Richard Kell: Commercial airline pilot

Richard Kell

Richard Kell had sky-high ambitions after retiring from professional football and his career has really taken off since he landed a job as an airline pilot.

While many boys grow up dreaming of becoming a footballer or a pilot, the former Scunthorpe midfielder is in a small minority who have both on their CV as he is now flying high with Jet2.com.

Richard spent much of his playing days at Scunthorpe but two broken legs hampered his progress and soon after leaving Barnsley to join Lincoln in December 2006, he was forced to hang up his boots. Richard opted against staying in football and instead decided to fulfil his ambition of becoming an airline pilot, having already started flying during his time at Scunthorpe.

"Players only tend to think about an alternative career during difficult periods in their careers. Try and capitalize and think of your transition when things are going well."

PFA Member and Pilot, Richard Kell.

At what point whilst playing did you begin to think about your transition into another career?

I had just recovered from my first broken leg and felt I was struggling to get back to full fitness at Scunthorpe. I was on a month to month contract and whilst waiting in the airport for a pre-season tour to Ireland I got talking to a pilot who was sat next to me. On my return I went to my nearest airport (Humberside) to make my initial enquiries. I had completed about 10-15 hours training, however my fitness returned, I signed a new contract and my pilots training was put on the ‘back burner’ for a time. Fortunately I was able to keep returning to my training at different times in my playing career.

What transferable skills did you have as a footballer that has helped you in your current career?

I was analytical as a footballer and always wanted to learn more. Also, football gave me interpersonal skills. Being confined within the ‘tin box’ of a cockpit at 35,000 feet, means that I must be appreciative of my co pilots and other crew, who I have to interact with. Finally, I was a fairly technical player so my overall touch and hand/ eye coordination is a great attribute to have as a pilot, helping me instinctively know when to apply power and rudder.

Does your competitiveness as a footballer ever resurface as an airline pilot?

Rather like being a footballer I always want to do the job to the best of my ability. I still sometimes think about my performance on the way home and how I can do my job better the next time.

An airline pilot is undoubtedly an unusual career choice for a footballer. What can your experience show other footballers thinking about their own transition?

You can be different, but nothing worthwhile is easy. My chosen career was every bit as hard to get into as football and can be equally as competitive. However, if I had failed to gain my commercial pilot license I could still have gone and done something more mainstream and familiar. I didn’t want any niggling doubts or ‘what ifs’ later in life.

My main advice would be that players only tend to think about an alternative career during difficult periods in their careers. Try and capitalize and think of your transition when things are going well.