Tuesday, May 20th, 2014
When we asked our Facebook fans, ’What would you love to ask a pilot?’, one of the most common themes focussed on the favourite airports of pilots, as well as how they operate for take-offs and landings. Well, you asked the questions, and here are the answers from one of our pilots!
Toby A - Where is your favourite place to land?
I find each airport has its appealing aspects and interesting challenges, and I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. A couple of my favourites are Sydney because of the scenery and landmarks like the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge, Adelaide over the rolling hills and looking over the ocean on approach, and my home town of Melbourne. It’s great to recognise all the major roads, and seeing the MCG lit up at night is a pretty special view.
Melissa S - What’s the hardest airport in Australia to land in and why?
Regional airports tend to be more challenging, due to the types of on-ground navigation systems. At major capital city airports, we have instrument landing aids, which often aren’t available at regional ports. Our training as pilots however allows us a great deal of expertise and knowledge of managing air space at regional airports.
And the great thing about all this is that my job remains really interesting and challenging with so many different factors to consider, based on the airports you’re flying into. So in many ways, the more challenging airports can be just as enjoyable because you are able to use different skills during take-off and landing.
Jayne S - Can you actually take off or land a plane on automatic pilot or any other system?
The short answer here is no. At Virgin Australia, all take-offs are manually flown by pilots. We have systems that allow for automatic landings if necessary, however it’s rare to use these. The main reason why these may be used occasionally is to assist if we’re landing in heavy fog or other very tricky conditions. We are trained and tested on these systems regularly, but for the vast majority of flights, pilots will land the aircraft manually.
Peter F - Why is that sometimes when you are descending the whole process is quite smooth, whereas other times you are appear to descend much faster? Also is it true that when you are descending, you switch the engines off?
When we begin a descent, the engines remain running at idle. This is similar to being at traffic lights in your car. The engine is still running, but no power is being applied to the accelerator. In an aircraft, this is the same with thrust in the engines. When engines are at idle and the nose of the aircraft is tilted down slightly, the aircraft will begin its decent.
During the last 20-30 minutes of a flight, most manoeuvres are done to position the aircraft into a landing sequence that is managed by air traffic controllers. To do this, some aircraft might be sped up slightly to get into sequence, and other times they might need to be slowed down slightly. This is why passengers might feel a decent is slightly quicker or very gradual, as it’s all a matter of getting into sequence for landing.
Peter C - Why do you have your headlights on when landing in the daytime?
Having lights on during the day is just another way to improve visibility between aircraft and air traffic control.
Alice A - How do you remember everything? All the switches, all the buttons.
It might look like a random panel of switches, but all controls are split into sections. You’ll have a fuel panel, electrical panel, or the air-conditioning panel for example, and all of these are checked prior to take-off. A lot of the switches are only used if the pilots need to override an automated system. So while we need to know the location and actions of every switch, they are only used if needed.
John M - How do you land and stop those aircraft from that speed and weight?
There’s several ways that we slow the aircraft down. During flight, the wing is streamlined to be a high-speed flying wing, but we can slow ourselves down by extending the flaps on the wing to create the same amount of lift, but at a lower speed. This is the main way we slow the aircraft down in the air. When the aircraft touches down on the ground, the majority of the weight in the landing is taken by the main wheels. Then, quite a lot of things happen in an automated sequence. Once we’re on the ground, we want to stay there, so you’ll notice the wing spoilers lift up, which removes the amount of lift from the wing. An auto-brake system can be set to the length of runway, aircraft weight and conditions, and this will kick in after 2 seconds of landing. These procedures used to be activated by pilots, but the automated process means they can be activated much quicker than human reaction times, and that’s important when you’re landing at 280km p/hour! Although the systems are automated, pilots will have a discussion about the settings used based on the current conditions, to ensure the landing is as smooth and efficient as possible.
We hope this was a helpful insight into the life of a pilot and how aspiring aviators can follow their dreams. Stay tuned for more of your questions answered by our pilots!
Friday, May 9th, 2014
When the question of, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?‘ is asked, ‘a pilot’ tends to be one of the more popular answers that young children respond with. But what does it take to become a pilot, and how does someone start their journey? Recently, we asked our Facebook fans to submit questions that they would love to ask a pilot. Well, you asked the questions, and here are the answers from our pilots!
Andrew C - How did you manage to become an airline pilot?
