From BWPA scholarship to the flight deck
My name is Christina and I was the lucky recipient of the 2016 BWPA CATS ATPL Scholarship. I am still pinching myself to believe the reality that I am now taking my seat as a first officer on the flight deck of the Airbus A320 for Wizz Air UK.
Aviation has been my lifelong passion, however, domestic and financial circumstances prevented me from making it my initial career. Instead, I indulged my passion by completing a private pilot licence and taking single-engine piston flights around the UK and France, while working as a police sergeant. Having been encouraged to apply for a BWPA scholarship in 2016, I was totally overwhelmed to receive the award and be able to use it to forge a new career path.
I applied myself to my studies and quickly completed the first six Air Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) exams with first-time passes. However, life then threw a curveball in the form of a close family member suffering a critical illness. This forced me to pause my studies, but I was determined not to give up on my dream. In July 2018, circumstances allowed me to restart my ATPL exams from scratch, and by March 2019 I had proudly completed all 14 exams with good scores. There was no stopping me and I moved straight into a combined modular multi engine/commercial pilot licence/instrument rating and multi-crew cooperation including upset prevention and recovery training course, which I completed in September 2019.
It was at this point that life once more produced further challenges in the form of two major UK airlines collapsing, flooding the market with experienced pilots, just prior to COVID-19 arriving to completely change the worldwide aviation landscape. I continued to revalidate my hard-earned ratings whilst remaining ‘job ready’ by conducting flight experience sessions on a Boeing 737 fixed base simulator. Although not quite what I had initially planned, the simulator job was great fun, allowing me to share the passion of aviation whilst keeping my skills current. This resilience started to pay back when, in the space of fortnight during November 2021, I obtained my Flight Instructor Rating and accepted an offer of employment as a first officer for Wizz Air UK.
Despite the curveballs, I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of my journey, which has tested me to the limit whilst enabling me to fly a range of aircraft from the Piper PA-28 up to the Airbus A320/A321 family. I have met some amazing people along the way, who have inspired me when times are tough and helped me remain determined to achieve my goals. I have also learnt that the tried and tested T-D-O-D-A-R (time, diagnosis, options, decide, assign, review) decision model used in aviation can be effectively applied outside the flight deck to pick up the pieces of life’s ever-changing circumstances and make an appropriate decision on the way forward.
My practical advice for those embarking on the journey is:
- Remember that everybody’s pathway is different and sometimes life tries to trip you up, but work hard, remain focussed and positive, accept assistance and keep going!
- Keep the core competencies for pilots in mind and whenever you do something that demonstrates a strength in a competency then be sure to make a note of the event so that you can recount it when asked.
Looking forward, my intention now is to make a successful career as a commercial pilot. I want to promote flying as a career choice for women, especially targeting those who may be considering a career change or a return to the workplace after a protracted break. When asked to provide a single sentence as to why I wanted the scholarship, my response was that I wanted to demonstrate to others that mature women with a passion for flight can become competent, professional pilots, making a valuable contribution to commercial aviation.
I hope that, by telling my story, now that I have finished my line training, I can demonstrate that becoming an airline pilot can be a reality for those who commit 100% to a mid-life career change and chase their aviation dreams. I have also found from my experience with Wizz Air UK that forward-thinking airlines actively embrace a diverse workforce, creating a supportive environment where everyone feels that sense of belonging, whatever their background. It has been a tough but enjoyable journey so far, and I am loving this new life and the learning that continues every day.
Christina Carver, BWPA member