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Wednesday, 10 October 2018

PILOT SELECTION DAY TIPS - BRITISH AIRWAYS CADET PROGRAMME/ L3 AIRLINE ACADEMY

If you’re reading this blog post then there’s a strong possibility that you’re either interested in applying to a pilot training scheme or already have an upcoming selection day at a training school such as L3. In this post I hope to give you a brief overview of what to expect at the selection day and interview(s) and how best to prepare for these tasks (or at least what I found useful when I sat them). Each training school runs different programmes for their assessment days so the information I will be discussing here is purely based on my experience with L3 Airline Academy.


The first stage of application is completed online and in the case of the British Airways Cadet Programme was made up of three (short) essay questions, a basic maths test and a psychometric test. To prepare for this stage of assessment I’d recommend building your CV with industry related experience in order to give you interesting examples to draw upon within your answers – this will also be useful during the interview stage where you can call upon your experience to answer the tricky questions. If you’d like some more information about the steps I took to enhance my CV you can read my previous blog post.

L3 host their Technical and Non-Technical selection days at Dibden Manor near Southampton. The day starts very early so if you live far away I would suggest booking a room somewhere nearby so you don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn and be tired for the assessments. I stayed at Dale Farm House and would highly recommend it! The people that run it are very kind and accommodating and even have a special book of emails, written by other cadets that have stayed there, filled with hints of what to expect at the selection.


When you first arrive at Dibden there will be a short presentation shown to you about how the day will run and what to expect if you do progress further. If you have applied to an airline specific scheme there will also be a short talk from a representative of the airline about what they are looking for in their applicants and any extra requirements they have during the selection and training process. I would suggest taking a notepad and pen into the presentation with you so you can write down any important information they give you. I’d also recommend thinking about any questions that you have so you can ask the right people when given the opportunity. Make sure you converse with the other applicants when you are sat in the waiting room; you’re all just as nervous as each other so chatting will really help calm the nerves. Be yourself, smile, and relax!

STAGE 1 – MATHS TEST & PILAPT

(NOTE: L3 AIRLINE ACADEMY NO LONGER RUN PILAPT TESTING AND INSTEAD RUN A PROGRAMME CALLED CUT-E. AN INDEPTH POST ABOUT CUT-E TESTING CAN BE FOUND ON PILOT GEORGE’S BLOG. I SUGGEST READING THIS BEFORE SITTING A SELECTION DAY AT L3.)

Once the talk is finished you will be split into two groups to go and sit the assessments. Each group will alternate as there is not enough space to accommodate everyone at one time in the technical assessment room. The assessment room looks a lot like the room where you sit your theory-driving test; each individual booth contains a pen and some paper to complete your rough working out during the maths test, a keyboard, a joystick, a headset and a computer screen which will be displaying your name (although some of this may have changed slightly with the new testing). You will be given a short briefing then you’ll be free to start the assessment.

The maths test consists of 15 multi-choice GCSE level maths questions that need to be completed in 15 minutes. There’s really nothing to worry about with this test; if you have a good understanding of maths you will be completely fine. You will probably be presented with some speed=distance/time questions as well as a few conversions and some basic multiplication. I’d suggest practicing your mental maths to the point where you feel confident that you will be able to complete the questions within the allotted time (the YouTube channel tecmath has some very helpful videos on quick multiplication and division tricks that I found very useful when practising for the assessment day).


After you finish the maths test you will be able to move onto the aptitude testing. As I’ve already mentioned, I did not sit the new cut-e testing when I did my selection day, however I still have a few tips on how to prepare for general aptitude testing. SkyTest and latestpilotjobs.com both provide excellent mock tests, which I would definitely recommend purchasing as well as your own joystick to use at home to practice.

** STAGE 2 – BRITISH AIRWAYS SPECIFIC NUMERICAL & VERBAL REASONING TESTS**

These extra tests assigned by British Airways on the selection for the Cadet Pilot Programme further test your maths knowledge and verbal reasoning capabilities. The Numerical Reasoning test requires you to answer 25 advanced maths questions in 12 minutes, but don’t panic! I know it sounds like a lot but what they’re really looking for with this test is someone who won’t rush something just to get the job done. Don’t feel like you have to answer every question, the test is not designed to be finished within the allotted time. I only answered 14 of the 25 questions but I was confident that all my answers were correct. Having sat several of these types of tests before whilst I was at school I found the best approach is to go through and answer all the questions you can do first and then spend the rest of your time having a go at solving the slightly more advanced questions.


