Hannah Vaughan

Trainee Pilot, British Airways Future Pilot Programme 
BSc Physics & Astrophysics  (2012), MSc Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors (2013)

Even in just my first year at university it was apparent how much my confidence grew, together with other skills such as communication and teamwork.

Having graduated in December 2013, I haven’t been away from university for long, in fact I started my training the morning after my graduation. My first 6 months of the British Airways Future Pilot Programme (BAFPP) was spent in ground school studying towards the 14 Airline Transport Pilots License exams. The level of study required, both inside and outside of school, was very similar to that at university, so having recently graduated helped with that studying mind-set. I’m pleased to say that I passed all 14 exams first time round gaining very good results (even if I do say so myself!), and I am now in Hamilton, New Zealand for 8 months to complete the flying phase of the training.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now? 
Training to be an airline pilot can be an expensive and risky experience, with there being no guarantee of a work contract upon completion. However my association and sponsorship with British Airways gives a level of assurance, with regard to future prospects. There are a number of perks with British Airways, one being the ‘Families Day’, organised for the cadets of the Future Pilot Programme at the training centre at Heathrow. This gave family members an insight into the course and career we were about to embark upon, something I know my parents really enjoyed! Another experience that I enjoyed in my time at ground school was a jump seat trip with a British Airways crew on an Airbus A320. This is the fleet that I will join when I have completed my training. I travelled to Geneva for the day, which was very exciting and also gave an understanding of my future career. Ultimately, the best thing about this job is that it has always been my dream to fly, and I am very, very lucky that British Airways have given me the opportunity to make it a reality.

What was the best thing about your time as a student here? 
Not only was the University of Birmingham a top university to study at, with great lecturers and facilities, but there were so many extra-curricular activities available. As a very sporty person when making my choice about universities the sporting facilities were very important to me, in particular the squash club. At UoB, the Munrow sports centre was exactly what I needed, if not more, and I am very jealous that I won’t be around to see the new sports facilities when they are completed. I was a squash club member throughout my time at UoB. It was great to have something different to do other than study, giving me a chance to compete to a very high level in the BUCS competitions and also make some very close friends along the way. As an undergraduate student I also joined what I believe to be one of the best-kept secrets at university, the University Air Squadron (UBAS). This is an organisation funded by the Royal Air Force, giving students opportunities to fly, go on expeditions, play sports competitions and take part in many other military activities as part of the RAF Reserves. Particular highlights for me were competing at the RAF ski championships, having the honour of taking the salute from the Head of the Air Force at the RIAT gala dinner, and hanging from a Sea King helicopter above the North Sea off the coast of Scotland, they’re not really what you’d call normal student experiences!! 

In what way did living and studying in Birmingham live up to your expectations? 
One of my favourite things about UoB was that the campus was so green, which isn’t what you expect of a university in the second largest city in the country. As a student you can lay on the grass in front of the library on a sunny day, yet if required you could be in the city centre within 15 minutes using the on-campus train station. You really do get the best of both worlds!

How did you grow as a person by coming to University? Did it change your life in any way? 
Even in just my first year at university it was apparent how much my confidence grew, together with other skills such as communication and teamwork. One of the main things I saw about myself was how determined I am and, how with enough hard work, you can turn bad situations into positive ones. For instance, after my undergraduate degree, I lost a graduate scheme job with BT. Rather than move back home I researched the PTNR masters and within a week I had organised myself an interview. At the time losing the grad scheme felt like the end of the world. However looking back now it is probably the best thing that ever happened to me. Giving me the motivation to better myself academically and apply for the BA future pilot programme. While interviewing for the BA post I had to utilize skills that I’d gained at university such as planning, team work, problem solving and time management. In the same week as my final assessment day for BA, I had a computing project and lab report to submit. This was obviously a stressful time, but with prior planning and good time management, both projects were completed and ensured I attended my assessment day, confident in my preparation.

What advice would you give to current students? 
The PTNR course involves a thesis project in the summer to complete the masters. One thing that I would encourage people to do is to apply for the projects that are available in industry, as opposed to staying in Birmingham. The university course is well regarded within the nuclear industry and there are many projects available for study. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only PTNR masters student who has not progressed to a career with their placement organisation. This is a course I would highly recommend.