The pilot’s note that changed my life
Shelby Tillett, 19, remembers the moment clearly.
She was just seven years old, on a flight with her mother, sketching a picture of a plane using the on-board safety card. She asked her mum to see whether a flight attendant would take the drawing up to the captain and what happened changed her life.
"I remember getting the drawing back with the captain's signature as well as the altitude and I was so excited. It was later that I realised that I wanted to become a pilot."
Shelby is a cadet pilot with Virgin Australia. A 54 week program of ground and flight training that launches high school leavers into a lifelong aviation career.
"I was actually on the beach on a family holiday and some Royal Australian Airforce FA18's flew over and it was then at that moment that I just thought that's exactly where I'm meant to be." Shelby then started a Bachelor of Aviation where she found out about Virgin's cadetship program.
"There's no feeling quite like flying," says Shelby. "The moment the wheels lift off it's almost like a sigh of relief, I'm back in the air again."
Virgin Australia is currently recruiting for its 2019 pilot cadetship program with a 50-50 gender target. The airline wants an equal intake of male and females to ensure female representation in the male-dominated aviation industry.
"In what's typically a male dominated area of the industry, we're encouraging more females to consider aviation as a career and apply for this excellent program. Globally, just three per cent of pilots are women. Our previous pilot cadetships have had up to 50 per cent females so we're confident we can reach this target this year," says Lucinda Gemmell, Virgin Australia group executive people.
This year the airline is also offering places for two ab-initio courses designed for those with no flying experience.
Training at the airline's flight school in Adelaide, cadets graduate with a commercial pilot licence and offered roles as certified first and second officers with Virgin Australia. Cadets live on campus with facilities including a gym and tennis court for letting off steam between training.
For Shelby, the program has allowed her seven year old dreams to become a reality.
"It's the little events throughout my life that have led me to realise this is the career for me," says Shelby. "It's where I feel like I belong."
Applications for the pilot cadetship are open until 3 June 2018 for courses commencing in January and June of 2019.