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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Flight Attendant Using The Pandemic To Train As A Pilot

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Jordan Milano Hazrati’s goal came true when he was offered a job as a flight attendant with Virgin Atlantic.

“It was everything I’d ever wanted — I still can’t believe I did it,” she says. “I was sitting in the flight deck landing at Heathrow on my first flight, and I’ll never forget that view of the sunrise, and feeling so lucky I’d managed to do it.

And the crew are the most amazing people — it really was the people who made the job.”

Hazrati, who formerly worked as a flight attendant for Jet2 in her hometown of Manchester, will relocate to London’s Heathrow airport in February 2020 to begin her dream job.

But it wasn’t to be; eight months later, she became one of the numerous casualties of the aviation industry’s crisis.

Many people would have walked away from an industry in distress. But Hazrati has taken advantage of the pandemic to make a bid for the career she has always secretly desired: that of a pilot.

Runway to the skies

Photo Source Courtesy Jordan Hazrati

Hazrati can’t pinpoint a specific time when she realized she wanted to fly. In fact, she began her career doing something very different: she was a dancer who performed in musicals.

“There were so many points that I thought. ‘Something’s not quite right,’ and I was always attracted to aviation,” she says. “But I never wanted to admit it, for fear of the cost.” Learning to fly is notoriously expensive — and a “big obstacle,” she says, for those not coming from a wealthy background.

In 2017, two things happened: a change in her personal life meant she had a chance to take a leap career-wise, and her parents bought her a flying lesson for her birthday — “they knew how much I loved planes,” she says.

And that was it. “As we went down the runway and then took off, I was addicted. Ten seconds is all it took — the instructor said I was going to manage takeoff, I was terrified rolling down the runway, but did it, got airborne — and got addicted.

” We were looking down at where I went to university, at the M6 motorway which I used to drive every day. I thought this is the perspective I need for the rest of my life.

” When I came down, I said, ‘I’m going to do that.’ The big question, though, was how.”

She couldn’t, however, take the plunge. Learning to fly, she says, is a “lifetime commitment — it costs so much that you have to be certain that this is the right path.”

” It probably wasn’t until I was pushed by the redundancy that I realized I was sure. It came to the point where I thought, not only do I want to do this, but this is a perfect time.”

So, when the epidemic struck, while others were stockpiling as much money as they could, Hazrati did the opposite, deciding to invest everything she had in her ambition of becoming a pilot.

It was cash she’d been saving for years for “something big — whether a deposit for a house or flight training, it really depended on how my career went,” she says.

She’s spent £14,000 ($19,200) since beginning her training in March 2021, but that’s only a portion of the total.

She estimates that qualifying will take up to three years and will cost between £50,000 and £60,000 ($69,000-82,000), and that this is the cheapest option. Some courses cost twice as much.

The Air League, a UK aviation NGO, has also offered her a scholarship to assist her complete her PPL (private pilot license) training.

Hazrati has worked a variety of occupations to stay afloat during the pandemic, including personal trainer, waiter, talking calls for the UK national vaccine line, and Christmas elf.

She also volunteered at a vaccination clinic and is now working as a human factors specialist for another airline, seven jobs later.

But she’s up in the air every week, working towards her ultimate goal. Even when she’s on the ground, she’s studying routes and learning theory; she estimates she spends at least 15 hours each week preparing for her weekly flights. “I’m making the most of every single second,” she says.

Flying solo

Photo Source Courtesy Jordan Hazrati

So, what does she gain by flying?

“The best feeling in the world,” she says. “It sets my soul on fire. Flying is the most incredible, unreal, unique feeling, and only a small proportion of people will ever get to feel it — I feel so grateful.”

Her happiness is evident, both in conversation and in the images she uploads on Instagram.

Hazrati is now ready to fly solo while accumulating hours, but she admits there is “vulnerability” up there on her own.

“But I love the routine and also the challenge — it uses all my brainpower and energy. And the work you do on the ground — all those maps and charts — pays off in the air,” she says.

“You think of what could happen if your airport was closed. You think of backups, look for fields. I love that challenge — it gives me my freedom and some perspective on life.”

Of course, not everyone believes that a cabin crew member would make the best pilot. Cabin crew are known for their outgoing personality; pilots like to joke that they’re staid and serious, which is ideal for flying peacefully.

“That’s a stereotype, and it’s a little dated — a lot of the pilots I’ve flown with are the most incredible characters,” says Hazrati.

“They’re funny and interesting but they have the ability to flip to that focus when they need to. I would go in to offer them tea or coffee and could have been in there chatting for a good hour.

” I’m really bubbly and will speak to everyone, but I also have that ability — I’m quite specific, mathematical and I love procedures. In [annual cabin crew] training, my favorite bits are always the safety procedures, so that’s a good fit for transferring.”

Of course, pilots are frequently regarded as superior to cabin personnel.

“We see the value of each other, but in some areas of the industry there is that hierarchy — pilots are treated more professionally and cabin crew are seen as customer service,” she says.

“Some people would expect to see the pilots walking ahead, with the cabin crew behind — but that’s a legacy from the old days. We’re very much a team — not them in the flight deck and us outside.”

.”Hopefully, an airline will say that I can bridge the gap between the flight deck and the cabin crew – and that’s a barrier that needs to be broken down”.

We want more crew to say, ‘You know what, I really want to fly this thing.'”

Superwoman of the skies

Photo Source Courtesy Jordan Hazrati

Hazrati’s final Virgin Atlantic flight was a repatriation flight from New York to Heathrow in April 2020, assisting customers rushing to see ailing family or returning home during a lockdown.

“We knew we were on the brink of something changing, and a lot of us had an inkling it would be our last flight for a while, if not ever,” she says.

“I remember sitting in the flight deck for landing. The captain said, ‘I hope you all enjoyed that, it’ll be our last for a few months,’ and I cried. I couldn’t believe it was going to be taken away from me. But it was an absolute honor to be on that flight, doing what I love and helping people who needed it.”

In the face of aviation’s recent setbacks, Hazrati has not only begun training during the pandemic, but she has also returned to school, studying for a master’s degree in human aspects and aviation. “I needed to stay connected to the industry to ensure [that when it bounces back] I have something better to offer than when I left,” she says.

“I like learning, so a Masters was always on the cards, and human factors are what I’m interested in, but I wasn’t planning to do it this quickly. The pandemic just sped it all up again.”

Indeed, she sees “human factors” – the ways in which people interact with aircraft, encompassing everything from ergonomics to decision making and occupational psychology – as a big post-pandemic area, as “there’ll be an emphasis on making sure people are OK.”

But, in the end, that pilot aim remains – even though the industry is in the worst situation it has ever been in. She is aware that it takes years to gain experience flying for a legacy airline, and considerably longer to gain experience flying long-distance.

But she’d gladly trade those luxurious cabin crew trips to Johannesburg, Hong Kong, and Los Angeles for short domestic flights if she could sit in the flight deck.

Photos Source Courtesy Jordan Hazrati

Article source: edition.cnn.com

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