So how exactly do you get to fly as Captain in the left hand seat of a $250m jet with three hundred and sixty five passengers at over 500mph and 6 miles high? Maybe a lengthy stint flying fast single seater fighters for a national Air Force, or perhaps via University with an Aeronautics degree?

I decided on a wholly different approach, and armed with a pair of drumsticks set about touring with some of the biggest names in rock music whilst running my own record label.

How could the rock and roll years possibly prepare anyone for a career as an airline pilot? The answer might well surprise you.

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It's a freezing crisp Scottish morning and i'm seconds away from lifting the fully laden aircraft into the air. Suddenly, the right engine fails. Subsequently it was discovered that the left engine was also seconds away from failure. Seven years later, under very similar circumstances, the same aircraft type had a double engine failure and attempted a ditching. Unfortunately, unlike Capt "Sully's" ditching, there were no survivors.

A number of year later I line up my aircraft on the runway at Charles de Gaulle. As per usual there was the mixture of French and English Air Traffic transmissions. The resulting potential catastrophic confusion results in me informing the authorities that it was only a matter of time before this continuing situation would result in an accident. Only a few months later, this dire prediction became fatal reality.

Both the above incidents, despite being formally reported, never had the required action taken - hence the fatalities.

I was not, and I am not, prepared to be "third time unlucky"

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"So You Want To Be A Pilot" shortly to be published, will be the true account of an airline Captain's journey from musician to fledgling aviator to facing the might of one of the UK's largest Airlines, without any formal legal training, to gain a landmark legal victory.

Supported only by a small group of principled individuals, the ramifications and extent of the victory should serve as a catalyst for both the company involved, and the aviation industry in general; to improve the safety of every man woman and child who boards an aircraft.

The book will explore, first hand, the demands and pressures that today's airline pilots are facing, and not only how those demands can and do kill, but also looks at the reasons those actually tasked with regulating the airline industry appear to be "asleep at the controls."

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After 18 years of unblemished service with one of the UK’s largest airlines, 16 as a Commander, Captain Mike Simkins was faced with a dilemma. The dilemma is a common one for many pilots in todays’ airline industry. Do they choose career security over passenger and crew safety? There was only one safe and legal choice to be made.

The following are extracts taken directly from the full Tribunal Judgment which is in the public domain. For the avoidance of doubt, the statements and findings of fact contained within are solely attributable to the Judge and members of Tribunal.

“On 6th and 7th May 2014 you refused to work your duty on 7th May in protest at your flight on 6th May 2014 having, in your view, being rostered to exceed the maximum FDP [Flight Duty Period]. You dishonestly stated that the reason for refusing that duty was fatigue. These are being considered as potentially gross misconduct offences as refusals to comply with reasonable management instructions.”


“This raises very serious concerns regarding integrity, and the trust and confidence that the Company must have in its Commanders. With this in mind I find that the appropriate sanction would be dismissal.


“The claimant referred to the respondent’s fatigue modelling programme and submitted that his effectiveness on 7th May was predicted to go to 70%, the equivalent of around four times the legal limit for drinking for flying.”


The only avenue open to clear a professional reputation built over nearly 30 years was to take legal action. When an airline pilot refuses to commit a criminal act by flying at a level of fatigue equivalent to that of a drunk driver, they are correctly, “just doing their job” in protecting the lives of his/her passengers and fellow crew.


“A person must not act as a member of the crew of an aircraft to which this article applies if they know or suspect that they are suffering from or, having regard to the circumstances of the flight to be undertaken, are likely to suffer from, such fatigue as may endanger the safety of the aircraft or of its occupants”.


The claimant has satisfied the tribunal that there were circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent in relation to the fatigue issue but not the flight time issue. The tribunal is satisfied that the claimant took appropriate steps to protect himself or other persons from the danger by reporting that he was not fit to fly due to fatigue.”

The claimant has satisfied us that, by raising the flight time issue and the fatigue issue, he brought to his employer’s attention by reasonable means, circumstances connected with his work which he reasonably believed were harmful or potentially harmful to health or safety. The limits on flight time and not flying when fatigued are clearly matters related to safety which, if breached, are potentially harmful to the health and safety of passengers and crew.

