Thursday, 18 July 2013

Q&A w/Simon Burnham British Pilot Flying in South Africa

When I first begun training to become a pilot to now, there have always been certain motivational people who inspire me to go further. Even just hearing their stories or seeing their pictures is enough. 

Simon is one of those people - A British Pilot from Devon flying in South Africa, ex Dispatcher. Surfer & photographer and all round good chap with a real passion for aviation.

I asked Simon if he'd be interested in doing a Q&A session with me for this blog, just so I can get to know him more, but also for those who don't know him can get to know him more. 

Here it is - Meet Simon Burnham:

Simon with a Cessna 208 Caravan

Where did you're love of aviation begin Simon?

My first love was flying to Spain to visit my grandparents when I was around 9. I remember it to this day - A British Airways B757 and those were the days when you were allowed to go on the flight deck. I just remember saying to myself this is what I want to do, and from that day, I was a real aviation geek.

BA 757 - Similar to what Simon flew on
After you later realised you wanted to become a pilot, what steps did you take to reach that goal? 

First steps of course was nagging my parents to fund my PPL when I left school, when I started flying it was not so expensive as it is now we used to get a VAT return on all flying back then, I also managed to get a career loan sorted to pay part of my flying. I started flying soon as I left school so I did not do 6th form or University so I struggled with the exams.


Do you still remember your first ever flying lesson? 

It was on my 15th birthday remember it well on a Cessna 152 at then Plymouth Flying School on G-WACT (I think).

G-WACT - The aircraft Simon had his first lesson on
Once you completed you're PPL in the UK - What did you do next?

When I did finish my PPL in 2000 I went to South Africa to do some hour building, instead of going home I ended up staying and started my Cessna Caravan Rating. At this time I did not get a JAA ATPL as I was flying in South Africa. I stayed there until 2002. When I came home I could not afford to fly in the UK so ended up working in dispatch at Exeter Airport to fund my ATPLs.

Exeter Airport - Where Simon worked as dispatch to fund his ATPLs
Tell us about your first solo flight:

Long time ago now but all I remember is that I was not expecting it, we landed then the instructor just said okay,  you're alone next... What I do remember was sounds in the aircraft you have not heard before because you are alone now and there's no one to speak to.

So you got your PPL and ATPL - Then what?

I would recommend anyone in the UK to come fly in Africa in general come get your conversion it's not a mission - 3 exams and a flight test - What I'm currently doing. Come get some real flying experience under your belt, what's wonderful with this place is that you can be flying into a 5 Star Safari Lodge that most people pay big bucks for and you're doing it on a daily bases!

Example of a Safari Lodge in South Africa
What's you're experience of living in Africa involved?

The experience has been great, yeah, it has it's downfalls - The crime is one of them but the British media do like to hype it up a little, but other than that everything is very professional... The aircraft are kept up to scratch, fantastic airfields but what is a difference in the summer time you get massive thunder storms that you spend the day flying around and it can get very scary!

A typical example of what the storms are like in S.A
So of all the aircraft you've flown in you're lifetime, which is your favourite and why?

Of course I am going to say the Cessna Caravan what a machine! It's like flying a Cessna 152 on drugs. That's now but I will be flying the King Air 1900 and 200 soon so I might change my mind.

King Air 1900

Once you compete your conversion, what do you intend to do next?

I will be heading up to North Africa for a year to get more Multi-Time on my licence. Plenty of work in some really dodgy parts of Africa but if you love flying you go where the work is.

The North African Region which Simon speaks of

What is you're ultimate goal to achieve in aviation in your life time?

Of course to come home and have a stable job with an airline, I do love flying in South Africa but I also love England and to work for an airline.

Virginia Airport, Durban, where Simon is currently flying

And finally, what is you're advice for aspiring pilots out there?

First off, have passion in what your doing. Look around at every school before you choose, ask other pilots what they think. I would strongly tell young pilots to become an instructor or come here to Africa to do some flying before they even attempt to go to the airlines and pay a lot for a conversion. It looks better on your CV, also maybe look for work in an airport part time just to know the workings of an airport.

Which is it?

Thank you to Simon for giving up his time to do a Q&A session with me. I find his story intriguing and very interesting, not everyone gets to experience flying in South Africa, but Simon does.

If you have any questions for Simon, drop a comment below this article or if you're on twitter send him a tweet: @PilotSimon208

Thanks again, 

And remember come back tomorrow for yet again another blog post!