Captain Joe’s story: Airbus joystick replaced by coffee roaster

Joe Townshend album

Joe Townshend, one of the youngest qualified Captains at Thomas Cook Airlines, could not even imagine that one day his life would change completely. Having lost his job when Thomas Cook Airlines collapsed in 2019, he joined Titan Airways. Unfortunately, this was in January 2020, just two months before the Covid crisis struck. 

Joe’s journey to aviation began over 15 years ago. He says he was very fortunate in his early career to qualify as an airline pilot. Holding type-ratings on the Airbus A320 and A330 jets, Joe had a plan to increase his competencies and become involved in pilot training. 


“I was very grateful to do my passion as a job […]. Before the pandemic, I had just attained a new job, having lost my previous position as an airline pilot at Thomas Cook after they had collapsed in late 2019. I managed to get a new job in January 2020 with Titan Airways, which is based in the UK as well. So I was very fortunate to start with them and I was hoping to have a long career working for their company.”

 I just couldn’t believe that in such a short time space I would have to look for a new job again. 

Joe says that the most inspiring thing in his job was to be a part of the passionate aviation community. In his job, he says he found a fantastic atmosphere, which prevailed even during tough night flights. Unfortunately, it all ended just in a couple of months, March 2020.

“I remember thinking I can’t believe that this is happening again after such a short period. It had been three months and I was really excited to start a new job. I just couldn’t believe that in such a short time space I would have to look for a new job again. And this time it wasn’t just one company but the whole aviation was affected,” Joe said.

After losing his dream job, Joe still needed to provide for his family. Since the possibility to get back to the cockpit significantly shrunk, he started delivering shopping for a supermarket in the UK. 

“I was grateful to have that job and some income.” 

However, the former Captain started to look for wider horizons. Alongside the new job as a delivery person, Joe decided to set up a personal business in the coffee industry. After nine months of preparation work, he launched his own coffee roastery called “Altitude Coffee London” and immediately attracted customers’ attention.

Joe Townshend roasting coffee

“It was something I had always dreamed of doing for several years and in the situation when I had no job, I figured why not give myself a try. I spent last year building physical premises and building the brand. Now we are selling to our customers, which has been fantastic. We’ve had a very good response so far, with lots of orders and lots of positive reviews for our products. So, I’m really happy. It’s a fantastic experience,” said Joe.

I have been doing two jobs, working day and night for the last year now. So it’s quite exhausting but rewarding.

However, running the coffee roastery, doing delivery work and being a dad of two small children is no easy task. The pilot points out that the tough part was not having enough time to spend with his family.  

“I have been doing two jobs, working day and night for the last year now. So it’s quite exhausting but rewarding. My two children don’t have much time to spend with me. That is difficult. I’m being locked down for significant periods of time. The last year has been hard not to be able to see friends and family. It has been tough for my personal life.”

Now, the aviator is looking forward to the future where he would fly again and run the coffee roastery simultaneously. Furthermore, Joe is keen on his business development plans and aims to expand if the opportunity arises.

“For now, I’ll be focusing on my coffee roastery and hopefully making it a success. I will keep this business running and hopefully will get to the position where I can have staff running it for me and I can just manage things in the background whilst I fly. It would be the perfect scenario.”

“But my passion will always be aviation. And I would take the first opportunity to get another flying job.”

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