The Pilot Base

An interview with the founder of Project Wingman

March 15, 2021 Pilotbase.com feat. Ben Hall & Dave Rogers Season 1 Episode 9
The Pilot Base
An interview with the founder of Project Wingman
Chapters
The Pilot Base
An interview with the founder of Project Wingman
Mar 15, 2021 Season 1 Episode 9
Pilotbase.com feat. Ben Hall & Dave Rogers

In this episode, we meet Emma Henderson, MBE. Captain, TV star, wife, mother, farmer, triathlete, founder of Project Wingman - recognised by the queen and honoured for her services to charity. She's come a long way since joining that university Air Squadron in her youth. We cover a lot of ground in this podcast and those headlines and just the start. It's a great chat with a great human being to sit back and enjoy. 

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we meet Emma Henderson, MBE. Captain, TV star, wife, mother, farmer, triathlete, founder of Project Wingman - recognised by the queen and honoured for her services to charity. She's come a long way since joining that university Air Squadron in her youth. We cover a lot of ground in this podcast and those headlines and just the start. It's a great chat with a great human being to sit back and enjoy. 

Ben Hall:

Hello, and welcome to the pilot based podcast. I'm Ben and I've been a pilot for over a decade.

Dave Rogers:

And I'm Dave categorically not a pilot.

Ben Hall:

Every Monday we'll be chatting to both pilots and non pilots with amazing aviation stories from all around the world. You can find all episodes of the pilot based podcast for free wherever you get your podcasts. If you like what you're hearing, subscribe to our channel and leave us a review.

Dave Rogers:

In this episode, we meet Emma Henderson, MBE, pilot, Captain, TV star, wife, mother, farmer, triathlete, founder of project wingman recognised by the queen and honoured for her services to charity. She's come a long way since joining that university Air Squadron in her youth. We cover a lot of ground in this podcast and those headlines and just the start. It's a great chat with a great human being to sit back and enjoy. Captain Anna Henderson MBA Welcome to pilot base now you both captain and MBA, or just supersede the other.

Emma Henderson:

No, I can be both of those. So because obviously Captain relates to my qualification in my career, and the MB is an honour awarded to me by Her Majesty the Queen, which is a huge honour, and I'm very excited about it, as you can imagine. I certainly

Dave Rogers:

can, although what was the the presentation of it like not the traditional one that we've become accustomed to over there via second class

Ben Hall:

post?

Emma Henderson:

Well, and I mean, the the notification of it was something that happened by email, whereas normally that would be a letter and the actual presentation and collection of it. Well, it remains to be seen because they still haven't presented last year's New Year's Honours yet. And then there's the Queen's Birthday ones as well. So in terms of that, I The idea is that you go to Buckingham Palace or Hollywood to collect it, but actually, that may not happen at all. So or and if it does, it won't be for at least a year.

Dave Rogers:

Amazing. That's just another thing to look forward to, though, isn't it, we're always looking for reasons to be cheerful and things in the future that we can get excited about. Why

Emma Henderson:

want to be honest with you, even if I don't end up going. So the other option if they decide to just clear the backlog by not doing palace presentations for this tranche of honours, then that would most likely be awarded to me by the Lord left tenant of Marie, which is the county I live in, who I also sit on a trust with her coincidentally. And so actually, even if it was presented to me by him, he's still the Queen's representative in Murray, and it would still be you know, we'd make it a lovely occasion and it would still be really nice. So even if I didn't get that trip to the palace, which I obviously hope I do, because it will mean a new dress and something to put on my head. Then Then, you know, it will still be a lovely occasion. And it's still Yeah, it's something amazing to look forward to. So

Ben Hall:

yeah, so the actual honour is is official now is there as of the first of January?

Emma Henderson:

Yes, as of the first of January, I found out on the third of December and you're sworn to secrecy. Can't tell anyone apart from if you work for a company or charity, you can tell your press people. So I have a press person. So I told her and and so but other than that you can't tell anyone. So I had this massive secret to keep from my children, my parents and my, the rest of my family and

Ben Hall:

even close family. You can't You can't even tell them.

Emma Henderson:

No, it's supposed to be kept a complete secret until the embargo is lifted, which this year was at 1030 on the 30th in the evening, and I was actually on FaceTime to my son around 10 o'clock in the evening, because he lives in London. And my brother in law phoned me at like 1030 and 30 seconds and said, Where are you going to tell us? And I said, Paul? Yes, I was. I didn't realise it was gonna actually hit the news at 1030. You know, I thought they might have waited till the morning or something. So, yeah, it was that secret?

Dave Rogers:

See, it would have been a great way to sneak it in when you were doing your Christmas card. So Best wishes. Good luck in the new year. Emma Henderson MBA?

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, well, you'd know who'd read them then wouldn't be

Dave Rogers:

amazing. So how soon so your family found out on the news before you'd run them?

Emma Henderson:

Yes, quite a lot of them did. So I was able to tell you know, the children and my parents and my husband's parents. We did tell them earlier in the evening. Because we didn't want them to find out on the news. But other than that, it was a complete secret from everyone. So the hilarious thing actually was on the morning of New Year's Eve when I woke up and switched my phone on. There were so many mess I had 400 messages in it. If I didn't know which noise to make first, whether it should be an email or a text or a message or whatever, so it made this kind of cacophony of different noises, which is quite cool, actually.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, I can I can imagine, although quite scary for a bit, it must have felt like a bug all over again.

Emma Henderson:

Well, part of it, I was just thinking, you ever gonna stop? You know, just how am I going to reply to all these messages and eat and sleep? So um, yeah, it was amazing, absolutely fantastic thing to have. And like you say, a fantastic thing to look forward to. But it's also something that's a collective effort. You know, I haven't been given an MBA for being Mr. Henderson, I've been given an MBA for being a medicine CEO, project wing man, and all that goes into that. So that's all the back office staff and all the hours they've put into it. And, crucially, all the volunteers and all the time they spent going into hospitals and actually do it making it a reality, you know. So that's the, that's the real sort of accolade for them as well, I think,

Dave Rogers:

well, if you are able to go and collect your Gong, as it were, it means that we've evolved in terms of being able to have mass gatherings. So that sounds like a project wing man, celebration party to me.

Emma Henderson:

Absolutely. And I've already, I mean, even the back in the middle of last year, I was talking to people about, you know, when we can all move around, again, I think we should have a big, you know, wing man ball or something like that, that that needs to include partners as well. Because you know, when you give a lot to something like this, whether you are doing my role, or whether you're volunteering in the hospital, or whether you're doing some of the Back Office Admin stuff, and your partner inevitably is not going to see you for quite large periods of time. And, and so I think, you know, I've always found it strange when the airline I worked for had a sort of Recognition Award ceremony, and partners weren't invited to that. And I kind of got it because it was a big party anyway. But I always sort of think that your success is based on the people that are around you, as well. Because if you're not supported by them, then it's harder for you to go out and do things. Well, isn't it? So?

Dave Rogers:

Absolutely. Now, we've got ahead of ourselves here, and it's been such a jovial start, but we must scold you to begin with that because you were late, why were you late?

Emma Henderson:

I was late. And that will come as no surprise to some of my friends who walk their dogs with me regularly. And they actually now say to me, we'll meet half an hour earlier knowing that. But so I do tend to have, I don't wear a watch for a start. And, and but I was on I was on the phone to. I was talking to somebody from the telegraph. So. So you know, which is a lovely, actually, it's a really lovely thing to have been doing. So there's a lady who writes something called You are not alone, which is a weekly newsletter that the telegraph puts out. And I've spoken to her before. And it is an update really about where we managed and what we've been doing. And the things that have changed since I spoke to her last summer. So it was just fantastic to be able to do that and just get a little bit more awareness, wider awareness of what we are and who we do with who we are and what we're doing. And so not the other way around. And yeah, that was really nice. But inevitably, when you sort of back these things up together, you say, Yes, I can meet you at 10 o'clock, and I can meet you at half past 10 I can meet. It always runs over. So I do apologise I take the scolding. And I promise the better next time

Ben Hall:

just to confirm that lateness was 90 seconds. So it's

Emma Henderson:

unacceptable. Unacceptable behaviour.

