The first Romanian to be nominated for an Aviator’s Oscar, Airbus A380, has received the big prize! We continue the series dedicated to successful Romanian pilots started in June 2013 and we bring you an exclusive interview with Adrian Bărzoi, Senior First Officer A380 Etihad Airways. Adrian is the happy holder of the prize, license and right to fly the A380!
When I was a kid I used to associate the sound of the vacuum cleaner with that of the aircraft engines. Through a lot of work, passion, ambition and a little luck he came to see, after the passing of the years, the dream fulfilled: that of becoming a line pilot. And this despite some obstacles that were put here in Romania. In September 2013, Adrian Barzoi, modest and without a valve, wrote history, being the first Romanian pilot nominated to “spin” the A380 superjumbo. Company: Etihad Airways.
Your passion for aviation – how did it start?
From the stories of the mother, unconscious, I can say that at 3 years old, when he removed me in front of the block with a vacuum cleaner in his arms. It was my “plane”. I say this because I associate the noise produced by the vacuum cleaner with the sound made by the engines of the planes passing over the hometown of Buftea. Then, at the age of 9-10, I became aware of my intention to become a pilot. I had two neighbors, older than me, who also wanted to become pilots. It wasn’t to be, only I arrived. And with them I began to learn to recognize planes. At that time access to information in the field was not available to anyone, as now. The parents of one of the neighbors worked at the airport, so it was easy for me to learn some specialized terms, etc. The apartment where we lived in Buftea was located between the axes of runways 08L and 08R of Henri Coanda airport, about where the descent slope begins (at 800m / 2300ft). Thus, the desire to fly has gradually developed!
What did you do after finishing high school?
I finished high school in Bucharest and I took a period when no exam was given at Bobocu for pilots. However, I went through the normal branch, from the Army, to interest me. Being an idealistic type, I took good note of what he was writing on the door and believed everything he told me about a “well-trained military environment”: no exam was given at Bobocu. I was extremely disappointed. So I said, “Do you know what? Let me see what I’m doing this year, I’ll go to France with a friend to see what is on the outside. ” When I returned, I found out that an exam had been given, but not a proper one for the pilots. I went to beat him to the cheek of the guy who told me that the exam would not take place, and he didn’t even acknowledge that he talked to me. A colleague told him: “How, never, did he talk to you ?! I was here when this boy came, but you had yours. ” That experience left me with a bitter taste and I gave up pursuing a military career.
I liked the technique and the DIY, so I went to Politehnica, to mechanical engineering, the department with teaching in French. From the 8th grade I was also tempted by computers (it was the period of HC, Copper, Spectrum). I really liked it, especially the programming, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to spend my whole life with my head in them. In the last year of Polytechnics – in 1999-2000, when the Eclipse of the Sun took place – I got an 8 month scholarship from the French State. I left to work and study in a company that worked intensely with “Chantiers de l ‘Atlantique” – Saint Nazaire, France, a company focused on shipbuilding. The day before I left for France, my father learned from the newspaper about the establishment of the Civil Aviation Academy. After only 6 weeks in France I gave up and decided to return to my great love – aviation. I finished Politehnica and started studying English for admission to the academy, working in parallel for IPSO, the importer and distributor of Renault in Romania at that time.
In 2000 I took an exam at the Academy and I dropped because of English. And in college, but also last year – when I worked at Renault, I was constantly speaking and writing in French, so English was not my strength. I knew conversational, for me, but most of the time I started a sentence in English and ended it in French. Even at home we miss some Romanian words. After failing the exam I returned and worked for a period at IPSO Renault. My boss knew that I am passionate about airplanes and he did not stop encouraging me, telling me that I will succeed next time. At Renault, most customers knew me as “the boy with the plane in the chest”. I had a pine tree with a plane on the jacket or tie that we proudly wore. It symbolized my dream, a dream that I made public only to those who asked me about that pine. I started seriously learning English, meditation, etc. In 2001 I took the exam again and I was successful, with some luck. By my own strength, without having anyone in the back, as you know it is practiced in Romania.
First Carpatair, then TAROM
I finished the Academy in November 2004, I passed the interview and started working at Carpatair. Here I flew on Saab 2000 and received a very solid training. I thank all the trainers involved. After a year I left, because one promised and the other did, I was beginning to feel a beating against the human side. In February 2005 I finished it with Carpatair and I took the TAROM exam. From March I became employed at TAROM, where I flew on ATR 42-500 for one year. I said to myself: “Starting with ATRs, after which I will pass on Airbus, I knew that the A318 aircraft had to come.” I was always like that, I meticulously planned my plans for the future. I passed the Airbus A318 in October 2007 and until my departure, September 2, 2011, I only piloted the A318.