The Verbal Reasoning test is fairly straightforward. The only thing I can compare this test to is the Key Stage 2 SATS Reading test but slightly more advanced. In this assessment you are given a piece of text to read through and then given several multi-choice questions based on the text in which you have to infer the answer. This test is less time pressured than the Numerical Reasoning but still requires you to work quickly but accurately. The best advice I can give here is RTFQ (Read The ‘Flipping’ Question)! Some of the wording on the test can be tricky and can catch you out if you don’t read and reread the question properly.

STAGE 3 – GROUP INTERVIEW & ONE-TO-ONE INTERVIEW

For the group interview I can’t go into too much detail about the task itself due to the fact that I signed a privacy waiver; however, I can give you a few tips on how best to approach a group interview. Most group interviews are usually structured in the same way: you all sit at a table with sheets of information in front of you and your assessors will allow you time to read through this material and then discuss it with the group.

Group interviews test how well you communicate with your peers and judge you as a team leader and team player. To be successful within a group interview you need to speak up! This doesn’t mean you have to take over, but you should contribute your opinions where relevant and also use the information you are given (as well as any outside knowledge) to attempt to come to a conclusion within the group. If ever you feel like bigger personalities in the group are taking over, don’t worry. Firstly, the company doesn’t want you taking control as this shows an inability to work well in a team, which is an undesirable trait in a pilot (or any job really). When you find yourself not being able to get a word in then it’s best to listen to whoever’s talking and either agree or disagree with their point and develop your reasons why. Don’t interrupt them but try to find a break in the natural flow where you can get your point across.

Usually group interviews involve some form of budgeting and require you to do some sums based on the figures given. It’s best to discuss with the group if anyone has any particular strengths/experience when it comes to working out finances and see if they’d be comfortable keeping track of the figures. It is also vital for the group to have a time keeper; however, don’t be fooled by the common misconception that speaking up and offering to keep track of time gets you off the hook with contributing during the task as this will just mean you fail the assessment.

The assessors during a group interview are looking for people who engage well with their colleagues and can demonstrate the qualities that are looked for in a pilot. They are looking for someone with ability to respectfully question someone’s decision when you don’t agree with their suggestion and give reasons as to why you disagree as well as offer an alternative. Good CRM (Crew Resource Management) skills are vital in a potential pilot as they are desirable in the cockpit to avoid any incidents occurring.


The best advice I can give you for a group interview is do not forget the aim of the task. It is very easy to get side tracked when you have so much information in front of you so I would recommend using a DODAR:

            D- Diagnose (the problem)
            O- Options (discuss the options you have available to you)
            D- Decide (which option you wish to take)
            A- Act (carry out the task using the option you have chosen)
            R- Review (discuss the outcome and amend the task if necessary)

DODARs are used in everyday aviation to make important operational decisions, so the assessors will be impressed with you taking this approach. This will get everyone on the same page and establish any weak points you still have in your plan.

Interviews are the one constant in every job application. No one particularly enjoys doing interviews but it is the best way for a potential employer to see what you’re like in person and decided whether you’re the right fit for the company. The interview at L3 was heavily competency based so I’d recommend thinking of real life examples where you have demonstrated the skills that are looked for in a pilot. Potential questions include:

  • Give an example of a time when you have worked as part of a team.
  • How do you cope with failure?
  • Tell me about a time where you have lead a team.
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve had to make a decision under pressure.
  • Tell me about a time when you’ve had to work to a timescale when completing an important task.
  • Give an example of a time when you’ve had to break the rules. 

When answering these questions I would recommend using the STAR method to structure your responses. The STAR model allows you to answer the questions efficiently without waffling and forgetting your point.

            S- Situation: Set the scene.
            T- Task: Establish the end goal.
            A- Action: What did you do?
            R- Result: What was the outcome of your actions?

