Andrew Perkins Ceo of Turnpoint and British Airways 777 Training Co-pilot
Updated: Jul 10
An active aviator who has been involved across all of aviation since 1995. Having previously studied Aeronautical Engineering at Queen Mary and Westfield University, Andrew has been an active glider pilot who has represented Britain in the Junior World Championships and has worked tirelessly for aviation charities for over 20 years.
Professionally his talents are varied and range from training pilots in large airliners through to developing the skills of those starting their flying careers in gliders and light aircraft. Andrew has worked extensively to develop aviation degree programmes, airline recruitment pathways, CSR schemes and STEM engagement work that has engaged from grass-roots through to government level.
Starting in gliding aged 3 years old, on his mum’s lap, aviation runs through Andrew’s veins. He went solo on his 16th birthday and through an Air League scholarship attained his PPL which enabled him to build power hours through glider towing. This passion to fly continued with Andrew becoming a gliding instructor, regional gliding examiner, competition pilot and motor glider instructor and tug pilot. He was fortunate to receive a part funded commercial airline pilot course with bmi (British Midland) in 2000 and went on to fly 737 classics for bmibaby before moving to British Airways in 2005. Starting on the 737 and then flying the 777. Andrew was involved in BA recruitment for over a decade as a selector, with 2 years as Assistant Pilot recruitment manager, a pilot ambassador and now training co-pilot on 777. Andrew still loves everything to do with the people in aviation, helping people travel safely and getting airborne!
CEO of TurnPoint Ltd established in 2016. TurnPoint was created to help people achieve their full potential. This collection of companies focuses on training and development within aviation as well as Human Factors training for those across other industries. Furthering the capabilities of others and assisting other safety critical areas is the focus for the business whilst ensuring fun is had by all.
In his spare time, he is Chairman of the British Gliding Association and Trustee to The Air League and Philip Wills Memorial Fund.
Andy, your nearly two decade-long dedication to the aviation sector has resulted in a prosperous career as a training co-pilot, recruitment manager, senior first officer, and other important positions along those lines. Furthermore, you have been actively engaged in inspiring and encouraging young generations about pursuing careers in the aerospace business. Your “aviation dream” started when you were a little child. Could you kindly take us back to the beginning of your career in aviation and explain how you got started? I started flying through Gliding; a passion that remains with me today. This started with spending weekends at the airfield with my parents at the ‘Upward Bound Trust’ - charitable trust. I was hooked from a very young age with my first flight on my mothers lap aged 3 years old. I have very fond memories of these years. Helping pulling gliders around to get others airborne and soaring in an open cockpit T21b glider for many years was remarkable. From my younger years, I remember flying a paper aeroplane from the open cockpit to see which got to the ground first, me or the paper aeroplane! As I grew into a teenager, I would spend many weekends at the Gliding Club. To pay for this, I would work part-time in the local supermarket stacking shelves. They would often ask if I could work weekends. If the weather looked bad I would volunteer to assist with additional cover, but otherwise I kept my working evenings to Thursdays and Fridays to allow me time to fly at the weekends.
These years are always informative for anyone. Personally, I think it taught me how to work with others, really good communication skills, engineering basics and importantly, that if you work hard you can achieve your goals. I was that person who knew what they wanted to be from a young age and I don’t regret the decision to pursue aviation as a career one bit. However, it was a lot of hard work to get there. I remember my father saying (In a loving way) how painful it was at times to watch me study! Academic learning didn’t come naturally to me, but I did have perseverance, a lot of self motivation and great family support. This and a desire to fly always carried me through. A career in aviation might sound challenging to young people. What were the initial challenges that you faced compare to those that today's youth may face? How did you manage to get beyond those obstacles? What qualities helped you to overcome them?
Aviation is a great community globally. Once you get involved and, if your attitude is right, then people will always be there to support and help you wherever you are in the world. There are several elements to your question so I will try and answer each one.
