Fast forward 11 months to this February and Lauren was back at work, this time relearning the Airbus and doing her type rating course on the A330. She’s already spent eight years flying the smaller A320 for Monarch, so she knew the layout and the Airbus way of doing thingsTo get back in the air involved three weeks of classroom ground school followed by another three weeks in the flight simulator and a several flights under the watchful eye of a training captain. “Having not flown for 18 months, it was initially challenging, getting my head back into the books, but with the support of the fabulous training department we have here at Virgin Atlantic, I was quickly able to get back up to speed and ready for my simulator exams. I was lucky enough to have Captain Chris sign off my final simulator exam alongside my final line check flight, which brought a really positive experience to the end of my training”.
If Lauren’s world hadn’t changed enough already, her first flight back brought with it a trio of firsts for her. “Believe it or not, my first flight was the first time I’d ever flown from Heathrow. Monarch didn’t fly from there, and in my time, neither did the Virgin 747. It was also my first flight in an A330 and the first time I’d been to Lagos. So it was a lot of firsts all wrapped into one flight, but it was really good.”
So how does her new long-haul career square up with being a new mum? Very well, it turns out. “In my old job, over three days of short-haul, I’d probably go to the Canary Islands three times. And although I’d always sleep in my own bed, the baby would have been asleep by the time I got home,” said Lauren. “Now, as a long-haul pilot, I get a little bit of time down route to do something for myself. That might be shopping, going to the gym or a nice quiet lunch in New York. Or maybe a swim and some chill time by a pool in the Caribbean. Although most trips involve a night stop, I still get to have more time at home than some of my friends who have other professional careers. I have much more quality time at home with my baby than my accountant friend has with her little one. That advantage of the job isn’t really spoken about. That said, I’m very fortunate that I have a supportive husband and family, which means that I can focus all my time on my baby when I’m home”.