Giving wings to your dreams

Every pilot has a story on how he or she decided to become a pilot. Mine is a little different because I don’t fit in the big percentage that wanted it ever since they were kids. For me, it was love at first sight, and I knew it when I experienced it first hand: I wanted to give wings to my big dream.

I have said this story many times in interviews, but I never said what made me do it. Ever since I was little, my parents noticed that I had tons of energy and decided to do something about it, so they took me to try different sports. My first stop was ballet, but it didn’t quite end well since I couldn’t perform the right pose and manage to stay in one leg. Then, my parents took me to Martial Arts, which were perfectly shaped for my character, the “I will not sit in my place for the second kind of character.” I still remember my first day on the tatami, being super involved and determined, but my kimono’s long belt could not fool anyone. That is why that day, I ended up falling and stumbling a few times. However, I always stood up and never complained, so this was it: I was a five years old little girl on a tatami ready to learn how to protect and self-discipline myself. Things for me were serious, winning and being successful was important, and I remember when I started biting other kids because it was the only way I could win the fight; however, my cousin told everything about my habit to my parents, so it ended up quickly. I have been practicing Martial Arts for 10 years: Aikijutsu, Aikido, Takeda Ryu, Ninjutsu, Judo, and Kempo plus another year of learning Japanese language and I am beyond grateful for all the lessons I have learned.

Later on, in my life’s journey, I have discovered a new passion. It all started when we went training in a remote place in the mountains, and it took my breath away. From Martial Arts to climbing and mountaineering, it was only a step, and I fell in love with the beauty of nature. My next adventure was starting, and the everlasting love for mountains emerged. This love summed up a lot of trips to the mountains, and it all climaxed with the Mont Blanc summit that I have conquered at only 19 years old.

How did I get to aviation from all this? My passion for the mountains was getting bigger and bigger, so I needed more and more gear for my climbing, so I told my parents I want a pair of boots that were quite expensive. That summer, my father organized the European Championship of Radio-controlled Helicopters. My father asked me if I could help the team and go on the airfield. I have easily accepted the offer to achieve my goal and get the desired boots.

I was quite determined about it. I woke up early every day during that Championship. I have met incredible people and heard stories from all over the world, but one morning, this aerobatic aircraft took off in front of us: an Extra 300 from the Romanian Aeroclub. The incredible sound the aircraft made as it was leaving plus the butterflies in my stomach changed my mind forever. I knew right then and there that I would not stop until I am in an aircraft and experience the art of flying.

That afternoon while I had dinner, I told my parents that I want to be a pilot and that I will start chasing my dream as soon as possible. They took me seriously, so next day I was back on the airfield for a flight with an instructor on a Zlin 172 over my hometown and back, and there it was: a true passion that I never gave up until today.

The following weeks during that summer, I woke up every single day without any sophisticated alarm system in place ( believe me, it was hard since I am not a morning person). I rushed to the airfield, helped with taking out if the hangar all the aircraft and gliders, cleaning the grass runway, hoping that somehow one day I will get again the chance to fly even for five minutes.

The summer was gone, and in the autumn, I started a new life as a student in Bucharest, away from my beloved hometown and airfield, at the Aerospace Engineering University. Months were passing by, and all I could think was to find a way to go back in the air.

One day during a conversation over a cup of coffee with some friends from University, one of them said there would be a new class for civil helicopter pilots; however, everyone wants to fly an airline aircraft, so nobody will probably go. But the next second I found myself speaking out loud: I will do it, I want to fly a helicopter! So here I was applying for a scholarship and praying I will be admitted on my journey towards aviation no matter if it was an aircraft or helicopter.

I still remember when I found out I was in and how it felt to cry for happiness.

A new door was opening, and I knew I had to go through it with all my heart. I flew helicopters for three years, and the sense of freedom I felt during those flights was surreal.

The helicopter life is a different story that I will share with another occasion!

The truth is that nobody will knock at your door, delivering your dream on a silver platter, but if you work hard, believe, and take on chances, you will quickly find yourself making solid steps towards accomplishing your dreams.❤️

How to know if being an airline pilot is your thing?

How to know if I want to be an airline pilot?

How is it to fly an aircraft? How is it to be a female pilot? What kind of flight school do you recommend? How does the schedule of an airline pilot looks like? Is it worth it to be an airline pilot?

