InterviewReal World“I joined IVAO at 14 years old, now I pilot Airbus A380”

Fares Belkhiria8 months ago5536 min

Back in 2015, in our attempt to compare the IVAO Network environment with real-life aviation, we have contacted people who, next to enjoying aviation as a hobby as active IVAO members, they do it for living. They have happily agreed to answer some of our questions. We start by publishing again an interview we had with Giorgio La Pira, who had served the Community as the Director of the UAE Division, as well as a General Assembly and Association Governor. In real life, Gio is flying the A380 in the Middle East. In the past, he previously worked for another two airlines, EasyJet and WindJet (both operating the A320). He currently holds more than to 7000h of flight time, and still serves as Type Rating Instructor and Examiner on the A320 series. 

Why did you join IVAO ? Did you find anything in the network that you couldn’t find in real aviation ?

I joined IVAO very young, at the age of 14. I always knew I wanted to be a pilot, and I started to do things “as real as it gets” right from the beginning… I thought that being able to interact with other people and practice my phraseology, as well as using a real life weather simulation model would be of benefit for my future career, and help me as a practice and a starting ground. It actually did… and thanks to what I learnt in IVAO, and what I was taught by some of our colleagues in the network, I literally sailed through the ATPL course, and finished all my licences by the time I was 19. I now feel like I have to give something back to the community, after all I took form it when I was a teenager with a dream, and this is one of the reasons why I still am so active in the network.

How close is the network to the real life? If an ATCo has high ratings in IVAO, does that mean s/he will be able to actually do real ATC work? if not (which is surely the case), what do you think are the challenges s/he will be facing?

Well there are no doubts that you learn a lot in IVAO, and having high ratings mean that you actually have a fair amount of knowledge. The main issue, is that modern aviation is in good part based on what we call CRM (Crew Resources Management), or in a nutshell, the “how to work with others as a team”; In Flight Simulation (whether it is ATC or Pilots), and due to the current technical software limitations, we tend to do everything on our own… in real life a good part of the work is actually coordinating with your colleagues. I think that IVAO gives any user a very solid base, and I am pretty sure that a virtual Pilot or ATC would be able to do a pretty good job on a real life environment, provided that everything is normal and nothing goes wrong. When things go wrong is when your experience and soft skills come up, and drive you towards a positive and safe outcome.

How do you manage to divide your time between A380 LH Flying, A320 Instructing, Staff duties, and simulation activities on IVAO?

Let’s say that flying the Long Haul gives me a fair amount of free time, both at home and on a layover, especially when Jet-Lag kicks in and you find yourself awake at 3am in the morning. Having said that, it’s not easy, as you have to be careful not to cross the thin line that saturates you and then doesn’t allow you to enjoy aviation as a “hobby” and not only as a profession. I have reduced significantly the amount of Training I do for now, and I am concentrating in real life flying, career progression in my current company as well as in the many exciting projects that we have started in the Middle East region in IVAO, specifically in my division, the U.A.E. Having said that, the excitement of completing this projects and brining the division to a new level make me want to get more and more involved with our community… and keeps me going despite having being around here for almost 15 years, 10 of which as an active staff member. The BOG and the GA work is also extremely motivating, and I love being part of the decision making process that will determine the future of our community. 

What are your efforts, as an NPO Governor and a Staff member, to shorten the gap between real and virtual?

IVAO welcomes all kind of users that share our common passion, aviation. We have to be very careful and offer our most advanced members the possibility of simulating an ATC session or a flight in the most realistic way… but we also need to understand that some people aren’t as keen or don’t yet have the knowledge to do things “as real as it gets”. We, as real life aviation industry professionals, but as also enthusiast of Flight Simulation, try to give some of our members access to the experiences and/or the knowledge that we have, so they can apply it in their simulation sessions. For example, I answer a lot of questions from people regarding how to operate certain things on the aircraft, or things about RT, flying techniques, etc. I have also collaborated in several training projects at a divisional level, that have helped people to see how we do things in real life for simulator enthusiasts a lot of things are “nice to know” but not “need to know”… everyone enjoys this hobby differently…

What are your suggestions to IVAO to make it closer to reality?

I think we should all work towards a more collaborative environment, where we learn to interact with colleagues and share the workload. From a pilots perspective, there are more and more options to do that with the “shared cockpit” technologies that are already available with some add-ons. I have also had the opportunity to attend a few Division Meetings, and I was very impressed to see how well organised all the ATC Sectors were, just like in real life, talking to each other from one desk to the other. More of these events can only be beneficial, besides the fact that they are a lot of fun! So I think that this is a good starting point, and we are all very well aware of it from a BOG/GA/PR point of view.

Fares Belkhiria

Fares Belkhiria is Editor-in-Chief of Virtual Sky. He has been the Public Relations Director of the International Virtual Aviation Organisation (IVAO) since 2017.

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