When it comes to flying across borders and over continents, Captain Sebastian Roca says that “keeping an open mind is the gateway to experiencing all cultures”.
Sebastian’s passion for aviation dates back to his childhood when, at the tender age of six, he was already in awe of the nature of flight and aircraft. And so the decision to become a pilot was entrenched from a young age.
Born in Argentina, Sebastian’s early pursuit of his goal was rarely easy. “At that time, the situation in Argentina for me and my family made it difficult to dedicate resources to pursuing aviation,” he says.
Despite the obstacles, Sebastian maintained his resolve, and later discovered a similar commitment in other pilots.
“Having flown for many years, and spoken with different colleagues, I will say that a large percentage of the pilots find a way to get their training done all the way through to the finish, even with obstacles, because that’s their passion. It’s the fact that it doesn’t come easy that you find pilots with extraordinary resolve and tenacity.”
When he moved from South America to Europe, Sebastian seized the opportunity to begin his aviation training in the United Kingdom and later did his pilot training in the United States.
Today, Sebastian is a pilot with Avion Express, captaining the Airbus A320. Although Spain and Italy are his two favorite destinations, his fascination extends to countries around the world. “I’ve had the opportunity to travel and fly to many different countries,” he says. “Each country has its own peculiarities and I find that fantastic.”
He adds that the cultures and people of separate nations have a resonance that he finds precious and rewarding to experience.
“There are many differences that you can find when flying across borders and more so with continents. In aviation, we have, in general, differences in the same terminologies such as communication between ATC controllers and pilots. When you cross over to another continent, you’ll find a totally different environment. Hence you develop your situational awareness, and this adds to your experience as you take on the varied conditions you encounter while flying.”
Sebastian says that “keeping an open mind is the gateway to experiencing all cultures”. Recalling a flight he conducted in the Caribbean, he says: “We were flying in on an Airbus A320, and we were about to land, and we saw some donkeys on the runway. These are the kind of things that make you laugh because you could never imagine a similar situation in Europe for instance.”
It is this open approach and flexibility that has enabled Sebastian to navigate the uncertainties during Covid. He points to the fact that the aviation industry has always been prone to sudden changes as he recalls the events of September 11, 2001 – a period when he was flying in the United States.
“In moments like these, the change is so unexpected and drastic that it can be difficult to maintain stability, especially when looking for good career opportunities or when you had plans for a long-term partnership with your airline. Looking at the pandemic, I can guarantee that 90% of the pilots who were grounded preferred not to be.”
He goes on to describe that the important part is looking forward while ensuring that you are flexible and available.
“I believe this period has been a big lesson for everyone, and I am thankful that the Avion Express family has dealt with the situation in a positive way. Such a firm and good relationship with an airline is what allows not only myself but other groups of pilots to have the opportunities to keep growing and to keep flying. It’s important that you can trust in your management and this creates the situation where everybody plays an effort towards that company’s success.”
During a lengthy career travelling across the globe, Sebastian says that his most rewarding experiences have come from being an instructor and imparting knowledge and experience to those he meets.
“The aspects of being an instructor really stand out when you realize the experience that you gain yourself when you teach somebody else. It’s unbelievable how much you gain training somebody else, but I’ve found that it’s very rewarding.”
He adds that the responsibility of imparting that knowledge can be demanding as it requires more effort towards balancing your own time and energy and aspects of your personal life.
And does he have a message for upcoming and aspiring aviators? “Go for it 100%. 150% if you can, because if it’s something that you love to do and it’s your passion, you’ll enjoy it all the way through and you’ll have a fantastic life.”