All these kind of questions I receive on a daily basis and my answer is always: I definitely know in my case it was the best decision by far , but honestly I can’t take the decision for yourself so you will have to take every chance to find out if being an airline pilot is your thing.

So I have decided to write down what made me take this decision and also what tips I would give to a person that wants to join aviation as an airline pilot.

In my case it all started with an aerobatic aircraft take-off that has changed my life. That sound, that feeling I had and the thought that never went away: made me took the decision to be a pilot one day. And I never stopped dreaming about it until it became as real as possible.

So please follow your dreams no matter how crazy they might look or feel because we deserve to be happy , we do!

Lately I have been involved and invited in several Open days for the Pilot Academy in which I had the great chance to meet people willing to join aviation. And many times I got this kind of question: how do I know if being an airline pilot is for me.

Honestly nobody can answer this question but yourself! Being true to our selves is highly important .

So I always recommend taking one hour flight with an aircraft just to know what exactly aviation means. I’m more than sure that after this flight you will find the right answer within yourself.

Also make sure you understand that aviation is more than just glamorous pictures taken specifically for social media as the hard work and dedication behind them is so big that you will have to fully dedicate yourself to a new lifestyle.

Is it worth it? I wouldn’t imagine myself in a better , more beautiful office than the 12,000 meters office which recharges me every single flight. I’m already flying for 17 years and it was a long journey to obtain all the flying skills, non-technial skills, and what matters the most is that I enjoy it all the time. We do simulator checks every 6 months for all the abnormal situations, several trainings all around the year, annual line checks and being always fully dedicated to our passion is part of our daily life.

A day in a pilot life can vary so much depending on the destination, the check-in time ( early, mid-day or late flight), a challengind airport or weather can also be a factor.

Before every single flight we will go meet at the office with the whole crew , six or seven crew members depending on the aircraft type and as a flight crew we do two briefings. First briefing will be done with my cockpit colleague and we will be checking the flight plans, weather at home base, destination and along the route, the Notams( A notice to airmen (NOTAM) is a notice containing information concerning the establishment, condition or change in any aeronautical facility, service, procedure or hazard, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations).

Afterwards we will decide depending on all the gathered information the final block fuel and provide our handling company all the relevant information for our flight.

The second briefing will be done with the entire crew, after the cabin crew have done already their own briefing. In this second briefing we will provide information about the flight: aircraft registration, inbound destination, number of passengers, flight time, weather , if turbulence can be expected and if we will cross any body of water in order for the cabin crew to perform the Life vest demonstration.

After the briefings are done we depart towards the aircraft in order to start the preparation for the flight.

Upon arrival at the aircraft we check the documents of the aircraft and than split between Pilot Flying and Pilot Monitoring. Pilot flying will be the one flying the first sector and will prepare the cockpit and FMS ( flight management system known as the computer where we instert all the data mandatory for our flight). Pilot monitoring will be doing some cockpit checklist and afterwards will perform the walkaround.

When the the cabin crew will advise us that they are ready we can start the boarding with or withour refuelling depending also on airport policy and if the refuelling hasn’t been finished yet. Once we have all the passengers on board, take off briefing performed and all the documents including the loadsheet we can close the doors, start the engines , do the pushback if necessary and start taxi towards the take-off runway.

For taxi we will contact the Ground frequency and later will be transferred with the Tower frequency in order to obtain the line up and take-off clearance.

Once airborn we continue our climb towards crusing altitude and after reaching it, we will check and monitor all the instruments in the cockpit, maintain radio contact and follow ATC instruction.

Approaching our destination we obtain weather information for both destionation and alternate airport in order to prepare for the approach and landing. This will require a complete approach briefing which will include several factors: landing performance calculations, arrival route( STAR), navigation aids, weather information, use of autobrake and reversers, expected taxi and threats and errors that might be faced during this phase. It is highly important to prepare a detailed briefing in order to cover all the relevant information necessary for our landing.

Then we will start descent towards the destination and confirm with air traffic controllers our arrival route and type of approach. Depending on the weatehr conditions we can do a manual landing or an autoland if low visibility operations are in force or if a simulated autoland will be performed required to remain current.

After landing and vacating the runway, we will follow the Ground instructions towards our parking stand. Once we are parked and do all the relevant checklists, we will start the disembarkation with our without refuelling.

