James Chapman

"I was brought up in Tolpuddle, Dorset (famous for Martyrs) and studied Geography at both GCSE and A level. Prior to University I had a keen interest in flying, and it’s unsurprising that academically Geography was the subject that most interested me. I applied to Plymouth University to study Geography as my first choice and was delighted to be offered a place.

After A levels I moved to Plymouth for three fantastic years and graduated with a 2:1 degree in BSc (Hons) Geography. My degree was supported by a great bunch of professionals within the department. They ran memorable field trips and delivered a top quality course. The choice of modules was excellent and varied, meaning I was able to customise the content of the degree.

Aside from the academic element, there was plenty of opportunity to meet new people and make new friends, and I made sure to get actively involved in some of the many sports and societies available at Plymouth. As an avid golfer, for example, I wasted no time in joining the University of Plymouth Golf Club where, in my second and third years, I became chairman and first team captain. The team and I enjoyed the success of winning the BUCS Southern Premier League for the first time! I also enjoyed that fact that Plymouth offers some of the best nightlife in the south west, and Dartmoor National Park and some of the country’s most stunning coastline are right on the doorstep. Together, my experiences of university life equipped me with the skills I needed for the challenges of commercial flight training.

I started my flight training with CTC Aviation, now known as L3CTS, based in Southampton. Before taking to the skies I spent six months in ground school working to pass all 14 Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) exams. This really pushed my capacity for learning to the limit but I passed all of my exams first time around and moved on to the 7-month flying phase in Hamilton, New Zealand. Here I completed my single engine foundation training, followed by my multi-engine and Commercial Pilot’s Licence flight tests. When I returned to the UK I completed two further months of training for my Instrument Rating and gained my full Commercial Pilot’s Licence after around 16 months. One more short course later I was offered an interview with easyJet on my 24th birthday, which I passed to become an easyJet First Officer! After a short break and a two-month type rating on the Airbus A320, I flew my first passengers from Liverpool to Geneva and back. 

At the time of writing, I have been flying for easyJet for around three months and I love it. It is hard work but constantly rewarding because no two days are ever the same. The work primarily involves the safe operation of the flight to the destination, but there are so many layers of variables that could alter the course of a normal day as a pilot, not least the weather and ever changing air traffic control time slots. In reality I play a small role in what is a huge operation where everything needs to come together at the right time. In order to achieve safe, on-time departures or arrivals we often need to think outside the box to solve any problems that arise. We do this while working long days, weekends and unsociable hours, but while, you’ll be pleased to hear, constantly retaining the ability to remain calm and be fully prepared in the event of a crisis! Working in the cockpit with just one other pilot for up to 12 hours a day means that teamwork is massively important on the job – I’m really glad I learnt the importance of working well with others during my degree. Although being a pilot has its challenges, nothing beats seeing the sun rise over the alps at 38,000ft or pulling off a smooth landing in a fully loaded 60 tonne jet.

I look back at my time at Plymouth fondly - without a doubt it was three of the best years of my life. My degree in Geography and the skills I gained as a part of it put me in a great position when I was challenged throughout my training, in interviews, and now into my everyday working life. With aviation being the unpredictable industry it is, having a good degree in Geography from the University of Plymouth gives me the confidence to deal with whatever challenges present themselves. I would 100% recommend to any prospective student considering Geography at Plymouth to go for it!