Dave Rogers:

You don't wear a watch is that the reason that none of my flights ever take off on time?

Emma Henderson:

day? Yeah. My flights always left on time. I always wore a watch at work. But no, since I always had this thing that when I wasn't at work, I don't want to be sort of beholden to the time of day. And I've got a clock in the downstairs dining room and you know, I've got my phone I can check the time if I really need to. And if it's something very important I really mustn't miss and I can always set an alarm on my phone but I never do and I just don't like wearing a watch. So and so I'm at work it to me it's sort of signifies being at work so and I'm not at work anymore.

Dave Rogers:

So fair enough. Just looking at some of the things you've done publicity wise, BBC Radio for the Telegraph, channel five so much regional news mentions at the Chelsea Flower Show your parliamentary MP and now the big one of course the pilot based podcast as well. I mean, escape the area actually is the scoop of 2021 get that get that on the testimonials ban that's Yeah,

Ben Hall:

well, dude. First

Emma Henderson:

thing I've done this year.

Dave Rogers:

Fantastic stuff. But I'd like to talk about you being a pilot first. This is a pilot base versus a pilots podcast. First and foremost. Are you from an aviation family? What was your journey into the cockpit?

Emma Henderson:

No, I'm not from an aviation family at all. I grew up in a fairly small town in Essex. My dad has businessmen. He's still a Lloyd's broker. So the only aviation link, I suppose, is that his his business was centred on aviation and marine. And my mum was a teacher who left teaching to go and work for my dad's business. So we grew up. Very, I would say, I would say very ordinarily, but I know it wasn't ordinary. I know we had a very blessed upbringing. You know, I sailed boats, I had a horse. And I thought I'd that would be the sort of thing I would do in the future would be those sorts of long those sorts of lines. And I did always have a fascination with flying. And so I've still got, because I'm a hoarder, I've still got in my life school projects I did when I was eight about flight. And so I did have this massive fascination. And I'd love the Science Museum because it had sort of models of montgolfier balloons, and, you know, early aircraft and things and I used to read Biggles books, because I loved them. And I just sort of stay exciting. So I must, I did have this fascination, but I was never that child that said, When I grow up, I'm going to be a pilot. And when I was again, about eight, and the split, the first space shuttle Enterprise went around the world on the back of a 747. And it came in to Stansted and which was not far from where we lived. And I begged my mum and dad to take us to see it, which they did. And I've got a photo of me standing in front of this 747 with a space shuttle on the back of it, which is amazing. And the only other thing I've seen since since then that's more that's equally as amazing with aircraft, is when an Antonov, which is the largest aircraft in the world came into RFK loss, which is where I live and took a Nimrod away. It had its wings taken off, and it took the fuselage of a Nimrod away to be re sprayed. And, and turned into a new aircraft. And this fuselage was inside this Antonov and seeing that take off, you know, every inch of runway to actually get airborne. So that was really amazing. But the first thing I'd seen was this massive aircraft with a space shuttle on the back of it, which is incredible. And so I obviously after that decided I was going to be an astronaut, as you would, and I had this enormous poster of the space shuttle taking off on my bedroom wall till I was about 18, which is probably why I couldn't keep a boyfriend. And and but then, you know, when I went to university, my plan was to I did a history degree. And I my plan was to go and convert that into a law degree and become a hotshot lawyer in the city. That was where my thoughts lay at the time. And I even had a placement lined up with a firm in London to do in my summer holidays and things like that. But I spent my first year sailing racing boats for the university. And in my second year, I walked into freshers fair and saw this big sign saying learn to fly for free. And I'd had a fly and less of my 18th birthday, which I'd loved. But even back then it was quite expensive to have flying lessons. And I didn't have the means to pay for it quickly enough to do it. So I saw this sign saying learn to fly for free. And I thought brilliant. How do you do that? And it was the university Air Squadron. So I went and chatted to them and signed up on the spot and said, Yes, I'd like to do that. Thank you very much. And then got home and thought what on earth am I doing? I don't want to be told what to do by other people. So I am actually retracted my application. And they came around the next day and said please don't do that. Please keep the application and so I did. And I went down for this interview or what was then Aria fittingly, which is now Doncaster Robin Hood airport, and got got a place on the Yorkshire University Air Squadron and spent two years there flying Bulldogs. That was the air air force train plane at the time. So that's where I learned to fly. And the first weekend you go down the weekend and you have a lecture on a Friday night, or that's how it was then, and then you flew Saturday and Sunday. And the first weekend that I was down at feelingly, I walked into the bar and met some people I've met at parties before in Leeds where I was at university and one of these guys introduced me to his group of friends and one of those guys that he introduced me She was the only one that didn't have a name like you smash TAF Mountie Magoo. He is the only one with no more name. And that was Jim. And actually, he's now been my husband for 25 years. So I met him a wife last weekend there. And largely because of that we were we got engaged after six months of marriage a year later. And yeah, and, and mostly because of that, and the fact he was sent up to Kinloss, I put my papers into Cranwell, and did aptitude tests. And they said, margin offer pilot and exceptional for navigator and a thought, that really want to be a navigator, I'll just marry one instead. So that's what I did. And that was it for when I didn't fly again. And I sort of walked away from it, and moved up to an employment black spot with an English surname in an Airforce address, so I couldn't get a job. And I did get jobs I did work I am, I worked in a call centre, selling dubious videos to people in GPS magazines. And then working on them. parking tickets, was one of the things I worked on in that call centre, or worked for a farmer as the Secretary where I am sometimes, I'd always take my wireless because you never know if you'd be writing letters or herding cows, which is really good fun. And eventually became an office manager for leisure company. And that was my life. And I just didn't really think I'd fly again. And I had turned down an offer from British Airways to go to the they had a cadet Training Centre in Prestwick, but I got a place on that and then turned it down because it was, you know, down the road in Glasgow, which now wouldn't seem anything. But back in the mid 90s, when phones were stuck to walls, and the only mail you received was in the post. You know, it seemed like a long way away, and we just got married. So that was the right thing to do to not do that. And, and then, you know, in 2003, we had just built our house, we've been living in it for a year and loved it. And somebody somewhere decided it would be a good idea for us and our little family, we have three children by then, us and our little family to move 12,000 miles around the other side of the world to New Zealand, which was the beginning of the whole adventure, really, it was the beginning of a whole new life. And that's really where the the flying story started again.

Dave Rogers:

So let's let's fast forward to that, then you put it to the back of your mind, it was something that was was great memories, and it essentially led to you having a brilliant life with their husbands and kids and opportunities and fun jobs by the sounds of things. If not Yeah, they wanted to

Emma Henderson:

make fun. Of

Dave Rogers:

course, especially the farming, I mean, goodness mates. Brilliant. Yeah. And so you've got to New Zealand, what happened then?

Emma Henderson:

Well, my brother had moved out there in 95, when he got married, and he's still there. So it was a fantastic gift for us to be moving near to Him. And there's just the two of us. And although obviously very difficult for my parents now have both their children so far away. But we moved out there and, you know, just settled into this amazing life as experts. It was just it was really good. And I had just turned 30 just before we we went and I'd spent my 20s having kids when all my mates were in London, having careers and life. And it was fantastic place to be because I think you know, I had got married and essentially turned into my mom who's a lovely lady, but she's like 25 years older than me. So, you know, turning 30 and moving to New Zealand, loads of different things happen to help me to understand who I actually was. Rather than being you know, the daughter of a relatively big fish in a small pond in Essex, or the wife of an Air Force officer or the mother of three children. Suddenly, I was able to start finding out who Mr. Henderson was and lots of different things happened. I was basically a heavy in both senses of the word heavy smoker, fat, didn't run or exercise. hadn't lost my baby, we ate lots of chocolate and very quite unhealthy person who had a really big pawn shop for wine. And, you know, it's a very healthy lifestyle out there. You know, I met people who did things like running and I thought but you're not on fire. Why would you do that? And, but I basically got to a point. We were we've been a few months where I thought, you know, I really need to stop smoking and I need to sort my life out a bit and started running and took up triathlons. And my husband said to me, Look, you stop smoking, the money you save in New Zealand dollars on what you would spend in pounds on cigarettes will pay for you to do your private pilot's licence if you want to do it. And I was like, that's a great idea

Dave Rogers:

how much smoking?

