Aged 21, Tom Hall has just become Monarch’s youngest pilot. Read more about him and what made him want to fly aircraft as a living!
Hi Tom! First off, tell us a little bit about you.
Hi, my name’s Tom Hall, I’m 21 years old and joined Monarch in May 2016 as a First Officer. I was born in Chester in 1995 and I’ve always lived around that area, and still do, being based out of Manchester Airport. When I’m not working, I enjoy volunteering for a local charity in Cheshire that provides social groups for adults and children in the area with varying disabilities. I’m also an extremely keen skier and try to get out to the mountains as much as possible, but obviously this is only possible for about four months a year (there isn’t a lot of snow in July, even in the Alps!).
What planes can you fly, and how many flights do you do on average in a day?
I’m currently qualified to fly the A320 family of aircraft as well as single engine light aircraft. The A320 family includes Monarch’s A320s and A321s. At Monarch we normally do two flights (sectors) a day, the outbound flight and then the return flight back to the UK. Flight times vary on a daily basis. Some days I will fly a two hour flight to Barcelona and back, and the next day a four hour flight to Dalaman and back, so one day at work can be significantly longer than the next.
What made you want to be a pilot?
I can’t remember a specific moment when I suddenly decided I wanted to fly for a living. I’ve always loved flying, and I could never see myself working a ‘normal’ desk job, so it seemed like the perfect fit.
How did you become a pilot?
I finished sixth form in 2013 and having decided that university wasn’t for me, I started my training at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy in October the same year. They offer an integrated course that takes you through all your training and necessary exams in just under two years. I got my Private Pilots Licence (PPL) just before I started Oxford, but it was nothing in comparison to the training required to fly commercially.
What training have you received, and how long was it before you qualified?
I started my training at 18. The training is very intense. There is a lot to learn in a very short space of time. I was launched straight into six months of classroom lessons and 14 exams, known as ground school. Having passed all my exams (phew!) I went out to Phoenix, Arizona for five months of basic flight training. The clear skies and reliable weather means it’s the perfect place to send students to learn how to fly.
Having completed that part of the training I returned back to Oxford Airport to start my instrument flying training. This involves learning to fly and navigate the aircraft purely on the instruments inside the cockpit, without any external references. This culminates in the Instrument Rating Test (IRT) which is probably the hardest flight test of the entire course so the relief when you pass is incredible. The final part of the training is the Multi-Crew Co-operation (MCC) and takes place in a full-motion jet simulator. This is the first time students ‘fly’ an aircraft similar to what they’ve spent all this time training to fly. It’s also the first time you fly as part of a crew, rather than on your own or with an instructor sat next to you. All this, coupled with learning how a modern airliner operates, makes this a fantastic final three weeks to the training programme. Overall my training was from October 2013 to August 2015. 22 months of extremely hard work but undeniably satisfying and fun.
What experiences have you had as a pilot so far in your career?
I’d have to say my first flight flying passengers down to Barcelona last week was an amazing experience. It felt like nearly two years of training had led up to that one point.
Where is the most exciting place you’ve flown to and why?
Having recently joined Monarch I haven’t flown to that many of our destinations yet. I did an observation flight down to Dalaman a few weeks ago and found the approach onto the Southerly runway pretty exciting. You descend through a valley to position for the runway and you’re lower than the top of the hills for much of the approach
How do customers react when they see you in the flight deck? Can they believe you’re so young and still a pilot?
I’ve had a few strange looks from customers on board, as well as when walking through the airport. I also seem to get stared at when I get in lifts with passengers. Nobody has commented yet, so if they’re thinking it they obviously haven’t mentioned it to me. I’d like to think that people are aware of the amount of training we have to go through to qualify and then the high standards that the airline expects of us no matter what our age. It’s still quite a novel feeling knowing I am flying a plane with over 200 people sat behind me.
Where do you see yourself by the time you’re 25?
I’ve not really thought that far ahead to be honest. At the moment I’m just focused on getting through my line training over the next few months. In four years’ time we’ll have started to receive our new Boeing 737 Max’s so I’d like to be flying them. Who doesn’t want to fly shiny new jets!?
Where are you jetting off to this summer?
I haven’t actually got anything planned for the rest of the summer, although I’ve got a week off in September so I’m hoping to go out to Mallorca for a week then. I’ve been going out there ever since I was very young and absolutely love it; it’s got everything you need on one island.