From a young age I was very keen to become a pilot. To take up flying straight out of school was difficult due to the extensive hours and training needed, and the associated costs involved. I became an electrician for the first 12 years after high school, but during that time the desire to become a pilot stayed with me. After I was earning more money from my day job, I was able to start flight training, so I was essentially a self-funded pilot. I did all my own training and gained all the licences to fly commercially, including my instructor rating.
After gaining my commercial license, I resigned from my job as an electrician and went in search of paid flying roles. I found work for 4 years in Darwin, flying lighter aircraft before progressing into a regional airline role in NSW for 4 years. I was then lucky enough to work in England for 4 years, before being offered a role as a pilot with Virgin Australia. I’ve been at Virgin Australia for just over 11 years, and a Captain for the past 9 years.
Susan S - What made you want to become a pilot?
I was lucky enough to have an uncle who was heavily involved in aviation, and visiting his home when I was a young boy was what sparked my interest. He had a flight simulator in his backyard shed, called a Link Trainer. It was an early simulator used to train pilots in WWII. I was able to use the simulator during these early years, and that got me interested to pursue flying when I was older.
Brodie L - How long does it take to be a pilot?
It can depend greatly on the path you take, but generally I’d suggest it’s a minimum of 5 years, which is the commitment you’d need to make to the profession. After that time, it’s likely that you’ve gathered the qualifications and experience to seek employment to continue the career path with more steady income. In a way, it’s a like a trade apprenticeship, or studying medicine – you need to spend a substantial amount of time learning and practicing before you’re able to begin permanent employment.
Shannon H - How did it feel the first time you landed and took off after you graduated?
Funnily enough, your first flight is quite lonely as you’re by yourself without an instructor in a light aircraft. There’s definitely a sense of achievement, however you’ve trained a lot for that situation so you feel very ready to take control.
Andy W - What would your recommendations be for getting into a commercial pilot position?
Dedication is the key characteristic needed to become a pilot. It’s not a career path to take on lightly, and you need to have the self-belief to stick with it, as it takes many years of training before you are able to enter a paid position. For younger aspiring pilots, completing Year 12 with a focus on Maths, Science and Physics can definitely be helpful. After school, there are various paths to take. You could look at joining the RAAF, a cadet program such as Virgin Australia’s own program, studying a degree in aviation, or building your experience via self-funding.
Josh R - My son wants to be a pilot when he is older. What is the best study path for him to take to achieve his dream?
There are plenty of ways to be involved in the aviation at a young age, and you can actually gain your private pilot licence at 16. Aside from ensuring you complete your high school studies, there are cadet programs – including Virgin Australia’s own cadet program – as well as Scout aviation initiatives in some states, which are great ways for younger people to start their journey. Being involved in your local aero club and going for a joy flight with a trained pilot can also be a great introduction.
We hope this was a helpful insight into the life of a pilot and how aspiring aviators can follow their dreams. Stay tuned for more of your questions answered by our pilots!
Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
The Flying Maiden was originally developed in the style of Alberto Vargas, a pinup artist of the 1940s whose work was famously emulated on the nose of many WWII aircraft.
She was then contemporised by brand design firm Hulsbosch for Virgin Australia.
She is the stylish guardian of your Virgin Australia experience whether flying between capital cities or between countries.
The Flying Maiden is seen on the side of Virgin Australia aircraft, at our airport terminals and lounges around the country. Our partner airline, Virgin Atlantic also features its own version of the Flying Maiden, the Scarlet Lady, on its aircraft.
When travelling with us, many of our guests enjoy taking photos of the Flying Maiden. Please share your photos with us on the Virgin Australia Facebook page, @virginaustralia on Twitter or #virginaustralia on Instagram.
Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
This Christmas Eve, Virgin Australia head chef Luke Mangan has shared his Christmas Day cooking tips with us.
Virgin Australia head chef Luke Mangan
“When preparing a meal for guests, I like to cook a variety of sharing dishes – I put all the dishes in the middle of the table so everyone can help themselves to as little or as much as they like; it creates a nice atmosphere and interaction at the table and creates conversation. It also means that you don’t need to fuss over table settings and decorations as your food will be the centre of attention at the table.
Try to prepare as much as possible in advance so you aren’t stuck in the kitchen while all your guests are enjoying themselves and remember it’s okay to delegate, most people don’t like to turn up empty handed – if everyone brings one thing then it’s not a big job for anyone. If you are relaxed then your guests will be relaxed too.
Don’t be afraid to sway from the traditional Christmas lunch if you aren’t up for cooking a big Turkey. Australia provides the perfect climate for cold lunches and casual BBQs; think fresh prawns & salads, whole fish and pre- glazed ham
Try to cook things you have done before, keep it simple and don’t try to be too tricky – it is better to do a couple of simple things really well using good produce.