Emma Henderson:

I was put smoking 25 times a day, probably. And, you know, and so was he. So, you know, we were both smoking heavily. And a great example to the children. And, and so, you know, that all adds up. And of course, and so at the time, there were three and a half New Zealand dollars to the pound as well. So he sort of think how much we were spending and then triple it. And then that, you know, pretty much I guess there's sort of a pack of no 200 cigarettes and probably pay for a flying lesson, essentially. So he said, if you're going to do this, you've got to stop smoking for six weeks before you can fly, because otherwise you won't do it. I thought, yeah, that's also fair. So I stopped smoking, which was very, very difficult because I had done it for a lot of years. And I thought, I'm going to get even fatter, so I need to move. So I took up triathlons as well mini triathlons, and really mini triathlons and had just built up slowly with that. And after six weeks, I went from my first flight. And I remembered pretty much everything from when I had flown eight years before. And it was absolutely brilliant. I loved it. And that's really, literally as they say, the rest is history. You know, I did my private pilot's licence. And so we were living at this New Zealand Air Force Base called funnel epi, it just in Auckland, just north of Auckland. And as part of my husband's job, he was flying the p3 Orion for their Air Force. And he would have to go away quite a lot. So typically, when I did my private pilot's flight test, he was actually away, and we moved house as well. So I ended up with three weeks with him away, during which time we moved house, I got my private pilot's licence. And there was something else that happened as well, I can't remember why

Ben Hall:

isn't it?

Emma Henderson:

Isn't it just Yeah, very hard for him being in Malaysia while I was doing all of that. So when I did, very benevolently tell him what our new address was. So he knew it. But it was tempting not to, though. Yeah. And then then it was a case of our building. And that was brilliant because and you can't be paid to fly when you've got a private licence that you can share the cost of a flight. So people will say to me, can you fly me and my family around Auckland, and we'll just split the cost of the flight between us which was legal and allowed me to build up our so yeah, bearing in mind Auckland, I don't know if you either if you've ever been there, but there's a Sky Tower there, which is, you know, a big tower with an observation deck on it. And it's quite a low lying city. Otherwise, there is a CBD with a few skyscrapers, but they're not not too many of them. And you could fly just over the top of all of that and round. You know, we used to do orbits around the Sky Tower, and fly out to the west coast beaches. And you know, just the sort of thing that you look back and say, Wow, over a city, how are we allowed to do that? You know,

Ben Hall:

yeah, I get my Flying Training in South Africa. And it was kind of same deal there. That airspace was so open and uncongested it's brilliant. Johannesburg. 1000 feet.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Amazing. And all you had to do was just ask, as long as an Auckland Airport wasn't busy, which it never really was, you know, there would be times of the day when you knew flights would be coming in. But other than that, you could just fly over the top of Auckland Airport to go south as well. And you didn't have to go round it, you know, it's just crazy. And the things we saw, were amazing. And I built my hours up and I did my commercial pilot's licence, which involved another eight exams, slightly different system there than here. And then basically, I had then you do a multi engine rating and an instrument rating so you can fly without being in visual contact with the ground. And I got all of those under my belt and then applied to Bristol groundschool for their the air transport pilot licence exams and they were in the folders then. We're still sort of talking, you know? 2005 2000 Yeah. 2005. And they came in these massive folders, which I had to get from Oxford or from Bristol to New Zealand. And luckily, we have become good friends with a lot of people out there and there was that they had to Boeing seven, five sevens, the New Zealand Air Force that they used to fly. They use them for troop movements basically and people movements and they He used to bring them over to the UK for exercises and things like that. And they were in the UK at the time when I needed to get my course. So I just found out one of the pilots and said, If I get this delivered to your hotel, can you bring it back for me? He went, Yeah, no problem. Yeah, would have been amazing, wouldn't it except that it arrived at their hotel, they forgot to pass it on a 757 came back to New Zealand without my phone. Took the can for that. And they they sent it out to me. So and yeah, so it all worked out in the end. But yeah, it was just one of the I think it was one of those times, that probably was one of the first times I realised that you can just, you can just ask people to do things for you. Because the worst thing they can say is no. And that's really stood me in good stead for the last year of wing man, you know, I can imagine

Ben Hall:

amazing the power of having a good network, isn't it?

Emma Henderson:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I really, I really think the last 11 years of flying have that they've done many things. But one of the things that has happened as a result of that is this massive network of people I've been able to call on in a in order to put women together in the first place. So yeah, it's always it's always important to be nice to people. But I think even more so if you if you want to be able to call in favours in the future, you know,

Dave Rogers:

so let's, let's box off this this pilot journey before we move on to wing man and you you put all of that into practice. And you were a commercial pilot until you weren't a commercial pilot. What was your What was your journey out of out of being a pilot, let's just say,

Emma Henderson:

Well, I worked for EasyJet for 11 years and moved around lots of different bases as part of that. And the reason for moving around is because there's a family we move because my husband's in the airforce and we were posted so I ended up at Gatwick mainly because we were we had moved to Lincolnshire, which is not near anywhere in terms of any base I could work out of. And so I was commuting to loot and at the time, and I said to my husband that you know if I'm commuting anyway, and your job can move Can we just go home. So we managed to get his job posted back up to last the mouse and came home to the house that we built and her cats and love and and this is where we wanted our lives to be and still want our lives to be. So in order to sustain that I moved to Gatwick because there's the most flights a day between Inverness and Gatwick in order to be able to get to work, or actually ever that's in London, because ba flew to Heathrow and we had Luton and Gatwick. So I had seven choices a day of how I could get home or get down and I'd go down for a block and then I'd stay down there. And in that time, I could do Inverness, night stops and come home. So it was a really nice setup. But of course, then COVID came along and grounded aircraft. And we're now down to three flights a week to London from Inverness. And there were a number of reasons why I made this decision. But actually the biggest was really the fact that I could no longer get to work. So I took the decision to take voluntary redundancy which was being offered by the company. I also felt that it gave me back some control over a life that I felt was a bit out of control, because none of us know what's happening there. Even still, obviously, my friends are still employed. They don't know what's going on all the time. And yes, they're getting paid at the end of every month, but not I think the pay the trade off for that was too great for me. And so yeah, I spent quite a lot of time agonising about it and obviously talking to my husband about it because of the impact it has on our family. But I took that decision to step back from flying, and I don't know if I will fly again. It's quite possible I won't, and I'm okay with that. If that's the case, I'd like to think that I will. But you know, I'm, I'm 47 I've got eight and a half 1000 hours behind under my belt. I've been a captain, I've, I've achieved a lot of the things that you'd want to set out to achieve at the beginning of a flying career. And, you know, maybe I'm not meant to do that anymore. Maybe the purpose of me doing that was in order to be able to do wing man and then lead on to other things from there. So I'm very comfortable with the fact that I made that decision. And I'm also very comfortable with the fact that if I don't fly again, I've had 11 amazing years working for an airline really amazing is I had three years before that as a flying instructor. And then I had all the training before that as well. So I've really had some great experiences and I'm a prolific photographer, so I've got some pictorial evidence of that as well. As well as of course, you know, the ITV documentary inside the cockpit, which most people don't have footage of them doing their job. So I'm really, really lucky to be in this position.