I would also suggest relating your answers back to becoming a pilot and how these skills will help you in a flying career, as this is ultimately what the interviewers are looking for. I would also recommend familiarising yourself with any current affairs in the industry and some basic information about L3 so that should they ask you any of these type of questions you don’t look under prepared. And don’t forget to prepare some questions to ask the interviewer at the end!

**STAGE 4 – BRITISH AIRWAYS SPECIFIC INTERVIEWS AND APTITUDE TESTING**

If you have applied to an airline scheme then you will need to complete some extra interviews after passing the L3 selection process; however, should you be unsuccessful with the final airline assessment, you still have a place as a ‘whitetail’ at L3.

The final assessment day for the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme was held at Waterside (British Airways HQ) and ran in three parts: an aptitude test, a group interview, and a two-to-one interview. British Airways run a programme called ‘Eagle’ for their aptitude testing. Unfortunately there is no way to practice for this test prior to the day so the best advice I can give here is don’t rush and make sure you pay attention to the instructions as this test requires a lot of multitasking.


The group interview at British Airways ran much the same as the group interview at L3; however, the two-to-one interview was structured slightly differently to the one-to-one interview at L3. The interview is usually run by one pilot and one member of HR (although I had two members of HR questioning me) and questions will be much more industry focused. Some questions I remember being asked include:

  • How does a wing generate lift?
  • What causes turbulence?
  • How would you explain turbulence to a passenger?
  • What would you do if the Captain wanted to go against SOPs?
  • How do you stay up to date with the industry?
  • What challenges do you think you will face as a pilot?
  • What do you know about British Airways’ plan for the future? (Plan4)
  • Why do you want to be a pilot?
  • Why do you want to work for British Airways?

To ensure you are prepared enough to competently answer these questions I would recommend reading through some aviation websites that report on up to date information in the industry and learning some basic principles of flight (just enough to give you a brief overview into the four forces of flight). Research the airline you are applying to and find out information such as any new business announcements (i.e. new routes, new aircraft, new services), what aircraft the airline have in their fleet and who the CEO of the company is. You will also be asked a few more competency questions by the HR interviewer so I would suggest thinking of some different examples to questions similar to those that you were asked in the L3 interview to ensure variety in your answers.


So that’s just about everything I can think of to help you through your assessments. I hope this post has been of use to you and if you do have an upcoming selection day... congratulations and good luck! If you have any more questions feel free to leave a comment on this post and I’ll do my best to answer them. Olivia x
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Monday, 17 September 2018

WHAT INSPIRED ME TO BECOME A PILOT?

The first question people ask me when they find out that I’m about to start my pilot training is “Have you always wanted to be a pilot?” and the honest answer to that is “No”. I’ve spent so much time attempting to convince myself that flying has been a lifelong passion of mine, feeling guilty that I didn’t attend air shows every weekend as a kid or visit the cockpit after every flight I went on, but truthfully it wasn’t a career I even considered until I was about 15. As a child I always thought I’d be a vet or an actress or (God forbid) a singer and being a pilot wasn’t even really on my radar. We had a few family friends that were pilots but none that were women, so I na├»vely perceived it to be a male profession and wrote it off as a potential career for myself.

I remember going to Dubai on holiday when I was about 12 and staying with a friend whose dad is a captain for Emirates. At dinner I would sit listening to his stories in awe and imagine how amazing his job must be; astounded that it was a job normal people, including women, could do (somewhere in my brain I think I’d always thought of it a bit like being an astronaut – a job that everyone dreams of but few actually achieve)! Those visits to Dubai were the first time I became aware of flying planes for a career and that’s probably where my initial interest was sparked. Of course I’d had my fair share of contact with the industry before this; most of my family has worked in aviation in some aspect and growing up, my best friend and I would play with my cabin crew Sindy dolls and pretend that we worked at the airport together (something that’s about to become reality because she too has just got a job in the industry as ground staff for the same airline as me); I’d just never considered becoming a pilot!


When I was about 15 I attended a careers event at my school, aimed at inspiring students to think about what we wanted to do with our futures. I was very fortunate to go to a school that gave us these amazing opportunities to shape our career paths from a young age and supported us with mock job interviews and contacts within the career fields that we wanted to go into. It was at this careers fair where I met the father of one of my peers, who worked as a British Airways Captain. I spent about an hour grilling him on every aspect of his job – why he became a pilot, how he trained for the role, what his job involved – and left at the end of the night feeling so so excited, rushing home to tell my mum all about the career that I had decided to pursue. After the initial questioning as to where this sudden epiphany had come from, my mum and I started to look into what it really took to become a pilot and if it would even be possible for me to follow this newly discovered dream of mine.