To answer your question, I return a bit to the departure from Carpatair, departure that was with song. They sued me because they paid me the type rating and asked me to pay them $ 40,000. The amount was exorbitant, but the people at TAROM told me, at the time of hiring, that they would take it. That was the idea of the director from that moment, Mr. Dumitrescu. They needed great pilots with experience and training, like Carpatair. After that the directors changed and finally came Ruxandra Brutaru. She put the lid on everything. They blamed the economic crisis, the boards of directors, that no one assumes the payment anymore, that they can no longer pay, that they no longer know what … Director’s decisions! Anyone can be a director … taking responsibility for the decisions of others! And that’s how it was left to pay the amount. In the last 3 years of TAROM, a third of the salary went for this, but I am grateful that I left there without any debt. Even the people from TAROM tried a financial “donkey”, but this time the Romanian Justice worked. Not like Carpatair, when the judges from Timisoara and Cluj got dirty and decided to pay me, based on proformas and invoices, leasing rates at Saab 2000 that didn’t have a job with me and the type rating on this plane.
Obviously, I told myself that I had to somehow get this money back and the only option was to go outside. At TAROM, no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t succeed. I sought agreement with the management of the company, to let me go for a period, and then to return. But the director Ruxandra Brutaru, “boss”, did not agree. Even today I did not understand his opposition, especially for others it was possible !!! As I was talking about relationships and comets above … Honestly, I would not have left TAROM, but I was forced. I liked the time spent at the national airline. TAROM is a well-known brand and I would like to go back there in a few years, to bring my experience abroad, but with some changes, needed otherwise!
In 2011, on September 2, I was a TAROM employee, and on September 4, I started at Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates. As soon as I decided to leave Romania, I applied to several companies. The first was Qatar Airways, being at that time the most famous in the Gulf area, next to Emirates. I checked the minimum flight experience required and applied. At the first application they did not respond, only at the second. That story lasted about a year. At Emirates I could not go because I did not have the number of hours, so I applied to Etihad Airways, where I belong. They answered me immediately, about a week, and they gave me two options when I could go for an interview. So we chose Etihad Airways on the principle of “first come, first take!”
At Etihad I initially had a problem with the doctor, in the sense that I had come very stressed from the country, where several colleagues put me in the wheel. For example, I wanted to apply for the commander, but each time at the simulator they were careful and I received the minus necessary to exclude from the commander interview. I couldn’t argue with them. It was a conflict. Because of this I had come to have stresses just thinking about certain people. I am very calm, even too calm, but when someone insists and abusively wants to make me hard, I light up. I can not silence because I know very well what I am capable of and what experience I have.
A new stage: Etihad Airways
I went to the Etihad interview, which I passed without any problems. Going back to the medical problem I was talking about above, they told me that when I return to the country I have to do a thorough check-up in cardiology and send them the results. I went, did everything and sent them to Abu Dhabi. They checked them, then they told me it’s OK, but I had to take the exam again. I went very relaxed and passed it again. Everything was organized excellent. I was already enjoying the perspective of working in a professional environment, as I felt at the time of IPSO and Carpatair. Later they asked me when I want to start them: June, July or August. I had no patience and so I asked for June, but because of Ramadan I started on September 4, 2011.
How many flight hours do you have now, as we speak?
In total I have about 6340 hours, of which 4760 on Airbus A318, A319, A320, A330 and the first two hours on A380. In addition to these models I also piloted Cessna and Piper in the Academy (166 hours), after which Saab 2000 (760 hours) and ATR 42-500 (650 hours).
In August 2013 I started the flight with the A330 and I flew in parallel the A320 and A330 range. The following month, in September 2013, they made the first selection for the A380. I was selected in the first series – Entry Into Service (EIS). As someone was expressing a scolding at the time, I took the formulation: I was “nominated for an Aviator’s Oscar!” In April 2014 a new selection and filtering of the pilots was made, and I was still in the first series! Officially, I had become the first Romanian pilot nominated to fly with the A380. I only had to see when I would start the courses and when I would receive my “trophy”!
Initially it was announced in September, but due to the constraints caused by the delivery of the first plane, I started the theoretical training only in mid-December 2014. At the end of January 2015, I was finally given the “trophy”: license with the new type rating A380. The Aviator’s Oscar, my Oscar! After a serious and very condensed training at the Airbus center in Toulouse we returned to Abu Dhabi, ready to start on the new aircraft. I have already flown with the A380 superjumbo and I can confirm that it is an extraordinary aircraft! As passengers you can be sure that you are safe on board.
We are talking about a new generation aircraft, far superior to previous Airbus models! A multi-computerized, multi-backup-system model, generally with multi-factor factor 3 of all systems, with electrically and electro-hydraulic control surfaces of local, new generation systems, without long and complicated hydraulic circuits exposed to risks or defects. The plane has extraordinary maneuverability, safety and redundancy! I returned from Toulouse with great confidence in this plane! Probably the experience gained so far in piloting and understanding the Airbus philosophy has given me the comfort and safety I needed on the first flight with an A380.
