For Old Blue Luke Rimmer from the Class of 2010, a careers talk in Year 9 sparked an interest in aviation. Eleven years on since members of the Wavertree 1966 Squadron visited The Blue Coat School, that initial spark has turned into a passion, and Luke can now be found flying passengers to some of Europe’s top destinations as a pilot with British airline EasyJet. Currently based in Naples, Luke sheds light on what life is like as a commercial airline pilot.
Why did you decide to become a pilot?
Unlike most people in the industry my family does not have any links to the aviation industry. I first became attracted to the idea of becoming a pilot when members of the Wavertree 1966 Squadron, Air Training Cadet Force, delivered a careers talk at School. I was a cadet there for over 5 years and loved every minute of it.
I was fixated on being a pilot and initially wanted to join the Royal Air Force before moving onto a career in commercial aviation. But unfortunately when I completed my A Levels the RAF were undergoing budget cuts and I was told there would be no opportunities for a number of years so I concentrated all of my efforts on civil aviation.
You spent two years training at an Academy in Oxford, what was that like?
My training course took place at Oxford Aviation Academy, one of two major training academies in the UK that specialise in training airline pilots. My ‘ab initio’ course took 16 months to complete and is specifically designed to take people from zero experience to airline pilot standard in less than two years.
I spent 6 months completing ground training, passed 14 exams and relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, for 6 months to complete my initial flight training.
On my return to Oxford I completed my Advanced Flight Training in more challenging weather conditions. On completing my final exam I gained my Air Transport Pilot licence.
It was by far the most difficult experience of my life with the consequences so high if any failures were to occur. But fortunately for myself I did everything that was required of me.
You are now based in Naples, what is a typical day like for you?
I have lived in Naples for just over two years. My roster is published on the 17th of the month for the proceeding month and tends to consist of 4/5 days working. As expected in our industry the summer period is our main concentration in the year. Long, tough and busy days are to be expected for 6 months. The winter tend to be a little more relaxed, although the weather is more extreme and poses greater challenges.
A typical day would consist of reporting to the crew room an hour before the flight is due to depart. I will meet my fellow pilot to discuss our flights for the day; what fuel we would like to take and what weather we can expect. Then we will brief our cabin crew, discuss any weather issues or whether the aircraft has any defects which will affect how they operate the cabin. Then we board our aircraft.
Inside the cockpit our structure for flying is divided into two. One pilot is the ‘pilot flying’, responsible for setting the aircraft up ready for the flight, with the other pilot, ‘pilot monitoring’, responsible for checking the aircraft externally and operating the radios during flight.
What would you say is the best aspect of your job?
The great sense of pride I get when I consciously think of the responsibility I have. The majority of the time you take it as a normal job but there are occasions, for instance during bad weather or when something isn’t necessarily going to plan, that you take time at the end of the flight to think about your role.
Fortunately so far I’ve had no real technical issues with the aircraft, but I’ve experienced a lot of dangerous weather especially just after the summer when Naples is surrounded by thunderstorms.
Do you get time to explore the cities you fly to?
No, I don’t get to see many of the places I fly to on a daily basis. That is the beauty of being a short haul pilot for easyJet. If you are based in Gatwick where our network has over 65 aircraft you are very likely to do night stops, but being based in Naples we either do 2 or 4 flights, ensuring we always finish the day in Naples. Something I am grateful for, as I’d prefer to be home at the end of the day with my family than be a long haul pilot and be away for weeks at a time every month.
How do you think Blue Coat helped you prepare for the work you do now?
Blue Coat was where it all began for me. I gained my initial core life values, preparing me for the career I have today. Blue Coat has such a strong work ethic from the moment you start in Year 7. You are not only taught on an academic level also but also on a personal development level. The determination to succeed, and the desire to be the best individual I can, came from the support I got from everybody at The Blue Coat School.
I’m extremely appreciative every time I reflect back on my early years because I never forget where I came from.