At the start of sixth form we began to discuss UCAS, uni and future careers, which is when I first mentioned my desire to become a commercial pilot to my head of year, Mr Budd, who I owe so much to; it was him who recommended that I attend my first open day at CTC Aviation (now known as L3 Airline Academy – the school I’ll be doing my training with!). 


The open day was in March 2016 at CTC’s Bournemouth training school and was a drop in session where we could have one on one chats with some of the trainers and cadets about the training. I left very enthusiastic but with a huge long list of suggestions of things to do in order to make my application stand out amongst the crowd, which included getting some work experience in the industry before I was old enough to apply for the course. So, in the summer of 2016 I went to my local airfield, Fairoaks, for a week and worked with Synergy Aviation (one of the companies based out of the airport) in their ops department and up in the ATC tower. It was such an interesting week and on the last day I was even lucky enough to sit in the right hand seat of a King Air B200 on a flight to Southend on Sea where it was going in for some engineering work.


Later that same year I attended another open day at CTC, this time at their base in Nursling, Southampton. This day was more formal than the previous one I had attended and included a PowerPoint presentation about training costs and a guest speaker from Virgin Atlantic who talked about the Virgin MPL scheme that was due to open up; I later applied for this scheme but was unsuccessful with my application, failing to even get past the online stage (not surprising considering I was still only 17 and had very little industry experience). Even though I was very disappointed, I was determined not to see this as a setback and instead used it as a learning tool for future applications. I visited CTC another three times in total after that (eager I know but I wanted to attend the open days for the easyJet and British Airways schemes) and made as many contacts as possible – literally taking anyone and everyone’s email addresses so that I could gather any information that would help me in my future applications.


In December 2016 I was lucky enough to get some work experience in the Virgin Atlantic traffic department at Heathrow thanks to my step-mum who works for Virgin. I spent the entire night shift watching how the aircraft are assigned to particular routes and how things such as the weather affect a pilot’s flight plan. I was allowed onto the apron, clad in my hi-vis, to take a look around some of the aircraft and was even granted a couple of flight deck visits where I got to watch the pilots go through their pre-flight checks. It was the best day of work experience and I loved getting to see how the whole process works; I was so glad to have something so unique and exciting to add to my applications in the future.

For Christmas that year I was gifted the most amazing present ever – my first flying lesson! I cried with happiness when I opened the card and read the voucher and I spent the next few weeks dreaming about my first time flying a plane. When the day in February finally arrived I couldn’t control my excitement; I bought my first ever logbook, met with my instructor and then went on my first ever walk around. Getting into that PA28 I was a bundle of nerves but as soon as I started going through the pre-flight checklist with my instructor I started to relax slightly. Before long I was ready to go; I contacted ATC, taxied out, and before I knew it I was above the clouds (see what I did there?) and experiencing a feeling like no other. I will never forget my first flight for as long as I live; it’s a huge day in any pilot’s life and no matter how many I do in my career, that flight will always be one of my most memorable.


With some work experience in the industry, several open day visits and a couple of flying hours under my belt, in May 2017 I finally felt ready to reapply to CTC (who by this point were now known as L3). Applications for the Generation easyJet programme were open and I took my chance and sent in my application – I was keen on applying to airline schemes rather than L3’s whitetail programme as I wanted the security of having a guaranteed job at the end of training. It was also around this time that I applied for my job as British Airways cabin crew; I was due to finish my A Levels at the end of June and because I’d decided not to go to university, I wanted to find a job to do whilst I waited to start a pilot training course (and what better job than being a flight attendant!). After passing all my interviews for cabin crew I centred my focus onto my application for the pilot programme.  

