As I sit here composing my first column as the new Chair of PilotsTogether I cannot help but cast a look backward in order to take us forward. I am so proud of the PilotsTogether team of trustees and volunteers who have achieved so much since our launch in September 2020, allowing us to make a material impact in the lives of so many. A few accomplishments to note include:
- Launching and registering the charity with the Charity Commission and HMRC in record time
- Hosting numerous successful community events including six online Crew Room sessions, 12 in-person meet-ups and dinners, and multiple other outreach initiatives
- Running two holiday raffle events that not only raised the profile of the charity amongst pilots, industry peers, and the public, but also raised more than £30,000 in donations
- Advocating for unemployed pilots in mass media including coverage on the BBC, SKY and mainstream media outlets
- Raising more than £400,000 and distributing more than £200,000 of that to date
Yet, despite the accomplishments listed above – none of which would have been possible without the incredible support of our donors – our work as a charity has just begun.
Airlines, and those they employ, are facing a third year of disruption due to the pandemic. There are, however, a few signals that allow for cautious optimism. These include the UK Government lifting of the testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers as of 11 February, the launch of British Airways’ new services at Gatwick, and the comments from Johan Lundgren – Chief Executive at easyJet – stating “We see a strong summer ahead, with pent-up demand that will see easyJet returning to near 2019 levels of capacity, with UK beach and leisure routes performing particularly well.”
Despite these positive signals, the trustees continue to receive requests for financial support. Just this month we granted more than £23,000 to support pilots who were previously employed by British Airways, Flybe, and Titan. We expect that these requests will not diminish in the near-term and may in fact increase as pilots run through whatever reserves they may have had. To that end, we must now look ahead to ensure PilotsTogether is here for those we serve today, tomorrow, and in the future.
At our Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 29 January the trustees discussed plans and actions to be taken in the short-, mid-, and long-term to increase our funding, drive awareness and heighten visibility of the charity across our core target audiences (pilots, other aviation professionals, corporations, and the general public), and to expand the areas of support we provide to those in need. In the next few weeks, you will begin to see increased (and more consistent) communication from us about the work we do and stories of those we have helped. This will happen via our website, email, social media, and hopefully mass media.
In addition to the increased communications above, we have several perhaps less visible projects in other workstreams underway:
• Enhanced fundraising efforts to reach corporate and other donors
• Deeper collaboration with airlines and other aviation industry partners
• Increased community outreach via online and in-person events
• Expanded wellbeing support
• Updates to the PilotsTogether website and branding
There is much to do, and we are deeply appreciative of the help we have received from volunteers and the community. We are always looking for help so if you wish to volunteer, please email me (email@example.com) and I will connect you with the proper team leader.
Change is a constant in life. At the AGM we said goodbye to several of our founding trustees to whom I will be forever grateful for their energy, effort, and commitment. My thanks to Lyndsay McGregor, Mike Oakes, and our outgoing Chair, Scott Bateman. Even though they no longer serve as trustees, they have all expressed their continued support and we will certainly draw upon them as we move forward.
At the same time, we welcome four new trustees – Elayne Grimes, Claire Hood, Georgina Thomas-Watson, and Graham Braithwaite – to PilotsTogether, each of whom brings industry connections, new points of view, and much needed skills to our team. I look forward to partnering with them, and the other trustees, to continue the work of the charity.
Finally, a request from me. Please help us spread the word about PilotsTogether in your crew rooms, on social media, and anywhere else you think it will be well received.
Thankfully, we are seeing our world reopen – albeit slowly – and we are hopeful that the pilots we serve will begin to find airline employment again. We are grateful for your continued support.
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