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

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, 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. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

What would you Do?

Last week a future Aviator, Alex Wood, researched the Royal Air Force: RAF and decided that would be his path to his flying career. Unfortunately, he had disappointing news: 

Despite his dual citizenship, he said,  "I am ineligible to join the RAF, unless I study for, at least, 3 years in the UK. That would be university. However, I don't think I would go to a university in the UK self-sponsored. It's too expensive."

But... he's not giving up. Here are his options as he brainstorms:

Go to the UK, study at the University, get my degree without flight training, apply for the RAF, and if I get selected, then I could do my flight training at the base.

Go to the UK, study at the University, get my degree with flight training, stay there. Payment? There is a possibility of self-sponsoring, but also with loans.

Go to the UK, study at the University, get my degree without flight training, come back to Brazil, make flight hours, stay in the country and apply for a job for a Brazilian Airline.

Get my degree there, come to Brazil, do my flight training, then go back to the UK. However, this would take too much time to convert my license.

Side notes:
  • I think that maybe Alex's heart is pulling him to the UK. 
  • He has an Aunt in the UK that he could live with during school. 
What would you do? 

I was troubleshooting an important decision for myself, the other day. My girlfriend said, "You know what you want to do. What I say isn't going to change your mind." She's right, to a point. I think the more viewpoints we have, they help us decided. That's the great power of brainstorming... when someone comes up with an idea you hadn't thought of. 

Alex is open for suggestions. What advice would you give to him?

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Flight For Safety 88,973 words


  1. Just do the flight training without college, why not?

    1. Because... to become an airline pilot we wanted educated people who can problem solve, and understand computers and technology.

      To read more on this click the following two links:

      Thanks for the comment!

    2. You don't need college to learn problem solving or understand computers and technology. From my perspective, the only reason airlines want college degrees is so the media doesn't run a story scaremongering the lack of college degrees.

      I'm working on a PPL with the intention to get a commercial license, and an intention to avoid college for as long as possible. Any tips?

    3. Those links do a GREAT job for people who want to fly, and already want college. But they fail to speak to an intelligent person who simply finds the rigid, institutionalized environment of a college untenable and unnecessary.

    4. Any tips on how to avoid college? Don't go.

      Actually, you may have just hit the nail on the head with your statement, "the rigid, institutionalized environment of a college" (sorry for the cliche)

      If you're flying a 700,000 pound plane across the ocean with 400 passengers, this rigid institutionalized environment might not be for you either.

      Maybe if the airlines figure you can make it through college with all the limitations and boundaries, expense, etc... that you might be a qualified candidate for their company. If you can't deal with the education system... well, maybe a commercial jet with hundreds of lives daily might not be the best place for you.

      But "avoiding" is easy. It's the other stuff that shows what you're made of.

      Remember one thing about life: This is only a test.

    5. In the US, a University Degree is a must.

      In Europe though, about two thirds of the graduate pilots do not have a college degree and still manage to get a job. Different culture I suppose, but airlines really do not care about having a degree here.
      Some clearly states during the interview that they do not want an engineer flying their aircraft, they want a pilot with some kind of background (and if the background is engineering, there's no problem as long as they have a pilot in front of them). And a few people fail to achieve this, they act as engineers rather than pilots, trying to find out where the problem comes from rather than trying to solve it using QRH and CRM.

      I would still recommend to get a Degree, it surely adds a lot of maturity, helps develop a "network", gives a good fallback job, a wider view on the whole system, obviously some more knowledge, and another line on your CV is never useless in this extremely competitive environment.

      Now, he doesn't need to get a full 4 year degree, there are cheaper 2 year degrees in the UK and if he goes to Scotland (which is part of the UK), education there is still free. If he's not ready to go to Scotland, then he needs to reconsider his motivation. Just one more barrier in the long path leading to the flightdeck of a commercial aircraft.
      And, getting a student job in the UK is not so difficult (once again, this is a motivation test) and can pay off pretty much all the tuiton fees over a year. Not to mention that in the UK, you get unsecured loans with no interest rate and you do not have to pay it back until you earn over a certain salary (which is about £1000/month). Unsecured means your parents do not have to put themselves at risk and won't have to pay back your loan if you don't pay it yourself.

      Also, in the UK he will be able to join the University Air Squadron (Alex, do some research about that online) and will more than likely be able to get a PPL for free, some gliding experience and a preview of what working in the Army is like. Most if not all fighter pilots in the UK were Air Cadets and went through the UAS. Did I mention "motivation"?

      I didn't have the money to pay for university, so I went to a free university in France (foreign students have to self-finance it though). I didn't have money to pay for my full flight training and neither did my family. So I started working at 14 (I am not saying this was legal) every summer, I saved as much as I could, I struggle for years and years, ...
      I am now a Boeing 737 First Officer, and all my struggles were well worth it.

      This is all down to one thing : Faith in your Dream. Not sure about that? Read more here : (if this doesn't give you the motivation to put up with all the struggles, then there is nothing else I can do).

      Good luck Alex, and thanks again Karlene for giving your time to help the future airline pilots. Let me know when you are in BCN, everytime I see a Delta A330, a smile spreads across my face, thinking that could be you in there.

    6. Thank you so for your the great comment. That's interesting about Europe and the necessity, or lack of, of a degree. But I suspect in this world it just makes sense for two reasons. (despite if the airline wanted it.)