To my amazement I was successful with the initial application stage and was invited to attend an assessment day on June 1st at L3’s selection centre at Dibden Manor in Southampton. The day was made up of two parts: a multi-choice maths test and PILAPT (Pilot Aptitude) testing. The testing was difficult but I enjoyed it nonetheless and left the assessment centre wishing I could fast forward time until I knew the outcome. I found out the following day that I had been unsuccessful and had failed part of the PILAPT testing and would not be continuing the process. I was absolutely devastated but had expected a knock back due to it being my first time attempting the assessment day. I was happy to have at least been given the opportunity to do the testing so that I would know what to expect for my next assessment day when I next applied.


4 months later, in October 2017, training was in full swing for my job as cabin crew when L3 announced that the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme would be opening for applications. British Airways was my dream airline to work for as a pilot and was ultimately where I’d always intended to end up. I was so excited that they’d finally opened up their cadet scheme again after not opening it for a couple of years. Even better news was that they’d changed the scheme slightly (from the previously named Future Pilots Programme) to also offer an ATPL, which didn’t require A Levels like the MPL did (good news for me as my A Level grades wouldn’t have been high enough to apply). For the online stage we were asked to answer three questions in an essay format and then had to undertake some psychometric testing and maths testing; I didn’t really expect to get through the online application stage as I knew it would be an immensely popular scheme and there would be lots of very tough competition.


Fast forward a week or two and I was left in utter shock when I opened an email telling me that I’d passed the first stage of assessment and I was to once again attend an assessment day at Dibden Manor. Of course the nerves from last time resurfaced but at least I knew what to expect this time around, although BA required us to sit two additional assessments to the ones I did at the easyJet assessment day. Because of this, the day ran in four parts: numerical reasoning testing and verbal reasoning testing, followed but the multi-choice maths test and PILAPT testing. After failing the PILAPT testing the first time around I was very nervous to re-sit them but I’d put in a lot of practice and felt ready for the challenge. (I’ll go into greater detail about the whole assessment process in another post and give some useful hints/tips for preparing yourself for the various different tests).

I left the room where I sat the PILAPT test feeling extremely deflated as I thought I hadn’t performed well enough to progress my application and was gutted that I’d messed up my big chance; however, in the car on the way home I was sat checking my emails when the email that I thought I’d never get appeared in my inbox. L3 had emailed me to inform me that I had met the required standard and would be progressing through to the next stage of assessment! I was in complete shock but so happy that I’d actually passed the PILAPT testing and all my hard work and practising had clearly paid off. I didn’t have much time to sit and celebrate though as stage 2 was scheduled for two days after stage 1 - no pressure! I had one day to madly plan answers to a multitude of different interview questions before I was back at Dibden and ready for my next stage of assessment – a group interview and a 1-to-1 interview! Once again, to my amazement, I received another letter congratulating me on successfully passing that selection stage and before I knew it, January 2018 had rolled around and I was about to attend my final assessment day for the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme – I couldn’t believe it!


The final assessment day for the programme was held at Waterside (BA’s Headquarters) on January 22nd 2018 and consisted of: another group interview, a 2-to-1 interview, and some more PILAPT testing. Weirdly enough, this was the first stage of the entire process where I actually felt confident with how I had performed, which I found rather unsettling! 

After a week of waiting to hear back I was getting extremely anxious. I arrived home from work on the morning of January 31st and went straight to bed to sleep off the jet lag; when I woke up at midday I had a missed call and a text message from one of the pilot recruiters at BA asking me to call her as soon as possible. As I pressed call I could feel my heart in my throat – this could potentially be the most important call of my life. She picked up and immediately told me not to panic and that she just wanted to let me know that I’d been successful and I had achieved a place on the British Airways Cadet Pilot Programme! I had done it. After years of work experience and gaining industry knowledge, months of interviews and weeks of nervously waiting for the outcome I finally heard the words that I so desperately wanted to hear but never in a million years would have allowed myself to believe they’d be true. I felt like I could finally breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t even know I’d been holding onto. After hanging up from the best phone call of my life I immediately punched in my mum’s number and waited to tell her the incredible news.


So since January I’ve been filling out an endless stream of paperwork and organising class one medicals, insurances, visas and about a million other things. As of today (17/09/18) it’s exactly one month until I fly out to New Zealand for 14 months for my ground school and flying phases of training. I couldn’t be more excited about this new chapter and I’m so proud to share my story with you.