Dave Rogers:

And how would you feel if you were never to fly again,

Ben Hall:

I don't think I'd feel as quite so comfortable as MSA in there. I haven't reached some milestones which I would quite like in my aviation career such as captaincy because for the non pilot listeners, aviation's bit of a weird industry. So vast majority of airlines will work on a seniority basis. So it doesn't matter if you're the most experienced pilot ever, if you join a new airline, you start as the absolute lowest member of the pilot community. And I've moved airlines twice now. So three companies in total. So I've had to reset my career a couple of times. So I'd still like to get captaincy. At some point, I have not quite given up that sort of flying, but I really enjoy all the other elements that are outside of flying. But actually flying an aircraft is a very, very fun job.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, I completely see where you're coming from with that. And I agree that, you know, I'm mostly in this position, because I have achieved the things I wanted to. And, you know, I was in a very different position six years ago, I had a, an illness that almost killed me. And I was very fortunate to have that diagnosed very quickly treated very quickly, and literally believe that my life was saved by a doctor at Frimley Park. And so I was very lucky, but I had six months where I had lost my medical, and I wasn't a captain, and I absolutely felt like you do, and which was that if I don't go back to flying, I would have felt a bit robbed of all the opportunities that I that lay ahead of me, and that I had worked so hard to achieve. So I completely understand how you feel there

Ben Hall:

are a lot of people are very driven to become a captain, as that is the number one goal. That's not really my goal. But it's definitely you know, it's kind of where you want to be in your career. And if you don't quite get there, I feel like well, it's wasted. You've got to have some career progression,

Emma Henderson:

you've got to have something to work towards. So it's Yeah, of course, it's something people want to do, and quite rightly, should. But you're you're right, that it shouldn't be more important than the reason you're doing it in the first place, I suppose.

Ben Hall:

No, exactly. So Emma, how was with the EasyJet inside the cockpit? How was that with? With the recording? And like, did you operate in a slightly different manner to what you would do usually, because you knew the cameras are always rolling. Because obviously, I don't mean to incriminate you here, but pilots are very, very professional. But there is a little bit of informal pneus at appropriate times in the cockpit when you've got it downtime and stuff. And I don't know how comfortable I feel with constant recording of, you know, the my workplace.

Emma Henderson:

Well, my camera crew were very good. And I got on very well, you know, I had, for about three months, I had a dedicated film crew pretty much following me around, not on every flight, but on a lot of flights. And they came to my house up here as well. And so I built quite a good relationship with them. And there was always somebody from the airline with me as well. And to just manage things, if there was a situation where we perhaps wouldn't want filming to happen, which did happen once with the passenger that collapsed into my arms. I felt it wasn't right for them to keep filming that after the point at which she was clearly very ill. And I asked them to switch the cameras off. And they did. And I think that's the right thing to do, because that was a massive intrusion of someone's privacy. And I don't think it would have been right to continue that. But actually, you know, the first day I flew his cameras in the flight deck, and it was a little bit kind of surreal, because you're not used to it. But then at the same time, anybody who's known me since I've been young will probably say I'm a big show off. So actually, I kind of got used to it very quickly. And I was really okay with it. I feel very comfortable. On camera, and I feel very, I felt very bold and very comfortable. And at the end of the day, I thought you know, this is my aircraft. I'm the captain. The day goes, how I say it's going to go with my team, obviously, as well. I'm not that sort of Captain that's like you must do this. But, you know, at the end of the day, they were guests on my aircraft, and they were there because I was allowing it. So I kind of thought, Well, I'm just going to get on with my job. Because what I really wanted to do was show people what we do at work and what work is like for us and we were I was able to do that event. Yes, there were the funny moments like Amsterdam. And, you know, there's a moment where I couldn't get my torch to work. And people commented about how my hair wasn't brushed, and I didn't wear makeup and stuff. And I thought I'll give over. Really, that's the important thing. And, but you know, there was also a huge pride in being able to sort of show my family even, this is what happens when we shut the door. And we're the ones that are taking the responsibility for the 180 people that sitting behind us getting into the air and down again safely. And so it was great. And you know, with so the, the cameras in the flight deck was fixed. And

Ben Hall:

they sort of GoPros like

Emma Henderson:

a GoPro behind us that was, is bolted to the jump seat, basically. So in a flight deck, for those of you who aren't aviation people, and in the flight deck, you'll have certainly that the a 320 that I fly has a jump seat, which is a smaller seat than the pilot seats, that is behind the pilot seats in the middle. So it's sort of has a fold down seat and a fold up headrest. And it's where a trainer would sit if they were doing a line check on you. Or it's where sometimes you have maybe cabin crew who is on their first day, and they get to come and sit in the in the flight deck to experience what it's like on a takeoff or landing or whatever. So there's space for someone else to sit and the camera was bolted to that. And of course, this all had to be approved by all the tech people in the airline as well. But they had done it once before. So they knew the format. And then there was a Fisheye Camera, and two face cameras that were on the combing at the front. And that one face camera for each of us. And then the fisheye for the whole flight deck so and then we had microphones as well, that were just strapped to our seatbelts. And they were on all the time. Just recording everything. And so, you know, obviously a lot of the footage was really boring, because it was just us sitting in the cruise or whatever. But you know, after a while the cameras are there. And you just think I can't do anything other than my job. And there's no point trying to make things happen. Why would you do that my my aim there was to show the professional side of our job. And I had said to them, You know, I don't want anything to appear that would embarrass me, my family, the airforce, the airline, anything like that. And it was just literally a case of rolling with the punches and see what happened his day. So it just became I just ignored them after a while.

Ben Hall:

But did it didn't change the dynamic in the flight deck at all. Because I'm just thinking right when you're in the simulator, or when you're on line check or you've got an instructor or something. You do your job. But there's a way you act slightly differently, right, you're a little bit more tense and you don't want to make a mistake, and you want to make sure everything's perfect. And I guess when you're being recorded to something that's going nationwide.

Emma Henderson:

At absolutely, you don't want that.

Ben Hall:

Exactly. You don't want the public knowing that you make a mistake, let alone an instructor.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, well, I mean, it did happen, didn't it on camera. So you know, with Amsterdam, we were given an instruction to take a certain taxi right now amps to dam is an enormous airport with multiple taxiways. And what actually happened there was that we went a different way round around about than the guy in the tower wanted us to go, but we still ended up in the right place. And we still ended up pointing in the right direction, unlike the how they made out, you know, in the documentary, and I just saw, it's happened, we've made a mistake. It was my mistake, more than anything, the first officer was all over it as usual. And it was my mistake, can I just accepted it. And I thought you know what, the passengers know that something's happening. So I just said over the PA, ladies and gentlemen, you will notice that we've we appear to be going around in circles. And I can confirm that we are and that actually this is at the request of air traffic control. Cause we're waiting waiting for our parking stand to become available. And I can assure you, it's nothing to do with the fact that the two female drivers up here and of course, that sort of lighting in the cabin, and we waited for our stand to become free and it became free and we tax it onto stand and everyone got off and it was all amusing. And it was just a piece that they were able to lift out of it. And in context, you'd look at that and go Yeah, actually Amsterdam is one of those places that anybody could be forgiven for, you know, going round around about the wrong way when I'm talking about around but I'm talking literally about a patch of grass that we went round, sort of anti clockwise instead of clockwise. And

Ben Hall:

if I showed you the sort of layout of Schiphol Airport, you would just be like what it looks like a city.

Emma Henderson:

Oh, absolutely. To give you an idea the runway you take off from if your northerly runways is five miles from the terminal and you know you want to fly margin, it's actually in a different County. So it's an enormous place. So you know, it did happen. And I think the reason that I think they kind of liked filming me is because I didn't try and cover anything up the difference. The only difference really, to my working day was that I didn't swear, I'm not going to be called swearing. And I hold my hand that was shouldn't but I swear quite a lot. And, you know, I didn't, I thought, I'm not going to be caught swearing on camera, because my dad would go mad, he would never forgive me. So he'll forgive me a lot. But I think he would have been really embarrassed. And I thought, I'm just not gonna do that. So, yeah, but there were when I tried to keep it as natural as possible, because the first officers were often a bit more nervous about it, because I knew I was doing it, and I'd been prepped for it. But the first officers would find out a few days before that they were going to be on a flight that was going to be filmed. And were they okay with that? And they'd be like, Oh, well, you know, what's gonna happen here? Is it all right? And I'd be like, yeah, don't worry about it.

