“I became an airline pilot after five years in finance”

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Après avoir travaillé durant cinq ans dans la finance, David Robert est devenu pilote de ligne. Il célèbre sur cette photo sa 1000e heure de vol.

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Posted on Feb 5, 2021 2021 at 12:38Updated Feb 8, 2021 2021 at 18:37

“I grew up in Digoin, in Saône-et-Loire. As a teenager, I was passionate about aviation. My room was filled with models, I read books, I played Flight Simulator (flight simulation game, editor's note)… I did my fourth year internship at Saint-Yan airport, a few kilometers from my home . I didn't know that the ten best internship reports from my college would be rewarded with a first flight… which I won! It was my very first time on a plane, it was magical. It confirmed my desire to become an airline pilot.

After my bac S, I integrated a math-physics preparation at the Lycée du Parc, in Lyon. I, who had always been at the head of the class during my schooling, found myself at the back of the pack. It was quite violent. But I kept the same objective: to integrate the National School of Civil Aviation (Enac). After my first year of preparation, I took the entrance exams to join this school. I was pretty confident, but failed. I tried again in second year. Another failure. I had actually not invested enough and I realized that maybe it was not going to work.

A passage through finance, then the obviousness of the vocation

I was interested in maths and finance, so after my prep, I joined the National School of Computer Science for Industry and Business (ENSIIE), in Evry. There, in first year, I wanted to try the Enac competition again. Contest that I missed again. I told myself that I did not have the level, and that I had to bounce back. I put this project aside to specialize in financial engineering.

With my diploma in hand, I was hired at Murex, a trading room software publisher, to join a team that provided functional support. In short, I had to respond to customer requests when the software crashed. A very technical profession. I learned everything in this company in which I was fulfilled. I worked all over Europe, I took the plane almost every week. By the way, it was around this time that I boarded an airliner for the first time! I was 23, it was an Orly-Geneva flight, I had seat 1A, near the window.

At the end of my first year, I decided to take a private pilot's license in my spare time. Twice a month, I left London to spend the weekend in Saône-et-Loire, with my parents. There, I started to fly on a single engine at the airport where I had made my first flight. My instructor was younger than me and was coming out of the Enac. From our first exchange, I understood that deep down, what I wanted was to become a pilot.

Join Enac at age 28

Too old to take the classic Enac competition, I had another idea: to get a private pilot license, then the theoretical ATPL – the theoretical part of the airline pilot license. This paves the way for a parallel competition, which begins directly with the psychotechnical and psychomotor tests, and not with the written tests.

With my private pilot's license in my pocket, I went to London, to work at Crédit Agricole, as an independent consultant, expert on the Murex platform. This job allowed me to save money to take the theoretical ATPL.

For a few months, I took four to five hours each evening after my work day to prepare for this theoretical license. Once obtained, I prepared for the Enac competition. It took me a long time, but I was enjoying it. I tried to correct the mistakes of the three previous tests… and it paid off, I was accepted!

David Robert when he was in training at the National School of Civil Aviation (Enac).

David Robert when he was in training at the National School of Civil Aviation (Enac).DR

In 2016, I quit my job in London to return to London to join the school. I found myself in a class with about twenty students who were between 18 and 22 years old, with the exception of three other students. I grew up in a middle class family, not knowing anyone from aviation. At Enac, I realized that a lot of the students had a loved one in aviation and had flown before – although that doesn't necessarily make it any easier. All of them were brilliant, incredibly mature and very invested. Seeing them, I understood what I had missed ten years earlier. I learned a lot from them.

A very competitive sector

Graduated at the end of 2017, I joined the company easyJet as a co-pilot. I made my first commercial flight on July 18, 2018, a London Gatwick-Malta. I remember it perfectly, especially since… it was the day before I turned 30!

When I drive, I don't feel like I'm working, it's a real pleasure. What I like the most: the piloting part, even if it represents a very small part of the flight. I have wonderful memories of certain flights, especially at sunrise. The passage of the Alps is grandiose, for example. You learn to recognize Mont Blanc, 250 kilometers away when the weather is nice. Arrivals in London, London, Barcelona and Nice are pretty crazy too, with a postcard landscape.

In the collective imagination, finance is a domain of sharks. In reality, it is worse in aviation (laughs). There are a lot of candidates, we are numbers and the selections to join a company are very thorough. During a selection, all the candidates have the same qualifications and the same licenses, it is difficult to show how we stand out.

I am now based in London. Last February, I resigned from easyJet in order to join Air London in May. But the health crisis has passed by there, with the consequences that we know on aviation … My assumption of post was postponed. As a result, I am working in finance again, still for Crédit Agricole, while waiting to resume my activity as an airline pilot. Very soon, I hope. “

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