salford pilot

For the past 15 years pilot, Alistair Feakin, has flown holidaymakers across the globe. Now he spends his time collecting donations and fixing warehouses as the new Managing Director and Chair of Trustees at Salford Foodbank.

“At the beginning of March this year I was employed by Flybe and was an airline Captain flying the Embraer Jet 175 and 195, a job I had done for almost 15 years. Very sadly as Covid-19 began to take hold, Flybe’s bookings dramatically plummeted and eventually the money ran out and forced the company into administration.” Alistair explained, as he reflects on the past tough nine months.

Flybe was the largest regional independent airline in Europe. 

The airline had employed around 2,400 staff across the UK. Alistair is one of the unfortunate “majority” of the staff made redundant as of 5 March 2020.

Alistair has received redundancy pay and has relied on inheritance money from his late Father.

His wife, Charity, has continued working to support the family.

Despite his misfortunes, Alistair has an undeniably upbeat and positive attitude.

He comes across as resilient and is no stranger to a career diversion, as he started out as a builder.

“I used to work for a building society!” He explained.

Alistair then passed 14 commercial exams with 15 hours of self-study for two years to begin his commercial flight training. He said:

“I then quit my job with the building society and did the commercial flight training over a period of about four months.

“A few months later I became a full-time flying instructor at Barton aerodrome. Eventually, I got a job as a first officer with British Airways Citiexpress which I did for two years.

“This company was then acquired by Flybe and they made me a Captain which I did for 13 years.”

Albania, France, Sweden, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Italy are just a few of the many destinations that have met Alistair and his planes.

With his newfound free time, he’s thrown himself into volunteering in Salford.

Alistair has been involved with Salford Foodbank for several years through his church, Go Church Manchester.

Last year, the Foodbank struggled to get help.

In early March, new volunteers and financial support from the public and corporates meant that the Foodbank was able to get back up and running. However, the nationwide lockdown on 23 March meant that employees Iain Wight, Salford Foodbank’s manager and distribution centre’s co-ordinator Mervyn Gledhill had to isolate as they were over 70.

The Salford Pilot, who studied at the University of Salford, was asked to step in and help with collections. He recalls:

“So I was asked if I would help with the supermarkets’ donations for the six supermarkets we collect from. This I did initially with Keith a local pastor and later I did it every Wednesday with the Manchester United Foundation.”

At this time, Peel Buildings and Land donated a warehouse to the foodbank, but it wasn’t in good condition. So Alistair put his builder’s hat on and began renovating the warehouse. He said:

“I went down a few days later and immediately knew that I could help! I ended up spending all of April, May and most of June renovating the place! There were walls to be taken down, walls to be put up, a kitchen to go in, ceiling construction, carpeting etcetera as well as the whole place needing decoration from top to bottom.

“It was hard work and some very late finishes but on the 19th June, the warehouse was fully open a whole 11 days ahead of schedule!

“All that remained then was for our old facilities to be cleared and handed back to the council which we did in August.”

All these efforts did not go unnoticed. The board of trustees appointed Alistair as a director and shortly after it was decided that Alistair would become the new Managing Director and Chair of Trustees for Salford Foodbank. He said:

“This is a tremendously fulfilling role and whilst I don’t earn any money from it, I know that it is very worthwhile and together with the rest of the team we are making a real difference to the lives of people in crisis. It has also allowed me to transfer my management skills of being an airline Captain into another completely different area!”

Iain Wight, Foodbank manager, couldn’t be more thankful that Alistair has joined them. He remarks:

“When Alistair joined our new team at Salford Foodbank, he added value from day one. Not just with his considerable practical skills – but with his very positive ‘can do’ approach to all the challenges thrown up during this pandemic…

“We thank God for adding him to our team.”

Alistair hasn’t forgotten about life in the sky. Having just renewed his pilot’s license Alistair hopes to return to the cockpit next year:

“Who knows, when things in the economy improve and people are flying again I may be able to get an interview for another flying job and they might even ask me – “so what did you do after being made redundant?”. I’m confident I will be able to give a very good answer!”

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