Meet Captain Drew

Tell us about your career journey.

I grew up in a small Illinois farm town. After high school, I had the unique opportunity to go play football on a university scholarship or enter the U.S. Air Force Academy. Thanks to my father’s words of wisdom, I choose to go to the U.S. Air Force Academy which was a great start for my aviation career. Operationally, I flew the KC-135 and E-3 AWACS aircraft between 1993 and 2005. While stationed in Germany, a NATO colleague of mine recommended Ryanair and after receiving a Direct Entry Captain opportunity at Frankfurt-Hahn, I happily joined Ryanair. After 1.5 years in Hahn, Ryanair moved me “up the river” in Dusseldorf-Weeze (Niederrhein) in 2007. We had a great team in NRN and I was lucky to support the team as Base Captain from 2007 to 2014. From 2014–2020 I supported Ryanair as a Regional Base Captain
and as of 1 April 2020, I am honoured to serve and support the company as Ryanair’s Deputy Chief Pilot (Line Operations).

What’s been the most challenging aspect of your career as a pilot?

Aviation is not a career where one can simply earn their license/qualification, rest on their “laurels” and stop learning and evolving their knowledge, ability, skills, or CRM. Aviation is always changing and operators/stakeholders within the system must evolve with it. The Raphus cucullatus or dodo (bird) went extinct because it stopped evolving, and now it is a thing of the past. I think that is a good lesson for all working in the aviation industry—keep evolving to stay sharp, prepared, and competitive.

How do you find balancing an office life and being a pilot?

The most challenging yet most rewarding aspect is the diversity of the schedule. Every day brings new challenges, successes and opportunities. I very much enjoy supporting the company and our great team whether I’m flying the airplane, at the desk, or out and about representing Ryanair.

What’s been your most memorable flight?

Although I will never forget my first solo flights, jumping out of perfectly good aircraft 5 times to earn my USAF parachute wings, or launching to take command and control of the US airspace on September 11th, 2001, the most memorable and enjoyable experience was having the honour to deliver Ryanair’s second to last Boeing 737-800, EI-GXM. The flight from Boeing Field to Dublin went perfectly and the team which made it all happen was simply amazing. We all recognised the historical impact Ryanair and the 737-800 had on the aviation industry as we approached the end of the 737-800 delivery programme.

What was it like being a delivery pilot for Ryanair?

It is great to work with Ryanair’s delivery programme and the Boeing teams who truly make a complex and dynamic process look easy. It’s great taking a brand-new airplane and flying it across the pond and bring it into Ryanair Fleet.

Normally, tailwinds enable one direct flight from Boeing Field (Renton) all the way to Dublin. The flight takes about nine hours plus or minus based upon the jet stream, and often we can see the Northern Lights when crossing Greenland. Also, it’s great to see the ‘Formula 1’ pit-stop once the aircraft reaches the Dublin hangar and the Engineering team starts getting it ready for commercial operations.

And for inquiring minds – yes, the brand-new commercial airliners also have that “new car” smell.

What is your favourite Ryanair destination?

Chania, aka Souda Bay Air Base! I flew there many times in the U.S. Air Force with the “Grey-Jets” and still love flying there with the Ryanair aircraft, crew, and our customers. It’s beautiful to fly in over the coastline, land at the airport, and see both the buzzing military and commercial operations. It brings back lots of great memories. It’s a beautiful place, it’s a great team at the airport, and of course, the Aegean island life there is fantastic.

What do you miss most about Illinois?

Although I am a true Red, White, and Blue ‘Merican, I very much enjoy living in Europe and experiencing all that its diverse people and cultures and landscapes have to offer. One US holiday and tradition I do often miss whilst in Europe, however, is the Fourth of July (Independence Day) having a family picnic outdoors then enjoying a baseball game in the stadium then watching the fireworks after sunset.

If you could trade places with anyone in the office for the day who would it be?

I’d have to say Michael O’Leary! It would be fantastic to observe the broad spectrum of inputs and decisions that transit the Group CEO office and observe how Ryanair functions from that perspective. I always had the great opportunity to see how this amazing company and its professional teams operate from a line perspective and from a managerial perspective, but it would be incredible to observe and appreciate this at the CEO level.

What do you enjoy most about working at Ryanair?

Working with the amazing people associated with our airline operations — especially our great team of professionals and customers!

What advice would you give a pilot applying to Ryanair?

Ryanair has a great team, operation, safety record, and leads the way in the airline industry. As our team consists of over 20,000 professionals from 70 different countries, all are welcome! Often one hears of setting SMART goals. Despite the challenges of the Covid pandemic, the aviation industry and Ryanair has recovered, and setting the goal to be one of our teammates is still very much Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Apply at the earliest opportunity!