Reception desk to Right Hand Seat

by Thomas Axson on May 01 2019
Hi, my name is Thomas Axson and I am First Officer for Thomas Cook Airlines UK. I was an Integrated ATPL cadet with L3 between September 2016 and May 2018. I trained in Coventry, Bournemouth and Southampton in the UK and Phoenix in the USA.

As I write this post today, I am 22 years old and therefore a bit younger than many people might expect a First Officer to be. With this fact, you would be forgiven for thinking that I had always been involved with Aviation in some way, however, this could not be much further from the truth. Before I commenced training with L3 (then known as CTC Aviation), I had a total flight time experience amounting to approximately one hour and 15 minutes.

Before I started training, I worked in a local golf and health club for just under four years in various roles. I began my working career as a member of staff that would complete most jobs that no one else was prepared to do, then being promoted three times during my time to eventually becoming a Duty Manager just before I turned 20. Despite knowing that my career aspirations were 35,000ft above my head, I always approached each day with as much energy and positivity as I could possibly give. The job itself was so comfortable for me, I ended up going back to the club to work after completing my training in order to earn some extra money whilst I waited for my opportunity to get the job of my dreams.

Despite the quick career progression in the Country Club industry, I knew that my career would take me skywards and I believe that there are many transferable skills between the industries. The most obvious skill that I found was the ability to communicate without the luxury of talking face to face. About 50% of my communication at the Country Club reception was over the phone, therefore the skill of being clear and precise with vocabulary to convey accurate information was not something new to me when I started to communicate over an airborne radio frequency, or just to the Captain sat across the cockpit from me. Another vital pilot skill that I practised at the Country Club was multitasking, this ability to process multiple pieces of information at the same time is required at various times in a flight deck environment, especially during high capacity situations such as take-off and final approach. So, even though working in the Country Club industry might not necessarily be seen as ideal preparation for a career in the flight deck, I believe it was all good experience for me.

When I left my job at the club for the final time, I also gave up a lifestyle that I had known for many years and had become very comfortable with. Instead of being able to see my friends frequently, I am now having to forward plan my time a lot more effectively for when I go back to visit home. I had also always lived in my hometown, so most of my family and friends are centred around where I grew up.

Despite all of this, I am now in my dream job, with a fantastic company and I am making new friends every day whilst at 35,000ft. I have really enjoyed being taken out of my comfort zone as I’m someone who loves a new challenge along with exploring new places. In the first few months of my career, I was told that my base would be Glasgow (a city I had never spent any meaningful time in) and I have loved every second of it. Even though I have only spent a short amount of time in Scotland, I am due to be moving to Thomas Cook’s base at London Gatwick in the next few months which is another challenge that I can not wait to tackle head-on.

I have already flown into three of our UK bases and I am expecting to fly from another two bases within the next couple of months. I have moved away from my home town and then had the opportunity to move back towards my family home after just a few months. I am well looked after and have been made to feel like part of a family since joining Thomas Cook late last year. The occasional familiar face has helped with my transition to the airline industry but the fact that I have only had positive experiences whilst working for Thomas Cook so far has been the best way for me to begin my career in commercial aviation.

Aviation is a very dynamic industry, with things changing and procedures being amended occasionally. The industry is constantly evolving with new aircraft and new airlines which makes it an extremely exciting place to be a part of at the moment.

Where will the future take me? That is a question that I can’t answer now, but I can be sure of one thing, I will have a smile on my face whilst I gain more experience and memories.

- Thomas