When and where did it start?
It all began when I was 6 years old. In the summer of 1990 my family took me to Duxford, to see the aviation museum for a day out. That was the first time I got the buzz for aircraft. Going through the hangar’s, and boarding the aircraft got me very interested. Then, In May 1991, my dad to took me to the top of the Queens Building at Heathrow. There was a spectator viewing terrace on the roof of the terminal. At that time, I witnessed Concorde landing in front me for the first time. I was fascinated as a kid. From that, I was hook, line and sinker, and wanted to fly.
So, for my Christmas present I wanted a flying lesson. Obviously at that age I could start a flying course, but my parents got me a trial lesson at High Wycombe Airfield, also known as Booker Air Park. It was in a Piper Tomahawk G-BMXL with British Airways Flying Club, the aircraft is still going now. It was only for duration of 30 minutes, but that was long enough for me to get the famous aviation bug.
Me at Duxford, aged 6 Me in 1991, aged 7 ½ years old in PA38 G-BMXL.
For every Christmas and birthday present for the next 6 years, my parents got me a trial lessons to keep me keen in learning to fly, and keeping the buzz alive. I then started to do trial lessons at my home airfield in Southend. Originally at Aviators Flying, then Southend Flying Club and finally, Willow Air Flying Club.
At the age of 13, I was finally allowed to start logging the hours towards my Private Pilot Licence. I completed my PPL at Willow Air Flying Club at Southend Airport on 24th December 2001 aged 17. It was the best Christmas present I could ever ask for! At that time, I was officially the youngest PPL pilot on the airfield. Even made the local Evening Ecko newspaper. I was flying before I was driving! After achieving this I had to concentrate on getting my wheels, and College. During college, I continued to fly when I could afford it from part time jobs I had, building my hours up for the next step, my commercial Licence.
Me in G-ATPN PA28-140 at Southend, aged 14 n G-AZKE, Rallye at Southend. I flew this back from Luxembourg.
The start of my Aviation Career….
After completing my college course in Engineering at SEEVIC College in June 2003, it was time to start putting my first step on my career ladder. My first job was at Ground Star (now known as Swissport) at Stansted airport. I was a baggage handler for the first 2 years. I gained a lot of ramp operation experience from this, and the processes involved behind a turnaround. Then in 2005, I got promoted to Team Leader / Flight Dispatcher. I was now in charge of a team of 4 guys to turnaround flights for Ryanair in 25/50 mins, I loved it. I had many good experiences and learnt a lot from there. Then in 2007 I was approached by a LEA (Luxaviation UK) colleague if I would be interested in joining London Executive Aviation Operations team, a no brainer for me!
In November 2007, I met Daniel Suddaby (Deputy Operations Manager), and Jane Gross (Operations Manager). I had my first glimpse of LEA at Stapleford aerodrome. Walking through the Operations room then into the Lounge for my nerve racking interview. I will admit looking back, it was the best relaxing interview I have ever had! Whilst half way through my interview, I met George for the first time. I still remember his words during my interview. “Work hard Tommy, and maybe after a year we’ll try to get you flying”. That was enough for me, even though I had been told I hadn’t the job yet, I was praying I would get it! Then in December whilst I was fishing, I got an email from Jane, saying they would like to offer me the job! I nearly threw my fishing rod in the river and of course, I accepted.
First Step, Flying the Operations Desk
I started my first day at LEA on 7th January 2008 at 9am. Meeting Emma Desmond and she introduced me around the office to everyone. My teacher & mentor would be Craig Scolding. He taught me a lot and everything I needed to know for the job. Even now, I use some knowledge he gave me the help us out on flight plan issues. At the start, I was on the Monday to Friday team for the first 3 months, till I gained sufficient knowledge before being released to the duty operations desk. Then in April 2008, I started my first shift of two days, and two nights on the duty operations desk. During my time on the duty desk from 2008-2011, I learnt a lot about the airline operation.
Me with Capt. Marc Naylor on G-FRYI G-BYCP in the Sunshine in the Isle of Islay.
