late to start a career in aviation in your mid 40s?

    I have been told that the airlines or regionals won’t even look at me as I’m too old, and it would be very hard or next to impossible, to secure my first job in general aviation, as I would be competing against the younger graduates.

    I was also told that in the aviation industry they relate number of hours to age, and would consider someone at my age should already have attained thousands of flight hours.

    This doesn’t help someone who ‘started late’ and wishes they had considered this when younger.

    Is this a lost cause, or should I fight for it? (I am no stranger to difficulty and having to fight for something.) I would love to be able to fit in somewhere I would feel fulfilled and not be judged upon my age if I’m medically fit to fly.

    Is the reality that it’s already too late?


    1. Hi Deanna,

      Am I correct in inferring from your questions that you have not contacted airlines and asked these questions to the persons who will give you clear answers?

      This must be your first step if you are serious in embarking in aviation.

      I believe that there are many opportunities for pilots who have the required experience. However you will need to discuss the opportunities for cadet-ships, endorsements and other pathways with the Recruiting Staff at your local airlines.

      Best wishes for an exciting career! Rich

  5. Hi Richard,

    I am glad I found your website!

    I have just finished year 12 (with 2 exams still left to do) but can’t wait to fly.

    I am still carefully looking at options on where to fly and one has been to get across to America and get my Private Pilot’s Licence (PPL) there since the cost is a little cheaper and I would love to do something like that over there. I was curious if you have heard of anyone undertaking training in different countries and coming back to Australia?

    My plan would be to gain my PPL in the USA then come back and continue on with my licences in Australia. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) require a single exam to convert a PPL. On return I would like to get a job in the airline industry to further fund my training and cover the costs.

    Do you think working for an airline in customer service, ground ops, flight attendant etc would benefit when the time comes to applying for a pilot position for the same company?



    1. Dear Henderson,

      Good luck with your last two school exams. It’s been a long haul and you deserve a good break over Christmas when it’s all over!

      I do not know of any person who obtained their PPL in the USA then converted it to an Australian PPL. I’d be grateful for any feedback on this thread from pilots who have followed this pathway.

      I think it is not in your best interests to spend time in other aviation trades (cabin attendant, ground ops or customer service) at the expense of gaining flying experience.

      Best wishes for your pathway to flying!


  6. Paul McLean · · Reply

    Hello Richard,

    Thank you for publishing a wonderful book. I read it within 4 days and could not put it down.

    We recently flew to USA and back on QF93/QF94 and loved the A380/Qantas experience.

    Your book has made me a Qantas passenger for life.

    My son is 16 and very seriously considering applying to join the Royal Australian Air Force to be a pilot. He is about to read your book and your website will also be a wealth of knowledge for him it digest and learn from.

    Thank you for being a great ambassador for Qantas, our Aviation industry and for Australia.


    Paul McLean

    1. Hi Joe,

      Thank you very much for your kind thoughts. It is always wonderful to discover people who love the A380 and the airline for which I hold so much respect and pride.

      I wish your son the best wishes for following his passion. If it is indeed aviation, then I look forward to him flying me across the skies in future generations of aircraft.

      Best Regards


  7. Joe Corbett · · Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I am about to move into Year 10, and seriously considering becoming a pilot with Qantas, Qantas link, or Virgin Australia.

    What subjects would you recommend I choose for 11 and 12?
    What OP am I aiming for?
    Should I take flying lessons?
    Any other Tips for a “wannabe” pilot?

    Joe Corbett

    Year 9 Brisbane

    1. Hi Joe,
      I have updated the page to include answers to your questions.
      Good luck for your great career!

  8. Hi Richard,

    I have just finished reading your book and loved it. For someone who is fascinated with flight and with airliners, but never studied hard enough in school to become a pilot, I found your book to be a great read.

    But I have one question for you – You mention in the last chapter that your failed your route check which was QF32. What are the implications of that?

    1. Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      The anser to your question is long and complex and I should be able to publish the answer within a month.

      Best Regards Rich

  9. Hi Richard.

    You mention “use a knowledge management system”.

    Could you comment some more on this subject i.e.: how do you actually keep the info, do you use a program like Evernote or similar, do you see this info only on your PC or also on a tablet/iPad, how do you back up, how do you manage updates on manuals etc…

    On our company they only give us FCOM on PDF’s and retaining your own notes or annotations is a mess since you loose them on every update.

    Best regards

    Paul Balaresque
    Captain A320
    LAN Airlines

    1. Hi Paul,

      Thanks for your great question! There is too much here to answer in a generalised topic, so I will write a complete article on Knowledge Management to publish later. Rich

  10. Hi Richard,

    I enjoy your tireless work and writing you are inspirational.

    One minor feedback re aspirational pilots, in the closing part of your article you mention to go to the bars where pilots attend, maybe replace with networking .

    I am a mum and have daughters, and have worked corporate situations. I don’t like the boozy culture and I know you would condemn it too, especially with frequent defense force stories in media re behaviour.

    I stress that I support your endeavour, But just be aware use of bar and possible alcohol culture. I never drink because I hate the taste and I laughed once on a business trip in QF Business Class when I was offered champagne as we waited to take off. India and I said that a coffee would be great – the passenger next to me glared at me as he sipped his champagne. The crew were great.

    All the best Richard and take care out there,

    Regards Mary Cameron

    1. Dear Mary,

      Thanks for your kind words.

      I agree 100% with your comments about alcohol. In fact whilst you were writing your comment to me, I rewrote paragraph 5 to eliminate any reference to alcohol and bar culture.

      I maintain that the younger generations must socialise more in public away from social media, however I do not want to give the impression that alcohol should be the catalyst.

      Kind Regards Rich.

  11. Brian Condon 415 The Terrace Port Pirie SA 5540 · · Reply

    Hi Richard,

    I am a private pilot for 45 years with my own Cessna 182. I made my first flight in the Southern Cross with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith in 1931 and I still fly as Pilot In Command.

    I read your article as with all your others with admiration for the professionalism and contribution that you have made and are making to aviation.

    I was very happy to purchase a copy of your signed book QF32 in a Melbourne Airport bookstore.

    You are a credit to yourself, aviation and your country.

    Well done. Regards Brian Condon

    1. Dear Brian,

      You are a legend!

      To have flown with Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, to still be medically fit to hold a pilot’s licence, and to still be flying in command is a testament to your skills, actions, values and beliefs that have clearly guided you to making excellent decisions throughout your remarkable life.

      You have not just heard great stories, but you have also lived them!

      I would be honored to share any of your insights and stories with the younger aspiring pilots.

      Well done Brian. My father Peter de Crespigny (who at 86 years, was too young to fly with Kingsford Smith, is still a pilot and Piper Turbo Arrow owner, and who recently flew a Spitfire over the UK) would join with me in wishing you continued great health and safe flying.


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