Challenges: This all depends on your perspective. In terms of my journey to the Flight Deck, there wasn’t a pot of cash available from the bank of mum and dad but there was a lot of support and help where possible. I think accessibility is the biggest challenge that anyone has to overcome when they approach a career. To that end, I feel challenges will vary from person to person but in my opinion there are very few that cannot be overcome if the determination and drive exists. I will therefore highlight 2 challenges that often come up in conversation.
Financial - This is a tricky topic and I have heard of families remortgaging the house to pay £120k + for their offspring to become a pilot. This is a wonderful offer and shows the true love parents have for their children! I was fortunate and received a funded part sponsorship with British Midland. This was a superb scheme where you put up a percentage of the training upfront and then the rest of the costs were reclaimed from your salary (over 5 years) when you started work. This made it possible for me to have an accelerated journey into a commercial flying career on the 737. I still remember walking around the banks in Banbury one day asking them for a loan to help me. My bank at the time were a BIG NO! However, there was a young lady at Natwest who said she had an idea and that she would be in touch. She was good to her word a week later I had a banking manager around my house working out a way to make it all happen! I remember part of that conversation clearer “Income - Zero, Assets - Zero, Salary for next 18 months - Zero, Future earnings - Good….. Mmmm…… Well I think we should approve this one….”
Although I worked hard to get there, I do feel lucky to have received a part sponsorship. It broke down the barriers for me and I think we will see more of these kind of schemes reappear over the next few years as airlines look to secure the right people from across all of the diverse population of the UK. This will ensure that we see the right people join the industry, not just those with access to the funding.
As an industry we have to find ways to change the financial accessibility. I am working with a few others to try and maximise the Pilot Apprenticeship route. With some clever thinking and utilising all the resources around us I am certain that an Apprenticeship as well as other alternative routes to the flight deck are possible. We need to demonstrate this is not just achievable, but also the right thing to do for the industry.
Accessibility - This is an emotive topic for many. As an industry that was historically only accessibility to people of a wealthy background, the industry does have a dramatically larger percentage of male to female pilots with approximately 6% of the pilot workforce made up of women. There is a lot of work being undertaken in this area to increase accessibility. Although a lot of work to complete, I have noticed a significant change in attitudes such that from training through to the flight deck, there is an open door and refreshed attitude and culture that means anyone from any background is welcome.
Aviation has so many different facets and is a dynamic and accepting industry. This is a huge plus and I think needs to be shown more widely to the general public. This and taking aviation into schools and colleges across the country and deep into the inner cities will help change the perspective that this is an exclusive industry. I instigated a scheme through The Air League which saw us go deep into the Valleys of Wales and into East London, central Glasgow and Newcastle. This was a great learning opportunity for me, the students and colleagues involved. It demonstrated to me the power of aviation to unlock people and to enable them to fulfil their full potential. There are some great initiatives occurring across the whole of Aviation, Aerospace and Space, so I hope that more opportunities to get involved reach the next generation over the next few years. How has a career in the aviation sector impacted your ability to travel and experience different parts of the world?
Amazingly. An aviation career is the ultimate way to see the world. You get to see the good and the bad and it remains a privilege to this day to be able to see the world from above and all angles. People and cultures are diverse, dynamic and fun. The landscapes and oceans spectacular. All of these elements are precious and we must work together to ensure a safe future and to defuse the conflicts and hardships we see around the world today. I have been to places and met people that I would never of imagined possible when I was younger and my life is all the richer for that.
People and Cultures - Without getting too deep or political, I believe we need to try and be more inclusive and emotionally intelligent. From a humanity angle, the cultures and people of world are remarkable and when we embrace the differences there is usually success. I am not saying this is easy to achieve, but I believe that we need to learn to respect cultures and ways of life and to have a focus on educating each other about our beliefs and ways instead of trying to impose our thoughts and beliefs.
Landscapes and Oceans - Seeing the world from the air is fantastic. I have flown deep in the mountains of New Zealand, across Europe and America in gliders as well at higher levels in airliners, crossing the icy far north, our great oceans and also over the high mountain ranges and deserts of the world. The sights I have seen have been remarkable and the places visited incredible. It does also make you realise that we need to look after and protect the world upon which we are lucky enough to live.
