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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Captain Alexey Bura

Fridays Fabulous Flyer!

Alexey Bura
B777 and B787 Captain
For Ethiopian Airlines

My way in Aviation

"This history began in 1985 as I fell in love for the first time. By that time I seemed to have chosen my future profession –the journalism. But the girl I was in love with told she liked pilots so it forced me to reconsider my professional outlook. I started caring for aviation and afterwards became so excited that made a decision to be a pilot, not civil pilot but the military one.

Since then I went in for sports – basketball, volleyball, soccer. I started reading much. But becoming a military pilot meant that I should have known mathematics, physics and history because by handling these disciplines I could have entered the high military flight school. I tried the world of all these sciences and enjoyed it!

Moreover I knew there was an aero club the neighboring city where youth was training parachuting and plane sports. At that time the state promoted similar educational institutions a lot of youth was engaged in. I appeared to have entered this aero club for training courses. For this purpose I needed to go through medical commission and competitive selection. That medical commission was very rigid as the majority of graduates of aero clubs arrived in the high military flight schools which number was about seven at that time. 

But during medical board it became clear in order to have admission to flights I needed to undergo an operation on elimination of varicose expansion of veins. I was so strongly determined that did not hesitate for any second and as rehabilitation period had passed, the medical commission approved me for flights.

Thus my pilot life has started. My day began very early - at 6 o'clock by waking up and at 6:45 am I began training basketball. It was not special training but only amateur one. Me and my friends were playing at school sports hall where I studied. We were playing basketball from 6:45 am till 08:00 am. School lessons started at 8:30 am and ended at 1:45 pm. I was back home at 2:00 pm and did my homework for which I had no more than two hours. 

Otherwise I won’t manage to come to theoretical training at aero club in time at 5:00 pm. The aero club was in another city and my way there took about 1.5 hours. So I had just a little time to get some od and to go out. Theoretical training took place from 5:00 pm till 8:00 pm. I reached home only by 10:00 pm. This was my time management I had to reconcile with from September, 1985 to May, 1986. At that time there were neither mobile phones, nor Internet, nor computers yet, so all my free time was devoted to reading books in library and at home, to playing in the sports hall. If only I had got it just a bit more!

Having passed annual examinations at school with honors, I entered summer vacations. But aero club didn’t have any rest because that was time of practical flights. After theoretical examination all cadets of aero club were allowed to flights since June 1st, 1986. We were living on aerodrome during the whole summer. We were living in barracks according to the accurate day schedule and were demanded to keep order and discipline. Monday through Friday we were there. 

Every Monday we came on airfield early in the morning and started preparations for flights. Engineers maintained planes, and we helped them as much as we could. We uncovered planes, washed them and covered back after maintenance. We cut grass on parking stands, taxiways and kept order on airfield and in barracks looking forward to the beginning of flights. Flights were from Tuesday through Friday. On Friday after all we cleaned airfield and barracks and stuff let us home for the weekend. We spent weekends home and every Monday’s morning we gathered again on the airfield.

We flew by the sport aircraft which was the Yakovlev-52. Certainly in the beginning we were led by aero club instructors. First simple flights were circled around airfield in order to practice take-offs and landings, then we performed aerobatic flights, beginning with simple aerobatic and finishing with high class one. By the beginning of August, 1986 we had finished flying with instructors so the time of solo flight had come. I made my first solo flight on August 3rd, 1986. It was unforgettable! All my emotions and feelings are difficult to describe, but memory of this day isn't subject of time and definitely will stay with me forever. My first flight, I remember it so clearly as it happened yesterday. That time I was only 16 years old. By the end of the first year training in aero club I was able to operate plane rather well. I mastered not only take off and landing, but also simple aerobatic flights and high aerobatic, I executed two parachute jumps which were the mandatory program of training.

September 1st opened the new academic year at school, and aero club the next following course began too. My daily routine was the same, as well as in the previous year. Waking up, sports, school lessons, homework, training at aero club, but the aero classes were already mixed up with flights to maintain skills of plane piloting. The training program had more difficult elements, such as flights on a route, more difficult aerobatic elements performed at small heights, group flights, instrumental flights and many others. By the end of the aero club training I graduated from secondary school and decided to enter the high military flight school.

My inner desire to become a pilot was so all-embracing that I successfully passed through final examination at school, but also passed medical examinations at flight school without any restrictions. Entering examinations in professional selection were checked and I matriculated into the flight school. This day became one of the most remarkable days in my life. The dream of sky and dream of future profession were coming real.

