When I was younger I wanted to be a pilot. It looked really cool, but as I grew up I went down a different path. Now we know that there are a fair few Year 13 readers who want to get into aviation. So while I’m no expert, we have managed to land an interview with someone a little more qualified. James Nicholson is only a few weeks away from completing his commercial pilot’s cadetship and was happy to sit down and have a chat about life as apPilot in-training.

Aviation is an industry that requires a lot of specialised knowledge, so if you’re interested in pursuing a career down this path then we wanted you to hear from someone who knows his stuff.

We asked James a few questions for all you aspiring pilots out there.

What made you want to become a pilot?

“My dad is a pilot, not a commercial one, but he worked for QANTAS and so did my grandfather. My uncle is also a pilot for another major international airline, so I grew up with it all my life. It’s a bit of a family tradition.”

 Is it difficult to get into the industry?

“Yes and no. I applied to join the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and for a few commercial airline cadetships; I ended up doing a cadetship with REX.   As far as training goes, these are the institutions that you want to get into, but there are other options if necessary.”


What’s the training like?

“I’m in the final weeks of my training now, but in eight months you go from having no flying hours to full qualifications in less than a year. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it is very achievable.”

What’s the biggest thrill of the job?

“Probably the biggest thrill I’ve ever had was when I was really young and I got to sit in the jump seat on a QANTAS flight from Sydney to LA at night time. I saw the city at night and I knew it was what I wanted to do.”

What do you want to achieve in the industry and what is your dream job?

“I want to fly the 787 which is my favourite aircraft. It’s definitely the dream job, flying it on long-haul flights overseas. I’d also love to fly the massive Hercules planes that the Defence Force fly; the Hercules was a major reason I applied for their training.”

What’s the biggest misconception about being a pilot?

“ A lot of people think that pilots just press buttons and put the plane on autopilot, and you can do that, but pilots really earn their coin in the last 20 minutes when they have to land the plane. It’s pretty full on and if something goes wrong you need to be all over it. This is what you train for and you can’t second guess yourself.”

What’s the toughest thing about your training?

“Probably the instrument flying I’ve been doing lately, which is basically flying without looking outside until the very end. There are lot of rules and tricks to learn and doing it without visual cues isn’t easy.”

Any advice for people looking into aviation cadetships?

“Speak to anyone you know in the industry, apply for anything and everything. With the interviews do your research and make sure you know everything there is to know about the airline and their aircraft, or if it’s the ADF know what type of aircraft they use and the kind of operations they are used in. ”

“If you’re still at high school, choosing subjects like maths, physics, engineering or chemistry will definitely help. But I didn’t do science, and I just did general maths at high school. It made it harder to get into for sure, but it didn’t stop airlines from hiring me, so don’t freak out if you’re not doing those subjects.”

A big thank you to James for answering a lot of the questions that we don’t have the expertise to answer ourselves. We’re sure a lot of you are relieved to hear that you don’t need to be the next Einstein to get into aviation.

James also had one final piece of advice for all you wanna-be pilots out there

“You’ll be interviewed by pilots, so they’ll be sitting there thinking ‘can I sit next to this person for 12 hours without them driving me nuts.”

So just play it cool and be yourself. As long as you work hard, things usually work out.