For free access to the key points, and to read the full Judgement related to the successful action, simply enter your email below.

The forthcoming book is based on a career spanning nearly thirty years, racking up over 13,000 flying hours operating all over the world as a Captain on both the Airbus 330 and Boeing 767.

On two previous occasions, serious situations were highlighted to the authorities, both operational failures and policies that, due to first hand experience, were considered to be life threatening.

Sadly, neither were thoroughly investigated, nor had the required action been taken that would have prevented two subsequent separate fatal air-crashes.

In the forthcoming book, the author’s life and experiences are documented, from successfully transferring from musician to aviator, without any legal training, facing the might of a major airline’s legal muscle. Given the unequivocal judgement in his favour, he is hopeful that his employer and the Regulator will take all the appropriate actions required to ensure that never again will any pilot face the dilemma of having to choose career over passenger and crew safety.

Many will assume the Regulator, in this case the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will ensure, in the interests of Flight Safety, strict adherence to the law relating to maximum allowable flight duties and fatigue issues. In the book, given all the facts surrounding the case, the reader will be asked to come to their own conclusion, which will raise the valid question, “Has the relationship between regulator and airlines become far too cosy?”

We are very pleased to note that BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association), my Union, has now launched a “Focus on fatigue” campaign, “to keep the issue on the agenda of pilots, the public, airline regulators and the Government.”

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For the full judgment please click here

The following are extracts taken directly  from the full Tribunal Judgment  which is in the public domain. For the avoidance of doubt The statements and findings of fact contained within are solely attributable to the Judge and members of Tribunal.

“The unanimous judgment of the tribunal is that:

  1. The complaint of detriment on the ground of making protected disclosures is well founded.
  2. The complaint of detriment on the ground of health and safety matters fallingwithin section 44 Employment Rights Act 1996 is well founded.
  • “The claimant was unrepresented at the final hearing”
  • The claimant referred to the respondent’s fatigue modelling programme and submitted that his effectiveness on 7th May was predicted to go to 70%, the equivalent of around four times the legal limit for drinking for flying”
  • “We find that it was very unusual to have a flight plan on the day which indicated that the duty would not be completed within the maximum FDP.”
  • ‘We find that the claimant suspected that the duty for 6”‘ May had been manipulated prior to that date to fit the maximum FDP of 12 hours 30 minutes’
  • We find that he genuinely held a view that he could not legally exercise discretion if the event which would lead to the maximum FDP to be exceeded was something known to the operator by the time the flight plan given to the Commander on the day of the flight was produced.”
  • ‘When asked by the Judge why no one went back to the claimant about his question as to how the duty time of 12 hours 30 was arrived at, which the claimant again raised in the pack he produced and sent to Mr Scadeng prior to the disciplinary hearing, Mr Scadeng replied that he viewed the email of 7”‘ May as about fatigue and his view about the rest was that it was “intended as entrapment” and that they needed to be cautious’
  • “The claimant said he brought to the respondent’s attention by reasonable means,i.e. an email to Roger Scadeng and a fatigue report, circumstances which he thought would be harmful or potentially harmful to the health and safety of himself, the crew and passengers. The claimant alleged that, highlighting the danger by email to Roger Scadeng and completing fatigue reports and refusing the 7″‘ May duty on safety grounds, he had been suspended for over five months. The claimant’s representative confirmed that the claimant believed he was suspended and facing a disciplinary because he had raised a safety issue”
  • “the real dilemma was the discussion I had with him the night before and decision making was not aligned to what our expectations of what the decision making process would be from a Commander”.
  • “The claimant suspected that the flight was rostered illegally and this belief was confirmed in the flight plan which came out which showed it was twenty minutes over
  • “It is common ground that the claimant was under an obligation not to fly if he knew or suspected that he was suffering from fatigue such that this could endanger the safety of the aircraft or its occupants and that he would commit a criminal offence if he did not comply with this obligation.”
  • “you sought to avoid the duties that had been planned for you and were dishonest about your motivation for not wanting to perform those duties”.
  • for all night duties/return from long haul sectors the working line dips below this dotted line due to the time of day so we cannot avoid operating duties in the zone due to the nature of the programme that we operate”


For the full judgment please click here ‘