There is little doubt that one of the biggest stories of the year so far has been the fact that Norwegian Air Shuttle, a low-cost carrier based in Norway, ended its long-haul operations. The news story touched a wide variety of people: from passengers that were booked to fly on the airline’s flights, to personnel who worked at the airline and flew long-haul itineraries. This is the story of Philippe Duforest, a Norwegian Boeing 787 Captain, who shared how COVID-19 has affected his career.
“Until January 17, 2021, we still had hope for a recovery plan or steps to ramp-up long-haul flights out of Paris, France,” Duforest told AeroTime. “While we realized that the Norwegian government’s refusal to support the airline financially in November 2020 was a huge step back, we definitely still had hope. In a way, we were also prepared for things to end.”
The Paris Charles De Gaulle International Airport (CDG)-based Captain has been at the airline for eight years, flying both the Boeing 737 and the Boeing 787 aircraft. In addition to being a Captain, Duforest is also a Type Rating Instructor and Examiner (TRI and TRE), and a Chief Flight Instructor in an Approved Training Organization (ATO).
2020 was not an easy year for the pilot, as he had only accumulated 100 hours of flying before March 15, 2020, when international travel restrictions came into place. The Boeing 787 Captain noted that the moment was perhaps bittersweet, as he described his experience working for the low-cost carrier as “fantastic, as I always did.”
“I have no regrets, just wonderful memories.”
At the moment, Philippe is furloughed. “I expect to be let go once legal proceedings come to an end for the airline.” Currently, Norwegian is undergoing an examinership process in Ireland – similarly to Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings in the United States – and is looking to cut costs and slash its debts in order to continue operations.
Nevertheless, Duforest is hopeful for a brighter tomorrow. The Captain has the privilege of being a TRI/TRE and a CFI, something that will make the hunt for his next job less complicated than it should be.
“Nevertheless, it will take time. There might be a possibility that I will not have another brilliant opportunity to have a home base where I live with such a tremendous contract as the one I had flying the Dreamliner for Norwegian,” remarked the 787 pilot. Continuing his journey in the aviation industry is absolutely on the table. After all, Philippe is still actively involved in various projects with various airlines thay are keeping him occupied.
“I do not know about the future just yet but what I know for sure is I still have a lot of energy and real hopes to keep on flying,” said Duforest. “I still consider that opportunities will arise with new projects popping up after the market recovers.”
Philippe has a basic but perhaps a crucial tip for the younger generation of future and current aviators:
“In hard times, one needs to go back to basics: keep your skills, proficiency and knowledge on top to be ready for future screenings. And above all, keep at least one valid Type Rating on your license.”