For drinks; chilled whites and roses are particularly good choices on Christmas day and go perfect with turkey, ham and seafood. But really it is all about what you like to drink. A big bowl of punch is always a winner for when family arrive, you can experiment with champagne, ginger, ales and fruit juices topped with fresh seasonal fruits and lots of ice – it’s really refreshing and not too heavy for a pre-lunch drink”
We’re getting into the spirit of Christmas Day too, offering guests flying Virgin Australia tomorrow a traditional turkey lunch and dinner service.
Turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwiches in the Virgin Australia Brisbane lounge
Merry Christmas from the Virgin Australia team.
Friday, November 1st, 2013
We’re celebrating the official launch of our new flagship Sydney lounge by offering race-goers a unique Melbourne Cup Carnival Hat Valet service.
As travellers head south for the “race that stops a nation”, porters will be on standby in the lead-up to the Melbourne Cup to offer eligible guests a personalised Hat Valet service, ensuring premium handling of the most important part of any race day outfit.
A range of pre-flight pampering options will also be offered including blow-dries, make-up kits by Model Co and a shoe-shining service, all designed to ensure guests arrive ready for the race.
The special service will be exclusively available in Virgin Australia’s newly transformed Sydney domestic lounge. The flagship lounge now stretches across two levels, welcomes up to 500 guests and features unique design elements including illuminated bars and curved glass privacy screens.
The service will be exclusively offered in the premium kerbside entrance of Virgin Australia’s new Sydney domestic lounge to Business Class guests, Velocity Platinum, Gold, lounge members and alliance lounge eligible guests.
The Hat Valet service will allow eligible guests with carry-on baggage to check-in their hat box straight from the lounge, enabling them to skip the terminal. Porters will hand-deliver the hat boxes to the aircraft. Upon arrival into Melbourne, the hat boxes will be personally returned to the guest.
The service will be available at the following times:
Thursday 31 October – 12.00pm – 2.35pm
Friday 1 November – 8.00am – 12.35pm
Saturday 2 November –Tuesday 5 November – 7.00am – 11.35am
Thursday 31 October – 12.00pm – 2.00pm
Friday 1 November – Tuesday 5 November – 7.00am – 11.00am
Saturday 2 November – 7.00am – 11.00am
Tuesday 5 November – 7.00am – 11.00am
Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Unless of course your name is Joel Selwood from the Geelong FC or Jonathan Brown from Brisbane Lions FC or you played for Hawthorn, Sydney, the West Coast Eagles, Port Adelaide, Collingwood or Essendon in the last 10 years.
History tells us that these clubs have all shared that ‘Premiership winning feeling’ in recent years with the likes of Geelong & Brisbane winning 3 flags each.
In the history of the VFL/AFL, playing for any of Carlton, Richmond, Essendon, Hawthorn, Melbourne, and North Melbourne would have given you a good chance of playing in a flag, not so much playing for the Bulldogs or the Saints.
What history also tells us is there are a lot of us former VFL/AFL Players walking the earth who have not played in a Premiership. I will forever and a day be introduced or identified as ‘former AFL player Justin Peckett as opposed to former AFL & Premiership Player Justin Peckett. I had my chance, but along with the team I was playing in we were not good enough on the day to achieve the ultimate glory of an AFL Premiership
In 1997, I was playing for the St.Kilda FC and we played in the Grand Final against the Adelaide Crows. The Saints had been in the competition for well over 100 years and up until that stage had only won one Premiership. That was a famous win by a single point against Collingwood in 1966. Adelaide on the other hand had only been in the AFL competition for about 7 years. Obviously no one told them about earning their stripes!
As a footballer one of the most exhilarating things you can do is run out onto the MCG on Grand Final Day in front of 100,000 people. It’s what I had dreamed of as a 9 year old boy and St. Kilda supporter at the beginning my junior footy career.
The build-up is huge, particularly in Melbourne as the whole city gets wrapped up in Grand Final fever. Given St.Kilda’s history of underperforming we were sentimental favourites plus the whole Victorian versus South Australia tribal mentality added to the weight of expectation. The Saints would win, so everyone thought.
The weather gets warmer, the grass looks great, the crowds at training are huge, increased media interest, people off the street are wishing you well, and players discuss where they will put their Premiership tattoo. You can’t help but get caught up in the groundswell of support and most of all; expectation.
