Caroline Skinner is a former pupil from The Mary Erskine School and a recent Music graduate from the University of Glasgow, who decided shortly after graduation that a first-class honours degree was not all she wanted to “land”. Caroline was recently awarded a place at Skyborne Airline Academy in Cheltenham to begin her pilot training journey so we decided to catch up with her and find out what inspired her to go from Music to Aviation, her goals for the future and what advice she would give to any ESMS pupils looking to go down a similar career path.
What were your favourite subjects at school? Did you always enjoy STEM subjects, such as maths and science?
I always did - and still do - have a keen interest in all three of the sciences. Chemistry and Music were my favourite subjects at school. I was actually planning to apply to study Pharmacology at university, but at the very last minute I changed my mind and decided to do Music instead. It’s a misconception that you need to have studied STEM subjects at a high level to become a pilot though – the flight school I’m going to requires a minimum of a C in maths, physics, and English at Nat 5 level.
What attracted you towards studying Music at university?
I loved Music at school - both academic and practical - and it was my best subject in terms of grades. I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do career-wise so I decided to study Music and hope that it would eventually become clear what I wanted to do afterwards (which it did!). I chose the University of Glasgow as they had such a huge variety of modules on offer. I got to study everything from Folk Music to Film Music and ended up writing my honours dissertation on the politics of the Country Music industry!
What inspired you to go down the Aviation career path in the end?
I’ve been interested in Aviation for years. It began with my parents taking me to watch planes at the airport as a toddler! I started thinking seriously about Aviation as a career after my third year of university, and I completed some flying lessons at Perth Airport which confirmed my decision to pursue it. I didn’t know much about how the industry worked, and through making contacts and speaking to current pilots I learnt more about what flying involves, and that was what really sparked my interest and inspired me to go down this path as well.
What are you looking forward to most during your training?
The flight school I’m going to has recently acquired a school in Vero Beach, Florida, so I’ll be spending five and a half months over there completing the basic flying phase of my training.
What are your long-term goals?
If I end up flying for airlines, I think I’d want to stay short-haul for my career, purely because the long-haul lifestyle just doesn’t appeal to me as much. Another option I could explore is corporate/private jets, it really depends on what the job market is like at the time I finish training and the sort of contacts I am able to make.
Do you have one piece of advice for pupils at ESMS who might like to follow a similar career path?
Just go for it! It wasn’t until I actually tried flying that I knew for certain it was what I wanted to pursue, so if you think you might be at all interested in Aviation then I’d strongly recommend doing a lesson or two to see if you enjoy it. If you decide against it as a career, then you could always look into the possibility of getting a Private Pilot’s License instead and fly for fun! These are expensive to obtain but some organisations offer student discount on them and prices can vary depending on where you learn.
What’s a book you would recommend to anyone you meet?
I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris recently – it’s an eye-opening book that I think everybody should read. For an Aviation-specific book, I would recommend Your Captain Speaking: Views from the Flight Deck by Scott Birrell, which gives a detailed and realistic insight into life as a pilot.
Lastly, if you could fly to any country in the world, what would be your dream flight destination?
New Zealand – I’ve always wanted to visit and I’m sure the scenery would be absolutely stunning to fly over.
Thank you to Caroline for taking the time to catch up with us and good luck at Cheltenham, from all of us at ESMS!