What are the best airports to take off from or land at? 

Anywhere in the Caribbean, Mauritius or the Maldives. The views are amazing, being able to see the beautiful colours in the water, the reefs and fabulous white sandy beaches. The Caribbean is where we get to do some proper manual flying, in other words, be real pilots. With not many aircraft around, air traffic control allows us to position ourselves to land rather than them guiding us in.  

What’s your favourite aircraft to fly? 

I have flown various Boeing and Airbus aircraft. Personally, I enjoy Airbus. I prefer the logic of the various systems as well as them being user-friendly aircraft in helping the pilot to manage the workload. Also, if you enjoy computer games then the Airbus is ideal; you fly it using a joystick – the technical term used by Airbus is “sidestick” (with the exception of the A300) – whereas Boeing uses a control column (which looks a bit like a steering wheel). 

What is the scariest moment you have had flying? 

Pilots don’t have scary moments; just times when adrenaline starts to flow. Weather is the most common cause. Thunderstorms are intensely powerful and can cause an aircraft to crash. It is not lightning strikes that are a problem – I have had a few of those – but severe turbulence and hail battering the structure. On the flight deck we have a sophisticated weather radar system to identify thunderstorms and help us avoid them. 

In some parts of the world, such as Africa or India, thunderstorms can be massive, rising up to 60,000 feet as well as covering a wide area, so avoiding them is quite a challenge. It can involve deviations from our track of up to 100 miles and can occupy us for some time. It is definitely an adrenaline-pumping time. Strong gusty winds for landing are also a challenge, particularly when the wind is across the runway, known as a crosswind. In terms of things going wrong with the aircraft, this tends to be rather straightforward as it is something we are trained to deal with on a regular basis. 

Who are the worst and best pilots you have flown with? 

This is a difficult question to answer. First, commercial pilots have to pass a rigorous assessment and training course to work for an airline. In addition, pilots are tested every six months in the simulator to assess their flying skills and management in both normal and emergency situations. Also, every two years we have an assessment on a normal passenger flight as well as an annual technical exam. If we fail to meet the standards in any of these then our licence is suspended and further training provided until the standard is met. We also have “standard operating procedures”, which ensures that we all operate in the same way so we know what each other is doing. All of this leaves little space for bad pilots to exist. 

However, it is fair to say that above that minimum standard there is a variation in abilities. Still, in the 25-plus years that I have been flying, no one has ever managed to scare me! 

Do you have any Concorde memories? 

I only flew Concorde as a passenger. The memories that come to mind are size and speed. The passenger cabin was very small with only 100 seats and, being quite tall, I was unable to stand up straight. The flight deck itself was also cramped, particularly as you had two pilots and a flight engineer. But it was a wonderful experience. It is one of the few commercial aircraft where you were pushed back into the seat on take-off with a real sense of speed and power. 

My flight left Heathrow in the morning and arrived in New York in time for breakfast, taking only three hours 22 minutes – just enough time for an aperitif, lunch accompanied by fine wines, and a liqueur. Destinations were quite limited as it was generally not permitted to fly supersonic over many land areas. 

British Airways ended up serving New York twice daily and Barbados once a week. It also operated pleasure flights over the Bay of Biscay as well as other destinations. It was sad to see such an iconic aircraft retire and to see the minimum journey time to New York increase to more than seven hours.  

If you have a question you’d like to ask our pilot, email [email protected]