In this special AvGeek series, Flight Chic guest writer Rida Khan has candid conversations with pilots who share their passion for flight and what inspired them to pursue a life in the clouds.
To most people the sky is the limit. To those who love flying, the sky is home. Once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards. There you find your wings. All you have to do is FLY.
Interview: Pilot Rick Ruiz
Rick Ruiz is originally from Miami, Florida in the U.S. He is an international Boeing 747 pilot with the world’s largest operator of that aircraft type flying to destinations all over the world. He previously flew the Boeing 767 and then 777, so his experience as an airline pilot is purely in the heavy jet long-haul realm of flying.
Q: Was becoming a pilot your dream? How did your family support and motivate you as you pursued your passion for flight?Ruiz: There was never a time growing up as a boy that my gaze wasn’t skyward. I always wanted to fly. My parents always fostered that love for what I found so fascinating. As a little boy, I’d spend hours on end watching airplanes take off and land alongside both my mom and dad. I’d read book after book and basically taught myself everything I could. I attended flight school in Sanford, Florida and throughout the entire experience, I had the relentless support of the entire family.
Q: What was your first flying experience when you joined the aviation industry?
Ruiz: There are countless stories and anecdotes, but a pilot’s first commercial flight is almost as unforgettable as his first solo flight. I learned really fast that you better be quick and think on your feet. Anticipate situations and NEVER let the airplane take you somewhere you haven’t been to mentally 5 minutes prior.
Q: How did you adjust your life schedule being a pilot and having to travel everyday?
Ruiz: I live and adjust to local time wherever in the world I happen to be. I listen to my body when it comes to mealtimes and sleep cycles. I exercise a lot, keep away from alcohol, stay very hydrated and eat healthy and balanced meals.
Q: How do you feel during times of festivals or family celebrations when you’re on duty and away from family and friends?
Ruiz: That is probably one of the few drawbacks in a pilot’s life. You do tend to miss out on a lot of important dates and events. But that’s why the understanding and support of your family is paramount in this line of work.
Q: What’s your favourite destination to fly to?
Ruiz: Every continent has beautiful places. I’m particularly partial to Europe and South America. Asia and the Middle East have fantastic destinations and Africa is a land of such contrasts and beauty. Australia and the South Pacific never disappoint but my favourite place to fly to is home at the end of long days on the road.
Q: How you manage collaboration with your captain, as copilots change from flight to flight?
Ruiz: We as airline pilots work in a very standardised profession because of that very reason. You need to operate the aircraft exactly the same way every time regardless of who you happen to be flying with that day. That’s where standardisation becomes so important. We also operate in an open and light environment and every one’s input and critique is welcomed, regardless of rank, in the interest of operational safety.
Q: Does putting on your pilot’s uniform make you feel different?
Ruiz: I feel no different. You make the uniform. The uniform doesn’t make you…or at least that’s how I see it.
Q: Was there ever a point in your life when you were scared to fly an airplane?
Ruiz: Not really scared. You do, however, take the necessary precautions and adhere strictly to standard operating procedures regardless of flight conditions or aircraft status. But I will confess, I still get a warm and fuzzy feeling when I’m about to land in a very strong crosswind. I actually really enjoy it!
Q: When finally retire from the pilot life, how do you think you will feel and what will you do next?
Ruiz: A lot of pilots continue on as instructors, so I see myself doing that. And I will definitely still fly small airplanes.
Q: Do you have any advice for future pilots?
Ruiz: It’s a beautiful and rewarding career full of adventure, far off destinations and it still holds the lore and romance of yesteryear. Be prepared to be away. Work diligently both through the easy and hard chapters of your formative years. Have someone supportive by your side. And, most importantly, remember to never underestimate the responsibility you have been entrusted with. Always be conservative in your calculations and actions because by getting home safe to your family every time, you have gotten your passengers safe to theirs.
After speaking with pilot Rick Ruiz, it’s clear that he is passionate, dedicated, and relentless in the pursuit of his life goals. These qualities make him successful.
You can follow pilot Rick Ruiz on Twitter: @miami_rick
Guest writer Rida Khan is a foodie blogger with a hunger for a big slice of the skies. A native of Bhopal, India, Khan writes about food and aviation and is working on an airline inflight food research project. She also posts healthy food recipes for pilots and travellers on social media.
You can follow Rida Khan on Social Media:
- Twitter : @mohd_ridakhan
- Instagram : @ridakhan_21
- Food Blog : Innovative Dishes On Your Way