From “Have you seen a UFO?” to “What’s your favourite destination to fly to?”, your questions for our pilots have been many and varied.
I have asked some of our pilots to answer as many of your questions as they could, and today Senior First Officer Michael Weeks addresses your queries in the first post of our special series. Enjoy!
Hi Michael! Tell us about you, and what made you want to become a pilot.
I am from an aviation family which has clearly rubbed off on me over the years! Both my parents worked within the industry, and aviation has been a big part of my life since I was very young. My dad always wanted to fly, and ever since he passed away when I was nine, I made it my goal to become a pilot and live his dream. I went to university to study Aerospace and began to do my private pilot’s licence. Shortly after leaving university, I got a job working for Thomson Airways in Luton, planning heavy maintenance checks on the fleet’s aircraft. Prior to this, I had already applied and had been offered a job at Monarch working in Operations. I worked in Operations for four and a half years, travelling the world and helping with the day to day running of the flying programme. However flying was always my dream, so eventually I pursued it full time and went on to do my licence. I did most of my flight training in Florida and on the south coast of the UK near Brighton. Whilst I was seeking employment, I contacted my old colleagues at Monarch and my old job became available again. I worked a year in operations again, after which I was given the fantastic opportunity to become a first officer for Monarch flying the Airbus A320 and A321. I have now been flying for nearly two years and love the feeling of doing what you love for a job.
Which country do you enjoy flying to the most and why?
I enjoy flying to Gibraltar the most, even though it is a captain’s only landing there due to the complexity and strange weather that occurs. Every flight to Gibraltar is different and you rarely experience the same weather or conditions. The air traffic controllers and ground staff are always very nice and helpful and it’s also a nice place to go on holiday! The approaches to the airfield, certainly “the bay”/”round the Rock” approach, really are quite spectacular and offer some great views on a clear day.
What’s your best memory as a pilot?
I think every pilot always remembers their “1sts” in their careers. I remember my first solo flight in a Piper Cherokee, passing my private pilot’s licence/commercial licence and instrument rating exams. All are special memories and feelings that you never forget. But ultimately, flying my first jet has got to be one of the most awesome memories. As pilots we invest approximately two years of our lives studying, flying and a lot of money to become commercial pilots. So when you are given control of a passenger jet nearly 100 times bigger than what you are used to after all the training you receive, knowing that you have reached your goal really is a fantastic feeling.
Have you ever seen a UFO?
I can’t say I’ve ever seen a UFO…knowingly! However we possibly have the best office windows in the world. We look at the world from above which is amazing, and we see some awesome sights with regards to weather, including huge cloud formations and storms. Sunrises and sunsets are some of my favourite times to be flying, seeing the colours and scenes of the horizon. Also, depending on how much you look out the window as a passenger, you may often see other aircraft in the sky. The skies are filled with other aircraft travelling in many directions. We are separated by Air Traffic Control for safety reasons by several safety distances!
Can you wind your windows down, and when can you do it?
We can only open the windows when we are on the ground and parked up at the airport. We actually have sliding windows on the aircraft we fly, but due to the aircraft needing to be pressurised in flight, all windows and doors are shut to keep the air and temperature comfortable for us all to live at altitude. But often on a hot day at the airport, you may see the pilots open the cockpit windows for some fresh cool air!
What is the trickiest airport for landing and taking off?
Every airport has the potential to be difficult and interesting to operate in and out of. Weather, terrain and local procedures can add to the complexity of taking off and landing into airports. However, the most interesting and tricky airports I’ve visited so far have been Funchal and Gibraltar. As mentioned above, it is solely a captain’s landing into Gibraltar, but first officers can take off out of Gibraltar. Funchal is both a captain’s landing and take-off due to the situation of the airfield and the strange weather that can occur. Sometimes it is amazing to see where some airports have been situated and you do at times wonder why!
What’s the most memorable flight you’ve ever operated?
For me, I think it will always be the first flight I operated. I flew a Birmingham to Malaga flight and then back to Birmingham 1st August 2014. I can still remember how I felt that morning, both the excitement and nerves made the day very enjoyable. We all start somewhere regardless of what we do in our jobs and as pilots, we certainly keep learning every day, as no day is ever the same. The experience you get during your training, from your colleagues and captains that you fly with is invaluable.
If you were not a pilot, what other job do you think you would be doing?
That’s a tough question, as I’ve never really wanted to be anything else but an airline pilot. I think I’d certainly be working within the aviation industry regardless, as it’s a great industry to be a part of. I know when I was very young, becoming a fireman was maybe a thought!
Have you enjoyed the pictures featuring in this article? They were all taken by Michael himself! Follow him on Instagram for more incredible pictures and footage: @michalis_weeks