is a 27 years old Volotea pilot from Italy. We talked to him about his life as a pilot as well as his travel secrets and stories.
Erik, thank you so much for talking to us today! Please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I was born in Italy, in a small city next to Trieste on the border between Italy and Slovenia. For all those who cannot locate this city on a map, well… just place my hometown somewhere 150km East of Venice, a well known city in Northern Italy. I work as a First Officer for Volotea, a very fast growing Spanish low cost airline. I love sports, animals and travel but as you might guess it’s not that easy to combine all of them. I have a dog, that unfortunately cannot follow me on my journeys or stay with me in my home base, but I am lucky enough to have my mum who is taking great care of him, back at home. I love sports but I have one of the most sedentary jobs you can think of, with a non 9to5 working schedule and sometimes even fitting in sports can be tough, especially when it comes to team sports like Crossfit or others. Luckily we don’t need a gym to be active, and water sports or plain running many times satisfy my needs. As many of us I went to high school and then to the university where I studied agriculture. I graduated and later started my aviation career.
When and why did you decide to become a pilot?
I always wanted to be a pilot, from a very young age I was dreaming about those huge flying machines and kept asking my parents to bring me to the airport, just to watch them taking off and landing. For me, it was a dream job, and I am lucky I made my dream a reality. But it was a dream, and I had to manage to make it a reality. I don’t have anyone in my family involved in the aviation business and every time I asked my parents about how to become a pilot, there was always the same reply: it’s not easy, you don’t need to have this, do this, do that, only a few people can do it, it costs money, it’s dangerous etc etc… It seemed impossible, it seemed as if I was not good enough or that it was just a dream, like any other child has one. For this reason I went the classic way. High school, university in a field where I would work without many “uffs or bahs” and MSc, but as we all know, when you study something that you don’t fully love, specially at a Master degree level, problems start to arise. First exams went very fine, but it was spring when I had the opportunity to be invited for a UK “round-trip” and with some personal savings I flew out of Bergamo to Manchester, and ended up in London, the city where my best friend used to live for the last couple of months. I flew back to Italy with one of the most famous LCC in Europe on a blue and yellow aircraft and had the opportunity to use an empty row (yes! An empty row all for myself) and took my window seat and relaxed. Just moments before departure a First Officer came and sat down in the same row in the aisle seat. When I think about that day, I am still sorry for the guy, who was unable to relax for the whole flight. This is something that very few amount people know: It was on that day, on that flight while admiring an amazing sunset and after my conversation with that pilot that we came to a conclusion. If this is your dream, and you always think about it, go for it. The morning after I searched for a flight school. A few weeks later I went for my medical examinations and YES, I was (and I am) able to get a First Class Aviation Medical. My career in aviation took off. 14 months later I was holding my Commercial Pilot license.
That’s a fantastic story! Congrats on scoring your dream job, Erik! What do you love most about your job?
I love my job. When people ask me about my job, I always think I do not have a job. I turned my biggest childhood dream and passion into my job . I love everything about it. I love the amount of study behind it, the strong cooperation between people, the respect, timetables, efficiency and the magic of flying itself. I honestly think to be a morning person, but wake up calls at 03:00 AM are very difficult for me too, but the energy you get from your crew, the smiles and the views we get every day, is something I wish every person on earth could “taste” once in a lifetime. I love the uniform and our passengers, but if you ask me to rate all of this from 1 to 10, well… first place will be without any doubt the view of amazing sunrises and sunsets from 10km above the earth.
How do you spend the time at the destinations you travel to for your job?
Our Low Cost operation does not give us the opportunity to stay at our destination. We operate point to point flights and I always have the opportunity or privilege to leave from home in the morning or afternoon and come back home to sleep in my bed. There are some rare layovers, and in that case I try to make the most of it. Sometimes you are very short on time and the best thing I might think of is to spend some hours in the Hotel to rest, sleep or if any spa is available nearby just relax. If time permits it, I love to explore the city. I usually prepare my itinerary at home a few days before and try to stick to it as best as I can.
What is it that you always take with you on your flights?
By law every time I fly as flight crew we have to take our documents with us. Flight Crew License, medical attestation, passport and some other certificates are among them. I do have a crew bag with me…and what is inside? My crew bag, beside the “mandatory” items there’s at least a t-shirt and spare underwear, the high visibility jacket that is mandatory to be used on the apron of any airport, a good flashlight to be used during dark hours for aircraft inspection, a handbag ready toiletry kit with a toothbrush and some other essentials and, for me essential, MY CAMERA or (cameras).
How do you travel as a private person? What is important to you?
