Sharing our stories will help aviation recover

Richard Stephenson, CEO of Aerotime Hub

I’ve never been happier to buy tea and coffee online and wait for it to arrive. That’s how I felt when two friends started their own tea and coffee business after the Covid crisis cruelly robbed them of their passion – flying. One pilot and one crew training instructor, a couple, both grounded. It’s a familiar story and one I am sure you’ve all heard all too often in the last year.

As I poured my first cup of Earl Grey, I felt an enormous sense of pride for these guys. They were not going to let the pandemic bring them down and they were showing the kind of resilience and determination I have got so used to seeing from colleagues across our industry. And the cuppa was delicious – quality, just what I had expected from people trained in our industry and who look to do everything properly.

And that is where ‘My Covid Story’ originated. The story of David and Jeroen – and so many others who have faced this crisis with the kind of ingenuity and resourcefulness that could only emanate from aviators. Faced with a global pandemic, the (temporary) decimation of their profession, redundancies all around, furlough for the lucky ones, friends and colleagues facing the most difficult decisions of their lives, the loss of their joy of flying with no idea when it might return, they turned to tea and coffee, uber driving, training as a paramedic to help the cause and various other things. To keep busy, to help, to earn money, to have a focus; but it really doesn’t matter why.  What matters is the passion they put into trying something new and the support they’ve given to others, whether they realised it or not.

In a funny sort of way, they supported me and I bet they never knew that, but I am pleased to tell them now. As a director at the UK Civil Aviation Authority at the time, you can imagine how challenging those days were. But every time I reached for the Earl Grey or the ‘Manchester’ or ‘Helsinki’ blend of coffee I had purchased, it put a smile on my face because I knew where it had come from and why I had it. In those days, finding the occasional smile was a joy worth holding onto and these guys provided it at least three times a day – sometimes many more depending on how much caffeine was required.

Whenever I look at social media, I see more and more stories like that of David and Jeroen and we thought it was only right to share them with the wider aviation community. My hope is that colleagues from across aviation and our sister industries, will share their stories to inspire and encourage others, to show the determination and resilience that is omnipresent across our community. You can read their story HERE and you can read the stories of others HERE. Please read them, like them, and send us your story of the pandemic.

In any period of adversity, humanity finds a way through. Whether as an individual, a group, an industry, an economy, or humanity as a whole, there is always a way through. As we start to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this Covid nightmare, it’s only right that we find a way to capture the stories of the time.

Like the story of Patrick Pawelczak. A First Officer on the 737. He started as cabin crew and fell in love with flying. He did the PPL and CPL, worked as an instructor, amassed 1300 flying hours and then Covid struck. He has been working in construction and delivering for Amazon since, but recently became an overnight social media sensation when he posted about his experiences during the pandemic. I was honoured to speak to Patrick and you can read about our conversation HERE.

There are so many inspirational stories. We want to hear them. We want to share them. We want you to tell them. Your story doesn’t have to be about starting a new business or any other initiative. You don’t have to have done anything remarkable. Every single one of us has a Covid story. It’s just an opportunity to share your thoughts, your experiences, your reflections, your good and bad… your story is personal to you, but I can promise you that there are thousands of people out there who want to hear it – and you never know who you will help by sharing it.

I’ve always known that our aviation family is strong. Through this initiative, we want to help make it even stronger. We can share, we can connect. We can highlight inspirational efforts. We can shine a spotlight where support is needed. We can help to show just how much is going on out there and the great lengths some people are going to. And we can all think carefully about our tea and coffee drinking habits. After all, we have to buy our tea and coffee from somewhere and who better to buy it from than others within our aviation family.

Thank you. Stay safe. And let’s focus on the day we start flying again. I can’t wait.

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