Forging a career at the controls
Published: 08 Sep 2015
Danni Stoney obtained her private pilot’s licence at the age of 17, and is currently a first officer on an Embraer Phenom 300 managed by UK business aircraft charter and management company London Executive Aviation.
What sparked your interest in flying?
I realised I wanted to be a pilot on my 15th birthday. My parents suggested a trial flying lesson as a present and I was immediately hooked. Following the flight, I spent most of my weekends at Newtownards airfield, in Northern Ireland, learning to fly in a Cessna 152.
When I turned 17, I obtained my private pilot’s licence, becoming the youngest pilot in Ireland at that time.
Why did you decide to pursue a career as a pilot?
I absolutely loved flying and could think of nothing better as a career. However, I thought it was important to go to university and decided to complete a degree in mechanical engineering at the University of Edinburgh.
While studying, I took the opportunity to join the University Air Squadron and this gave me the chance to complete its elementary flying training course, which included aerobatics, formation and low-level flying.
“This is a demanding industry – regardless of whether you are male or female, you have to work hard”
I then went to Oxford Aviation Academy and finished my Airline Transport Pilot Licence training. I was very fortunate to train on the Embraer Phenom 100 while working in sales and operations at a business aviation company. This gave me a much wider understanding of the business and commercial aviation industry outside of just flying.
A very small percentage of pilots are female. Why do you think that is?
Growing up, I suppose being a pilot was perceived as a male orientated career. I think that perception is changing, as I’m meeting an increasing number of fellow female pilots. Flying is rewarding and exciting. I have never felt discriminated against and have always been welcomed. This is a demanding industry – regardless of whether you are male or female, you have to work just as hard.
What challenges do you face in your job?
I’m constantly adapting to different routes and destinations with changing schedules and weather conditions. The variety from one day to the next can be extraordinary. However, I don’t consider them challenges but more part of the excitement I get to experience as a part of my everyday life.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I am now flying with London Executive Aviation as a first officer on a Phenom 300. I love the many fantastic destinations I fly to and these include ones that many people may never get the chance to visit.
Recently I was in Iqaluit, Baffin Island, Canada, where, despite the -40°C wind-chill, we managed to find lots to do during our rest time. We went walking, built our first igloo, watched our first-ever ice hockey game and, last but not least, went husky sleighing across a frozen bay.
What advice would you give to someone looking for a career as a pilot?
Do your research, as there are many different paths, depending on your ultimate goal as a pilot.
Be aware that the industry is always changing and you may have to adapt to that. This is a highly competitive career and you have to work very hard in a dynamic market.
But if you have a love for flying high and working hard, then you will not regret it!
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I am hoping to continue to progress my career and become a captain on a larger aircraft, flying to even more exotic, far- flung destinations.