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My Journey to Taking Off

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Is your dream to fly across the world at the controls of a commercial jetliner? We talk to Harris Kynigos, an airline pilot with Etihad Airways, who answers the questions you’ve always wanted to ask!

What was your career path?

I started my commercial pilot career in 2006 with Aegean Airlines in Greece as a First Officer on Avro RJ-100. In 2009, I moved to Olympic Airlines, also in Greece, as a First Officer on the Airbus A320. My career was expanded further when I joined Etihad Airways in 2011, which in addition to having the opportunity to fly the Airbus A320 and A330 saw me promoted to Captain and Type Rating Instructor. I was involved in the airline’s Training and Development programme, responsible for developing the actual training modules. Currently, I am part of the technical team in the Flight Operations Department, giving me the opportunity to be qualified as a Functional Check Flight Pilot.

Where did you get your pilot certification and what were the qualifications required to become a successful pilot?

I started my Private Pilot License (PPL) in a flight training school in Cyprus, where I’m from. I obtained my Air Transport Pilot License (ATPL) at Oxford Aviation Training in the UK. To obtain my ATPL, I had to complete 14 ground training modules and achieve a passing grade of 75% in exams. In addition, several flight training modules followed, such as my Commercial Pilot License (CPL), Multi-Engine rating and Instrument Rating (IR), which equated to approximately 250 hours of flying. Furthermore, in order to become a successful pilot, you must have good depth perception, a quick reaction time, good communication, and problem-solving skills.

How long did the training take? Do you still have regular training sessions?

The initial pilot training took me approximately two years. As per the regulations and company requirements, pilot competencies must be assessed and evaluated every six months. This includes ground training and exams.

How often do you have to take medical tests?

The medical for a commercial pilot is Class 1. This must be renewed once a year from the age of 18-60. However, from 60- 65, it has to be renewed every six months. Who is your aviation hero? I believe one of the most ‘black swan’ events that happened in aviation history was on 15 January, 2009. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III is an American retired airline captain who landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River off Manhattan after both engines were disabled by a bird strike; all 155 people aboard survived.

What advice would you like to give someone who is an aspiring pilot?

Studying to be a pilot isn’t easy, but it is definitely worth it. There is no easy way to the cockpit, but once you get there, the view from the office window is spectacular and priceless. It just needs patience and strength.

Harris Kynigos,
Airline Pilot, Etihad Airways


  • Minimum 17 years of age
  • A high school degree with excellent results in General Maths and Physics
  • Excellent English language proficiency skills
  • Pass a psychomotor test
  • Be in good physical health

There are currently six flight academies in the UAE to choose from.