As a private person I do travel quite a lot. It is not a secret that we pilots have some discounted travel agreement (not all airlines do have the same benefits and agreement, but most of them do), and for this reason I have the opportunity to move between cities at very good rates even without booking the ticket in advance, in fact I usually decide on a last moment basis about my holiday destinations or mid-week breaks. Usually for a 4/5 days trip I travel “light”. I always travel around by plane, but there were few occasions when I moved around by train or boat. I love trains as well, but I do not like boats at all. I tend to get seasick. Yes, I am a pilot and I do suffer sea sickness. My handbag and camera backpack are all I take with me. Jeans, t-shirts and some hoodies are all I pack. If not in uniform I am a very sporty/casual person, but something I always have with me is my camera (and when I am on holidays I have with me a GoPro as well). As a frequent traveler, I would like to give you some very good advice. Get yourself a good hand luggage suitcase. Wether you like to have a hard shell or a soft one, please be kind to yourself Get a good quality one. It will cost a little bit more, but it will be for “life”. I personally prefer hard shell ones, since I feel my stuff inside is more protected and if it happens that my hand luggage will be checked in, then I am fully at ease with my hard shell suitcase. When I do travel for a longer time, I am not a light passenger at all. Hand luggage, checked bag and backpack. Everything goes inside and off we go! I am a pilot, but I travel a lot as a passenger and I would like to spend a few moments on a very important matter for me: Please – when you are boarding for a flight, just try to remain human. All airplanes have a limited amount of space in the overhead bins for our carry ons and there is no point to hate, attack or be rude with check-in airport personnel when they ask us to check our handbag for free. Most of the times they do it to save our on time departure of the flight and they are always instructed by crews. They are doing their job, please; be kind and respectful.
Talking about boarding and airport personnel – which one is your favourite airport and why?
This is a very difficult question for me. I do not have an overall favourite airport. I have some favorites and they are all for different reasons. I feel very attached to my hometown airport, LIPQ (TRS) Trieste Airport. There I completed my first flight as a pilot student, my first ladings and my first solo flight release. I love that airport. If it comes to flying to a destination, then handling-wise, I love Santorini. They are very kind, precise and helpful. If you land there around lunch or dinner time we are even able to ask them to get for us some typical greek food to be delivered on board and off we go, back in the air with some greek taste at FL350. On the other side the airport facilities are very small and sometimes during summertime it’s very crowded. Do you want to know what is the best view we can get? In my opinion the best airport view is in Venice (Marco Polo). If you are lucky enough to land there during daytime, be sure to get (or book) a window seat on the right side of the airplane (usually its row F) and during the very last moments of the flight you will be able to see Venice as never before. Same story is true for departure as well, but in that case you’ll see Venice from a way higher altitude. Trust me, the view is great (see picture below)! As a passenger I can tell you that I like many different airports. Rome Fiumicino is always very clean, Malpensa has great shops, Gatwick some tasty restaurants and Madrid an amazing duty free and architecture. I love airports overall. I feel at home when at an airport and yes, it’s true: at the airport we can see the most authentic hugs and kisses, real feelings and tears.
What’s the craziest story that ever happened to you as a pilot?
That is a good question. Well, luckily, nothing related to safety of the flight or crew ever happened to me (as you know, our highest priority is always safety and the industry has very high standards), but I have an anecdote from last summer that I would love to share. We just completed boarding for one of our flights to Heraklion and all of a sudden, without prior notice, we got a CTOT (calculated take off time) in 2 hours from that moment, with a possibility of a slight improvement. The news caught me and the captain completely unprepared, and the decision about keeping all our passengers inside the aircraft for that long was very hard to make. Improvement was possible, but hard. With our passengers inside, as soon as any improvement would be available we could take off, and thus reduce the delay, but by disembarking them they would have had the possibility to walk around the terminal and/or take some fresh air. In the end we decided to explain the situation in a very simple but satisfactory way, since we both knew it’s something very interesting. We went for a passenger announcement that sounded like “in the meantime, while we are on the ground, if anyone will be interested, just come to the very front and we’ll show you the cockpit”. One third of the aircraft came to visit us! I was very happy to show passengers of all ages my office but something in the following days left me in tears. I do daily read my messages request on Instagram Direct, and by chance I found this: “How coincidental can some encounters be! You were my pilot on the flight to Crete. Because of our large delay you were so kind to let us into the cockpit. The whole crew was very polite and helpful. A few days ago I saw your picture on Instagram and I just wanted to say hello and thank you”. Thank you to this passenger. It is an absolute pleasure and joy to have you on board and do my (our) best for a safe, comfortable and on time flight. Remember… when on Instagram I encourage you to fly with me via my profile, it’s not figurative… I really mean that! See you on board!
Wow, thank you so much for sharing your experience as a pilot with us today and for giving us such detailed insights into your dream job! We wish you a lot of pleasant flights and lovely passengers in the future!