Thank you for taking the time to read this extremely lengthy post! I feel so privileged to finally be starting my dream career and I know that I 100% would not be here without the help of my amazing family. I can’t wait to share the rest of this wild journey with you and hopefully inspire other young women to find their wings and fly high! Olivia x

To my Mum and Jim, Daddy and Anne, Grandma and Grandad, and Nana, you are the most amazingly supportive family I could ask for and the sacrifices you’ve made for me are completely mind blowing. I love you all so much and can’t wait to fly you all around the world in a few years time!
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Monday, 27 August 2018

A SOUTH AFRICAN SAFARI

So I’ve been gone for a while now due to some pretty big changes that are happening in my life (more on that in a future post) but I HAD to take some time to tell you guys about my recent trip to Johannesburg. This was my second time visiting Joburg as crew and after falling in love with it the first time around I decided to bring my Mum along with me for a little girls trip before I leave BA. I’ve never taken a cling on with me on one of my trips before so I was of course extremely stressed about her getting on the flight but standby came through for us and before I knew it my mum was on the plane on her way to South Africa with me!


When you think of Johannesburg you think of safaris, which is why I decided to give my Mum the authentic South African experience and booked ‘Leopardsong Game Lodge’ for the night. As crew we get a special rate for lots of places and Leopardsong is one of those – originally bought to my attention by fellow a crew member, Leopardsong is a 4 star luxury resort situated in 18,500 hectares of land in the middle of the Pride of Africa. It offers the incredible experience of an evening game drive, a night’s stay in an ensuite room in the lodge, and a sunrise game drive (which only costs an additional R200pp), as well as dinner and breakfast included in the price.

We arrived at the crew hotel in Johannesburg at around 11am on the Sunday morning and had a quick shower before getting picked up at 1pm and heading to the lodge. The evening game drive was scheduled to leave at 4pm so when we arrived at Leopardsong we dumped our things, got changed, and headed out to the safari jeep.

Within minutes of being out in the bush we’d already encountered two Vervet monkeys, a herd of impalas and a group of zebras (which FYI is actually called a dazzle of zebras – amazing) but had yet to come across any of The Big Five – Lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards. The Big Five were originally named for being the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot; however, safari tour operators now use the term for marketing purposes. 


After driving around for a little while Keal our game ranger received some information from another game ranger over the radio and within minutes we were driving down a little road and being greeted by a huge herd of buffalo! Finally we had found our first of The Big Five; unfortunately for us, the buffalo decided this would be an excellent time to cross the road en route to their watering hole, which meant we had to wait for them all (about 75 of them) to cross before continuing our journey (something that was made even more thrilling by the constant threat of a sudden charge by one of these beasts).  Turns out a large herd of buffalo delaying our journey wasn’t the biggest problem we had, because thanks to the uneven track we’d managed to pick up a slow puncture in one of the wheels, which by this point was completely flat and in desperate need of a change. Unable to continue due to the flat tyre and crossing buffalo, Keal had to reverse the jeep far enough away from the buffalo into a spot suitable enough to change the tyre and we all had to hop out (great!). As I stood pondering my life choices and wondering whether this would be how I died (and taking a few pics for insta), Keal got to work changing the tyre and before long we were back on the road and ready to find some more fascinating animals – thankfully all in one piece!


We drove around for a while in search of the elusive cheetah but came across nothing other than a few warthogs (which set me off singing Lion King for the rest of the trip, sorry everyone – “When I was a young warthoggggg..”), so Keal decided to find us a secluded spot to get out and enjoy the surroundings with a drink in hand. After snapping a few pics perched on the jeep we hopped back in and set off to the lodge where dinner was waiting. The sun was setting as we made our way back and we were all keeping our eyes peeled just in case anything decided to make a sudden appearance; we’d almost reached the gates to the lodge when Keal stopped the jeep and shone his torch into some bushes. To my amazement, lying asleep under a tree was a massive black rhino! Slightly perturbed by the bright light that had awoken him from his slumber, the rhino didn’t stick around for long but that didn’t matter to us because we’d just ticked off number 2 of The Big Five and couldn’t quite believe how lucky we were to have spotted this critically endangered creature.