Ben Hall:

He's very good at employing sort of low our pilots went then taking them through the training system. So I'm assuming that a lot of the people you flew with were pretty inexperienced.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah. And it's always a mix at Gatwick, probably more so than other bases. But all absolutely brilliant people. And in fact, one of the guys that was in the documentary, in the first episode of the documentary with me, went to BA in the end as well. And we're still in contact and is absolutely lovely guy. And we just had such a laugh and such a good day out. And then one of the other first officers, she was sort of being filmed for the documentary as well. So yeah, but you know, that, what you've got to remember is somebody might have low hours, but if they're on the line with you, it means they've passed all the checks and tests and things that they have to pass to be qualified to fly that aircraft. So yeah, they haven't got the experience that you've got. But they still bring an awful lot to the party, and they're still completely qualified to operate that aircraft. So

Ben Hall:

and those people tend to be the sharpest as well, because they've

Emma Henderson:

very much so they know, to date

Ben Hall:

with the books and the manuals, and

Emma Henderson:

well, they've just finished their training. So it's like when you become a captain, you're the sharpest you'll ever be because you've just gone through this very intensive training course. And you try and keep your knowledge up as much as possible. But inevitably, you know, it gets there's a bit more reading to be done each year to make sure that happens.

Dave Rogers:

Do you think hours are the best metric for measuring a pilot suitability?

Emma Henderson:

No, not at all, I think that you can have, you can have pilots who have got 1000s of hours of flying, but it doesn't necessarily make them and it doesn't necessarily make them even suitable to be a pilot, let alone a captain. And I think there's an awful lot of things thrown into the mix, which is why now when you go through a command process, for example, you have a psychiatric test before you do it. And you have to have, you know, flights with trainers and interviews with your boss. And there's a huge process to go through certainly in my airline. In order to be able to do that, I imagine it's very similar in ba and I imagined, it's very similar in all the other airlines that there's there's a it's a three year process from start to finish, really. So the course itself doesn't take that long, but you have to have at the right number of hours, and you have to have the right you have to do technical assessments and all the rest of it as well. And you have to have simulator checks before you even get to the point where you can start the sort of command course and, and even in terms of being a first officer, so when you start flying, you start sitting in the right hand seat of the aircraft. And that's your role then is as a first officer. And you will be sitting next to a captain who is in the left hand seat of the aircraft. And they are the experienced one who has more time more hours and been through more training, you're both equally as qualified to fly the aircraft, your licence is the same, but there's different experience levels. To sit in the right hand seat of an aircraft. Traditionally, you always used to go through the sort of instructor multi engine training, small airline, bigger line kind of route. And then about, I guess, 20 years ago, that kind of all changed when flight training companies came along and said, Well, actually, you know, we can do this quicker. And so you end up with a situation where you can have a 21 year old sitting in the right hand seat of a jet with a captain next to them, and they are qualified to fly it but they don't have the life experience perhaps it doesn't mean they're no good. It just means they have less light of life experience but they might have other skills. But actually some of the you know, then you can fly with somebody who's maybe had a 15 year career as a trader in the city, who is also a low hours pilot sitting in the right hand seat and brings a whole different sort of view to the flight deck and a whole different conversation to the flight deck. a whole different array of skills. And everybody has been through an interview process and everybody's valuable everybody. All ranges of people are valuable. And I think that's the only thing that about cadet pilots who are very young, I think that they shouldn't be an age limit on that. But because just because you're in your mid 30s, like I was when I started EasyJet,

Ben Hall:

it doesn't mean you're too old to be able to learn that skill and learn to fly, but to operate that aircraft. So I find especially for long haul flying, which I've done, that extra life experience is absolutely invaluable. Because the actual flying you're doing on a 15 hour flight, you're kind of obviously manually taking off your gauge autopilot, you've got quite a lot of work to do at the beginning at the end. But there's a lot of sort of downtime in the middle way. And if you're sitting next to somebody with absolutely nothing other than aviation under their belt, it gets very boring very quick, isn't it?

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, absolutely. And even actually, you know, although we're short haul, you know, six hours to Tel Aviv from London. And that can be a long old day with the wrong person. But equally, you know, I flown with people actually, as a first officer, I flew with a captain to television, because we kind of thought it was going to be the last time we get to fly together. And we were still talking on the bus on the way down to the car park because we hadn't finished all the things we wanted to talk about. So and I hope he enjoyed it as well and didn't go home with his bleeding. Fly with Henderson again.

Dave Rogers:

I find it really interesting. You're talking about airports from pilots perspective and how ship was a bit of a nightmare because from a punters perspective, ship holds great because you don't have to take your liquids out of your bag, you can just stick them straight. The other one is I think it's really flown into the new Istanbul airport. No, I have. Because when we landed there, that was one of the last flights I took before everything locked down. It felt like we were taxiing for about 40 minutes after we've landed, it was miles away. Absolutely. That's the

Emma Henderson:

case in quite a few airports actually. So you get to Madrid it will be the same. And Barcelona is the classic Barcelona, particularly when you're leaving. And particularly if you're a low cost airline, you park so you can cross the wrong way to go to the so they have a landing runway and a takeoff runway. And you can sometimes get permission to cross the landing runway in order to get to the takeoff runway. But it's such a busy airport that they don't often allow it. So you have to taxi all the way down to the end of the runway, then across it and then all the way back down again and then across to go to the takeoff runway. So you know, and I have done flights as well, you know, from Amsterdam, which had been kind of 28 minute flights, but or 35 minutes lights or something like that. And then you spend more time on the ground taxiing to get airborne. And then, particularly if you have a cue to park as well, you can. Yeah, I

Ben Hall:

think my longest taxi time ever was like one hour and 34 minutes away. Yeah, that was in New York, I think.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah.

Ben Hall:

Because in America, they've got a bit of a weird system that the different air traffic controllers don't speak to each other. So in most of the world, it's quite integrated. So you'll speak to sort of delivery and then you'll speak to ground and then you'll speak to tower and then you'll speak to departures. And they'll kind of pass you on to each other. Whereas in America, those people don't tend to speak to each other.

Emma Henderson:

Wow. Oh, no, no, that

Ben Hall:

Yeah, so you'll speak to ramp who control the apron where you're parked? They'll say, Yeah, you're clear to push back, no problem. You've been taxi off the ramp, and they'll switch you to ground but they won't tell ground that they've released you. So you speak to ground, this is completely new information to them. Ground like, Oh, well, we've got 40 of you join the queue. Okay, Does

Emma Henderson:

that ever work? That's, that's, that's bizarre.

Ben Hall:

It doesn't.

Emma Henderson:

It makes you realise, I think how lucky you know, how lucky we are with air traffic standards in Europe. And actually, particularly in the UK, you know, you kind of the French air traffic controllers are very good, very professional, as are the Dutch and you know, around Europe, there are a number of different air traffic control units that you think Yeah, they know what they're doing. I trust them. And there are some that you kind of think I just want to check that. And when you get back over into UK airspace and you hear London control, you just think I'm home. It is a very, yeah, it's

Ben Hall:

a very sort of comforting feeling, isn't it? That first London controller?

