What it’s like to be a BA Pilot
Katie Beesley tells Miah about her career.
Journalist: Miah Whittle, age 16
Muse Interview: Katie Beesley, British Airways
Hi, my name’s Miah and to celebrate International Women’s Day and National Careers Week I recently interviewed Katie Beesley who works as a long-haul pilot at British Airways.
I asked questions about her career and issues which many girls experience. I hope you enjoy and feel inspired…
I see you have a daughter, what advice would you give girls about being a working mother?
Don’t let anyone tell you that becoming a pilot will mean giving up your chance to have a family. The pilot career is fantastic for working mothers. As a short-haul pilot, you can be at home every night, if that’s what you want. As a long-haul pilot, I can work fewer days and get time to myself in fantastic destinations.
Are there times when being a working mum is tough?
Yes, but a great support network will help with this and there are many women in the airlines who would be happy to give advice.
Did you have role models growing up and if so, how did they inspire you?
My role models were generally sports women, JK Rowling and my mum of course! I think to see someone doing what they love means so much. When you love to do something, you don’t mind getting up at 3am or working all night to achieve it. That’s how the role models I loved as a youngster (and now) inspired me.
If you were 13 again, what would you tell yourself?
I moved to a new school at the end of Year 8, just after I turned 13, as I was being bullied so I’d tell myself to trust my instincts and it’s all going to be okay! It was the best decision I made and although I moved to a school that wasn’t as academic, I had teachers who were invested, and I made friends for life!
How do you think Modern Muse would have benefited you at school?
It took me a long time to find my career. I only stumbled across it after researching the Army and then the RAF. To have had access to a place that caters for young women would have been fantastic.
I was lucky, my parents gave me good guidance and told me to get out there and speak to people, but it would have been great to have connected with role models before turning up to my first aviation related interview.
When I first found my interest in flying, I applied to join the university air squadron (the RAF reserves) I had never met a pilot or spoken about planes before and didn’t really know where to start so I dismally failed the first time I applied.
Thankfully someone told me to ask for feedback so that is what I did, and I got some great advice from the squadron leader at the time so that I could go away, do my research and apply the following year!
Do you have any advice for students taking their GCSE’s/ A levels?
Choose subjects that you enjoy. It’s important to have the basics i.e. English, maths and science, but when it comes to the other subjects it’s important that you enjoy studying the content. Pilots have such varied backgrounds and that’s what I love when going to work.
Looking back on your studies, did you have any study habits, and would you do anything differently?
I am still learning to study now but I can’t study when I feel time pressured or panicked, so giving myself enough time is important. I break down all the topics and then allocate each one a time slot, I also realistically plan them in my diary so that I know I won’t run out of time before my exam.
What advice would you give girls who want to become a pilot?
Do your research, find pilots to follow on social media and Modern Muse. Ask questions and if you can, do some flying! There are plenty of scholarships available for young people. The British Women’s Pilot Association is a great place to start for information!
What are the key steps of becoming a pilot?
1 – DECIDE YOUR ROUTE
This can be modular (bit by bit training, although this route may take longer it is more cost effective) or integrated (full-time at training school for 18 months)
2 – TRAIN!
3 – APPLY FOR AIRLINE POSITIONS
If you join a school with airline partnerships, you may find this easier however today there are many more opportunities for modular trained pilots.
Is there anything specific that you do before flying?
We check-in 90 minutes before we depart to read our briefing materials, check the routes and meet the crew we’re flying with. I like to get in a bit early, read notices and update my company iPad. I also like to sit and have a flat white coffee if it’s going to be a long day!
We get to the aircraft 45 minutes before departure, turn it on, check the systems are all working and load the route and performance figures for our departure. As a crew, we then discuss our plan in detail to ensure nothing catches us out!
What excites you the most about your career?
The variety, not only the destinations and different aircraft I’ll get to fly over my career but also the people I get to fly with and how much fun I have at work!
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“Be yourself. Don’t try and be someone who you think you should be. It’s so important to be authentic and true to yourself.”
If you enjoyed this article, find out more about careers at British Airways and take a look at our ‘A week in the life of’ on Instagram (@modernmuseorg) featuring Pilot, Catriona Hurley.