Meet Aviation’s newest staff member: Jamie Cross. Jamie has an extensive background in the aviation industry, working in many different roles and airlines all over the world including Emirates. We are very fortunate to now have Jamie working at Griffith University as an Aviation lecturer teaching a variety of courses and continuing his research into using virtual reality to train pilots.
What is your career background?
A thousand years ago I was in the IT industry, but my passion was always flying. I got my private pilot’s license before I could officially drive a car, and eventually worked my way up to become a commercial pilot in the UK. I moved to Dubai to work for Emirates and ended up as a ground instructor. After several years I shifted into aviation consultancy and worked for a variety of universities, flight schools and airlines around the world. Most recently, I was with Central Queensland University in Cairns as an aviation lecturer.
How did you work your way up to be a commercial pilot?
Whilst holding down an IT job, I enrolled in an aviation master’s degree at Cranfield University in the UK. I met some commercial pilots on the course; they had the flying jobs ticking away nicely in the background, and I had a desk job in computer programming. What begins with E and ends with nvious? Yep. So I quit my IT job and began flight training. I did six months intensive ATPL theory (Airline Transport Pilots License) before they would even allow me near one of the training aeroplanes, and my initial blasé attitude changed at about 9:30 am on day one when I realised it was going to be tough. “Train Hard, Fight Easy!” one of my instructors used to shout through a handlebar moustache and a wide grin every Monday morning as we embarked on yet another gruelling week of study. I really had to bury my head in the books for those six months, but it really was worth it.
What have been some of your career highlights?
I always thought my first solo flight would be a big event, a major achievement of which I’d always remember, but it wasn’t really. I suppose that when the instructor hopped out of the aeroplane and said, “Off you go, fly around the aerodrome on your own”, it just seemed like a natural progression and all the training automatically kicked in. Train hard, fight easy.
But collecting the cheap plastic wallet containing my commercial pilot’s license from the issuing authority was a big high. I was a commercial pilot! Whoop whoop! So, urm, what next? Ah, yeah, get a job. That proved a little tricky because there weren’t many pilot jobs around for newbies at the time. I knew the aviation industry is cyclic, so I made hamburgers and went home every night with greasy hair and quite possibly sent an email to every airline and charter company and anything that had wings in the world for a year or two before I got my break.
My top highlight has to be getting that first commercial pilot job with a UK airline. I had to pay for the interview, I had to pay for the aptitude testing, I had to pay for the simulator check ride, and somehow, I passed. I got my dream job. Now I could sit back and put my feet up on the desk (or the instrument facia) and enjoy the ride. Well, actually, I found out that being a pilot is committing yourself to constant assessment, persistent observation, endless training, check rides, testing, medicals, blah blah blah. It’s unrelenting. But nonetheless, I was flying, and my office was the pointy bit at the front. And I loved it.
Travelling the world and seeing the inside of many, many hotel rooms was an experience, but the reward came from long layovers where there was time to explore the city and witness the culture. Working for Emirates and living in a sandpit for several years was a rewarding chapter. Ensuring all the crew were allocated to their correct hotel rooms along with the correct luggage after a thirteen-hour long haul was always a big relief. But tops has to be coming to work at Griffith!
What courses will you be teaching at Griffith?
I will initially be teaching Navigation, Flight Procedures III and convening a few others. Over the next year or so, I’ll be getting involved in the Graduate Diploma of Flight Management program.
What are you most looking forward to at Griffith?
Meeting the students and cracking on with my research, which is using virtual reality to train pilots. Some of my research will be published soon which documents an experiment where students describe the feeling of ‘presence’ in a virtual reality flight simulator. They also felt immersed and involved in the virtual world, and so the next logical step is to ascertain whether VR is an effective training medium for pilots.
Any tips or advice for students?
Don’t panic. If I can do it, so can you. If you work steadily and maintain a positive attitude, you will realise your dreams. Get involved. There’s a lot more going on than just lectures and exams. For example, I was really impressed by the MATES program.
Being a pilot is far more than just having the qualifications and flying skills. To name but a few, you’ve got to be a good communicator, team player, self-disciplined and have a good attitude. These are skills you should acquire and practice from day one of your studies at Griffith. Take responsibility for yourself. If you do this, when you sit down for that airline panel interview, you’re halfway there already.
And above all: train hard, fight easy!
Learn more about studying Aviation at Griffith University.