Updated: Apr 29
Matt Johnstone has recently joined Aero’s as a Flight Instructor bringing with him a wealth of experience and knowledge as an airline pilot, which includes being Captain of the Virgin Atlantic B747. However, not only is he an Aero’s Flight Instructor, but he is also an Aeros graduate student! So, how did Matt end up going full circle?
Landing the iconic Virgin Atlantic B747 as Captain
How did your journey to the flight deck start?
For anyone who dreams of aeroplanes and flight there comes a point where it is time to make a decision - whether the dream remains just that - or becomes a reality.
For me, the reality started over 20 years ago right here at Aeros Flight Training when I started my PPL course at Bristol Filton Airport.
After much research, I decided that the flexibility the Aeros modular course provided made Aeros the ideal training provider for me. I could do my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) and then subsequently my Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) theory exams in, effectively, my spare time without needing to go full time.
After completing my PPL and ATPL with Aeros, I took a flight to San Diego California to do my hour building needed to commence the commercial flying training. Once I returned to the UK, it was back to Aeros Gloucester to complete the Commercial Pilots Licence (CPL), Multi engine piston rating (MEP) and Instrument Rating (IR).
What did you do with your CPL/IR Licence once completed?
I started plying my trade at British European (Flybe) on the Bombardier Dash 8 turbo-prop. From here I moved into my first experience of a Jet aircraft working for easyJet and flying the Airbus 320 series. And finally, when the world of long haul came calling, I went to work for Virgin Atlantic Airways and initially began flying the large four engine Airbus 340. When in 2010 the opportunity presented itself to transfer to the Boeing 747 I grabbed it with both hands and ultimately also gained my command.
All in all I have been lucky enough to be rated on and flown;
Bombardier Dash-8 2/3/400
Boeing 747 - not bad for a first command!
From co-pilot at British European (Flybe) and easyJet to Captain of the Boeing 747 at Virgin Atlantic.
What’s been the most special moment in your career so far?
Whilst being the Captain on the iconic Virgin Atlantic B747 is certainly a challenge and tremendously rewarding, my first solo on Piper Warrior registration G-GFCA is right up there as one of the most unforgettable, exhilarating and special feelings that any pilot can ever achieve. I remember it like it was yesterday. In fact I did fly G-GFCA yesterday in my role as an Aeros Flight Instructor as this particular aircraft remains in the Aeros stable to this day - naturally I have a soft spot for her.
After two decades in airlines, and well over 10,000 flying hours, to be able to train, coach and assist new pilots following their dreams here at Aeros is something that is fantastically enriching and for which I consider myself incredibly fortunate.
Any advise for anyone thinking about pilot training?
For anyone who nurtures the dream of flight, and in the words of John Gillespie Magee, “slip the surly bonds of Earth”. Believe me, you won’t regret it!
If you would like to have a one-to-one sit down with Matt at Aeros Gloucester to have a deeper discussion to find out more about him and training here at Aeros, book a time by sending us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to speaking to you soon!