LOV­ING LIFE IN THE SKIES

What it’s re­ally like to be the pilot of a jumbo jet

Carmarthen Journal - - Front Page -

THE sky’s the limit in one Llanelli man’s day job - but he’s happy to keep his feet firmly on the ground when it comes to fam­ily life.

Michael Cole, aged 44, has been a pilot for 18 years, and seen parts of the world many can only dream about.

His wife and two chil­dren have joined him on some trips, and, as he ad­mits: “It is a chal­lenge to main­tain both fam­ily and friend re­la­tion­ships, but the so­lu­tion is to re­ally make up for it when I’m home.

“Modern tech­nol­ogy helps, although with the time dif­fer­ence, the break­fast video call from me is of­ten the din­ner time video call at home.

“I’m of­ten com­ing back home from work and go­ing straight to the school play, rugby train­ing or get­ting out on the bikes hav­ing fin­ished work and been awake for maybe 20 or 30 hours.

“I man­age by putting the fam­ily first, then do­ing the other chores and jobs when they are in school or work to free up fam­ily time when they get home again.

“How­ever, some­times I take them to work with me and then I’m at work and with my loved ones. That’s the best part.”

Be­fore be­com­ing an air­line pilot, Michael stud­ied chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing and Span­ish at Sh­effied Univer­sity and joined the RAF Uni­ver­si­ties’ Air Squadron, later ap­ply­ing to a Bri­tish Air­ways-spon­sored pilot pro­gramme.

He lives in Fur­nace with his wife and two chil­dren, but he lives an ex­tra­or­di­nary life fly­ing Bri­tish Air­ways Jumbo Jets across the planet.

Michael said: “I’ve been ex­tremely lucky to have trav­elled to many places through­out Eu­rope and many parts of the world: Aus­tralia, Singa- pore, Thai­land, Malaysia, China, In­dia, Dubai, Bahrain, South Africa, Kenya, Tan­za­nia, Zim­babwe, South Amer­ica, USA and Canada to name just a few.

“I love see­ing the north­ern lights over Canada, es­pe­cially when we’re on a northerly rout­ing not too far from the North Pole.

“An­other great sight is see­ing the Great Wall of China near Bei­jing or the Hi­malayas on the way to Hong Kong.

“Just re­cently, I flew from Los An­ge­les back to Lon­don. We had the most amaz­ing views of the sprawl­ing city, see­ing the fa­mous Hol­ly­wood sign, then flew up over the Mo­jave Desert up to and right over Las Ve­gas with clear views of the fa­mous Ve­gas strip be­low.

“Mo­ments later we had views of the Grand Canyon on our right and Death Val­ley to our left. We then flew past Salt Lake City and the snow­capped Rocky Moun­tains, up to Canada for amaz­ing views of the north­ern lights in the clear night sky be­fore sun­rise cross­ing the At­lantic.”

His favourite des­ti­na­tion is Cape Town in South Africa.

“Both the des­ti­na­tion and the jour­ney are fan­tas­tic; fly­ing down through Africa overnight then watch­ing the sun­rise as we fly over the plains of Namibia.

“From hun­dreds of miles away you can see the shape of Ta­ble Moun­tain be­com­ing clearer and more de­fined as we ap­proach,” he said.

“De­scend­ing into Cape Town, we have the most amaz­ing views of the bay, Ta­ble Moun­tain, Robben Is­land and the Cape of Good Hope.

“And that’s just get­ting there. While there, you have an amaz­ing ar­ray of things to do. I love the out­doors and love climb­ing Ta­ble Moun­tain or cy­cling along the coast.”

He went on: “Two days are never the same, and go­ing to work is as ex­cit­ing as go­ing on hol­i­day, ex­cept in­stead of maybe go­ing on hol­i­day once a year, I get to go ev­ery week.

“What’s even more won­der­ful is that I of­ten take the fam­ily with me so we all get to travel lots. The chil­dren have been to some tremen­dous places and it’s won­der­ful to share that with them and ex­pand their hori­zons.

“They now have friends all

I can of­ten be cy­cling along the coast­line in Cal­i­for­nia to go surf­ing one day then cy­cling along the coast­line of South Wales to Pem­brey Coun­try Park the next

Pilot Michael Cole

over the world and have seen some amaz­ing things.”

Michael said: “I can of­ten be cy­cling along the coast­line in Cal­i­for­nia to go surf­ing one day then cy­cling along the coast­line of South Wales to Pem­brey Coun­try Park the next.”

He said pi­lots “have a healthy re­spect and un­der­stand­ing of the dangers . . . our pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­mit­ment to safety is so high, we don’t feel any par­tic­u­lar bur­den of re­spon­si­bil­ity and we are the type of peo­ple that tend to en­joy work­ing un­der pres­sure.”

He went on: “On a per­sonal level, I find fit­ness is ex­tremely im­por­tant in my job, it helps keep a pos­i­tive life balance and helps me re­cover from time zone changes. I’m lucky, but I know of many col­leagues that are wide awake and work­ing out in the gym at 4am in the morn­ing and then sleep later in the day.”

As well as see­ing the world, there have been other no­table ex­pe­ri­ences as a pilot.

Michael says: “I was once on a flight to Venice when a mes­sage was re­layed to us from the cabin crew that a cus­tomer wanted to ask his girl­friend a ‘spe­cial ques­tion’. The cap­tain quickly recog­nised the mo­ment and in good spir­its made an an­nounce­ment to the pas­sen­gers that a cer­tain gen­tle­man had a very spe­cial ques­tion to ask his girl­friend.

“Not long af­ter­wards, we heard a cheer and clap­ping from the cabin and the lady that started the flight as his girl­friend was now his fi­ancee!

“A cou­ple of years ago, fly­ing back from the United States bound for Lon­don, we were in­structed by air traf­fic con­trol to turn and leave our planned route to al­low an­other air­craft to pass.

“Af­ter car­ry­ing out the turn, a few min­utes later we heard an­other air­craft check-in with the call sign, ‘Air Force One’. It was none other than Pres­i­dent Obama re­turn­ing from a Mid­dle East peace sum­mit.”

He added: “Fly­ing is seen as glam­orous and it’s easy to feel it’s out of reach or be­yond our abil­i­ties but it re­ally is not. Just be­cause it may be your dream job it doesn’t have to be just a dream. Work hard, make op­por­tu­ni­ties and never give up.”

Michael at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Fran­cisco, with his fam­ily Sarah, Hatty and James in Cape Town, and hik­ing up Ta­ble Moun­tain in Cape Town. Michael in the cock­pit of one of his planes.

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