The whole process done before first departure will be started all over again.

Once all passengers are on board and aircraft is fully ready we will start our flight back home.

Being a pilot requires a lot of hard work, dedication , sometimes sacrifices in order but it is so worth it! I can’t describe in words the feeling when you take-off in the morning with the sun rising up and the whole world wakes up for a new day!

Hope you will find the right answer in your hearts and follow it! Give wings to your dreams!

From zero to Captain

C112F46B-AB78-40C4-B683-034A76D4DAC3The ultimate goal of every flight student is to become a Captain. I guess it’s something that we all motivate ourselves into achieving.

I have been asked many times about how I took on flying and personally speaking, my story might be a little different.

Ever since I have decided to follow my dream and to become a pilot I have started flying for the Aeroclub in my hometown Pitesti on a small aircraft IAR 46 and later on Zlin 142.

One evening I was out having dinner with some friends from the Aerospace Engineering University and one of them said that there will be a new class of pilots at the Superior Civil Aviation Flight School but it will be a helicopter pilot course and not airplane. As I heard them speaking and discussing who would like to take this chance, a voice in my head rushed in : Yes, me! I have already started making plans of how one day I can combine climbing with helicopters and than the idea of doing Search and Rescue with the helicopter in the Alps seemed quite legit.

Consequently, I have started gathering all the information so I can apply for one of the twelve available vacancies and be part of the first ever Romanian helicopter class that was civil and not belonging to the army.

The first step was to obtain the Medical Certificate Class 1 which is mandatory for any commercial pilot flying, on either helicopters or airplanes.

I went at the Aeronautical Medical Institute in Bucharest, and after two long days of different kind of tests: neurological, ophthalmological, pshycological, barometric chamber and many other tests I have become a Class 1 Medical Certificate holder.

Next step was passing the interview tests which consisted in : english written and spoken, mathematics and physics.

It was feeling kind of unease regarding this interview since there were a lot of candidates and only twelve spots. I was lucky enought to be the last one on the list of accepted candidates. It was the first time in my life that I cried tears of happines for making it last on a list.

That thin line beneath my name changed my entire life, and it’s been more than 15 years ever since I joined the wonderful world of aviation.

I started flying on Cessna 172 on which I did my first solo flight ever. I guess many of you who are reading this, know already this famous airplane as a first love airplane.

Afterwards I have started flying helicopters: Eurocopter 120 Colibri and later on the wonderful Eurcopter 155 which is a state of the art helicopter just like a mini Airbus helicopter.

It had the time of my life flying helicopters. The pure joy and freedom this flying gives you , I have been trully blessed to have this chance. I also met amazing instructors and people. Right there in that flight school, the whole aviation world opened up for me.

After finishing the three years of flying helicopters with a CPL ( H) license, I decided to convert it into an ATPL (A) license. This was the beginning of a new journey ahead and my way towards airline aviation started with a simple: What if?

To obtain the ATPL (A), I started again flying small airplanes and  enjoyed flying Diamond 20 on an airfield at the seaside called Tuzla. At Tuzla, I have also met a fantastic team, and it was a real pleasure to fly with them.

Later on, I have continued with Piper Seneca, and soon enough I have obtained the most wanted license ATPL (A) frozen.

It has been quite of an exciting adventure, but now it was time to meet my next challenge flying the jet: Boeing 737.

Going directly from helicopters and Piper into the 737 was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Honestly speaking aviation, was always meant to be for me. Whatever I had my mind set on, with hard work and determination it would be accomplished.

I flew 737 for almost 2 years before I have decided to join my current pink company in 2011 as a First Officer on Airbus 320. It has been one of the best decisions I ever made.

Having the chance to fly both Boeing and Airbus at such an young age ( I was 23 years old when I started on Boeing 737) gave me the oportunity to build up experience and sum up hours which led to my biggest dream of all or, at least that’s what I thought back then: becoming a Captain.

I still remember continually counting the hours until I could reach the minimum requirements and apply for the Captain position. I will never forget writing down the e-mail in which I was kindly requesting to be taken into consideration as a possible candidate for an upgrade.

It was 2013 when after many months of being tested : technically, in the simulator and flying under supervision with an instructor, that I have gained my four stripes and became a Captain at almost 30 years old.

The memory of  my first flight as a Captain will never fade away. I was flying to Luton, on a November evening knowing that my dream came true.

