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In Profile: Captain Brian Greeves

When an 18-year-old Brian Greeves joined the Royal Air Force in England there was not a single female on his officer cadet course.

Thankfully things are very different now and throughout his career Brian has had the pleasure of working with some of the world’s most successful female pilots and leaders.

As a strong advocate for diversity in the workplace and a champion of mentoring young aspiring leaders, Brian is pleased to see things have progressed, however, there is still ‘some way to go’.

Brian runs his own aviation consultancy. He is contracted as a Safety and Technical Consultant for the Australian and International Pilots’ Association/Australian Airline Pilots Association (AusALPA) and a Faculty Manager for the Joint Airworthiness Authorities’ Training Office (JAA-TO) in Amsterdam.

He is a member of the CASA Part 139 Technical Working Group and has spoken at several AAA Forums based on his experience both as a pilot and his involvement in the design and operations of various airports around the world.

He is currently serving on the National Runway Safety Enhancement Group, the Sydney Airport LRST, the Brisbane Low Visibility Operations Workshops and the Australian Aviation Wildlife Hazard Group Executive.

How did your career in aviation begin?

When I was 16 years old, I applied for a Royal Air Force (UK) Scholarship. I completed the five-day selection process and was subsequently awarded a scholarship. This gave me automatic entry into the RAF College, Cranwell at 18, subject to successful A Level Examination results. It also provided me with a Flying Scholarship which meant I learnt to fly just after turning 17 at the Oxford Air Training School. Like others, I learnt to fly an aircraft before I was able to drive a car.

Why do you feel it’s important to advocate for gender equality in the work place?

I believe that people should be paid the same remuneration for the same work. People should be judged according to merit and gender should not be a consideration. I am proud that in most airlines (and air navigation service providers), pilots are paid according to rank, seniority and appointment (training captain, management pilot etc.) and there is no pay differential between male and females.

Have you noticed a difference attitude to gender diversity in the workplace from when you started your career to now?

When I joined the RAF, there were no females on my course. When I returned to Cranwell, as a graduate, women were on the course but no female pilots. Now the RAF (as other Air Forces) have women pilots and women commanders, some at the most senior levels. When I entered civil flying, there were a few women pilots (almost all exceptional pilots), including one fleet manager and several captains. This situation has improved, but still has some way to go.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in the industry?

I would say that my engineering degree has proved to be a great asset. Australia is pushing the STEMs programme for young people and my experience is those subjects are applied daily whether flying an aircraft, providing airport consultancy or training people in human factors.

So, if you are considering a career in aviation, doing these subjects at school and perhaps at university, combined with sporting and/or community activities, will give you a head start.

How important is it for leaders to share their knowledge and support young aspiring leaders?

I believe that mentorship is essential. Through the Royal Aeronautical Society, I have had the privilege to mentor and provide advice to students and graduates wanting to join or already serving in the aviation industry. I can still remember the people who helped me when I needed advice or just reassurance. I feel that ‘all leaders’ have an obligation to help their subordinates. Despite some of the adverse reports, this is where the military is so good in its training and structure.

What are the leadership lessons you have learnt in your career so far?

1. The adage that ‘respect is earned’ and that this is a two-way process.
2. Keep your integrity
3. Be fair
4. Admit when you do not know or are wrong
5. Use the talent around you
6. Thank people

Anything else you would like to add?

When I joined the RAF, our squadron senior Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) was Flight Sergeant Jack Palmer (colloquially known as ‘Happy Jack’). Like all good NCOs, he was the one that moulded us, providing us advice and support, when needed, and was the first to acknowledge us when we were commissioned. During my RAF career, I saw other examples of NCOs providing good advice and support to young and older officers, including myself. When I went briefly into airport management, it was the union convener, Bobby Nelson, who guided me through the industrial minefield; and I have learned from many others with more knowledge and experience than me, even though I technically out ranked them.

Find your own ‘NCO’ and do not be shy to ask and listen to his/her advice!


This article was written for the Australian Airport Association’s Women in Airports Network – an online community to support the advancement of women across all aspects of airport operations.

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