(Ronnie) Natthawut Bierdrager, Class of 2016

Current Profession:   Qualified UK CAA Commercial Pilot

Education: L3Harris Airline Academy/CTC Aviation (Integrated ATPL)


Ronnie, tell us more about your current career?

I have just recently completed my training to become a commercial pilot and am currently looking to secure my first ‘First Officer’ position with an airline. The good news is, I have an upcoming assessment and interview with an airline and I have a good feeling about this one! So, in the meantime, I would like to share with you all about my training experience.

The two-year Commercial Pilot Training programme is split into five main segments; namely, Ground School Phase, Ab-initio Flying Phase, Advanced Flying Phase, Upset Prevention & Recovery Training and finally, the Airline Qualification Course.

The training was very demanding, requiring a great deal of resilience, diligence and adaptability. The Ground School Phase was particularly intense as we had 6 months to study and complete 14 ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) theoretical knowledge exams. It was hard work and really tested my ability to absorb and understand a wide range of topics, ranging from Human Performance & Limitations to Principles of Flight, Navigation and Air Law, all in a relatively short time frame. To keep the standard high, there was a required 75% pass mark, which unfortunately some of the cadets were not able to maintain so they would either get recoursed or leave the course.  This did add some pressure to the training. However, I am gratified and thrilled to have completed my training with first time passes throughout.  

The Flying Phase was an absolute pleasure and joy, as I was able to put all my theoretical knowledge into practical use. Also being trusted to fly a 300,000 US Dollar aircraft on my solo missions was an exceptionally rewarding feeling! My training was incredibly diverse as I completed my Flying Phase training in various parts of the world: Portugal, Ireland and England.  This allowed me the chance to experience different cultures in my downtime.

Coming to the end of my training, I was training on the Airbus A320 simulator for my Airline Qualification Course. The three-week course demanded us to learn about the cockpit, memory items and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), but more importantly, it was to prepare us on how to work in a multi-crew environment to understand both roles of ‘Pilot Flying’ and ‘Pilot Not Flying’. This was the most memorable experience of my training because I finally got to do what my ‘3-year-old self’ always wanted to do – to fly a jet! Dealing with engine failures/fires, cabin depressurisation, or any other problems thrown at me, allowed me to develop on my leadership, teamwork and decision-making skills. This gave me a huge insight into what’s to come once I start working with an airline, as every year I will be examined on how I cope and deal with emergency situations in a flight simulator. Also, I not only have to be a good pilot but also an effective team player to be able to integrate myself with different crew members on all my flights, whilst always putting safety first.


What’s your best memory of GIS?

Definitely the sports at GIS brings back fond memories, especially basketball. I had participated in numerous extracurricular sporting activities, but in secondary school, my ambition was to be part of one of the school’s sport teams. That goal was fulfilled when I met Mr Hooper (shout out to you sir!). I was walking by the basketball court one day after school and Mr Hooper approached me and asked me if I knew how to play basketball. I said, “No”. To which he responded, “You’re pretty tall for your age, come to our basketball training next week”. I did and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I made new friends during the training sessions and joined the school basketball team. This led to a new sense of passion and motivation that I didn’t even know I possessed which was a fantastic feeling!

Later on, in Year 9, I was invited to the GIS’ sports award ceremony and received the MIP (Most Improved Player) award in basketball which gave me a great deal of confidence in my abilities. After I left GIS, I became Basketball Captain for my school in Thailand during my IGCSE’s and Basketball Captain in Scotland during my A-levels. My success in basketball is all credited to those words from a fantastic coach who saw something in me.  Thank you Mr Hooper.


What inspires you in life?

I have always considered myself to be blessed in the sense that I always knew I wanted to be an airline pilot when I grew up. I love that the aviation industry is constantly evolving with new aircraft designs and airline concepts.  There are always new challenges from flying in rough weather to dealing with emergency scenarios, and you’re tasked with the huge responsibility for making sure that passengers get from A to B safely. All of these combined makes being an airline pilot incredibly exciting as there is always something new to experience and learn from. This drives me to want to become one of the best pilots in the industry and to accomplish my next ambition; to become Captain before I am 30 years old.


Describe GIS in 3 words…

Memorable. Supportive. Success.


How did GIS shape who you are today?

As I’ve mentioned in my basketball story, GIS gave me confidence in my own abilities which is a significant factor to my accomplishments and to where I am today. As GIS is an international school, studying at GIS allowed me to interact with people from different nationalities and cultures, which has given me a more cosmopolitan outlook and widened by interpersonal skills, which I greatly appreciate to this day. 


What’s your message to current students at GIS.

Whether it’s sports, an academic study, a certain industry that interests you or even a hobby, if you have a strong sense of passion towards something you like doing, pursue it and don’t stop! Learn how you can improve and be the best in your respective passion and find how to make a career out of it. But remember, there will be moments of failure and when that happens, you’ll have to pick yourself back up, don’t be afraid of asking for help and take it as a learning opportunity. Then you’ll be set for life.