I Get Paid For This…
This article first appeared in FLYER in October 2018
Want to learn how to fly your Cirrus or TBM, get an Instrument Rating or take your aircraft on an adventure? This independent flying instructor and mentor pilot could be your guy…
Interview by Yayeri van Baarsen
How did you get into flying?
When I was 12, my uncle started learning to fly. He’d take me along to Denham Aerodrome, where I’d sit in the back of the aircraft, and even paid for me to have some flight tuition.
However, when he stopped flying, so did I. After my grandma passed away, I used her inheritance to pay for my PPL, which I obtained in 1992.
Tell us about your job…
I’m an independent flying instructor. Most of my clients are pilots who’ve bought an advanced aircraft, like a Cirrus or a TBM. They might need a Type or Instrument Rating, or just want to improve their flying.
I also organise and accompany pilots on bespoke trips. Recently, I went on a tour with a very good client of mine, fulfilling his ambition of flying his Cirrus SR22 Turbo across the Atlantic. In 17 days we flew from Denham to Page, Arizona, and across the American South West – an amazing adventure.
My job revolves around one-to-one communication. While teaching, you’re spending a lot of time in a confined area together, building a relationship with your client and their aircraft.
To make the learning process more attractive, we incorporate our trips into the syllabus.
For example, by flying from London to northern France, ticking off what’s in the syllabus en route and having a nice lunch before returning, instead of doing the training around one airport.
Teaching ratings is very structured, but also when there’s nothing specific planned, such as on a long leg from Scotland to Iceland, there’s always a change in wind or weather to be turned into a training scenario.
This is the perfect job. I love flying, enjoy seeing different parts of the world and I am sociable so I very much like personal contact with clients.
I’m constantly learning and developing, whether that’s by flying to new airports or seeing a student doing something totally different in the cockpit.
Flying instructors need to be patient and calm, even in stressful situations. Also, you have to be really knowledgeable – for example, if someone wants to get their Instrument Rating in a Cirrus while flying around Europe, you should be an expert.
But most important is being a teacher. Everybody can instruct, but not everybody can teach – having the ability to pass on your knowledge to others is crucial.
What training did you have?
The relationships I developed with clients, back when I was teaching PPLs, informed my training. When they wanted to move up in their flying, they asked, “John, can you teach me my Instrument Rating?” or “Can you teach me how to fly my Piper Mirage?”, and I’d reply, “Not yet, but give me a month.” Then I’d obtain that specific qualification.
In 2005, my business partner and I set up TAA UK (Technically Advanced Aircraft), the UK’s first Cirrus Training Centre. By 2007, we had seven Cirrus and were working with Aero Poznań and its full-motion Cirrus Simulator, offering emergency courses and FAA-to-EASA Instrument Rating conversions.
We closed TAA UK in 2016 and I went independent, but I still work with Aero Poznań, when required.
What’s been your favourite flight?
I can’t pinpoint just one, but I do love Atlantic crossings. Some years ago, we flew from Dubai to Paris, across Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, and last year, we took five TBMs from Europe to Oshkosh. Those flights are amazing – most people just sit in an airliner, but you’re flying from one part of the world to another, having adventures along the way.
And your favourite airfield?
The most amazing Catalina Airport, which is perched on top of Santa Catalina Island, a nature reserve 20 miles off the Californian coast, and Sedona Airport, Arizona, because of the stunning scenery and beautiful approach. My clients love these airfields as well.
Do you get to fly much outside work?
A bit. I recently obtained my seaplane rating in Alaska – it really is the last frontier. But that’s my hobby – I’m not interested in teaching people how to fly seaplanes, it’s a part of aviation I want to keep for myself.
What’s the most valuable career advice you’ve received?
To put my prices up – many of my clients have actually given me that advice! They said they’d rather pay more to ensure my availability than pay less but have to wait because I’m too busy.
John Page, 2017 International Cirrus Instructor of the Year, is the UK’s most experienced FI on the marque.
Started work 2000
Now flying Cirrus SR20 and SR22, Piper Malibu series (M350, Mirage, Meridian), TBM 850 and 900
Favourite Cirrus SR22
Hours at job start 250
Hours now 12,000