Tom Cross is a 26-year-old Australian pilot known for his good looks and spectacular, sky-high selfies that are out of this world.
His Instagram account, which has garnered over 55,000 followers, documents his travels as an airline captain for QantasLink and his adorable moments with his dog named Cully. He told NextShark:
“I decided at a young age that I wanted to be a pilot. My uncle flew small planes around Papua New Guinea and from there the attraction grew. I don’t think I would have ever been suited to an office job. I have always enjoyed getting outside and seeing the world. Aviation is by far the best way to do that.”
The young pilot has become something of an online social media celebrity and an unofficial ambassador for QantasLink. According to Cross, who attended flight school in Victoria, Australia, those who want to become professional pilots can either do helicopter or fixed wing flying. He explained:
“I went for the fixed wing as my hope was to eventually get into an international airline. […] Firstly it was with some theory of flight just to get your head around the fact that it isn’t like a car but moves in all directions. Then came my first flight, an amazing experience even if I didn’t take off and land. Ten hours later I was flying solo.”
“My first landing was actually aborted. I came in a little bit too fast and made the safety-first decision to try again. From there I worked on seven theory exams and then built my hours up to the Magical 150 needed to gain my commercial pilot licence. After the commercial pilot licence came, there were more exams for my airline licence and then an instrument rating to allow me to fly in all sorts of weather.”
Since rising to internet celebrity status, the photogenic pilot says he has been recognized by passengers at the airport and while aboard the plane. He enjoys his newfound fame and says it keeps him proactive with his photography and Instagram.
“It is a bit of fun. It all started with a friend in a bar telling me that it would be a good place to start showing a few of my photos. From there I started my account and things have just picked up exponentially. It keeps me active on holiday as I am always getting out there with my camera to be able to show the world where I am and what I am doing. Cully gets his share of photos in there as well.”
As it is apparent from his photos on Instagram, Cross’s life and job is filled with exciting new places and encounters. He has visited far-off places including Turkey, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The life of a pilot doesn’t sound so bad as Cross detailed the balance of his work and life schedule.
“At the moment it is great. I am working around 30 hours a month and spending maybe 20 of those in the aircraft. Luckily it is summer here in Australia; I have spent a lot of my downtime during days spent on call at the beach. The biggest benefit of my current position is that I have been able to extend my days off to be able to jump on flights overseas to see more of the world. The last little adventure was a quick overnight escape to the old city of Petra in Jordan.”
His loyal followers are also eager to get the inside scoop on his life as a pilot. It’s not all fun and games as Cross revealed there is intensive training that goes into maintaining a pilot’s knowledge and skill set. He said:
“We spend around 16 hours in the simulator a year, training on various procedures and emergencies that could potentially take place. This I find is one of the best tools to aid in becoming a better pilot. Not only does it teach you which buttons and levers in an emergency it also teaches you to plan ahead properly and how to engage all crew to bring the aircraft safely back on the ground.
“In the real aircraft we have another check each year on our general flight operation skills. These flights are done with a check captain watching over our shoulders on a normal passenger flight. The purpose is to ensure that we can handle the aircraft on a day-to-day basis. This includes our general knowledge of the areas that we fly to as well as efficiently keeping the aircraft to schedule. It can be a grueling process at times, but in the end it helps to ensure the safety of the thousands of people we fly each year.”
Those safety drills come in handy for real-life emergencies, as Cross surely knows. He described his scariest encounter as when he landed in Melbourne back in 2008.
“I had a really close call years ago when I was still learning to fly. Aviation relies on constant communication and when there are breakdowns it can lead to issues at times. Unfortunately another student pilot did not listen to the instructions closely and ended up flying the wrong way directly at me. It was the closest I will ever get to another aircraft in flight, a really tense moment that I wouldn’t want to happen again.”
When Cross isn’t taking incredible snaps from the cockpit of his aircraft, he is hanging out with Cully, his Bernese mountain dog. His Instagram is filled pictures of his beloved and photogenic companion.
“Cully grew up with me in Cairns, Australia, and ever since has not left my side. Bernese mountain dogs prefer the indoor lifestyle; this includes taking over your bed and leaving fur scattered everywhere. He does unfortunately have to stay home when I am on holiday. Quarantine is the only thing stopping me from taking him worldwide. In the future I might try and take him to the United States on a ski holiday. I know a nice lodge in Crested Butte, Colorado, where you can bring your dogs and they can play in the snow while you ski.”