Airline Captain and Lead Guitarist

Anyone who has driven west out of London on the M4 cannot fail to notice the procession of jets cutting through the air near Heathrow, tons of metal seemingly hanging in the ether awaiting its turn to unload scores of globetrotting souls.

At 200ft feet long with two Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines, Simon Barrett’s ‘company car’ is a little more powerful than the norm. A captain for the U.K.’s most prestigious airline, he has recently taken over the flying of the fleets new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Sitting in Simon’s beautifully renovated 16th century house in a small Wiltshire village, I ask him how he came to be a pilot, and what is written down in his Rhodia No.18. that is sat between us.

“Well this notepad is actually full of musical notations I’m trying to learn on my guitar! As for my career, it actually started on ships with the Royal Navy. I entered the Britannia Royal Naval college in Dartmouth pretty much straight out of school and trained in navigation and warfare. Later I specialised in diving and it was then that I became interested in flying. I served my six years and on leaving the Navy decided I wanted to be a pilot.”

  • No. 18

    From the No.18 line of pads


    Traditional lined notepaper.


    Black coloured cover

So you were actually scaling down when you started flying jets?!

Yes you could say that. At that time none of the British airlines were recruiting pilots so I went out to America and self funded my commercial pilot training in South Carolina. Once I had my license and instructor rating I taught at the school for few months before getting work at a commuter airline flying Jeststream 31’s out of Atlanta, Georgia, a  major international airport and a real step up from the small airfields I had trained on.

What brought you back to Britain?

I had always intended to come back, so when I obtained my senior transport pilots license after a year on the Jetstreams I was ready to make the move back to the U.K.

Is an American pilots license valid in the U.K.?

You have to sit a few exams to convert from American license to British, but once that’s done you can start looking for a job. I was offered a couple of positions with charter airlines, however I was lucky enough to get an opportunity with the biggest airline in Britain, and that’s where I still fly.

What was your first heavy jet?

My first big jet was the L-1011 Lockheed Tristar, it’s a beautiful plane and was very technologically advanced at the time, so that was the jet I first started flying around the world in.

Jets and ships are both ways of ‘seeing the world’ was travel and adventure the main attraction for you?

I think I’m just a big kid really! I enjoy the big toys and love physically controlling cars, boats, go-karts anything really, and a big jet really is the ultimate ‘toy’.

Lots girls and boys dream of flying jets, is it something that stills feels special to you?

I do really still enjoy the physical experience of flying an aircraft, when you’re on the take off threshold of a runway, and you put the power up, although you’re concentrating pretty hard, there’s that smile that drifts across your face from belting down the tarmac at 160 -180mph, in charge of 230 tons of jet, 36,000 gallons of fuel and 300 kN of thrust!

Flying around the world sounds very glamorous, but what do you do to relax?

Well I’m not so fond of the nights out of bed and I miss my family! To relax I like a bit of tennis and play the guitar quite badly. On every trip I pack a small electric guitar so I can play though headphones and not disturb the other hotel guests. Unless of course I’m singing!

I’ve seen a couple of posters around this village that mentions the ‘Bar Rats’ and the Barretts in the same breath, anything to do with you?

Yes! All that practising guitar on layover has paid off and I now have a band… that consists of my wife on saxophone, my son on drums and of course me on lead guitar and vocals.

Sounds serious…

It’s just a great deal of fun, and the village that we live in has a great music scene, lots of open mic nights and talented musicians seemingly around every corner. We’re even playing a set at a friends music festival next week!

I’ll see if I can get some tickets and come along, thanks for your time Simon and bon voyage.