      1. Loss of medical.
      2. Shift in industry and loss of job.

      Alex needs to be educated if he ends up on the street. He must have a back up plan.

      Also, "once upon a time" airlines wanted pilots. Because those pilots were doing the interviews. But today HR is interviewing, and they do not want pilots... they want managers and computer programers.

      I have witnessed the old school pilots struggle and become unable to learn the new technology of the glass and electronic airliners. The data shows this. Which also indicates that maybe if a pilot has a college degree, they may be able to handle their training program.

      If supply and demand shifts to fewer pilots, the hiring will shift too. But for now, it's important.

      And, if Alex has a degree in the UK, and other pilots don't, I suspect with his talent, personality, etc... he will rise to the top.

      Also... CRM. It was many of the "old school pilots" without education, who didn't believe in it. Why? Because they are "PILOTS" they can handle anything! It wasn't until the college/Masters/Phd level students/pilots figured out that human factors and CRM training will save lives.

      Yes... college is a good thing. It saves lives. :)

  2. Many options is a good thing. Have several plans on how to accomplish a goal. I'm currently following my third option. Always have a backup plan!

    As for what plan I would recommend, I would say the first one, and maybe take some flight lessons while attending the university. That way you keep the interest up while preparing for the RAF. Good luck with what ever you end up doing, Alex!

    1. Yes... many options is good, unless they become overwhelming. Alex actually wrote a power point presentation for his Dad. He's very intelligent.

      Here is a link to decision making that might help him, too.

      I love your suggestion!!!

    2. Thank you so much, Cecilie! The third option is great for you, as you said you want to work for your country's airline carrier. The first option with flight training is valid. Also, I've discovered that the RAF can sponsor my university, which means that I can attend to the RAF while I'm at University and they would give me a bursary! :D


  3. I am also a dual national, born in the UK, naturalized in the US. I studied Aeronautical engineering in the UK, but didn't apply for the RAF because 1) they wouldn't take anyone for flight training with less that 20-20 vision, uncorrected, and 2) I didn't want to shoot or blow anyone up.

    My recommendation - Embry-Riddle or similar in the USA. American Flyers has a good Professional Pilot course here in Dallas that has a lot of student from Latin America. I retrospect, I should have transferred from University in England to one of the aviation specialist schools in the US instead of staying behind when my parents moved to the US my 1st year of college in London. I would have reached my goal of becoming a commercial pilot much much earlier than I actually did.

    1. That's an interesting story. I think your benefit was being US citizen. What I'm learning from the foreign students is they can't fly here, once educated here. But the education will be outstanding. I think the biggest problem, and only because I've been talking to Alex, is that finance is a huge issue for him. He doesn't have unlimited funds.

      But... if any student can swing it, the results will pay off.

      Just remember one thing... while you may have reached your dream earlier, your path would be different, and so would you. I think that everything happens in it's perfect time. We just make the best.

      After 8 airlines, I think... "what if" But that what if always takes me back to the journey and how fun it's been and all the great people I've met because of it.

    2. Hi D.B!

      Thank you so much for the advice. And I agree with Karlene, paths changes. Nowadays we have to make our best and find out our routes to reach the same destination as everybody (commercial pilots).

      Cheers man!

  4. I too would recommend Embry Riddle University - top notch facility and he can come out of their programs very well prepared.

    1. Yes... they are top notch for sure! Thank you for your suggestion!

  5. Can he afford 3 years of University in the UK? Worst case scenario is he finishes degree in UK and comes back to Brazil...WITH A DEGREE. Best case he goes RAF while he's there.

    If he can afford it, go to school, get a degree in a STRONG major--well paid folks can always fly.

    1. YES!!! I couldn't agree more with your logic. And, a solid degree will mean a solid backup plan. Thanks for your comment!

  6. There is a wise saying..."never put all your eggs in one basket...." Always try and have a fall-back position.

    Not being up on the economic's of Brazil I am afraid my advice would be less than informed. Following a dream rarely comes without cost and sacrifice.

    Tim (TDY MT mountain top)

    1. Isn't that true. I love that statement. "Following a dream rarely comes without cost and sacrifice."

      Thanks for your comment!

  7. Alex, someone sent me this message.

    "Hi. I am a pilot in the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy. We train and regularly work with the RAF. I think Alex may have been given some poor information. I recruited pilots for 6 months and have never heard this rule. I would advise him to press the issue. I became a pilot in the uk military at 18 as a non-grad. If he gets no joy with the RAF, try the Fleet Air Arm. I would say though that recruitment is at an all time low sure to military downsizing. Hope this has been of use."

  8. Ok, now that my tech issues are solved:

    Alex, I am not great at advice because the decision is yours. I will however recommend that if you are forced to self-sponsor (like I currently am) your aeronautical education, to keep outside expenses as low as possible even if it is to move in with your aunt or relocate outside Brasil. Also, a university education is also a must. I know here in the US, our armed forces suppliment and pay for university education in most cases. To echo some other comments, I also recommend *highly* Embry Riddle. We would love to have you here in the states but I am being very biased as I need someone here I can speak Portuguese to. I wish you well with all of your endeavors and please keep us posted.

    1. I want him in the US too. But then all selfish reasons. :) I know he will make the best decision, as I also know he appreciates comments. Thank you so much for yours! Enjoy the up and coming weekend!

  9. Thank you so much Karlene Petitt...


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