People who know James Aubrey will tell you that all he has ever wanted to do to is fly passenger jets.
The 22-year-old, from Cardiff, has been in intensive training and working towards his Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) for two years at a flight school in England.
Currently completing the flight simulations in his final weeks of training, James is within touching distance of following his grandfather and uncle into the aviation industry.
Or, he would have been had the pandemic not grounded planes and seen big airlines like British Airways lay off 12,000 workers and Jet2 make 100 pilots redundant.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg, with the European Cockpit Association claiming that at least 17,000 pilot jobs are under threat or already permanently lost as a result of the pandemic.
James took a £100,000 loan, secured against his parents’ house, to reach his goal of becoming a pilot and repayments on the debt are due to start in March.
“At the moment, a lot of airlines have stopped recruitment, some have had to lay off pilots and all the recruitment windows have closed,” he said.
“I’m hoping now with the news of a vaccine, fingers crossed, people will want to start to go on holiday again.”
James said the starting salary for an airline pilot was between £30,000 and £40,000 but claimed some are taking pay cuts.
There are signs of hope for James, however, with Wizz Air announcing that it will bring nine new routes to Cardiff Airport, creating 40 new jobs.
“That salary would have made life easier and help me pay back the loan.
“I’m living with my parents in Cardiff at the moment and I’ll have to keep doing that until pilot jobs start showing up again.
“My grandfather and uncle were involved in aviation and both had private pilot licences and flew as a hobby. Hearing them speak influenced me and it’s all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid,” he said.
James’ parents have been “really supportive” of his dream and took him to open days and work experience placements when he was younger.
“I think I used to get on the nerves of my family and friends a bit speaking about it,” he said.
As a result of the lockdowns this year, James was unable to carry on with his training for a number of weeks and took a job working at an Amazon distribution centre.
“When the first lockdown happened in March, I worked at Amazon in Swansea for a couple of weeks to earn a bit of money because we weren’t sure how long it would take to get back to training.
“Someone else from the course ended up in Amazon as well and it was quite interesting working there because there were so many people from different backgrounds.”
James said he was “staying positive” and he thinks the aviation industry will “pick up quicker than people think”.
“In the meantime, it’s going to be fairly difficult to find a job with lots of people being made redundant and looking for work over Christmas.
“I’ll take anything that comes up. I want to keep my flying hours up and stay in the aviation industry,” he said.
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