Not the actual maneuvering of the airplane poses problems, but the setting and programming of all the systems before take-off, under the real operating conditions. The interaction with all the factors outside the cockpit involved in the operation of the aircraft puts the greatest pressure on the pilots and, implicitly, on the programming phase of the systems. But that is precisely why we are preparing for operation in real conditions. After setting up the systems, everything becomes very relaxed. Now, at the beginning of the road, it is normal for all personnel involved in the Entry Into Service A380 program to be on a higher alert level. This also means stress, but it all focuses on getting the necessary safety in operating the plane.
How many more hours do you need to become a Captain?
I have them all, so I can apply anytime. As a matter of fact, I now have an active license for three Airbus models: the A320, A330 and A380. Even so, I can only fly on the A380!
Most exciting: my first take-off, alone in the cabin. At the Aviation High School, with Cessna. It was a “wow” moment. After I took off, I was touring the track and I thought, “Now I’m really on my hand and I have to get out!” I will never forget that state! I also had some interesting go-arounds. I remember for a moment in Bacau, when I was flying for Carpatair. The commander said “go around”, as I was the pilot, but I didn’t do it, I accidentally got off the plane below and landed. The field near the track had just been cleared and was full of birds. We didn’t see them, although it was the day. Only when I received the approval for the landing and I lit the bulbs, then they all rose and passed over the runway, there were many. The color track of the white concrete had turned black! I’ve never seen so many birds in one place. I made the decision to go under them, I got under the normal descent slope, I was in sight and they came above us. After landing, the captain congratulated me on the decision: “If you had done what I said, I would take them in full!”
The longest flight so far?
Abu Dhabi – Tokyo Narita, about 12 hours and 10 minutes.
Do you have favorite airports that you like to land on?
They are all beautiful and have their own specificity, so it’s hard for me to choose one. Here I could make a differentiation taking into account the technical quality and professional level of radio communication with traffic control services.
A few words about your hobbies
I would have liked to build the models. However, not having the financial resources at the time – the materials were not so easily found – I somewhat abandoned the idea, but it remained in my mind. Maybe I will collaborate with my children in such constructions and I will satisfy myself with the desire for the models. As I said, computers are another passion; the programming attracted me for a while, the games didn’t tell me much. And for about two years I am passionate about karaoke.
Favorite destinations as a tourist?
Of all the destinations seen so far, I would not give Europe anything! I haven’t been to North America or South America yet, but I saw Asia quickly. From Europe, France is first, without a doubt, then Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
What airplanes would you like to fly?
The Airbus range, I’m not interested in Boeing yet. I have never piloted a model of theirs. From my point of view, at least A320 versus B737, I choose Airbus. Obviously, I would love to drive the A350 XWB. I thought it would be nice to pilot the A380 as a First Officer and then switch over to the A350. I would really like it, especially since the A350 is an evolution of the A380.
What does a day in your life look like as a pilot?
Most of the time I wake up without a clock, but I use my phone’s alarm to be sure. I wake up two hours before take off, I eat – otherwise I can’t work – I get dressed and go to the airport. I don’t need coffee to be fresh. At the airport I check the usual pre-flight operations, after which passengers board and take off. In the evening or at his return, conversations with people at home on Skype or Facebook, meetings with friends. I started playing the piano again, practicing alone, I wanted to play the piano since I was a kid.
There were a few big names, but I’ll only mention Carla Bruni, Jean Claude van Damme and Julia Roberts.
Advice for those who want to become a pilot
First of all, don’t run for money. There are many who just choose this job. I do not consider myself going to work, but a pleasure walk with every flight I make. Only at Carpatair did I get to look at it as an annoying job, when they called me and said, “See I changed your race”. I happened to come home to Bucharest, being free and sent by them, then to tell me by phone to come in the morning from Bacau to Timisoara, after which I stop again in Bacau. And this without them realizing, in fact, that I was in Bucharest, free of charge. It is true, there are also financial advantages, but if you get to pilot just for that, you better not do it.
As “sacrifices”: you are always available to the company, you have no regular weekends or holidays. You always do Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter elsewhere, maybe not where you want to be, with your family. Each month you receive that roster (flight schedule) that you must follow. The changes are kept to a minimum, because one change causes other changes in the schedule of others. As far as the Aviation School is concerned, access can be cumbersome and, often, you can depend on X and Y. Or, worse, the financial side is the big obstacle.
Whether you like the book or not, that’s your problem! Only at one point you will take an exam at the Aeronautical Authority, where you can not look left or right. And when you start flying, you do not have time to look for the feature, you need to know what you have to do and be master of yourself, no matter what the situation. At one point, if you entered the cells, someone would still notice and show you what you know. In Romania, if you have connections it may be easier for you. If not, you may find it harder. This is something that other Romanian pilots have said with whom you have interviewed. Outside, however, all are treated equally, there really matters. The professionalism of each one (responsibility, seriousness, organization, involvement, theoretical and practical training) is seriously evaluated and classified according to company standards. You are good, you stay and you evolve. You’re not good, you’re packing and you’re leaving!