Today I caught up with another Monarch First Officer, Ashish Raval, who kindly answered some of your questions. Enjoy!
Hi Ashish! Tell me a little bit about you – what sparked the flying dream?
Hello ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls – my name is Ashish Raval, Ash for short. I joined the company on the 18th of January 2016. I was born in North London (which is why I am an Arsenal fan). My parents were both born in Nairobi, Kenya, so most of my family originate from there.
When I was fairly young we moved from Enfield to West London. In fact, I lived under the approach patch for runway 27L/R at London Heathrow, which I believe was a fairly influential aspect of why I ended up becoming an airline pilot. I remember getting awoken by the roaring sound of the Concorde or the Boeing 747s coming into land!
It also helped that my best childhood friend was just as crazy about aeroplanes as I was so we spent quite a lot of time on Myrtle Avenue (small little field right next to 27L at London Heathrow), where the aircraft quite literally pass over your head!
At about the age of 10 or so I somewhat had decided that I wanted to be a pilot … and here I am today; living out my childhood dream. Throughout high school I became even more adamant on becoming an airline pilot and as Sixth From came along my decision would prove to be more serious. With paths that would lead me to university and then onto flying or go straight to piloting school.
Looking at degrees and what to do I decided that nothing even remotely compared to how much I wanted to do this and so it was set in stone! I completed my A levels in Maths, Further Maths and Physics and the next step was to find a flight school and pass my medical examinations, which actually deemed harder than I thought. However, all were passed and I began training at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy in June 2012.
I graduated from CAE oxford in July 2014 and applied for a job with Monarch, and got the green light after passing the interview. Although I was initially due to start in April, unfortunately I couldn’t make it due to an injury I had sustained whilst playing football. Six months later in October I started the training required to fly the Airbus A320/21. Once I successfully passed that, the next stage was passing the Operator Proficiency Check, and Line Orientation Exercise which we do every six months, to keep us up to speed and so the company knows we are competent and working at the high standards that are expected.
Base training was like the dream finally came true, the first time I’ll never forget when I physically did a take-off and landing in a commercial jet. Now I’m flying around Europe getting close to 300 hours!
I love being a pilot because it’s always new day, new captains and new scenarios so no day is the same; the nature of the job is so variable that you always have to be ready for something new to spring up! Secondly, viewing the world from the flight deck windows is somewhat astonishing, from thunderstorms and sunsets to a new airport or the French Alps.
Which country do you enjoy flying to the most?
I’ve have flown to a handful of countries so far, however if I had to choose it would be Dubrovnik, Croatia. Being a massive Game of Thrones fan, it’s always nice to see Kings Landing. What’s more, the approach into Dubrovnik parallels the Croatian coastline on the Adriatic Sea, and it’s an absolutely beautiful sight! The routing down to Croatia also brings you straight over the snow-topped Swiss Alps. Dubrovnik can also be very challenging its known to have a fair few storms! However If you’re able to land on 30, and luckily enough the weather on the day was perfect! You get an amazing view of the high ground as you sweep round for a visual approach!
What’s your best memory as a pilot?
Memorable moments are created every day. Some of my highlights include the sunset departure out of Dubrovnik, or the first time I saw the Alps from the flight deck! But to narrow it down my best memories, it has to be my first ever take off and landing during my base training at Monarch, and the first time I flew an aeroplane in Arizona!
At what point of a flight are you most acutely attentive?
For me personally, it’s during briefs, take off, approach and landing phases of the flights. Briefs are extremely important as it is where it’s determined how the departure is going to be flown, things are cross referenced which enables both pilots to be on the same wavelength and you know how the other is going to fly the aircraft and how they want the aircraft set up. During the whole flight your attention is always picking up small things and you slowly tailor yourself to it, even simple things like hearing the word ‘Monarch’ being mentioned by Air Traffic Control on the radio make you automatically tune in.
Are you a good passenger or are you nervous when you’re not in control?
I have to say being a passenger is a pretty strange feeling. Whilst coming back from the USA earlier this year as a passenger, made me realise how much I enjoy being inside the flight deck where I know where I am at all times and I am in control. I must say I was a bit nervous as I wanted to know why it was so bumpy or what was going on coming into Heathrow!
Do you still get adrenaline rush when you fly?
At first the adrenaline was much more significant, it has calmed down now but as the nature of the job is always changing, it does come back. It usually gets more exciting when you’re coming into a new airport- usually during landing – when we’re trying to get a nice touchdown! But to sum up, yes – you always have some form of adrenaline whilst flying.
How hard is it to fly a plane? (Henry, aged four)
It can be hard and it can be fairly simple…! The general concept of learning how to fly is probably the hardest part, as well as transitioning onto bigger planes. Flying a small light aircraft compared to commercial jet in principle is the same, but how it’s flown and other aspects change which makes it a whole lot trickier.
Do you need every single button in the flight deck?
In short…yes! Even though we don’t use every single button or switch, they all have a purpose. A few of our aircraft even have foot warmer switches, which come in handy on long flights to the Canaries. A lot of the switches are behind the first officer’s seat and are known as circuit breakers, which are used to reset computers and disable certain things related to the aircraft. Some buttons we use on every flight or are selected according to Air Traffic Control.
Have you enjoyed the pictures on this blog? Ashish snapped them all up! Follow his adventures on Instagram @_3shi