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, very much. So. And actually since then, in the last sort of nine months or so on LinkedIn, I've made a connection with one of the controllers at Sonic and We've kind of chatted a bit. And it's just brilliant to put a face to a name. Because what I find quite frustrating is that you talk to these people several times a day. And you don't know what any of them look like. So I've met some of them that, you know, days and things like that, or families days and things, and then you just think, Oh, it's actually really great to know what you look like. And they think the same. You know, they're kind of

Ben Hall:

recognising voices, don't you? When you Oh, absolutely. Especially like certain weird times of the day when it's very quiet. Yeah, for the North Atlantic, log into London. And you're like, Oh, I know you. I obviously don't know you at all. recognise your voice.

Emma Henderson:

Well, the other thing is, as a female pilot, they get to know your voice. And particularly, I was doing the Inverness route a lot so that I could get home. And you know, you get handed over to London or Scottish and they, you'd always sort of hear them almost say, Oh, hi, how are you? I knew that it was gonna be you flying back to Inverness for the night, you know?

Dave Rogers:

Right. Let's talk about project wing man, then because I just thought we will get to have a quick chat and then really sort of dive in. And we've been on this call for about an hour and it's been so sorry. Please don't apologise but such a lovely chat. And we found that so much. Right project in mind and what what came first, your idea to take redundancy or project wing man, which was what what order did they come in?

Emma Henderson:

So project women came first? Okay. So back in, you know, February, March time, when there was this kind of weird virus happening in China, and it wasn't going to affect us was it? And suddenly, we're sort of sitting there thinking Hang on a minute, last week, it was all okay. And now we're looking at sort of Armageddon. And, you know, I very vividly remember, you have moments in your flying career that you're always going to remember that your first solo and things like that, I very vividly remember what has turned out to be the last flight I ever captained. Because I can remember being on board and knowing that we were looking towards being grounded. And everybody had this sense of anticipation on board, the aircraft or everyone knew something was about to happen, something big was about to happen. And, you know, we landed at Gatwick everybody got off the fly, everybody was in tears The passengers as well, we were all thinking what's going to happen next. And during that flight, and probably leading up to it as well, I had already been thinking to myself, you know, if we get grounded, there's 1000s of aircrew that are going to be stuck at home doing nothing. And at the same time, there's, we're being told there's a massive pressure on the NHS. So surely there must be a way of marrying those two together. And I airlines have peer support systems in place and I was one of the airline peers. So I threw that I had met a guy called Professor Rob Bohr, who is he is a clinical psychologist at the Royal Free Hospital in London, but he's also a world leading aviation psychologist. And he and his colleagues at the Centre for aviation psychology, they oversee the peer support programmes at a number of airlines including EasyJet, ba, Norwegian, and many others. So I knew him from my peer support, training and the programme that he oversees. And I was chatting to him, we were sort of throwing around some ideas and saying that there must be a way of helping. And he said, Let me put you in touch with this guy who was a captain at VA. And so the three of us kind of chatted, and then the from those conversations, there came this idea that actually we could send our crew into hospitals to support NHS staff during their working day. And it there were so many ideas of how that could work. And it was, you know, we could have 24 hour cover seven days a week and, you know, wherever, and it that evolved to, well, actually, that's not really what they need. And, and we spoke to the hospitals and this other colleague, had a partner who worked for a hospital in London, the Whittington, and they just grabbed it with open arms and said, Yes, we need that. So it just grew from there. And the wingman name really just came from and Rob and I were sort of just messing around on a phone call one day and we say what could we call it, you know? And I said, well, it's obvious, isn't it? We call it wingman project wingman because it's like we're Top Gun. And do you think we could get away with that? Yeah, of course we can get away with that. You can't own an idea. So he said, Well, I in that case, I want to be I want to be Maverick. So I said, All right, then I'll be goose messing around with it and having a bit of a laugh with it. And it became a reality. You know, project ring round just grew from this. Pretty much an idea scribbled down on a piece of paper. So, Dave, the guy from VA said, Well, you know, I can speak to the hospital. So I said, Okay, I can probably get people to help. And so, you know, I just put the message out on internal comms at EasyJet on workplace and on my own Facebook and social media and said that if you're aircrew and you're grounded, and you want to help us do this, please email this gmail address that we set up. And, and you know, we thought, yeah, we'll probably, you know, probably help him to support a couple of hospitals in London, that'd be great. You know, then I can sit back and do my garden or whatever. And within a week, there were 700 emails. And I was thinking a bit much for me, I don't think I can keep doing this all the CO transferring this to a database all the time. So I asked a friend to help and she came in to sort of take that over. And then I asked another friend for help. And we just grew and grew and grew and grew. So our first lounge opened in the end of March. And within a week, we had another five I think, in London and what by the time we got to the summer, we had five and a half 1000 volunteers and we had 84 lounges across the country. So and we're still opening let me know we opened in Belfast just before Christmas. So yeah, a lot of clothes now, but there are still a lot opening as well.

Dave Rogers:

And who is getting in touch to volunteer? Is it predominantly pilots and cabin crew? Or are you hearing from other people in the industry, too.

Emma Henderson:

So it's all current pilots and cabin crew working in the lounges because they are DBS checked and have si passes and that provider and also have the customer service cost customer facing skills, to be able to to be able to manage a lounge situation. So there are a number of things we needed to put in place in order to just protect people. And that was one of them. We said you need to be aircrew. But actually there have also been a number of people who said, Look, I'm not aircrew, but I can do this. You know I can I'm accruing officers there Can I help with some admin and I've worked in press Can I offer my services in media, which has been amazing. And they've come from all the different airlines in the UK, including airlines that aren't even based here. We've got volunteers from KLM. And Norwegian obviously has a base here. But we've got united airways and American Airlines, and Emirates, and Qantas. All sorts of airlines, including all the UK airlines in the mix as well. which is fantastic. Because what everyone's discovered is doesn't matter what colour uniform you wear, we are all the same people because we all do the same job. So we get each other

Dave Rogers:

sort of full industry after speaking of the doesn't matter what colour uniform you wear, you do get people to turn up in their uniforms, don't you?

Emma Henderson:

Yes, absolutely. So the point of that, I mean, we had to get permission from the airlines for that. And I've been very lucky over the years to have a good working relationship with management at my airline. Maybe mainly because I worked at Luton, and that's where our bases are sort of admin headquarters are so you've kind of see people there, but also because I just talked to people all the time. So I don't worry about what their job is. I just talked to people because they're interesting. So I texted our Director of flight ops and said, I'm just doing this thing and can we please get permission from you to allow people to wear uniforms? And by the way, can you text all your flight ops mates and ask them for their airlines as well? And he went, Yeah, no problem. Absolutely. His he has a sister who works the NHS, so he was all over it, and really supportive. And he there's a whatsapp group for directors of flight ops who knew. He just he just put a message on there. And so can you all agree to this as well? And they did so which was amazing. So yeah, so the uniform is there to differentiate. So to identify you as being air crew so that people know what you're there to do and, and also it helps obviously, in lockdowns if you're travelling to a hospital in a uniform. And airline workers are key workers, but also our lounge volunteers are key workers. So they're allowed to go and do things. And it just gives people a sense. Yeah, I just think it would be slightly different. If you just you wouldn't want to turn up in jeans and a T shirt and say, I'm here to look after you that just gives a different feel to it. So which which really, really helps. But obviously, inevitably, over the year they've been redundancies or people that feel their airlines haven't behaved in a way that makes them proud. So they either can't or don't want to wear their airline uniforms anymore. So we've provided a wing man uniform which is very literally I say uniform I mean, it's a scarf or a tie and a lanyard and a pin, which you then wear with a smart shirt and smart trousers or skirt. So, you know, because we wanted people to still feel that they were part of the wingman family, even if they'd lost their airline. So