Back at the lodge the cook had started a braai (South African slang for BBQ) and was cooking our steaks next to a huge fire pit that the staff had lit for us. We all huddled around the fire discussing the incredible safari we had just experienced and before we knew it, it was time to eat. The food that the chef prepared for us was amazing and the South African steak certainly didn’t disappoint. Once we’d all finished eating we decided it would be best to get an early night as we still hadn’t slept since our 11 hour flight over and if we wanted to catch the sunrise safari we had to be out by 6:30 the next morning!

After an early start we ventured out on another game drive in the hope of catching sight of some more spectacular animals. It was absolutely freezing so early in the morning but we were well wrapped up in our blankets and ready for the safari that awaited us. Watching the sunrise over the South African bush was one of the most unforgettable moments I’ve experienced in this job and the prospect of stumbling upon some elephants, lions or leopards at any moment only enhanced the experience; however, it appeared to be too early even for the wildlife and we drove around for a couple of hours with no sightings. We resigned ourselves to the fact that our luck had run out and we weren’t going to spot any more of The Big Five so decided instead to search for a secluded area to enjoy some tea and biscuits as we were all getting quite peckish. Little did we know, Keal had been following some tracks in the dirt as we drove, and seconds after declaring to my Mum “Oh I wish we’d seen some elephants” we turned a corner and came face to face with just that! I was completely awestruck seeing these beautiful beasts in their natural habitat so up close and personal – it was a real pinch yourself moment!


The entire herd were making their morning commute to their usual spot by the lake, so we let them all to cross the road (with “Hot Stuff”, the biggest male, bringing up the rear) then drove off to another dirt track and waited for them once more. As we sat there watching the herd, one of the smaller females popped out of a bush right next to our jeep and waved her trunk as if she were saying hello – Keal, however seemed less enthusiastic about this greeting and kept a firm hand on the key in the ignition just in case the female decided to charge (apparently this was quite a regular occurrence with this herd – that’s reassuring!). Soon all the elephants had gone and we were all left reeling from the incredible experience, empty stomachs long forgotten.


The next stop on our tour of the bush was to a huge lake that the animals frequented as their watering hole. Here we all got out of the jeep and drank our tea and ate our rusk whilst admiring the beautiful view. Across the lake from us we could see dozens of wildebeest and zebras all enjoying their morning drink; never have I felt so peaceful at 8 in the morning! Drinks finished, we hopped back into the jeep and set off for the lodge for breakfast but before we’d even passed the lake, we’d already spotted another huge group of animals – HIPPOS. Now I’ve watched enough Planet Earth to know that you don’t mess with a hippopotamus but sat at a safe distance away from these creatures they were pretty impressive and definitely not something you see everyday!


Breakfast back at the lodge was absolutely delicious - exactly what we needed after such a busy, early morning! After breakfast we packed up and headed back to the hotel for around 1pm where I’d booked for my Mum and I to enjoy a full body massage by the pool (best daughter ever or what?!). Once we were sufficiently relaxed we decided to go back to the room and nap for a few hours before the flight home - this was for my benefit more than my Mum’s but we both appreciated the comfy beds after such an early start that morning. Before we knew it, it was time for pickup and we were leaving behind the beautiful bliss of the South African bush and the standby stress was back. Worry not though because not only did my Mum get on the plane, she got a seat IN BUSINESS CLASS being served by yours truly. Overall the trip was one that neither of us will ever forget - it's not every day that you go on safari and see 3/5 of The Big Five! Being able to bring my Mum on such an amazing trip really proves to me how lucky I am to have such a great job that allows me to create these incredible memories.


Thanks for sticking with me during my hiatus and for reading this post about my latest expedition. See you soon for the next (and possibly last) instalment in my jet set life! Olivia x

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Tuesday, 29 May 2018

CALIFORNIA DREAMING - 48 HOUR GUIDE TO SAN DIEGO

I’m finally back with another blog post and this time it’s about my new favourite American City – San Diego! I haven’t uploaded in a while so bare with me as this might be a long one. Firstly, I'm sorry I’ve been MIA for so long, I was sunning myself on holiday then took some time to ease myself back into my ‘normal’ work routine; I promise I’ll try to keep to a more regular schedule now that I’m back (and the next post is set to be a good one so don’t miss it!)


