Meet Clive Richardson: Aviator & Executive Vice President of Operations for Europe

April 22, 2022

To mark World Pilots’ Day on April 26, we’re celebrating all the extraordinary aviators here at Flexjet. We currently employ over 800 active pilots, based in North America, Europe and further afield – men and women who are truly at the very top of their profession and at the centre of our organisation.

In addition to those who are in active Captain or First Officer roles, many of our senior executives and team members are trained pilots themselves – giving them a hugely valuable perspective. One of these is our Executive Vice President of Operations for Europe Clive Richardson, the Accountable Manager for our fleet in Europe. For World Pilots’ Day, we sat down with Clive to find out more about his role at Flexjet, his flying career and passions.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about your role at Flexjet and your aviation career before that?
I head up the Operational side of Flexjet here in Europe, which means I oversee our flight operations and flight crew training. It’s a diverse, rewarding and challenging role, especially with our business growing so considerably. We are currently recruiting and training a significant number of new pilots, so it’s quite a privilege to be meeting and developing some of the best talent in our industry.

My own aviation career has spanned over 40 years and before joining Flexjet in 2019, I flew all over the world as an active airline pilot, as well as roles in flight training, management and inspection.

Q: How was it that you got started in aviation? Did you have any particular mentors that helped you along the way?
As a boy I was always fascinated by aviation, and that passion was ignited one day when I took a trial flying lesson. I remember it vividly: The weather was beautiful and it was a fantastic experience. I had a realisation that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Not so much in terms of the career plan – that came later – but just to fly airplanes. I soon realised if I wanted to fly as much as possible and to get paid to do it, what better career path than a professional pilot?

I think all aviators are a product of the peers we meet along the way. For me there were many that shared meaningful lessons that motivated and inspired. I remember as a young guy, when I was finding preparation for some of the professional flying exams pretty challenging and questioning myself a bit, an older experienced pilot said to me “It’s just knowledge, spend the time you need to put it into your brain and you can do this”. That gave me the confidence to believe that with enough hard work and determination, I could do it, and I did.

Q: What’s been your favourite aircraft to fly over your 40-year career? And the most unusual?
I’ve been lucky enough to fly a whole diverse range so this is almost like asking me to choose my favourite child! I have many favourites which all bring something unique to their mission. The Boeing 747 is certainly right up there, I’ve flown several thousand hours on 747s with major airlines and it is a fantastic iconic airplane, huge with amazing performance.

Closer to home, I would have to add the Embraer Praetor 600 that we operate here at Flexjet in Europe. For a super-midsize jet, the technology, the capabilities, and performance are just stunning. The Gulfstream G650 too of course, for me that is a real pilot’s machine. It handles beautifully, an amazing aircraft.

On the unusual side, I think it’s got to be the Catalina flying boat. In a previous role, I conducted some training on this vintage aircraft and enjoyed familiarising myself with it beforehand. Imagine a huge 1940s boat with wings and two radial engines, which can land on water. It was quite an experience!

Q: Having flown across the world, do you have any particular landings that stand out from the rest?
All airports have their own unique characters, and what I enjoy most as a pilot is a challenging approach and landing. Funchal in Madeira, that’s a very interesting approach and I love going into mountainous airfields, both for the scenery and the flying experience. Other favourites are up there for the opportunity they bring to see the world – one of the best parts of working in aviation I think. I loved stopping off in cities like San Francisco or Cape Town and getting the chance to explore.

Q: The advantages of private jet travel for passengers are well known, but what would you say makes private aviation so special from a pilot’s perspective?
There are some key differences between commercial (airline) flying and private aviation and both can be fantastic careers. But in essence I do think that private aviation brings a truer sense of being an aviator, the excitement and the passion that many pilots look for when they start out. You also have a lot more engagement with your passengers, which can be very rewarding.

What’s fantastic here at Flexjet is that we offer all of that alongside a fixed working pattern and routine – the best of both worlds really. The lack of predictability in private aviation can be offputting to some, but that’s not the case here. Just one of the many reasons we are a unique and very appealing place for pilots to come and work.

World Pilots’ Day is a great opportunity to raise the profile of pilots and their dedication across aviation. It’s a passion, a calling that has taken a huge amount of hard work and focus. Something we recognise and respect enormously at Flexjet. From our chairman Kenn Ricci downwards, it’s a pilots’ company.

Q: As pilots are such frequent travellers, you must have some great packing tips. What are the three things you would never be without in your bag?
Preparing for all eventualities is something you are trained for as a pilot, but of course when it comes to luggage, you have to balance that with efficiency! With unforeseen schedule changes in mind, I am never without a toothbrush, cereal bar and a good set of headphones.

Q: And when you get time to relax, what are your top aviation themed movies?
There were so many when I was growing up that inspired my interest. Anyone from my generation will remember Airwolf and Top Gun! I do think the movies and media in general have a big part to play in tapping into the passion and bravery of aviators and inspiring the future pilots out there, whether that’s through fact or fiction.

Q: Talking of inspiration, do you have any tips for a new or aspiring pilot?
Firstly figure out if this is something you really want to do. Is this in your heart? Is it just something you like the idea of, do you really want to do it? If you have that passion, don’t listen to anyone that says you can’t, or it’s not realistic. Follow your heart, do it. What defines a professional pilot, somebody that can go all the way in this career is the ability to dedicate, focus, and combine that with passion, patience, and drive. You can do it. Do not listen to anyone else saying that you can’t.

To learn more about Flexjet’s European programmes and fleet, contact our team using the form below, or call us on +44 (0) 203 856 8151.