Dave Rogers:

yeah, because I look at the look at the tagline on the website says airline crew coming together to support the well being of frontline NHS stuff during the covid 19. outbreak. But have you found it's worked the other way as well. And your way man volunteers have also got some of that support that they may have needed, whether they realise they needed it or didn't realise they needed it. But getting involved has helped them too.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, I still get messages all the time from people saying, thank you so much for creating wingmen you've saved my life, or you've given me something to float, I mean, the saving my life message, I was like, Wow. You know, we've made a profound difference to the lives of our air crew volunteers that we had no idea what's going to happen, and actually wouldn't know about if they didn't actually bother to tell us as well, you know, the fact that they want to tell us what a massive difference is made to them. Because it's given people a sense of purpose. It's given people a reason to get out of bed in the morning, put their uniforms on all our uniform. But I think when you go to work, and it doesn't really matter what industry you work in, when you work with a group of people that all do the same thing. You have this kind of sense of camaraderie amongst yourselves, you know, pilots just like to talk about pilots stuff. I imagine sports journalists like to talk about sports journalism stuff, as you know, I think that you get each other You all know people in the industry that you can, you know, have you heard about this? Have you seen this? So when you remove that from people by say, Well, you can't go to work and you can't leave your house. That's really, really difficult for a lot of people. And of course, everybody went into this from a different point of view as well. So it's not like everybody went into this going yet. I'm completely okay with my life. We all had maybe elderly parents, or relationship problems or, or children struggling with things or money problems, or whatever it was, they were that we all had that stuff that we carried into COVID. And COVID has only made that worse. So actually being able to go out and spend a day in a lounge with somebody where you're it gives you two things. It gives you the the camaraderie and friendship and support, but it also gives you a really massive sense of well being to know that you're helping other people, and then the NHS staff that we've been benefiting. It just makes it there's something about doing that for nothing. That makes you just feel good about the world. You know,

Ben Hall:

I think everyone's realised in the last year or so the importance of having that sense of purpose. Yeah, I think a lot of people that are furloughed or made redundant, just feel completely lost. Because I mean, especially in aviation, sort of being a pilot that is it's not it's not really a job, it's kind of who you are kind of defines you a little very much. So absolutely. And I felt that very keenly. You know, even before I took redundancy, I was like, well, who am I? And I've already been there, you know, six years ago, when

Emma Henderson:

I lost my medical, I turned up, we moved house to remove to Bushey Heath, and I turned up there with my children at boarding school and not working. And I thought, well, who am I, I'm a mother whose children aren't here. I'm an airline pilot who is not flying. And I'm a I'm a an able bodied person who can't walk because of my illness. And, you know, so I'd already been through that once and been through this journey of re re discovery, I suppose. And then to have that again this year, although I hadn't taken redundancy yet. I got to sort of April May time I thought this is good. This is worse than we all thought it was going to be. And I was working hard on wingmen. But at the same time, I was having this massive identity crisis because I was thinking but I'm Captain Emma. And now I don't know who I am. You know, which has been quite a challenge to overcome. But we've all had to overcome it because we've all actually had to dig deep and go, Okay, if I'm not going to be Captain Emmer anymore, what else can I do? That's going to keep me busy. And give me a sense of purpose. Give me something to do. So obviously, wing man has been there. But we've all found other things we can do like you setting up pilot base, you know, absolutely found other things that we're able to do. And I really think that's going to be something in the future for I think pilots really take their jobs for granted. And I think we think it's our medicals, that's going to stop us from working normally. And actually, it's not it turns out, we all should have something else I pass leaves. And the number of people I know who've just turned their attention to other things is just astounding. And then they're astonishingly good at it as well, which is wonderful to see.

Dave Rogers:

Did you enter the wing man bakeoff?

Emma Henderson:

No

Dave Rogers:

What?

Emma Henderson:

I was a judge, so I couldn't. That was one of the best job.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah, he chose, he chose Well, what was the standard? Like?

Emma Henderson:

It was amazing. It was absolutely brilliant. And I just thought there was some such fantastic designs that came out of that. You know, there was, I think one cake was like, done as a runway with a plane landing on it. And I was like, how do you turn cake into that? Brilliant, the only sad thing for me is I didn't get to eat any of it. Because it was all done on looks. Because, you know, the cakes were all around the country. I kind of hoped somebody might say, well, if you send me your address, I can box it up. But nobody did. So. And we've had some brilliant challenges like that. So we did Bake Off, and we've done them. You know, we did the three peaks challenge we set for ourselves in September, which was huge fun. And that is where the only time I've ever sort of seen some of our volunteers actually was going down for that. And we've did we did a wingman workout weekend. And so we've been doing some little things along the way that are just to keep people. So there's done for fundraising. But actually, it's also done with the awareness that if you get encouraged people get to get outside and do stuff. That is also good for people's well being because we've all got to get outside in the fresh air more. And yeah, I said that Baker Bake Off makes you feel good as well. You know, who doesn't love cake?

Dave Rogers:

I'd be completely honest with me, that is the only reason that you've decided to invest in wingman wheels. So you can go around and do regional bake offs next year and try.

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, you've got with? Absolutely that is the only reason we need that bus. And it's it has to be a bus to fit as much cake.

Dave Rogers:

Yeah. Tell us about tell us about wingman wheels, then because that seems to be the big fundraising project at the moment.

Emma Henderson:

So as as things evolved, like we say last summer, as things started to ease off, a number of lounges closed at the end of July, because there was a perception that we were through the storm, and out the other car, exactly. Who would have thought. But you know, I don't know if you can remember back that far, because we've had 28 lockdowns since then. And things seemed to be easing off. And the hospital said, Well, actually, we'd like to reclaim our space. And therefore we need to, we need to just close the lounge. And we'll look at this look at revisiting it again in the future. And we thought we're here. But there's still a need for wellbeing. And there's still some places we haven't been able to go to. And also going forward, we've got to make wingmen sustainable? Well, we had two choices, we've either got to say, okay, we're going to wind it all up, or we continue, but we make it sustainable going forward. So it was not sustainable is at four lounges being manned seven days a week, by air crew, if they're, especially if they're going back to work. But even if they're not going back to work, people need to earn money. So they go to other paid employment, or they just were finding, you know, we've got a bit of COVID fatigue, people have been giving so much for so long. And they just want a bit of a break, which is completely understandable and fair enough. But we thought actually, if we could have lounges that move around, we can reach places we haven't been able to go to yet. But we can also make it sustainable, because we're asking you to give us two weeks a year or two weeks, every two years or whatever, rather than this kind of indefinite sort of expectation that you're just going to be there forever. And so we had already got this kind of lounge in a van concept, which it wasn't actually the lounge it was the delivery of things to hospitals so that we could create lounges. But it kind of sparked this idea that we could have mobile lounges and sometimes during last summer, the idea of a bus came up and we just grabbed it with open arms. And actually one person in particular a guy called rich Gryphon, and he just loved the idea and having sort of been a little bit hesitant about how much he wanted his involvement and wing man to be because he's got other things on the boil. He just went for and he said, Yeah, I love this idea. And he has pardon the terrible pun driven the bus project. And right from then, I mean, literally, within a couple of days, two of them had gone on and found out candy by bus and they went right we found buses, we can find those like you love this so much. And then so but then they said, Well actually, if you can buy a bus, let's find a place that you can really buy a bus that actually meets our needs. And we found a place down in Kent that had the perfect bus available. It's already been converted sued by a well known supermarket brand. And that rhymes with middle. And they've been using it as a mobile kitchen to go and do like cooking tours. Who knew, right? And so it's, it's hard. It's got a glass roof that's been raised so that even tall people can stand up in it. And it's got fully fitted and plumbed in kitchen. I thought he looks tall, even though you're sitting down.

