Dubai: British pilot Mark Brierley has accumulated over 11,000 flying hours in his 10 years of experience as captain for Etihad Airways. He says his day could stretch into a long one or end quicker, depending whether he is on an ultra-long-range flight or a short one.
There are days – because of the nature of his job flying across different time zones – he would not be able to keep track of the day, date or month, if it were not for his reliable Garmin GPS watch. “I would be a bit lost if it wasn’t for my watch,” Brierley quipped.
But the British pilot follows a strict daily regimen. He starts his day with a shower, breakfast and coffee. When on duty, he wears his uniform and heads straight to the Etihad Crew Briefing Centre (CBC). He said: “Normally, the crew meet up an hour and a half before the flight. For ultra-long-range flights to USA, Canada and Australia, we meet 15 minutes earlier than usual.”
Next, he would print the flight itinerary, along with details like booked passengers and crew. He reviews everything for the flight, whilst having a coffee, before meeting the crew. There are two briefing rooms – one for the cabin crew and another for pilots. Both are briefed separately for 10 minutes before coming together for a joint briefing.
On his off days, Brierley likes to catch up on some reading and listening to sports podcasts. He is an Everton fan so there is a lot of football news he loves to listen to.
He is also a loyal son. Every Sunday he makes the customary call to his mother from wherever he is.
“Tennis is another interest of mine. A friend owns a sailboat and together we have been racing quite a bit on it. I used to be an active parent for my son when he was a member of the British Scouting Oversea. Then he outgrew this,” he added.
A pilot’s life is demanding but fulfilling. Brierley said he was inspired into flying by his paternal grandfather, Lance Corporal Charlie Brierley, who served with the UK Royal Air Force. “He spent two years being moved around UK airfields in Essex, including guarding Winston Churchill’s bunker in London. He also spent time in India before ending up in Singapore at the end of World War II,” Brierley said of his grandfather, adding: “His stories always fascinated me. In fact when I was a child, he used to take me around aviation museums and air shows.”
He continued: “Somewhere in the back of my head I believed I wanted to fly although, at first, I never really considered it as a career. I went to university and studied architecture only to give it up and pursue flying. I loved the sciences – Maths, Physics. But I fell in love with flying. I suppose I have to hand it to my late grandfather. I am really glad he got to see me flying commercial planes before he passed away.”
Brierley shared some of his unforgettable flights. “When I flew over the North Pole en route to Los Angeles from Abu Dhabi, it was an unforgettable view. It was very bright because the ground was white in every direction – dazzling, beautiful and serene.”
“A lot of special planning has to go into these flights and conditions have to be perfect because you are a long way from the nearest runway should you need one,” he added.
“Another great memory being a pilot was transporting officials and equipment after the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix to Abu Dhabi ahead of the finale season in 2021,” he added.
Brierley attended BAe Systems Flight Training integrated ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot) course in July 2002 with first time passes in all ATPL subjects and flight tests. He was awarded the college flying trophy upon course graduation. He worked for an international commercial airline where he obtained valuable wide-body jet time thereby building flying hours.
He said: “My previous flying experience in addition to my background in customer service enabled me to develop strong communication and inter-personal skills.”
His first job as a pilot was with Flyglobespan Airways, Glasgow where he joined as First Officer. But his aviation career started out as a ground operations agent handling VIP, ambulance and SAR (search and rescue) aircraft. He also handled all aspects of accommodation/ transport for high net value customers.
Brierley also talked about is fulfillmet being a pilot. He said: “People travel for a reason – whether they are going on a holiday, to see a loved one or conclude a business deal. The reasons are many and I feel privileged that I am able to facilitate this for them.”
“I have travelled far from customer service agent to Captain of a world leading airline. It is an honour and privilege,” he added.
He continued: “I love my job and so it is all very satisfying at the end of the day. At Etihad, we are really pushing the sustainability side of aviation. And that makes it all the more interesting to be part of the industry and Etihad.”
Brierley has this advice for aspiring pilots: “Aviation is a fantastic career. I recommend it to anyone. It is a long journey but you will get there with passion and drive. It takes a while from day one to sitting in a commercial airline. But it is very rewarding,”
He added: “Aviation in the UAE has grown massively. We are a hub for the aviation industry today. The UAE airlines are connecting the world. The UAE civil aviation has seen an incredible growth. We should be really proud.”
UAE is my second home
Brierley, who was born in Chester, acity in northwest England, grew up in Cayman Island, Caribbean and Jersey, Channel Islands. He has been to many places all over the world but for him the UAE is home. He said: “My son Ryan was raised in this country, and for us, this is home.”
At a glance
Occupation: Captain, Etihad Airways
Born: Chester, UK
Morning ritual: Shower-breakfast-coffee
Favourite fitness regime: Football, tennis
Stress busters: Reading and listening to sports podcasts
Favourite vacation getaway: New York
Favourite retail brand: Hugo Boss
Things he carries with him every day: iPhone, Garmin GPS watch, Oakley sunglasses