This was my first time visiting San Diego and I was so SO excited when I finally saw it on my roster as I’d been bidding for it since I joined. San Diego is a four day trip for us which means we get two nights and almost two full days down route to explore the city – I’d never done a long haul trip with more than one night in a hotel before this so I was really looking forward to being able to visit places without having to worry about rushing back to get ready for pick up. We land quite late in the evening on the first day so I went straight to my room, ordered room service, and watched some Netflix (dream night tbh) before bedding down for the night to get some sleep ahead of a day of fun.

BALBOA PARK:
On the first morning I woke up early and headed to Balboa Park with one of the other crew; the park is quite a long walk from the hotel where we stay so we decided to try out the bikes that you can find parked around the city instead. For someone who hasn’t ridden a bike in a while this proved… interesting, however we still somehow managed to get there in one piece. Balboa Park is a massive plot of land that not only contains gardens full of beautiful, multi-coloured flowers but also plays host to a botanical building, a multitude of museums and the world famous San Diego Zoo. I decided against visiting the zoo as I knew it would likely take up a large chunk of the day and I wanted to stop by other places too, so instead we just wandered around the park taking in the greenery and stunning views (and doing a touch of plane spotting as they flew overhead). Highlights from the park included the botanical building which was full of tropical flowers and the Japanese Garden which was home to an array of unique plants such as Bonsai trees and cherry blossom as well as a Koi pond and a Japanese teahouse.


CORONADO BEACH:
Our second stop of the day was to Coronado Beach. The West Coast (in particular California) is famous for its beaches so we of course had to make that a priority on our tour of San Diego, and where better than Coronado Beach! We spent the afternoon catching some rays whilst lying on the sand then went and got some drinks from the iconic Hotel de Coronado, which is the hotel that provided inspiration for Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort.

GASLAMP QUARTER:
For dinner that evening we visited the lively downtown neighbourhood known as the Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp Quarter is known for its nightlife and excellent restaurants and bars; keen to experience all San Diego had to offer it’s no surprise that’s where we chose to eat (and the food was delicious!)

USS MIDWAY/UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER:
The start of day two saw us head out early to go to the harbour and see the Unconditional Surrender Statue, more commonly referred to by tourists as ‘The Kissing Statue’. Standing at 25 meters tall this sculpture recreates the iconic photo of an embrace between a nurse and US Navy Soldier on V-J Day in Times Square. Along the harbour right next to the statue you’ll also find the USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum moored at the Navy Pier. Once the United States’ longest serving aircraft carrier, the USS Midway is now open to the public as the largest museum dedicated to carriers and naval aviation. Although I didn’t have the opportunity to go inside the museum due to lack of time, it’s definitely something I want to cross off my list should I return to San Diego.


OLD TOWN:
In the afternoon of the second day we took a trip to Old Town San Diego. The Old Town is the site of the first European settlement in present-day California and contains dozens of historic buildings and sites, remaining true to its heritage. The main square looks like something straight out of a Wild West film and the shops offer a variety of different goods to buy. We of course headed straight for the sweet shop, which had just about every type of candy you could imagine and smelt rather nauseating; put off by the aroma, I decided to head to the ice cream parlour instead whilst the others purchased their goodies and tried out a couple of scoops of birthday cake ice cream – yum!


KANSAS CITY BARBEQUE:
Perhaps better know as ‘The Top Gun Bar’, Kansas City Barbeque is a small bar/restaurant located in San Diego’s harbour district, famous for being the filming location for the iconic Great Balls of Fire scene in Top Gun (as well as the jukebox scene at the end of the film). Me being a HUGE Top Gun fan and aspiring pilot I absolutely could not visit San Diego without taking a trip to this bar. Inside you can still find the piano Goose played during the film as well as hundreds of license plates and caps that adorn the walls and ceiling. If you, like me, are a massive nerd I would 100% recommend visiting this bar as it’s an iconic spot for all things Top Gun and the staff there are so welcoming - and they're happy to discuss every little detail of the film with you.



So that concludes my San Diego blog! Sorry it was such a long one but I absolutely LOVED the city and had so much to rave about. I can’t wait to go back and I've got my fingers crossed it appears somewhere on my future rosters. I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading! Olivia x
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