Ben Hall:

Far so don't fit in,

Emma Henderson:

well, that you'll fit in our boss, they have to come visit it. But it's this lovely. It's got wooden floors of TV screen at the front and a fully fitted kitchen at the backs comfy seating in it that's in our colours already. And then when they took the rap off the sign at the front, it had a heartbeat on it. And we just thought that is something that, you know, we couldn't have predicted. It was meant for us. Yeah, so we basically put down deposit on it. And certainly I will will raise the money for that no problem. And so we're committed to a crowdfunding to raise 100,000 pounds. And we raised it closed yesterday at 25, which we're really actually amazed about, because although it didn't reach the 100,000 we had been looking for, we've actually reached some of that by getting funding from trusts as well. So the rest of the funding will come from corporate conversations we're having. But to even raise 25 grand in the last five weeks is astoundingly good because of the situation we were in, you know, a lot of people don't have spare money to give. And if they do, they're probably going to spend it on making themselves feel better. Which is fair enough. So yeah, I'm really we're just amazed by that. But we've also got, we've been left with a number of donations of things that we're now going to need to decide what to do with so we're gonna there's gonna be something coming with that in the future. And that's things like, I mean, we've got a Eurofighter sim with Conor McGregor, that has been donated to us, because I happen to know him. And, and also, because I've got connection at last mouth, we've got all the runway lights from last year mouse runway that was dug up that are in a field offset my house at the moment we're going to get rid of. And we've got red arrows memorabilia, we've got golfing weekends, we've got hangar visits from loganair, we've got so much stuff that's been given to us, and simulator visits as well. So some of that stuff has been bid or has been bought at the crowdfunder. But some of it, we've still got. So there's going to be something else coming up in the next few months where we maybe have an auction or something like that, to, you know, keep that sort of thing going. And the next thing is that one bus is great, but more buses is better. And so my dream would be to have six, so that we've got one for Scotland, one for the North, one for the southeast, one for London, one for the Midlands, and one for the Southwest, or something like that. So that we can get around people more and just provide a bit more support. And we're looking to use the buses and mobile vaccination centre as well, which is where we're getting some funding from the NHS for. So there's all kinds of things coming out of this, that are just really exciting, and just, you know, going to carry us into this year really, in a slightly different format. And we'll probably end up with five or 10 static lounges as our legacies, but the buses will be where our focus will be mainly this year.

Ben Hall:

Is there any? Is there any way people can continue giving you money now? How can people donate and help protect women?

Emma Henderson:

Yeah, absolutely. And the crowdfunding page is still available and there, that's www.crowdfunder.co.uk, forward slash wing man wheels. So it's still there, and you can still donate to it. We also have a just giving page as well. Or people can just contact us directly, and we can give them the bank account details and they can make transfer. So it depends on how people want to do it, really.

Ben Hall:

And we'll pull those in the show notes as well. So people

Emma Henderson:

yeah, I'll send you there just giving. Yeah, so some people might say, Well, I haven't got any money to give you. But if you've got a skill that you can use it you think might benefit us, that is just as valuable as 1020 100, whatever pounds, you know, you might be, you might be a bus fitter, you might you might that might be your thing you might be as somebody who sprays, buses, or sprays, cars or whatever, you can offer some time for that, you know, there's loads of ways people can help us and actually in helping us, that's then helping the NHS and that's helping to keep us all sort of afloat, but actually hopefully helping to get the country moving again, because what we really want is to get the country moving again so we can all go back to work. And I don't like the idea. I don't like the phrase going back to normal because I don't think there is a back to normal when we've been through what we've been through. I prefer the going forward to a new normal kind of analogy. But that's where we want to be, isn't it? Because we want to go on holiday and we want to have business trips, and we want to see our friends and our families and our loved ones and things. So that's the ultimate goal, isn't it?

Dave Rogers:

I know how much you pilots love paperwork. So I can't wait to see how many come forward and put in for their coach licence. So

Emma Henderson:

well, you would probably not be surprised to know that we already have a number of people who are already qualified coach drivers or ATV drivers. And in fact, I've got one friend in particular at Luton, who has been driving hgvs for the last month or so two months, I think, to supplement his income. And he said, I'm quite quite quiet in January, use me as much as you want on drive your bus for you, which is fantastic. So they're all queuing up. They're like, Can I drive the bus? Please? Do I get?

Dave Rogers:

There's a brilliant story about poor gas going driving a London bus, please don't get yourself in any situations like that. Well throw a celebrity the keys.

Emma Henderson:

No, that's never gonna happen. And the other thing that's not going to happen is you know, what we're very wary of is because the bus has a raised roof, it means that it's even less likely to go under low bridges. So we've got to make sure any routes that we take our routes where the bus can fit, so there's no point. So yes, we can come to there, if it's surrounded by obstacles that are bus with a raised roof is not going to fit through so.

Dave Rogers:

So you've build something quite incredible. And just listening to for this amount of time, or just visiting the website or hearing people's testimonials. We've got a friend of the show, who was one of your volunteers, and he talks in his episode about how much it meant to him, which is actually the reason I asked you whether or not you'd noticed it had gone the other way as well from the people involved from aviation. You've already talked about legacy. But what does project women look like in a post COVID world?

Emma Henderson:

Well, I think that project women has a shelf life that lasts well beyond COVID, because well being is something that we all need. And yes, certainly, people in the NHS are always going to need well being support and the people we've spoken to and getting the lounges established have said, you know, what this has done is pushed well being up the agenda, which is something they've been trying to do for 1012 years, whatever. So firstly, I hope that it's going to leave behind the legacy of well being support in NHS hospitals and NHS trusts. And there are places you know, like in sorry, for example, where we set up a wingman lounge that closed after a period of time as a wingman lounge, but the lounge still runs as a well being hub operated by the hospital, which is exactly what they needed and exactly where they should be. So the fact that it's not run by wingman doesn't matter, because it's the fact it's there, that's important. So raising the agenda raising, it's on the agenda for NHS hospitals, absolutely brilliant. But you know, as we go into the post COVID era, whenever that may be, we're all going to need some wellbeing support. So it might be that hospitals are sorted and have processes in place, because Don't forget, they already have well being support in place, it's just that it was overstretched because efforts have been diverted elsewhere. But you know, our local towns and our local cities and villages are going to have people in them that needs some support as well. So it might well be in the future that if we've got buses, we might say, Well, you know, we'll contact the mayor of the town and say, Look, we're coming to visit your hospital. But if you want to put the word out there anybody that needs a bit of well being support in the future can come and get that. And it might well be as well that it's not there limited to where crew doing the support, we might find that we've got other volunteers who are able to come along and say, Well, actually, I'd be happy to, you know, make cups of tea and talk to people. And I'd love to see that become a reality. And actually, you know, as part of my sort of post airline career world, and I've recently joined the trust of local local hospital, which is going to be redeveloped into a health and wellbeing Centre for the town. I actually went for a paid job interview, but didn't get the job, but ended up as a trustee. But, but I'm very excited about it. And I think that well being is something we've all known that we've needed for a long time. But we're all much more comfortable about using that word now and saying well actually, you know, and asking for help as well and say this, it's okay not to be okay campaign and things like that. We're all much more aware of the things that we need going into the future now. And I really would, yeah, as far as I'm concerned, project wing man will be here for years to come either in a static lounge, where we as I say with our legacy lounges Which, yeah, there are probably a maximum of 10 of those is probably what we could support or with our buses. And you know, the bus plan is a five year plan. So you know, I'm sort of hoping that in five years time we'll be well out of this and or meeting up in pubs and looking back so hard to remember that Christmas when we couldn't see anyone, you know?

Dave Rogers:

God, I hope so. He said,

Emma Henderson:

it'll be a lot sooner than that.

Dave Rogers:

For me to Emma Henderson, MBA captain, Mr. Anderson MBA. I hope you get that on a business card one day. I will. Thank you so much. This has been such a great conversation, I'm very much looking forward to seeing not just where the project wing man journey goes, but where your journey goes to, because I think it's gonna be a very exciting one for you.

Emma Henderson:

And thank you. Thank you so much for saying that. And it's been a real pleasure. It's been great speaking to you both. And I've really enjoyed it. So thanks so much for having me.

Ben Hall:

Thank you. Thanks for listening to the pilot base podcast. We'll be back next week with another great guest from the aviation industry. Don't forget to check out on new career platform at pilot base.com and all the socials at pilot base HQ. If you enjoyed this podcast, don't forget to subscribe and right interview