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Graduate profile: Pilot

Interview with Samuel Gessler, pilot of an A320, Swiss International Air Lines

What did you do before starting your studies?

In between secondary school and military training, I earned my first wages as a helper in a restaurant kitchen. At that time, I was still unsure of what type of studies would suit me, so I tried to investigate as wide a variety of professions as I could. For example, I worked as an engineering apprentice on construction sites and learned the ropes of office work at a lawyer's office for patent law. In the Swiss army, I was exposed to aviation for the first time and was able to complete my service as an aircraft and helicopter mechanic. My internship at a helicopter company in New Zealand was also a great experience.

Why did you study aviation?

After graduating from secondary school, I knew for sure that I wanted to continue studying. The wide array of choices made my decision very difficult, however. I was torn between architecture and business. Then, when the Aviation degree programme was created, I knew immediately that this was the right path for me to take. It wasn't a rational decision, but rather an emotional one. I have never regretted my decision and consider it a great privilege to be able to indulge my fascination and passion in my profession.

What have you been doing since graduating?

I have been flying for four years for Swiss International Air Lines as a First Officer on an Airbus 320. In addition to normal operations on short- and medium-haul flights, I'm an instructor and train future pilots both in a simulator and in real planes. I am always particularly pleased to meet well-educated and motivated young people who are overflowing with joy and enthusiasm for flying. As a control pilot, I also have the exciting task of putting aircraft through all their paces during "maintenance checkflights" after they have undergone intensive maintenance work. We take them on a lengthy flight and test to see if various systems are functioning before the aircraft are returned to regular service.

A look back at your time in university

Looking back, my aviation studies were an exciting but also intense time. The double major, including obtaining my pilot's license and a Bachelor's degree, was a challenge, but one that I would certainly do again. The combination of theory and practice during the semester breaks was very interesting for me and also offered a welcome change of pace. I am still benefiting today from my studies and especially appreciate the exchanges with my former classmates, who have in the meantime entered the field and are spread out all over the world. With a Bachelor's degree, I can embark upon new career paths at any time since I have access to various Master's programmes and further education opportunities.