From pork pies to blue skies! Tesco worker achieves dream of becoming an airline pilot

Tesco worker Julian Smalley in training to become a pilot
Tesco worker Julian Smalley in training to become a pilot

A Tesco worker has swapped the deli counter for the cockpit to fulfil his dream of becoming a pilot.

Julian Smalley, 27, began working part-time at the Brackley superstore eight years ago but would spend his shifts daydreaming 
about flying above the clouds.

julian smalley

julian smalley

The former Magdalen College School pupil, from Greatworth, worked his way up from stacking shelves to team leader of dairy and manager of grocery.

But now, the sky is the limit for Julian, who will soon fly an Airbus A320 for Monarch to Europe’s holiday hot spots.

He said: “I just took the plunge and went for it. Ever since I was three years old, I have thought about it – all my toys were aviation related.

“There are some nerves but that first flight will be a very exciting time.”

Julian was able to save money while sorting the fruit and veg at Tesco but because of the intensive training, he needed a boost to meet the £78,000 training fees.

Despite his mum’s fear of flying, Julian’s parents Lin and Richard, both 62, helped him reach his target.

“They’re very proud and quite taken back by it all,” Julian said. “But mum is terrified of flying.

“Hopefully one day, I can get her on a plane – maybe mine.”

Julian is currently completing the final stages of his training on a 16-hour-a-day course at Gatwick Airport but thinks his management training at Tesco was invaluable.

His work colleagues gave him a captain’s send-off on Friday on what was his final day at the superstore.

He said: “All of my management skills have come through Tesco.

“They say being a pilot is 15 per cent piloting, 85 per cent managing so it’s a great stepping stone.”

“The send-off was a bit odd and quite emotional because it’s been my comfort zone for so long now.”

Emily Barnett, better service manager at the Brackley store, said Julian showed his potential from the moment he walked in the door and even worked extra hours over Christmas last month to help the team out.

She said: “We couldn’t be more excited for him and so proud of his achievement.

“We wish him the very best for the future and want to let him know he is always welcome back here at Brackley Tesco.”