Frontlines / Christians at Work: “The Pilot”

in the first of our interviews with Christians sharing their faith in the secular workplace, Gavin Matthews spoke to Rebecca Macdonald Ots.

Solas: Rebecca, thanks for speaking to us. Firstly tell us a little about your job.

Rebecca: I am a long haul airline pilot.  Normally I would be flying the B747 all over the world but sadly they retired that beautiful aircraft from passenger travel due to Covid. So I will hopefully be trained onto a newer plane sometime next year when flying picks up again.

Solas: What’s the best part of your job?

Rebecca: I’d say, the best part of my job is the team work involved in planning for a journey. Then safely and skilfully executing the take off,  climb, cruise, approach and landing into our destination airfield.  There is a unique camaraderie that pilots share and that’s one of the things I love.  It’s more than just a job for us. It’s a passion, a lifestyle.

Solas: What are some of the challenges you face at work and how does your faith in Christ help you to navigate those?

Rebecca: I face all kinds of challenges in my work ranging from dealing with the jet lag and fatigue due to working across time zones and very antisocial hours,  to navigating difficult airport procedures when you are tired.  It can also be quite lonely at times, being away from home for long periods of time with different crews every time.

My faith in Christ helps me navigate these challenges. I always bring my bible and Jesus with me. He truly is my closest friend and I have had many very precious encounters in his presence in my hotel room.  Also i have a strong network of family and friends who pray for me and keep me grounded in my faith .

Solas: Does being a Christian make a difference to the way you approach work?

Rececca: Yes! As with every job there are the boring and low periods of workload. At 2am across a vast Atlantic Ocean in the cruise, it can be easy to get tired with the jet lag and frustrated. I try and remember that my attitude should still be a good and positive one. Also sometimes in conversation, if my colleagues are being quite critical of the company and management, it can be easy to be drawn into gossip, so I try my best to refrain from this.

Solas: Do people you work with know that you are a Christian? How do they react to that?

Rebecca: In my job we fly with different pilots every trip. Sometimes we have met each other before and sometimes it’s for the first time. This is common in the aviation industry and in large airlines. The people I have flown with before definitely know I am a Christian, and even a lot who I haven’t met before probably because I do stand out as different.  I get a mix of reactions from intrigue and interest to poking fun or being apathetic.

Solas: Have you ever had opportunities to share your faith with people you know through work? What things have helped you to have good conversations about faith? Did you deliberately set about to have these conversations, or did they occur naturally?

Rebecca: In my job you are sat with one or two other pilots for a long period of time.  You are working together in a very confined and dynamic environment. This gives rise to lots of conversations. So I have had many opportunities to share my faith. Pilots talk about everything on a trip. During the cruise and then down route gives lots of time to chat. We find out a lot about each other and talk about everything from sport to politics to relationships.  I am very open with my faith and if ever asked for advice I tend to give it from a Christian perspective, which sometimes leads to very deep conversations.  Also the amazing sights we get to see from the flight deck gives rise sometimes to an open questions.

Solas: How do people react when you talk about your faith in Jesus? Interested? Angry? Apathetic? Do they ever raise objections…. What were they and how did you respond?

Rebecca: I get a mix of reactions when I talk about my faith. Some are intrigued, some will just change the topic of conversation, others will poke fun at me. The environment in the flight deck tends to be one of banter and something you just have to be quick to give a funny or smart answer back, in a light hearted way. Often that leads to a conversation later on in the bar.  A couple of occasions this has risen to a heated conversation down-route because the other person has become quite agitated with my answers, even although they kept asking the questions. I always try to give an answer for my faith if asked in a loving way.

Solas: Why do you want to talk to colleagues and friends about Jesus?

Rebecca: I love sharing my faith and Jesus with my colleagues because often I have come across an open willingness in them to think about the ‘what if there is something more’ because many do have frustrations with life and relationships and although they have it so good with a well paid job and fun lifestyle, deep down they are searching.  Sometimes a colleague will share with me about a sick loved one and I will as them if they would like me to pray for them in my church prayer group. I have never had anyone say no.  They may brush it off but they won’t say no.

Solas: What advice would you give a young Christian entering your field of work who wants to be faithful to Christ?

Rebecca: The advice I would give to a young Christian entering my field of work is that  there is beauty in being different, and from experience I get more respect and intrigue out of my colleagues for it. They may not agree with what I believe but they admire my strength and resilience and as a result I often have colleagues who open up and share things, knowing I won’t gossip but keep it discrete.  For guys especially it can often be easier to get things off their mind by chatting it through with a stranger than with a friend or family member.  Everyone is struggling with something and we should always act with love and  kindness yet be firm.