Wilson aims for skies as Aer Lingus pilot

New recruit Wilson Greenlee, right, is welcomed to Aer Lingus by Christoph Mueller, the airline's chief executive officer.  Picture by Jason Clarke Photography. INPT05-017
New recruit Wilson Greenlee, right, is welcomed to Aer Lingus by Christoph Mueller, the airline's chief executive officer. Picture by Jason Clarke Photography. INPT05-017

A Derryhale man is flying high, having been selected from thousands of hopefuls to train as a pilot with Aer Lingus.

Wilson Greenlee, who works in Almac as a project co-ordinator, leaves for Jerez in Spain at the end of next month to begin 14 months of training.

The 28-year-old was one of just 12 people chosen from more than 3,000 applicants, and had to undergo a gruelling application and interview process to prove he had the qualities the airline requires.

The former Craigavon Senior High School and Armagh ‘Tech’ pupil, who has a degree in physiotherapy from the University of Ulster, always had a career in flying “in the back of his mind” but never thought it was an “achievable goal”.

However, his father Robert holds a private pilot’s licence and two-and-a-half years ago Wilson took up lessons with the Ulster Flying Club in Newtownards where he also obtained his licence.

When he found out about the Aer Lingus programme, the Mullalelish Road man leapt at the opportunity, but had to make it through the selection process. He said, “I attended an assessment day in Dublin, which included group exercises, interviews and tests in maths, physics and English.

“At the next stage, I had an interview with a panel of three, including two Aer Lingus captains, and then a psychological interview and a class 1 medical.”

Wilson also expects the training in Spain to be tough. Delivered by FTEJerez, it includes five months of ground school study followed by basic flying on single and multi-engine aircraft and aircraft simulators.

Afterwards, the cadets will return to Dublin to complete further training including an airline transition course, additional simulator training and safety training.

Once he receives his ‘wings’, Wilson, who will be known as 1st Officer Greenlee, will begin flying the airline’s fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft as a co-pilot, initially on short-haul European routes within the UK and countries such as France, Spain and Italy.

He said, “I like keeping my brain exercised and with aviation you are constantly being tested and re-educated. In the long-term, I would like to work towards becoming a captain.”

Wilson could be based in Dublin, Belfast or London, but is fairly relaxed about his future home.

This is the third Aer Lingus pilot cadetship programme since 2011, with the 20 cadets graduating last May all flying short-haul routes.

Aer Lingus chief executive officer Christoph Mueller said, “We believe in investing in the future and giving young people the opportunity to enjoy long and fulfilling careers in aviation.”