Please note that Mike will be coming in to talk to students on January 28th at 12.45 in PS1. Please come along and ask questions if you are interested in a career in the flying.
A week in the working world of Michael Carr
My father was in the military, so my childhood was spent moving frequently (7 different schools altogether!); the bulk of my secondary education was at the local comprehensive in St Andrews, Scotland, which is the place that feels like home for me.
I don’t look back on school with fond memories, I was not strong academically, and struggled to see the relevance of it most of the time. However, it quickly became apparent during my teens that in order to have a flying career of any sort, I would need some reasonable exam results.
At the time the only real option was to join the military, but aged 17, I was advised to delay this by going to university. I did enjoy my time at Aberdeen University, but it didn’t work for me, and I only completed 2 years of a 4 year engineering course. I didn’t want to be an engineer and so lacked any real motivation for the academic discipline required; it was a valuable lesson in making decisions based on the advice of others.
I was fortunate to have the complete support of my parents, even after failing university, who encouraged me to explore every avenue in pursuit of a flying career. I applied to every possible flying training organisation, and following numerous long selection processes I was fortunate to be offered a couple of training options. I chose to join the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme, which at the time was unique in the airline industry, and have never looked back.
Description of your current position
I am a Captain with BA, currently flying the Boeing 777, and I have some additional roles of training and examining pilots within the airline.
The core skills required for the role are obviously the pure flying, which is more akin to a sport than anything else, hand-eye coordination is something the selection process establishes very quickly; but the wider skills are in leadership, teamwork, decision making and situational awareness
My example week begins on a Saturday, but it is important to say that there really is NO pattern to my working life; the airline operates all day, every day, and that means that operational staff have a totally irregular work pattern. The 777 fleet operates to destinations all over the world and time away from home varies from 1 to 7 nights away.
Sat: Leave home at 11am and completes a 6 hour training duty at the airline training centre. The duty involves a 1 hour briefing, 4 hours training in a full flight simulator and a 1 hour debriefing.
Sun: A day off
Mon: Report to Heathrow at 1pm to begin a four day trip to San Diego, USA. We begin briefing at 2pm, get airborne at about 4pm and land in California at 2.30am Tuesday (..6.30pm Monday, local time). Get to the hotel at about 3.30am UK time, but because of the time difference, I stay up for another couple of hours to avoid waking in the middle of the night local time!
Tue: A day off in San Diego (..jet lag means waking early and beginning to really feel tired by 5pm local time.
Wed: Another early start, and then try to get some sleep after lunch in preparation for flight home. Collected from hotel at 7pm local (..3am Thursday UK time), get airborne at 9pm (5am Thu UK) for a 10 hour flight and land at Heathrow at 2.45pm UK time.
Thu: …Thursday arrived sometime during the return flight! Having landed at 2.45 I will get into the car to drive home at 3.30pm. Get home feeling very tired!
Fri, Sat & Sun: Days off
Mon: A three day trip to Boston, USA.
The work pattern becomes a sort of lifestyle; spending so much time away from home is difficult personally and for family & friends, but it has positives; the travelling is something I really enjoy and actually having days off in the week sometimes allows me time to do things at home that other dads do not get to do. The jetlag has no positives, and there is no magic solution/trick to coping, it is a continuous process of trying to recover from a fatigued state.
If you could give advice about work, life, attitude to your 16 year old self or the 16, 17 years olds of today who are entering a different world to the one you started in, what would it be?
Stop worrying and get busy doing. Nothing will replace work and action! Never stop asking questions, it is the only way you will discover the truth, and be able to make informed decisions.
Whatever career it is that YOU want to do, go out and get it. Be brave and try things, knock on doors, take advantage of opportunity…you never know if or when it might come round again!