In G-BYCP at Stapleford on a ‘Go-Now’ Air Ambulance flight.
From the desk, to the skies
In September 2011, I was given the opportunity to leave the desk and fly full time. I remember the phone call from Neil Onions to this day. “Tommy would you like to join the C510 Mustang Fleet as First Officer?” I think we all knew the answer. So, I was planned for my first type rating at Flight Safety at Farnborough in November. This would be a 3-week course of 1.5 weeks Ground School, and 1.5 Weeks in the Simulator. I’d thoroughly enjoyed it all.
After completing my 6 circuits at Cambridge, it was the start of my line training. My first flight I still remember was with Neil Onions in G-LEAA from Luton on a Go-Now flight to Inverness and Glasgow. The ink was still wet on my licence, I only had the type rating added to my licence that day. After completing all the sectors required in forth coming months, I completed my final line check with Graeme Foley, and was released online.
Me on G-LEAI C510, in Albacete, Spain In the Cruise on G-LEAB with Capt. Nicky Guy
On the Samedan Ice Ramp with G-LEAI.
During 2011-2016, I’d flown a total 1371 hours in the C510 Mustang. This included one of the most spectacular flights I had done in my career. Flying a Mustang from Paris Le Bourget to Miami. We flew via Bournemouth, Stornoway (Scotland), Reykjavik (Iceland), Narsarsuaq (Greenland), Goose Bay (Canada), Bangor (USA), and Savannah (USA). It took us 3 days in total, and my first experience outside of Europe.
M-OUSE in Narsarsauq, Greenland. Next stop Goose Bay, Canada. Views of the cold landscape of Greenland after departure.
On a very cold (-8°C) ramp in Goose Bay, Canada Me and Capt. Andy Macdonald in KTMB
Mission Completed. 3 days, and 19hrs 35 mins of flying, we finally arrived in Tamiami (KTMB), Miami.
Next step up the ladder…
After enjoying my time on the Mustang fleet, I was given the opportunity to move to the Embraer Legacy fleet in April 2016. I was to start my type rating of 5 weeks, at Zurich Swiss Air Training with my new sim partner Jay Sudra, it was his first flying job.
Me and Jay in Simulator at Swiss Air Training, Zurich.
After completing our Skills Test and circuits, I had my first flight on the real machine on the 30th April 2016. It was to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from Luton with Capt. Simon Norman on G-SYNA our Legacy 650, the furthest I had flown in one flight at this point! It was a great flight. Whist there we got another trip to Amman, Jordan and back to Saudi. It was a busy 3 days. I finally completed my line training on the 15th May to fly on-line. Since my start on the Legacy fleet till now, I’ve had the opportunity to see the world, meet lovely and wonderful people, and of course some great flying! From the Channel Islands to the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas.
My 1st Flight. G-SYNA in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. On board G-LEGC in Albacete, Spain.
Me with Capt. Simon Norman, and F/A Shari Reid in Miami. Even working on my 33 Birthday, has its ‘Plus’ sides. Thank you, Alistair and Natalie.
What can I say after 10 years?
From the start of my career at London Execution Aviation in 2008, I am very thankful and appreciative of the help and opportunities given to me by my colleagues and management. I have seen the company expand from small piston fleet of PA34 Seneca’s and Navajo’s, to a vast mixed jet fleet we currently have. I’m glad I was part of this growth over the last 10 years.
Aviation is a funny industry. It has its up’s and downs, its good and bad days, but it’s an addiction. Once you’ve had that bug, you’ll never get rid of it.
We all work hard, and I really appreciate all the guys and girls involved. Without them, none of the opportunities I experienced would exist. So, thank you ALL!! We all have some form of a dream or goal in life, and believe me they can be reached. It will involve blood, sweat and tears, but anything is possible with determination and hard work. Anything can be achieved.
Me and Georgios on our Last flight on G-GLEG in Guernsey this December.
HAPPY FLYING AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Tommy Griffiths, First Officer EMB135 Legacy.