Perspectives: Iain Holmes (former BA flight cadet)
Written by Iain Holmes   
As a long-term contributor to Jetcareers, who started off as the most eager aspiring pilot, it has been requested that I write up why I decided not to pursue this profession.

I started flying when I was 14, soloed by 16, gained my PPL when I was 17. I was the epitome of a 'wannabe' - worked at the pilot supply store, networked to the level that would bring a tear to Doug's eye (we all know how he loves that), and basically ate slept and drank aviation.

 

It all changed when I left for England at the age of 17 to attend University. My first memory of not being very impressed with a pilot career was actually departing from LAX. Through my networking I had arranged to sit jumpseat on the A340 during take off out of LAX. Although the guys flying were great fun, it seemed that there was not a lot to do. Their taxi was short then what I did in the 172, their take off roll was a bit longer, but at 500 feet they put auto-pilot and were in baby-sit mode. All the excitement I had imagined an airliner taking off was really not there.

Although flying in England was expensive it did not stop me going up. I joined British Airways Flying Club and every month I would go on a quick flight. After 6 months studying in the UK I decided that I would try for the BA sponsorship. It is well known that very few 18 year olds get through on their first try but for the last 3 years I had groomed myself to make me the ideal BA sponsorship candidate (Nigel in the making) so I wanted a go, and applied June 2001.

I traveled back to the US for that summer, and awaiting me on my return was a letter from British Airways. I had got passed the first round (where 30,000 [a year] go down to a couple thousand), and was invited in for some standardized testing. Being the ideal candidate I studied arduously for this test, however due to September the 11th my testing was cancelled.

This gave me a real perspective. I had only seen the airlines when they were thriving; hiring like it was going out of fashion, swimming in cash, etc. The tragic events of 9/11 allowed me to see the down side of the industry. I think this was a very big pill to swallow; what I think I liked so much about the airlines was that it was a job for life - that sadly is far from the truth!

At this time I was also flying the Atlantic frequently (approximately every 6 weeks) and started to despise the airport hustle and bustle. I was to the point where I flashed my magic gold card, check in a first class, wangled my way into the lounge, got on my plane, drunk, slept, looked at my watch numerous times until we landed at LAX, where my parents would meet me, and I can honestly say I would not have been upset if I had not seen an airplane for the following week. I had always envisioned myself as one of the dashing BA pilots coming out of the Bradley Building, looking very sharp - however that year I spent 1% of my life in an airplane and hated it - how could I possible spend 10% of my life in a plane and be happy!

With my BA application frozen I focused on my schoolwork, and alternative careers. I achieved my goal of graduating University at the age of 19, and moved back to California where I got a job as a finance broker. I had initially planned on keeping flying as a hobby, as I do enjoy it. I went flying about a dozen times, but never got back into the swing of it where I was happy to go on my own, and flying slowly became less of an important part of my life.

I look back and think about what if I got hired by BA, completed their training, and was flying the airways of the world. I would never have been able to uproot like I did in October 2003 and travel down to Australia for 6 months. I had wanted to do that since I was little. When you grow up in England there are 2 places you want to live - American and Australia. I have lived in both! My trip to Australia was something I wanted to do for myself - I learnt a lot, made a lot of friends, and had a great time. I would not have been able to this if I was a pilot.

 

I would have also never started playing polo - although I had ridden all my life, it was only out of luck that the CEO and President of the company I used to work for had started playing that I got involved. Now polo is my main hobby, and something I really enjoy!

 

Career wise I have aspirations to start my own company my head is constantly full of ideas, and I am currently working on putting them on paper. I am excited about this prospect, and the thrill of making my way in the business world.

About flying - to be honest it has been months since I went. My medical has expired, and I have no real passion to get going at it again. I like knowing my license will never expire, and it will always be there but beyond that I am busy with other things. If I end up back in England I would like to get into hot air ballooning - mostly for the views. I would like to learn to fly it, but drinking champagne as a passenger sounds equally as enjoyable.

Do I regret not becoming a pilot? Not at all, I am pleased that my BA sponsorship did not go through. I think at the age of 18 I was not ready to make that decision/commitment, and it would have been something I come to regret by the mid 20s. Although I had thought I researched every aspect of the airlines, I had only seen the good side of it - I pleased to got to see the bad before I was committed - I can honestly say I doubt it would have worked out!