Living the dream with Qantas pilot, Davida Forshaw
Jasper: Did you always want to be a pilot?
Davida: I always wanted to have a life that was full of adventure. I probably thought about being an astronaut first and I assumed the best way to be an astronaut was to be a pilot.
Jasper: Did you have any inspirational role models when you were growing up? Davida:
Sally Ride was an American astronaut, physicist and engineer. She was the first American woman to go to space and I just thought she was awesome.
Davida learning to fly!
Jasper: When did you learn to fly?
Davida: I learnt to fly when I was 16. I was always talking about wanting to be a pilot, so my family got me a flying lesson for my birthday and I was hooked.
Jasper: So you learnt to fly before you learnt to drive?
Davida: Yes – I actually had my pilot’s licence 10 days before my 17th birthday, which is how old you have to be to hold a pilot’s licence. So I had to wait 10 days to take my dad up as my first passenger and he had to drive me to the airport!
Jasper: What was it like the first time you flew by yourself?
Davida: The first time I went solo, I was 16 years old. I was flying a Cessna 152, and I remember being really diligent and doing all my checks, lining up on the runway, taking off and then the airplane jumped in the air – it was lighter because my instructor wasn’t sitting next to me. I got to 100ft before I let myself do a great big “Woohoo!!”. Every pilot remembers their first solo flight. You never forget it, ever.
Taking Dad as my first passenger - Moorabbin Airport
Jasper: What’s the Boeing 787’s coolest feature?
Davida: It’s got lots of pretty cool features but probably the best is the FMC or ‘Flight Management Computer’. We talk to the FMC through a fancy iPad and it sends information to control the autopilot. For example, we tell the FMC the route, speed and altitude we’d like to fly at and it plans the flight, offering us suggestions which we can accept or reject. It can also send text messages so we can talk to Qantas in Sydney or air traffic control.
Jasper: Do pilots get the same airline food as the passengers or do they get something special?
Davida: The pilots get to eat special crew food made especially for them. It’s different from the passengers food and each pilot eats a different meal from the other pilots at dinner time.
Jasper: Why do all the pilots need to eat different meals?
Davida: Just in case anyone has any food allergies or intolerances. In everything that we do when we fly, we always try to guard against remote possibilities, so this tradition has stuck around.
Flying my first Qantas jet - a Boeing 747SP
Jasper: What’s it like inside the flight deck?
Davida: It’s roomier than you would think! We can fit four people in there very easily and a couple of visitors when the flight attendants come in. It’s cleverly designed so that from the front two seats, you can manage the whole airplane and get to every switch or button as well as talk to the FMC.
Jasper: Do you really know what every single switch and button does?
Davida: Yes, because every switch has its name written on it! When we learn to fly the Dreamliner, we get to turn all the switches on and off to practice what they do.
Jasper: Where do you sleep?
Davida: We have a special crew rest area which is like a cubby house. It’s in the roof above business class and you access it through a secret door, which looks like a cupboard door. No one even knows it’s there. We’ve got a big chair and bunk beds side by side. It’s really quiet and dark. Perfect for sleeping.
Jasper: What’s the hardest part of your job?
Davida: The most challenging part is that there’s lots of things you have to learn. You have to do quite a bit of study, but one of the best parts of the job is the friends you make and we really help each other by sharing information and knowledge.
Jasper: Are there many other female pilots?
Davida: We have around 2,000 pilots and 100 female pilots, so they make up about 5%.
Jasper: Why are there so few females?
Davida: I think it’s been a stereotype problem. When many people picture a pilot, they see a man - so a lot of girls don’t consider flying for a career. But we’re out to change that. I’m often asked by people: “Have you been able to get married and have children with your job?” and I say “Yes!”. I think it’s a funny question because the flight attendants, who are assumed to be women, get married and have kids and they fly the exact same hours as the pilots with the same kind of lifestyle.
Jasper: Where do you see the future of jet travel heading?
Davida: What’s next for Qantas is Project Sunrise, which is where we’re looking to be able to fly directly from Sydney to New York or Sydney to London. The Dreamliner can do Perth to London in one go already and we’re looking at going that bit extra. There’s a lot of work being done in fuel-saving technology and we’re hoping to fly further within the next couple of years.
Davida’s advice for aspiring pilots:
You need a P.H.D.
P is for Passion: Find your passion and surround yourself with people who are passionate about what you want to do.
H is for Health: Eat well and exercise so that you have a healthy body and mind.
D is for Decision: Through your life, learn to become a self-evaluator. When you do something, ask yourself: “How did that go? What could I do better next time?”. Challenge yourself to be the best person that you can be.
Jasper: Thank you so much Davida. I hope I get to fly with you one day soon!
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