How I became a Senior First Officer at DHL

DHL Pilot

Meet Shane, Senior First Officer B777 at DHL! 

Where did the dream start for you?

As a kid, I grew up under the flight path of an airport in Brazil and always used to make the time to watch the airliners coming in. Whenever we flew anywhere, we used to take the time to go to the airport observation deck too. At the age of 6, my Dad arranged for a cockpit visit on a flight from Fortaleza to Brasília on a B767-200. So the bug came from a very young age!

What were your first steps into the airline industry?

I was given the option to make a move to England or remain in Brazil in my mid-teens. At the time I researched the paths into the flight deck and felt my chances would be better with a move to England. My choices on GCSE subjects and A Levels were centred around aviation-related subjects, or which would contribute towards aviation. This was made possible by attending career events, in particular aviation focussed. 

I also decided to join my local Air Cadet branch, as I knew it would further foster the aviation spirit and more importantly give the chance to take the controls of an aircraft! On the side-lines I also started using Flight Simulation software. I was very fortunate during my time in the Air Cadets to do my gliding scholarship and achieve my Solo Wings, which was an incredibly rewarding experience!

What were some challenges you faced?

Through my time in the Air Cadets, I naturally developed an initial interest in becoming a pilot in the RAF. Despite applying at the earliest opportunity, I was told that my eyesight would not be good enough, as I wore corrective glasses/lenses. Rather than being defeated, I became determined to explore other options to get me in a cockpit. First step was to ensure I could obtain a Class 1 Medical, which I successfully achieved. 

This gave me the peace of mind that I had the physical attributes to be able to achieve the dream career and also a renewed determination to get there!

I went on to apply for a number of scholarships as financially, I knew I would struggle with the self-funded pilot training options. The advice was to go to university first, as airlines “preferred” university-level qualifications. Recently, I attended the BALPA Parliamentary Reception in order to lobby for the UK Government to consider supporting initiatives which improve diversity by eliminating or reducing the financial barriers involved with pilot training.

Instead, I decided to find career opportunities which would allow me to set the money aside. I tried the Police Service, only to find that my eyesight was once again a blocker, despite having a Class 1 Medical! I focussed my energy on the RAF instead, as it was a familiar route due to my time in the Air Cadets. In the meantime, I worked as a Personal Banking Manager in a mainstream bank. 

Through hard work and determination (and some extraordinary circumstances), I found myself leaving the RAF Regiment to undertake the latter stages of my commercial pilot training. 

Despite being told Modular Pilots couldn’t get “good” flying jobs towards the end of the training, which trust me can be devastatingly difficult to hear, it is not true. I was at the right place, right time and was given the opportunity to showcase my worth. So networking is incredibly important! But without determination and self-motivation, I certainly would not be where I am today. Following a round of challenging selections processes, I was offered the opportunity to fly the B757 for DHL Air UK. 

I have since flown the B767 and recently qualified on the B777. 

DHL Pilot

What would be your advice to aspiring Pilots?

Don’t give up and don’t let anyone tell you “It’s not possible”. If you have a Class 1 Medical and determination to succeed you can get there. There are some incredible highs such as first solo, qualifying cross country, passing the CPL, IR and the 14 ATPL Exams (probably the most rewarding bit as academia isn’t my favourite area!).

There are some lows, sure. Eating microwave meals to stay at the training centre until midnight, only to be back at 6am studying was a particularly low point for me. But with the help of a fantastic bunch of fellow students, now life-long friends, we pushed each other to achieve the desired grades.

No matter how bleak some people tell you things are, there is also a bunch of people out there that will give you the encouragement and motivate you. Seek those out! One thing is sure, it sure is worth it! Best job in the world!

Thanks to Shane & our friends at Aviation Job Search for allowing us to use this article!

Interested in other pilot roles? Check out our Day In The Life Of section, or head over to Aviation Job Searches for more.

Helpful Links

DHL Pilot Recruitment

How To Become An Airline Pilot In 2023

Aviation Job Search


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