We recently caught up with ex-Flybe Captain, Ian Robinson, to discover more about his journey into the left hand seat, the challenges he has faced along the way, and how he has coped during one of the worst crises the aviation industry has ever experienced.

How long have you been a pilot? Tell us a little bit about your career so far.

I started my training towards my Frozen ATPL in May 2004 at Flight Training Europe, Jerez. The school was in transition from BAe Flight School. Upon completion of my training in September 2005, I was recommended to BA Citiexpress but was unsuccessful at the interview.

With the job market slow to pick up post 9/11, I trained as a flying instructor at Ravenair in Liverpool. I was fortunate enough to be offered a job with Ravenair in May 2006 at their flying school on the Isle of man – Manx flyers.

After 18 months, Ravenair’s owner, Jeff Nuttall, gave me the opportunity to fly single pilot charter operations under Ravenair’s AOC flying the Partenavia, Aztec and Seneca. The flying was challenging, exhilarating and it gave me the experience – and a good foundation – to build on. The type of flying was varied, from passenger charter, cargo, pipeline surveillance, offshore wind farm surveys, town mapping, Air-on-Ground, medical repatriation and organ transfer.

“The flying was challenging, exhilarating and it gave me the experience – and a good foundation – to build on.”

In 2008, Ravenair added 3 Learjet 40/45s to their operation and I had the privilege of flying the aircraft – albeit for a very short period due to the 2008 economic crash; the Learjet operation ended in early 2009.

I was grateful to Jeff, instead of making me redundant, he brought me back onto the piston fleet as a Training Captain and Flight Safety Officer. I stayed at Ravenair until July 2012 when I was offered a job with Flybe as a First Officer, flying the Dash 8 Q400. I returned to the Isle of Man – only this time, I had my wife and 3 month old daughter in tow!

I loved my time on the Isle of Man, it offered a fantastic lifestyle, but unfortunately due to restructuring, the base closed in March 2014. I feared I would be made redundant, this time with a second child on the way, but again (luckily for me), I was offered a position in Manchester, which was ideal for me as I am from the North West and have family and friends there.

In late 2014, I accepted a secondment to Liverpool and there I was offered my command (I was on the toilet when I was offered the position of Captain, which hurried things along somewhat!)

Liverpool as a base was never meant to be – competing against EasyJet 3 times a day to AMS was never going to work. As it was only ever a secondment, I went back to Manchester, this time as a Captain.

I was extremely happy at Flybe and to be in Manchester. This is probably a cliché but it did feel like a family and I miss the togetherness amongst the crews. Flybe always seemed to be coming out of the other side of the woods, and the announcement in October 2018 (that the company was up for sale and struggling to stay afloat) unsettled everyone. We were all very surprised given what a busy summer we had had.

“This is probably a cliché but it did feel like a family and I miss the togetherness amongst the crews.”

For a little while, the future was bright with the Virgin Connect take over and I had begun my training to become a Line Training Captain. However, on March 5th 2020, the hammer fell and Flybe entered into administration.

The lives of around 2400 people were turned upside down overnight and I was stuck in a Southampton hotel wondering how to get home. Thankfully, the trains offered free travel to passengers and staff affected by Flybe’s administration. Seven hours later, I was home – the irony being that my journey home was a first hand example of why the UK needs a dedicated domestic/regional airline.

The next day, I joined Facebook to say goodbye to people, most of whom I may never see again. Then the full effect of Covid-19 hit us and everybody’s lives changed.

My wife thankfully managed to get a temporary job teaching to give us some breathing space financially. I toiled with career changes, but I always came back to the same career.

I managed to renew my single pilot license thanks to the National Careers Service – and in particular Carol Mullin and Jane Hughes on the RRS team – who went above and beyond to get me funding.

I renewed my license at Ravenair, and it was nice to see some old faces. On the back of renewing my single pilot license I have since been offered (subject to vetting) a job with NPAS as a fixed wing line pilot, a very exciting opportunity and one I am extremely thankful for, given the current job market for pilots. In the meantime, I will continue to sort parcels at the Royal Mail.

This content was originally published here.

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