In this series of blogs, we hear from Bristol Groundschool students about their time studying with us, why they chose to become a pilot and what they’ve gone on to achieve since gaining their ATPL/CPL.
After completing her ATPL theory with Bristol Groundschool, Cherry Charters now works as a Pilot for Susi Air in Indonesia.
Here she shares her story about why she chose to become a pilot, the best parts about her job and her experience training with Bristol Groundschool.
How did you get into aviation?
I was backpacking around Africa when I was 19 and saw a Cessna Caravan flying over Victoria Falls, was smitten and kept thinking about it. I’ve always loved motorbikes, classic cars, boats and aeroplanes. When I got to Malawi, I found an Internet cafe and googled local flying schools near my home in Kent, booked a trial lesson for my return to England and went from there. I went for the self-funded modular route.
In February 2021 I received an email from Susi Air inviting me out to Indonesia. By June 2021 I was in Indonesia completing the training as a First Officer on the Cessna 208B Grand Caravan and I’ve been here ever since. It is as good as I dreamed for all those years. I am grateful that I have continued to fly throughout the pandemic, and I am grateful that my company reached out to me when they were able to and continue my intake process from before covid even existed. Loyalty in aviation is valuable for both pilot and airline.
Why did you choose a career as a pilot?
I originally studied Travel and tourism at school, with the dream of being an air hostess. I thought because I need glasses to correct my vision that I was eliminated from pursuing a career as a pilot. As soon as I found out that wasn’t the case, I commenced my pilot training!
What’s the best part about your job as a pilot?
The views from the cockpit, especially here in Indonesia. Flying at 11,000ft and still seeing volcanoes and mountains beside and above you. From the gorgeous cloud formations and the endless jungle to island hopping in the Mentawai Islands or the Riau Archipelago. Medical evacuations are very rewarding as you feel like you are helping people who would otherwise have to go by road which would take all day, or by boat if they live on one of the remote islands we often fly to. There is never a dull moment flying for Susi Air; it’s like a big family as the pilots and mechanics live and work together and the flying is sensational. We are busy and do lots of flying each month. It’s an incredible experience for building skills as it involves up to 9 sectors a day meaning lots of landings and hand flying, with a variety of cargo from local people to live lobsters!
I also love the lifestyle outside of work. Moving bases around Indonesia each month and getting to see so much of the country that is difficult to get to as a tourist. Spotting the beautiful exotic birds and endemic wildlife here, taking small fishing boats to uninhabited islands to snorkel, riding motorbikes on solo road trips across Sumatera, hanging out with the other pilots in Bali, shopping in the local markets for veggies and learning the Bahasa Indonesian language so I can communicate with the locals, and of course the stunning weather!
Where did you train and how was your experience?
I did my gliding at Challock, and my PPL at Skytrek Rochester airport. I did my ATPL written exams with Bristol Ground School (of course!) and my commercial, Instrument and MEP training at Stapleford. My aerobatics and vintage Tailwheel flying is with the Tiger Club. It was all either self-funded and paid for as I went (modular) or scholarships in the form of the Air League Bristol Ground School scholarship, a night rating from the Air League, and a Gliding scholarship.
What was your experience of training with BGS?
Brilliant, I took my time with it and worked at the weekends, while also hour building and indulging in building my Tailwheel and vintage flying experience and aerobatics. The online question bank was fantastic and I would just take it travelling with me. I remember travelling to Hong Kong from London via train for two months along the Trans Siberian express route and taking my paper whizz wheel and study material with me to continue studying on the long train journeys across Russia and Mongolia. I got quite a lot of studying done as at some points the train didn’t stop for 4 consecutive days!
The classes in Bristol were very good and there was a good support system. I would always recommend the distance learning and modular route if you are a self-motivated individual as you can build your hours and you will save a lot of money.
I also have an unforgettable memory as I was invited to St James Palace in London for the Air League Award Ceremony and it was the last time HRH Prince Philip attended and I met him and we had a chat about vintage aircraft! I would never have had that experience if I didn’t apply for the Bristol Ground School scholarship.
What advice would you give women looking to become pilots?
Believe in yourself.