During the pandemic, the aviation industry, like many others, experienced its fair share of challenges.

In a special feature, we speak to some of those that were working on the sector’s frontline during this time, to find out what challenges they faced, any opportunities that came about and what they learned about the industry as a result.

In the first part of our Back to the SkiesQ&A series, we speak with a pilot who was working on a private jet.

1. What impact did the pandemic have on your job?

The Covid pandemic hit me and so many more to the core of our lives, we just didn’t know it at first and thought ‘this will pass soon’… were we wrong!

I was stuck in the Philippines not being able to leave the country because the airspace was closed for an undetermined period of time. I was one of 35% of the company who unfortunately was retrenched due to the impact the virus had on the aviation industry.

2. What was your initial reaction when the aviation industry came to a complete halt during the pandemic?

My initial reaction was perhaps denial at first.

Trying to console myself by saying ‘it won’t last or things like it will all go back to normal soon, it’s only temporary’. It was a complete bag of mixed emotions – then anger and confusion came to the surface, especially due to the fact that I was stuck in the Philippines while my family was locked down in Lebanon.

In the end it took me over three months to be able to leave the Philippines and the only place I could go to at that time, was home, Canada. Panic then settled in quite quickly while trying to sort out how I’m going to pay bills or when I will be able to see my family.

3. Do you feel that the pandemic has affected your mental or physical health in any way?

The pandemic most definitely created a state of unrest in my mental health.

It settled a strong sense of panic and frustration, which led me to lose around 27 pounds. I had trouble sleeping and overthinking consumed me thinking ‘how will I get through this?’.

4. What positives were you able to take away from NOT being in the skies?

After not being able to fly for an undetermined period of time, I rediscovered my handyman skills.

So, four months after arriving back in Canada I started my own handyman company which ultimately enabled me to continue paying any bills, provide financial support to my family (although at a distance) and maintain a good mental health.

5. How did it feel when you first stepped back into the flight deck?

After receiving a job offer last August (2021), I was as thrilled as a kid in a candy store. Finally, I was back in the game. I believe once I had shared the news with my wife and my daughter I shed a tear of joy.

After being in the aviation industry for close to 32 years – aviation is part of my DNA, it’s in my blood. I was too honest to be a lawyer and I was too sensitive to become a doctor – flying is my life-long passion.

I’m just so happy to be back in the flight deck, where I belong

6. What has the pandemic taught you about the aviation industry?

The pandemic has taught me that death is the only guarantee in life.

Aviation is just as volatile as any other industry in the world and is completely dependent on the worldwide economy and economic health.

7. What do you believe to be the biggest challenge in your job post pandemic?

I now work for a cargo company (very different to the private jets I used to fly), which is a side of the industry that is booming more than ever!

When the world was still effectively in a lockdown and more people were at home, the online shopping industry was thriving. Air cargo flights were full with goods purchased online by consumers – the demand was so high.

The cargo industry is now growing faster than the logistics companies can cope with the demand. So now, my roster is jam packed with scheduled overtime every month. Don’t get me wrong the money is great but it can be extremely tiring as most of our flights are at night across the US and Canada, so crossing many time zones at the same time.

8. Have you noticed a change in the reactions/expectations of passengers when flying since the pandemic?

As I no longer fly with passengers, I cannot answer regarding their reactions and how it’s affecting the common passenger and or tourist traveller.

However, it’s so great to see that the industry seems to be finally bouncing back as restrictions begin to lift, borders are opening and people are willing to be in the travelling environment once again.

9. What is the best thing about being a pilot?

Even after over 32 years, 16,000 flying hours and close to 6000 flights, I still get that gut wrenching thrill every time I set take-off thrust on my massive jet engines.

For me, it’s the coolest job in the world. Whilst travelling at a speed close to 600mph ‘the office’ (flight deck) offers some of the most incredible views above the clouds that some may never get to see.

The things I have the opportunity to see and witness are awesome and I consider myself very lucky and fortunate. It’s also the awesomeness of controlling a half a million pound technical marvel.

10. What do you feel is the biggest lesson YOU have taken away from the recent pandemic?

To not take anything in life for granted.

Whether that be work, family, health or even just simple human contact – it’s all so important.

It’s only when you have a minute to actually stop and think, or like the pandemic did restricting you seeing your family, only then do you realise how important your family and support network are to you on a daily basis.

Are you ready to make sense of your future?

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