What is one of the most unforgettable experiences as a pilot that you can share with us?
I know you asked for one, but I if could use ‘First’s’ as my unforgettable experience. My First Solo and the First time I landed on the other side of the world. When you have trained to do something and wanted to attain that accolade for many years it is remarkable when it first happens.
My First Solo was in an open cockpit glider (relevant because it was February and pretty cold) on my 16th Birthday. This was the minimum age you could do this. I was given permission for the day off of school and headed up for a check flight to ensure my standard was still correct and then off on my own. I remember the heightened heart rate and slight anxiety as the cable tightened on the ground and the glider edged forward onto the wooden nose skid with a gentle nod forward, followed by being pushed back in my seat as the winch driver (method of launching a glider) put on full power and I quickly accelerated to an airspeed of 50 kts and, like a kite in the wind, I was whisked into the air. At the top of the launch, the feeling for the first time was that the controls were lighter and more sensitive and it was the enormity of the world around you that resides with me. Quiet except for the wind passing your ears….. It was a very special experience.
Sticking with First’s, another great milestone was having trained as a commercial pilot, to then fly the aircraft from London to Singapore and then Singapore to Sydney. It was a still and glorious morning in Sydney with the water glinting with an early morning sunrise over the Opera House as I gently (If I do say so myself!) touched down on the other side of the world. I remember getting out and walking down the steps and thinking very much, wow…. I have just flown to the other side of the world.
It reminds you how fortunate we are to travel and see the world, and also when we see it from above, how important it is for us to care for and look after the planet. What do you consider the greatest success of your career? What does success means to you?
Success is sometimes a difficult one to measure. I have never been a big fan of championing myself to say “wow look at what I have done!” However, the greatest success of my flying career has been being able to help others succeed. If you are able to assist others to fulfil their dreams and you get to be a part of that journey it is pretty special. Teaching others and helping work with others to unlock their dreams is probably my greatest flying success.
Andy you are also involved in the charity sector, Air League and Philip Wills Memorial fund, where you have supported with scholarships young people with limited financial resources who aspire a career in aviation. What inspired you to become involved in the charitable work that you do?
I have always enjoyed helping others. I was generously supported when I started out and I was keen to give back. As such a diverse industry with the power to unlock the abilities and potential of others it is really rewarding to help people find themselves. This was the initial motivation. Having seen students who weren’t previously engaged with anything, who had low aspirations come out of themselves and become really engaged and find their inner drive is really satisfying.
I now find myself with a great network around me and involved in many activities that enable me to assist. Once you have the knowledge and can see how to unlock opportunities for others you just have to help. To that end, it is something that just has to be done.
Why do you think it's important for young people to consider and pursue a career path in the aerospace industry?
It is a dynamic and fun industry that will help you explore the world in which we live. As an industry with such a strong focus on sustainability, there will be great opportunities coming from aviation and aerospace over the next 20 years.
Aviation and Aerospace is in a unique position that it will continue to innovate to rise to the challenges around us to reduce environmental impact in particular. This focus from within will make a big difference to the opportunities for the next generation joining the industry. I believe this innovation will fuel changes for aviation but also for the way we heat buildings and the tools / equipment we will use to travel and function in general. This will help the industry, but also the spin offs will undoubtably enable us to optimise the way we use energy and how we travel domestically as well as internationally.
The other reason young people should pursue a career pathway in aerospace is that we need to ensure we rise to the challenge instead of stifling development with restrictions. Young People tend to have open minds, and when nurtured, they can work well to find new ways of achieving and overcoming difficult problems. As we evolve the technical ability, we also need to enhance and grow the understanding of others to ensure that the industry is appropriate and ready to support worldwide travel in 2050 and beyond. We need travel for education, fun and trade. To that end, we need to find sustainable solutions to enable travel across the globe without negative impacts.
In your opinion, what characteristics are essential for successful leadership?
Empathy, Effective Communication and Determination. If you utilise these then you can achieve anything yourself and in support of others.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being with us today, Andrew!