My ‘97 Grand Final experience started out as a truly amazing experience and by 5pm it ended in disaster and tears. The Crows had beaten us to win their first Premiership.
At the time I was 25 with another 8 years of footy in front of me and naively at the time I thought we would get another crack at it. Unfortunately for me when I retired at the end of 2006, the Saints had not played in another Grand Final.
Up until 1997 I had never been to an AFL Grand Final, as a player or spectator and I’ve never been to one since. I have never watched a replay of the ‘97 Grand Final and when people want to discuss the game with me I tend to switch off as it brings back challenging memories. It still hurts to know that I had a chance but did not take it; it hurts to watch other teams win them. I’m jealous of the joy it brings, the elation, relief & satisfaction that Premiership glory brings.
For the past 15years, I have put on a Grand Final BBQ for my mates to help keep me distracted. I tend to the barbie and make sure my guests are well hydrated, I avoid the big screen as much as possible.
I am softening though, as my kids get older I find myself getting caught up in their excitement for Grand Final Day. They tell me I need to get over myself and they’re right. Virgin Australia just announced a new five year partnership with the AFL and that made me think, five years is a long time in AFL, maybe even the Saints could make a Grand Final appearance in that time, or maybe not.
To date, the Saints have had just over 1560 players put on the famous Red White & Black jumper yet only 20 players are Premiership Players. That’s an exclusive club! This is despite recent Grand Final appearances in 1997, 2009, 2010 and seven Grand Finals in total.
I think I’m up to watching this year’s Grand Final but I might still have to look away when the victors are receiving their well earn’t medals.
It must be the most amazing experience to be introduced to the massive crowd to receive your Premiership Medal and then walk back to high five your teammates knowing you are now a part of history.
May the best team win,
Friday, August 30th, 2013
Virgin Australia proudly supports the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) – a mentoring program that partners university students in one-to-one mentoring relationships with Indigenous Australian high school students.
Their dynamic educational program gives Indigenous high school students the skills, opportunities, belief and confidence to finish school at the same rate as their peers. A number of the Virgin Australia team offer their time to mentor high school and university students as they venture through their educational path.
Today, 30 August AIME celebrates National Hoodie Day. To get involved, purchase an AIME hoodie to help support the work they do to help ‘do better tomorrow’.
Get involved and visit aimementoring.com
Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013
We know pets are part of the family and in an Australian-first Velocity Frequent Flyer members can earn Points for travelling with a cat or dog on a Virgin Australia domestic flight.
Breaking new ground in the loyalty space, from July, Velocity members can now earn 300 Points each time their dog or cat flies on Virgin Australia’s expansive domestic network. Silver, Gold and Platinum members will also receive a special Points bonus.
This new initiative was launched by Velocity Frequent Flyer Chief Executive Officer Neil Thompson, joined by celebrity vet and animal lover, Dr Chris Brown at Sydney Airport.
Velocity Frequent Flyer has launched a nation-wide search to find an official pet ambassador for the program. Over the coming 4 weeks, Australians are invited to enter their cat or dog into the competition via Facebook. Visit Velocity Frequent Flyer’s Facebook page for instructions. The chosen pet will receive the title of ‘Velocity Pet Ambassador’, will be featured in future Velocity marketing campaigns and will receive a Velocity pet gift pack.
To find out more about the pet program, visit http://www.velocityfrequentflyer.com/pets
Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Today was an exciting day for our airline as we heralded a new standard in flying to and from our nation’s capital.
Just in time for Canberra’s 100th birthday, we opened the doors to our brand new lounge.
The 300m² space offers sweeping views across the tarmac and exclusive design elements including Marblo bars, natural stone flooring, Walter Knoll chairs and a gourmet menu designed by renowned Australian chef Luke Mangan.
The lounge is located within the new state-of-the-art ‘Airvolution’ terminal, enabling a seamless journey from our check-in desks to new departure gates.
We have also completed the refurbishment program on board our Embraer E190 fleet, which fly to Canberra from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
This means that our guests can now enjoy a refreshed on board experience. This includes our new Business Class, which features luxury leather seats, a newly configured seating design with a 2:1 layout, gourmet menu options and coat-check service, complemented by the best of service.
We fly to the highest number of destinations to and from Canberra and we look forward to welcoming guests to the new Virgin Australia travel experience.
Friday, August 10th, 2012
We understand the concerns raised around our policy for children travelling alone, a long standing policy initially based on customer feedback.
In light of recent feedback, we’re now reviewing this policy. Our intention is certainly not to discriminate in any way.