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Making connections

by First Officer Dale Mudie Chairman, BALPA nextGen Steering Group

As students across England, Wales and Northern Ireland open their A-level results and consider their next steps, some may be considering life as a pilot. But how can they know what to expect of a career in the skies? 

One of the best ways to understand what life is like as a pilot is to speak to pilots. I remember conversations early in my career that helped me decide it was the career for me. When I wanted to research what the culture was like within companies I was applying to join, speaking to people who already worked there was a priority. I became very aware of just how vital networking is. But if you don’t have a black book brimming with contacts, how do you make those all-important connections?

It is a problem BALPA’s nextGen Steering Group has recognised and has a solution to. Through our free 'Crew Connected' service, run by Membership and Career Services, members, associate members and trainees are able to request an introduction to a current serving pilot in any UK-based airline of their choosing. 

I have seen Crew Connected from both sides. When I was looking to secure my first pilot job, BALPA was able to put me in contact with someone who was working in the company I was interested in. And it is not just useful for new and aspiring pilots. BALPA was also able to help me get in touch with other pilots when I was recently looking to change company and take the next step in my career. Both times talking to people with insider knowledge of company culture and with experience of going through the recruitment process, was extremely helpful.

Giving something back

Now it is time for me to give something back. I have become a Crew Connector and have already shared my experience with numerous others. The pilots involved in the programme, like me, are ready to answer any questions trainees have about the various routes through training. We are able to offer advice on how to prepare for interview, to explain what in our experience the airline is looking for in its pilot candidates and give detail of what day-to-day life is like flying the line. 

We have all experienced the challenges involved in flight training. We have all faced finding the required finances and the daunting prospect of looking for our first job.  We are all passionate about sharing our knowledge and assisting others in finding their way to the flight deck.

I would not hesitate to recommend Crew Connected to any trainee, recent graduate or professional pilot looking to take the next step in their career. If that is you, then contact us at CrewConnected@balpa.org providing your name, current experience level and the airline from which you would like to contact a professional pilot. If you don’t have a particular airline in mind and have a more general query, no problem – we can still put you in touch with one of our Crew Connectors. 

Be a Crew Connector

Being a Crew Connector has given me a lot of satisfaction. I am passionate about the job I do, and I am keen to help others attain their dream. I know many other pilots feel the same way. If you are one such person and would like to volunteer as a Crew Connector, please get in touch.

The advice you can offer is extremely valuable to trainees and it can be done at any time that suits you. BALPA also offers guidance on mentoring if required.

As the programme expands, we are also looking for ’Cadet Connectors’ – specifically pilot cadets who wish to share their honest and unbiased experiences at their flight school with future candidates. If you are a cadet currently training towards your professional licences and you would like to get involved, we would love to hear from you too. 

The best thing about BALPA is that it is a community of pilots and Crew Connected gives BALPA members and trainee pilots the chance to make the most of that community. So, if you are looking to take the next step in your piloting career or are a pilot who wants to share your knowledge and experience, then Crew Connected is the service for you. 

To access this service or volunteer email: CrewConnected@balpa.org