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: Captain Petter Hornfeldt
Petter Hornfeldt a 35-year-old Training Captain and Type-rating instructor/examiner on the Boeing 737-800 for a major European Low-Cost Carrier. He is originally from Sweden.
He decided that he wanted to become a pilot after he got a test lesson in a Cessna for his 14th birthday. After that, he knew what he wanted to do in life.
He lives in Spain with his wife, two small sons and a dog called Molly.
He has been flying professionally for 15 years loves his job.
Q: Was becoming a pilot your dream? How did your family support and motivate you as you pursued your passion for flight?
Hornfeldt: When I was very young I wanted to be an archaeologist but after having received the gift of a Test Flight-lesson for my 14th birthday from my parents, I got completely hooked on becoming a pilot.
My parents have always supported me and I would not have been able to get this far without their help. It is really important to have the backing of your family in order to make it in this very competitive business.
Q: What was your first flying experience when you joined the aviation industry?
Hornfeldt:I was still in training when I received an invitation to do a acceptance test for my current airline. I had just received all my licenses and I was very excited and nervous when I went for those tests. It was a full three days involving interviews with psychologists and different kinds of numerical, logical and stress tests. It was absolutely incredible to get the news that I had succeeded and could go to Amsterdam to start my type-rating course on the Boeing 737-800. I will never forget that feeling.
Q: How did you adjust your life schedule being a pilot and having to travel every day?Hornfeldt: I have been very fortunate to work for an airline that doesn’t do many overnights. I start at my home-base and I finish at the same base so I always get to sleep in my own bed. This is one of the biggest advantages of working for my current employer.
Moving to a different country is something that I highly recommend to everyone, especially when they are young. It gives you a very good perspective on all sorts of things like politics, religion, healthcare and cultures.
It does take a bit of getting used to, in the beginning. But it all depends on how open you are to new things. If you are curious and positive you will find that moving is not such a bad thing but a truly enriching experience.
Something that I really advise against is trying to commute. That brings out the worst in life and it will very quickly break your morale. If it is at all possible, try to live in the place you are based. It will increase your quality of life a lot.
Q: How do you feel during times of festivals or family celebrations when you’re on duty and away from family and friends?
Hornfeldt: This is one of the big disadvantages of the pilot profession. Every time there is a big public holiday people tend to want to travel. Of course, someone has to fly the aircraft. This means that it’s normally very hard to get annual leave on public holidays. You can spend quite a few of them working. It is not ideal, but you have to come up with ways to cope with it.
Q: What’s your favourite destination to fly to?
Hornfeldt: I have no real favorite route or airport to fly to. We pilots tend to like good, well organised, airports with well functioning approach aids and Air Traffic Control. I personally love flying into Malta, for example, which is an example—and it’s also beautiful.
Q: How you manage collaboration with your captain, as copilots change from flight to flight?
Hornfeldt: We fly with new people almost every day. The way we cope with this is that we have very strict routines. Everyone knows what to do and what to expect from their colleague. These routines in the cockpit are called SOPs—which stands for Standard Operating Procedures. They take away the uncertainty that comes with differences in personality, etc. We all use the same language— English—and we all say and do the same things, no matter where we fly to and who we fly with.
Q: Does putting on your pilot’s uniform make you feel different?Hornfeldt: I am very proud of my uniform. I think everyone who has one should be proud of it. It marks your professionalism as a pilot and it represents both your airline and also the whole industry. That’s why we should always come to work well groomed and with the uniform in perfect order. The travelling public expects to see a professional entering the cockpit. The way you wear your uniform will demonstrate just that. It is a very important tool for showing authority, for branding the airline, and for the industry as a whole.
Q: Was there ever a point in your life when you were scared to fly an airplane?Hornfeldt: No, not really. The pilot job is mostly about avoiding situations that are scary. We are never willingly put ourselves into dangerous situations. We always try to plan ahead and avoid them. Modern aircraft are very reliable and very rarely have any major malfunctions. I am also happy to work for an airline with extremely skilled maintenance personnel.
Q: When finally retire from the pilot life, how do you think you will feel and what will you do next?Hornfeldt: I will probably retire at quite an advanced age if my health allows me. I am a simulator instructor, so I guess that I will probably wind-down with some instruction as I get older and start flying a bit less.
I am also a Virtual Reality entrepreneur. I am making mobile applications so I will probably spend some time doing that as well.
The most important thing is to try and stay healthy.
Q: Do you have any advice for future pilots?
Hornfeldt: Yes, don’t give up your dreams! Never let anyone tell you what is possible and what is not. Remember to keep your family and friends very close to you. They will be the ones supporting you through the first tough years in the industry, and they will be the ones who matter as you get older. Good luck everybody and fly safe!
After talking to Captain Petter Hornfeldt, I was reminded that success is not a destination, but the road that you’re on. Being successful means that you’re working hard and walking your walk every day. You can only live your dream by working hard towards it. Captain Hornfeld is successfully living his dream.
You can follow Captain Petter Hornfeldt on social media:
You Tube Channel: Mentour Pilot
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_ridakhanInstagram : @ridakhan_21Food Blog: Innovative Dishes On Your Way