Date: 6 September 2017
"I could give my all to what I was passionate about from the start, as opposed to spending three years doing what I would feel was wasting time and money. I wouldn't ever change the decision that I made, and I'm glad that I stuck to my guns with it. "
For me, I have always wanted to fly. That has been very clear from early on. From then, I have been transfixed on the idea and ever since I came across the types of pilot training courses that I would need to be on, there has never really been another option for me. Once I set my heart on doing it, I was determined to make it happen. Throughout GCSE and A Levels at school the generic model of education is that you sit your exams, and then apply to universities or apprenticeships - which is great if that is what you want to do, but I didn't.
I didn't see the point in creating three years of debt and wasting three years of time on a course that my heart wasn't invested in. I've never been passionate about anything in the same way that I am about wanting to fly. I soon realised that at the age of 18 I would be able to apply for the course that I wanted and it felt so exciting that I would be able to fast track directly into my dream career path, rather than getting a degree before hand. Don't get me wrong, it is all a matter of personal preference, and for some it was definitely right for them that they went to University before starting pilot training.
During Sixth Form, around the time where Uni applications start to be filled out, I had a lot of talks with my parents and with my Sixth Form team about what I was going to do. My Dad was very keen on me going to get a degree first so that I would have something to fall back on if, for whatever reason, the flying thing fell through. I was very keen not to, but if I was a parent in his position I would definitely encourage me to do the same so I completely understood. In the end I decided to apply for an 'Aviation Management' course at a University at the same time as preparing to apply for the course that I wanted at L3 Airline Academy (known as CTC Aviation at the time). I was offered the place on the Uni course, accepted the offer, and everything was pretty much ready to go if need be.
The time came when I was able to apply for the Virgin MPL course at L3 Airline Academy, and in January a week or so after my 18th birthday I attended the selection day for it. Sadly, I didn't manage to pass every element of the day, but I was invited to return for a 'White tail' selection a couple of months down the line. This obviously brought the University debate back to life, as my next selection day was in July, just after my A Level exams. I was still very much set on what I wanted to do, but I still left the Uni offer as it was just incase. I hoped so much that I would be successful the second time around and that I wouldn't have to do the degree. I was, and I was so happy. It meant that I would be able to do what I had spent the past few years hoping and questioning whether I could do it or not, and that I would be able to turn down the place at the University.
Again, everyone is different, and what was right for me might not be what's right for someone else. That said, I couldn't see any downsides to choosing pilot training over University as it is what I really wanted to do. I could give my all to what I was passionate about from the start, as opposed to spending three years doing what I would feel was wasting time and money. I wouldn't ever change the decision that I made, and I'm glad that I stuck to my guns with it.
I'm now sat in New Zealand, flying planes around the sky and gaining experience and skills with every flight. I'm doing what I knew was right for me. Every day is a little closer to sitting in an airliner and I'm having fun along the way, so that is why I chose pilot training over University.
Read more on Zak's personal blog: Zak to the Sky
All images are courtesy of Zak Wheatley