Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Share Your Story: Ian Taggart, Flybe Dash-8 Q400 Pilot

Welcome to the 13th "Share Your Story" post. Pilots from around the world write in, featuring their flight experiences, promoting their blogs, websites, social media, novels, etc. These posts show future aviators the diverse range of careers available to them. More details + how to participate can be found in the following: Click Here and Get Involved

It was a normal lunch time as I sat in my overalls eating one of the canteens usual delights. As I sat with a manager chatting I was asked, “what did you want to be growing up”. Naturally I thought the best answer to tell a senior manager would be the job I’m doing now which was an Electronic Technician but I was honest and said “I always wanted to be a pilot”. It sounds a bit of a corny story but thats how it happened and I had finally realised it was time to quit my current career and do what I had always wanted to do. The next 18 months vanished and after obtaining a place at CAE, Oxford Aviation Academy and working hard to set up the finances I was now packing up my belongings ready to move to Oxford. In September 2006 myself and 17 others made up the course AP267. Then the fun began!

6 months of ground school involved long days of study, followed by even longer nights of studying with 3 of my housemates! It was a fairly pleasant experience though and I truly enjoyed the time I spent studying (well most of the time) and it was this that made me realise that I had made the right choice in trying to achieve my goal of becoming an airline pilot. 

With a tense wait for the results of the last 7 ATPL exams I got the call that all had been passed and next stop was Phoenix, AZ and to finally get my hands on some flying! I was off to live at Goodyear Airfield just south of Luke Air-force Base. The following five months involved flying a PA28 Warrior around AZ learning, making mistakes then learning some more, all mixed in with the odd BBQ and some relaxation in the sun. A rare thing for a man from the North West of England! My flying in Arizona would take me from the very basics of flying through the equivalent of PPL level then on towards CPL flying. I absolutely loved the ease of flying in Arizona compared to the UK. Cross-country trips took me from Goodyear to Tucson and Yuma. It was some stunning flying which I miss even now. The last part of my flight training in the US was multiengine in the PA34 Seneca, it was quite an intense learning curve initially but on my last day in AZ I flew my CPL exam and passed! 

The next day I was back in Liverpool with a tan and some jet-lag but also plenty of stories from my previous few months out in Arizona. I have to say even to this day I miss my time out there and hope to visit again soon. I knew I had an extremely challenging few months ahead of me. It was time to get into some real Instrument Flying. No more clear blue skies and BBQ’s in fact I would not be having much of a view at all when flying as it was time for the most challenging part of my course. The flying which would take me right up to my Instrument Rating. 

I was back in Oxford and me and a close friend on my course had been put together as flying partners for the IR training. We had been assigned an instructor by the name of Reg Masters. I thought boy this going to be tough but in fact Reg turned out to be a really brilliant mentor and the best instructor I could have hoped for in this part of my training, he was ex RAF and had some brilliant stories and a superb sense of humour! 

The IR training involved regular trips in the Seneca both in the front and then in the back when your flying partner flew. The Senecas had full sets of screens set up so you did not need to wear a hood for Instrument training, etc. It had a tiny letter box in the front screen for departure which was swiftly shut immediately after take off. We flew trips such as Oxford to Bristol Filton in Class A airspace, an ILS at Bristol followed by a go around, an engine failure on the go around and then single engine to Gloucester to do the Hold and then NDB approach. On the way back to Oxford we tended to then do some unusual attitudes. To sum it up it was intense but I was enjoying the flying more than any other point in my training. Finally the day of reckoning came and it was time to fly my IR exam. Thankfully I passed first time and I spent the following 24hrs getting my log book in order so I could get onto the next Multi Crew Coordination Course (MCC). This was a bit of an introduction to airline life and a step away from doing everything solo and more towards together as a team. It was 40 hrs in a full motion 737-400 sim. The key principle was the working together in a Multi Crew environment. 

A couple of weeks later I was back home with a shiny new CPL/IR License but no where to go with it! It was early 2008 and the world economy was showing signs of some serious trouble ahead. I spent most of my days churning out letters to chief pilots in the hope of a lead but it was mostly quiet. I offered to clean aircraft, phoned up smaller operators such as calibration company’s to even try to get some jump seat rides. Eventually I got one or two responses but most importantly I had received a call from Flybe’s recruitment offering me an interview. Flybe at the time was an expanding regional airline in Europe who was receiving new DH8 Q400 and EMB 195 aircraft. It was exactly what I wanted as it meant the chance to fly in the UK. 

After and Interview and Simulator check ride. I was offered the job on the Q400. It was brilliant news and a huge relief after a couple of months of it looking like getting a flying job may not happen. It also had the added bonus that 2 of my course-mates from flight school had also been offered jobs and the 3 of us would be off to be based in Belfast City in Northern Ireland.

The Type Rating was another intense 6 weeks of Ground School, CRM, Aircraft Performance then 2 weeks of back to back sim sessions. After about a week off I was then off to Birmingham Airport to get my hands on the real aircraft to fly some circuits and finally get the rating in my license. We flew from Birmingham to Exeter to do the base training, Exeter is where Flybe’s HQ is and has a runway which is reasonably long, something of a comfort on your first time flying a 30 tone aircraft. Anyone who has flown the Q400 will tell you it can be a bit of handful sometimes and perfecting a smooth landing takes some time! Next stop though was to fly some actual sectors, in total 40 of them with a Training Captain except this time the customers would be in the back! 

After line training, I went on to spend just under 3 years based at Belfast City, it was brilliant place to work and live but I eventually moved back to be based at Manchester which meant I could move back home to where I had been brought up in Liverpool. I have now been flying the Q400 for 2500hrs and it has been a fantastic time. The airline industry is forever changing and in someways thats what makes it such an interesting and vibrant industry to work in. Even in my so far very short flying career I have seen changes from the huge push on fuel saving to the advances of technology and the move towards the paperless flight deck using iPads. I look forward to maybe coming back and updating you on my next 2500hrs! Thanks for taking the time to read my story. 


Thanks so much Ian for writing in and sharing your flight story! As a young student pilot, it's really cool to be able to look up to people like you, not too much older than myself, seeing what's possible for the future. The Dash-8 Q400 is an incredible plane, I have always enjoyed flying on them. The technology is incredible in the new models!

I can't wait for you to write back after your next 2,500 hours, or sooner! If you ever have a cool flight you want to share with us, just send me an email. I hope you've been enjoying your flying, and can't wait to see what you'll do in the coming years. 

Thanks again for writing in and participating in the Share Your Story section of the blog, 

Swayne Martin 
Martins Aviation / From Private to Professional Pilot
Twitter: @MartinsAviation
Youtube: MartinsAviation1 


  1. Swayne, another great pilot!

    Ian, your story of success shows that hard work, and not giving up is the answer. We never know if that next day was the day to succeed. Keep flying safe and enjoy the journey! And I hope you'll join me on Flight to Success too!

    1. Thanks for the comment Karlene! Really great to get to know all of these guys (and girls!)!

      Thanks again,

  2. Damn son! Incredible! You were also very lucky to get the job during those times in 2008. Was that the one and only interview you were offered too? If so, even more incredible that you made it in one shot!


Thanks for your comment; I really appreciate it! Glad you are here with me on the blog. If your comment does not appear right away, it will after verification.

Many Thanks, Happy Flying,
Swayne Martin