Training at flight school was very intense. The rigid discipline, accurate daily routine, a large number of studied subjects and high requirements to knowledge turn out to remain in my memory. We studied calculus, physics, strength of materials, theoretical mechanics, electrical equipment, the theory of jet engines, aerodynamics of subsonic and supersonic speeds, navigation, history, philosophy and many other military subjects. 

Every morning began at 6:00 am with exercises within 45 minutes followed with washing. Then breakfast and theoretical lessons until lunch. There were only 30 minutes after lunch to have a little rest. Further self-preparation, dinner and sleep followed. From time to time it was very hard to undergo both morally and physically. For poor progress and bad discipline some cadets were deducted. But love to sky and flights helped to endure all difficulties. From the beginning of flights it seemed to become a little easier. It appeared that we got used to those requirements, daily routine, discipline thus we didn't notice the most part of difficulties anymore. Those real things to inspire were flights which instilled confidence and gave strength.

The four years of training at school of pilots passed quickly. In 1992 I successfully graduated from flight school. But me and all my classmates were fired from military air forces due to reduction of armed forces so the state did further require no more pilots. Having received a military rank of lieutenants and BS diplomas we remained alone against the future. It seemed that I would forget the dream of flights. I had to start with the very beginning. On the other side I was thinking over an idea to move to civil aviation, but I had only military license and the procedure of converting military license into civil one did not exist that time. It would be developed twenty years later.

That time there was no Internet, PCs in that forms and meaning as they exist now, there were no mobile phones. Meanwhile Russia was waltered in financial crisis. Civil aviation was in deep crisis as well. Many of my colleagues from flight school left aviation and began own businesses. Everybody struggled for life as he only could. My parents offered me to follow parents business and to start with restaurant management. My love to sky, to aircraft, to flights was stronger and the belief in the best future didn't abandon me.

I began my career in civil aviation as a loader in a small airport. Waiting for vacancy of the co-pilot of the Antonov-2 I was working for six months as a loader. The work was not very intensive so I dedicated myself to learning English. Being occasionally informed that it was possible to pass training for the Antonov-2 self-sponsored pilot initial type rating, I fastened upon this idea and did that. Communicating with pilots, I learned more and more about civil aviation. The dream of sky, flights and planes accompanied me and gave strength. 

By the end of 1992 I have got Antonov-2 co-pilot type rating and obtained the long-awaited pilot license of the civil aviation. The company’s affairs I was working for went very badly and payment of a salary was detained sometimes for six months. But nothing frightened me. I was passionately into flying, flying as much as possible. Aircrafts, sky and flights became drugs for me. That time flights were not numerous. Nine months resulted in ten flight hours as a co-pilot of the Antonov-2.

Training center where I was retrained on An-2 type rating offered me to pass another one self-sponsored initial type rating to the Tupolev-134 pilot training and I accepted that call without hesitation. It was rather difficult to find such a big sum of money but I am very grateful to my parents who supported me seeing my love to aviation. So in 1993 I passed Tu-134 Initial Pilot type rating training. Due to bankruptcy various airlines collapsed one by one. Many skilled pilots became jobless. Pilots who lacked of training were unable to find a job. Flying as a co-pilot of Antonov-2, I kept studying English. Exactly that time Russian airlines started carrying out international flights. There was a shortage of pilots with good English and training centers organized special courses. I passed these courses for my own money as well.

In 1994 I was lucky to find a job as the Tupolev-134 co-pilot. But the situation on job market was still complicated. I flew about twenty or thirty flight hours per month, thus salary was so insignificant that money didn’t speak. But I was grateful to love to the sky, and may be the sky to me. I didn’t want to leave aircraft for easier and richer life ever. Years passed accumulating experience and flight hours. Old planes were losing airworthiness more and more but the pilot job market didn’t lack of professionals. Any thoughts about career progress were futile.

By 2004 I have accumulated four thousand of flight hours. That year I managed to get employed as the first officer of Boeing-757. It turned unforgettable for me. Initial Boeing-757 type rating pilot training took place at the training center of the Boeing company in Luton (UK). Since 2004 the situation on Russian civil aviation market started changing. Airlines began to lease planes, companies required more crew staff, salaries of pilots were growing. A bit later I passed exams and got the FAA ATPL(A), taught a rating of the pilot-instructor, type rating instructor, landing minima Cat IIIa and a lot of other experience. Today I am a 787 and 777 Captain. 

Year after year we go forward. Everybody has his own problems, dreams and desires. Spanned with this turmoil we sometimes forget about the main thing which is our favorite job. It gives us feeling of self-expression, pleasure and desire to create our job like art. I am very lucky to have such a job and can’t imagine my life without sky, flights and aircraft."

Captain Bura, Thank You 
for sharing your story! 

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

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