Home > Article > CityJet Captain shares her advice with pilots of the future

As Irish airline CityJet announces it will welcome ten new cadets to its Integrated Training Programme in 2016, we spoke to Captain Sheena Anderson, who flies the BAE AVRO RJ85 on the CityJet network

For Captain Sheena Anderson, flying is “the best job in the world.” She explains, “Every day whilst flying you are guaranteed to see the sun! There is nothing better than climbing through the clouds to then pop out into the tranquility and stillness above.”

Based out of Dublin, flying the BAE AVRO RJ85 both on the CityJet network and the Air France network operated by CityJet, Sheena joined the Irish airline as a cadet and has been flying for CityJet for the last eight years.

“I had my first trip in an aircraft when I was 12,” she explains, “on holidays with my family. Ever since then, I aspired to be a pilot and to work for a commercial airline. I focused on the subjects in school that I thought would help me achieve this: maths, engineering and physics. I then went on to study Aeronautical Engineering for three years in Loughborough University. Throughout school and university, my hope was always to fly and I was very lucky when the cadet programme with CityJet came up after my engineering degree. I applied for it and haven’t looked back.”

The Irish airline, currently in a period of growth with two new aircraft types entering into service this year, will welcome the cadets on the successful completion of their training, to join the airline and be offered a type rating on the CityJet fleet. The new programme, to be delivered by CAE and called the ‘Climb High Mentored Cadet Programme’, will see ten cadets begin their training before the end of 2016 at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy in the UK, and Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

The type of flying offered by a career with CityJet is a huge positive for Sheena. She says, “The nature of CityJet’s network. short haul flights across Europe, means that the days flying are filled with activity and excitement. Often flying up to four sectors a day gives us lots of hands-on operation of controls as opposed to long-haul cruises. Combining this with fun and friendly colleagues makes each day different and enjoyable.”

“I am a very prompt person and as much as a delay annoys passengers, it also annoys crew because we pride ourselves on keeping to the schedule!”

“As a captain my main role is to be responsible for the flight, the crew, the passengers and the aircraft. We have to ensure that all necessary checks are made before, during and after the flight. On a day to day basis we are responsible for weather checks, safety checklists, flight planning and flying the aircraft to its destination. The Captain and First Officer share these roles but ultimately the responsibility lies with the Captain.”

While it’s a dream job for many, a pilot’s lifestyle does not come without its challenges, and Sheena explains how the career balances with your personal life. “The most challenging aspect of being a pilot is the periods of time away from home,” she says. “Like any other career which involves being away from home, it does pose difficulties. However, from my experiences as a wife and mother and a pilot, these difficulties can be overcome. One good aspect of our job is we can’t take our work home with us, apart from occasional study. So when we are home we can enjoy spending all that time with our family.”

Day-to-day challenges can also add frustration. Sheena says, “One of the biggest challenges, for me, is being unable to keep to our schedule due to issues out of our control. Whilst on the ground, pilots are clock watchers; we must constantly check the clock to see if everything is running on time. We must ensure before departure we have everything we need for the flight, eg. fuel, catering, cleaning, tow truck, the list goes on! Without all these things we can’t depart. So I suppose the most challenging part is keeping track of everything and then learning to accept that we are going to incur a delay and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. I am a very prompt person and as much as a delay annoys passengers, it also annoys crew because we pride ourselves on keeping to the schedule!”

But of course, even with all the challenges posed by scheduling and managing others, a pilot’s job is still to fly, which for Sheena, is obviously the reason for her passion. “The most fun part of my job is the flying, without question,” she says. “From the time the flight deck door closes to the time it opens, it is the best job in the world. Every day whilst flying you are guaranteed to see the sun! There is nothing better than climbing through the clouds to then pop out into the tranquility and stillness above. Equally fulfilling is executing a perfect landing after battling strong gusty crosswinds all the way down the approach and getting both crew and passengers on the ground safely.”

“There is nothing better than climbing through the clouds to then pop out into the tranquility and stillness above”

There’s also the opportunity to overnight at incredible locations. For Sheena, her favourite stop is Rotterdam, a location recently added to CityJet’s network. “The hotel is right in the city and there’s an amazing indoor food market within walking distance from the hotel. As a foodie, I love wandering around sampling the different cuisines.”

Sheena was trained on the CityJet cadet scheme, before she moved to a First Officer position with the airline. When asked about the transition from cadet to First Officer, she says, “To be honest, it was seamless. I felt we had been so well trained in our Type Rating on the AVRO RJ85 that, by the time I flew my first commercial flight as second officer with CityJet, I was confident in my ability to perform. I was excited to have finally started my line training and was looking forward to learning more and more each day in order to become fully qualified.”

As for the advice she would pass on to future cadets, Sheena says, “Work hard in flight school, but make sure you enjoy it too. You only get one chance to get through the training and to qualify as a pilot. Make sure you are fully committed to the hard work that goes into it because at the end of it all you will be rewarded with achieving your dream. This job comes with great responsibility but coming to work and actually enjoying what you do is very satisfying. Be prepared that there is a lot to take in and learn when moving from flight school to working for an airline. Each day you will get one step closer, but it will take time for it all to slot into place.”

Applications for CityJet’s cadet programme are currently open and more information can be found at caeoaa.com/CityJet.

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CityJet’s partnership with CAE Oxford Aviation Academy builds on the academy’s 85 years of training heritage, know for high-quality instruction, world-class training facilities and aircraft, and cadet recruitment and development excellence