We recently caught up with Ben McCutcheon, a First Officer Embraer Legacy 500/Praetor 600 who kindly shared what he does on an average day, challenges he has faced and his hopes for the future of aviation.
Why did you choose to pursue a career in the aviation industry?
I was fascinated with aviation from a young age. My Grandfather and Father took me to air shows as a child and went plane spotting from viewing terraces at LHR and LGW (when you could!) I was mesmerised with the different liveries and exotic names on the departure/arrival boards. I’m a big kid so pilots don’t really grow up, our toys just get bigger!!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Taking my parents flying when I received my Pilot Licence. To see the pride on their faces whilst supporting me through my training was an amazing feeling. Second to that was my first flight after passing my Line Check with my airline at the time. All my training had come together and I was signed off to safely operate an airliner.
Have you faced any challenges throughout your career?
Many! From money and financing my licence to struggling with particular subjects in the written exams. Best advice I could give myself is to have determination to stick at it and courage to ask for help where needed. All the instructors from flight school to the airlines have all been in your shoes and are happy to pass on their knowledge to help. There’s no such thing as a stupid question!
Can you give us an overview of what you do on an average day in your role:
06:00- Alarm, Shower, get dressed.
06:30- COFFEE! Check the relevant flight paperwork, Routing/weather/NOTAMS/risk assessment.
07:00- Leave the house for work
08:00- Arrive in the crew room with of course COFFEE!, meet the captain and the cabin crew to check the paperwork, calculate how much fuel we need and most importantly brief as a team.
09:00- Walk out to the aircraft -1 hour to departure. Delegation of roles, who is Pilot Flying (PF) and who is Pilot Monitoring (PM) its not always the captain that flies!
09:30- After the PF has completed the walk around and PM has set up the flight deck we brief the aircraft status, performance, configuration, taxi routing, departure and emergency drills in case the worst happens.
10:00- Passengers board, start engines and taxi to the active runway
10:15- Our turn for departure, once cleared by ATC the PF advances the thrust levers and we accelerate down the runway.
10:30- Seat belt signs can come off and the cabin crew starts their service whilst us pilots monitor the Auto Pilot and carry out monitoring tasks such as fuel checks, liaising with ATC and obtaining en-route weather for suitable alternate airports.
12:00- Before top of descent we brief our arrival and approach into our destination airport incorporating weather, NOTAMS, terrain, and aircraft configuration status.
12:30- We arrive into our destination airport, park on stand, shut the engines down and wish our passengers well with their onward journey.
13:30- Repeat it all again back to our home base!
16:30- We’re back in London and shutting the aircraft down, End of flight duties include, completing the aircraft technical log and any relevant flight paperwork, help the cabin complete any remaining duties and walk back to the crew room.
17:00- After checking all the paperwork is correct and have a quick Debrief on the days duties to see if we can improve our performance we say our goodbyes and head back home.
What is the best thing about working in aviation?
No day is the same and there is a constant learning curve. Everyday you face new challenges, whether it’s a new destination, changes in weather conditions, aircraft status/serviceability. Working with likeminded employees to deliver a safe, comfortable, efficient service is a real privilege. Also the office view isn’t too bad!
What are your goals and plans for the future?
I think every pilot wants to become a captain in their career. Also as I hold an Instructor rating I would like to get back into teaching whether its in the simulators as an Synthetic Flight Instructor (SFI) or a Line Training Captain (LTC) or back to the grass roots of aviation and Instruct at a flight school again. Eventually passing on my knowledge to the next generation of pilots.
What are your hopes for the future of the aviation industry?
That we bounce back and recover from the last few years. Unfortunately our Industry has taken a huge hit due to COVID and travel restrictions. I would love to see another supersonic airliner fly again. Maybe in the near future we can see a Concorde 2.0
What is the one thing you would like to have known before starting your career?
It’s not a quick and easy road. There are long days and a mountain of work ahead. But if you’re having a tough day then go back and remind yourself why you started this journey in the first place. My first instructor said to me Preparation/Application/Dedication.
What kind of skills/characteristics do you feel you need to have in order to do your job?- Do you think these will change in the future?
There are many skills/ characteristics in order to become a pilot however the top ones that come to mind are, Safety orientated, Situational awareness, attention to detail, self confidence, humility, clear communication skills, a desire to learn and being a team player. As for the future? The aviation industry is very dynamic and new skills will be developed over time but as we’re told from day one at flight school Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, that will never change!
Who is your role model?
My Grandfather, If it wasn’t for him then I wouldn’t have caught the aviation bug.
Can you give 3 tips for someone who wants to join the aviation industry?
- Do as much research as you can
- If you want to fly (buy a trial lesson) if you catch the flying bug (get a medical exam before you enrol in flight training)
- NEVER GIVE UP! If it was easy then everybody would do it.
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