 

 

 

From Mont Blanc to helicopters

9A7C29E4-3A5A-45E7-919D-3BC275E208B1

Since I was little I had tons of energy , I was different than many other girls my age because of my choices for different activities: I tried ballet but ended up practicing many years of martial arts , I was going to many chemistry competitions but felt in love with mountains where my soul still can be found.

Life is not always easy or fair with us so when I started climbing in the Romanian mountains I felt like something was changing inside me and the beauty of the nature was just breathtaking.

The moment I have discovered the mountains, I knew it right away that I will never be the average girl as per society’s standards.

When I had to choose between going on a normal vacation in USA and going on Mont Blanc with another friend I took the decision in a heart beat: Mont Blanc. I guess easy journeys were never my thing. If something was filled with hard work, a lot of trainings and tons of planning had my name written all over.

My parents were always by my side even though going on Mont Blanc at 22 years old without a tour guide and without ever being in the Alps was not the most relaxing situation for them. However I did climb Mont Blanc and in the end I realized that climbing is not really about the summit but more about the journey, the memories you make and about what you learn from that experience.

I have learned many things from climbing Mont Blanc:

-to be humble towards the mountains and to life in general,

-that my meteorology teacher was right about the lowest temperature just before sunrise ( it was so cold that I was sure my soul will freeze),

– that Chamonix looks depicted from a fairy tale story and the more you climb the more magical it becomes,

-that it matters who is next to you in your worst times,

and

-under no circumstance should you eat a Mars at 4808 meters if you still want to have teeth.

As I was descending from the summit to Chalet Gouter, I realized my left eye got frozen and later on that day I also got frostbites at both legs. As I called my parents and described my condition most optimistically and innocently possible, I realized that Mont Blanc was teaching me the most important lesson of them all: how we take things for granted and how important is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes , especially your loved ones. I have learned I was not alone and that what I do in life has a great impact on others. As a mother myself, I can understand now how my parents were feeling after my phone call and after not being able to hear from me for two very long days.

Mountains teach us the hard way, and I was lucky to recover from all the injuries and I was blessed to have a fantastic family that was there for me no matter what.

However, the most important memory from the Chalet Gouter, where we stayed before and after climbing the summit, was a helicopter coming every single day to bring us food. It was just amazing to watch it flying at aproximately 3835 meters.

At that moment I was already flying helicopters back home in Bucharest and realized how much I miss flying. I still miss flying helicopters. I did it for almost three years, and I must say it’s something that I recommend to everyone since it embodies the feeling of pure freedom.

It was that year that I have decided to dedicate myself more to flying that climbing.

The Mont Blanc experience has profoundly changed me and offered me the possibility to learn about being grateful for having the chance to live, feel and climb such a fantastic mountain. A unique experience, a lifetime journey full of memories, lessons, and learning how being humble is the only way to succeed.

Maybe it’s not just a coincidence my first flight coming back from maternity leave will be Geneva, and most probably I will fly over Mont Blanc in my 12.000 meters Airbus office looking at the summit wondering and just thinking: I was there!

 

 

A little girl with a big dream

796208FB-53AB-4B0A-8622-48228B84F39B

I turned my eyes toward the little aerobatic aircraft as it was departing from my hometown’s airfield. My heart was beating so fast that I knew something inside me has changed forever. I knew it right there that I wanted to be a pilot so I took my parents by surprise next morning over breakfast by telling them : I want to be a pilot!. I was so happy my parental embraced my idea and supported my decision. They simply said :Ok, let’s try this one also and there I was few days later departing on a small airplane with a great instructor towards my first flight ever. I was so blown away by that first flight that after our landing I have started making plans on how to achieve my Big Dream.

This story goes back when I was just 17 years old and the whole world around was not very sure a girl could do it or that was even possible, but for me there was no question ,it was only a destination.

As it happens with every single journey, it all starts with a lot of  dreams, tons of ideas and detailed planning about how everything will become as I have imagined. Of course there is a big difference between what we dream and imagine and what really the road is but I feel in my case it was just meant to be up in the air.

I never asked myself or others if it is possible , I just did it.

I have never stopped flying ever since but it all changed about 2 years ago. It was for the best reason in the world  to take a break so I could properly welcome my baby girl ,Sara, into this world.