My first real exposure to Virgin Australia was in July 2017 when I was lucky enough to be offered a short work experience stint with Captain Andrew Bauer, Base Manager for Brisbane. As any young aspiring commercial pilot would be, had they somehow managed to secure work experience with a major airline, I was very nervous. But one quick phone call with Andy, breaking down the week and answering my questions, was all I needed to transform the nerves into nothing but excitement.
Andy’s career started in the 1980’s with Chartair in the Northern Territory. Flying a Cessna 210, he did night freight and mail runs with up to 12 take off and landings a day. He later moved on to an instructing and charter job with Northwestinair. After three years there, he moved to Flight West for seven years, and rose through the ranks on a variety of aircraft to finish as a Check Captain.
In 2001, Andy was offered a role with Virgin Blue as a First Officer on the Boeing 737-400. After just 12 months, he upgraded to captain, and another 18 months later, he became a Training Captain. In 2007, he accepted his first management role as a Line Operations Manager and is currently Base Manager for Brisbane.
Now flying just once a month, Andy is responsible for the day to day management of crew, including monitoring roster changes and welfare with a primary focus on human and airport specific issues. He has recently been upgraded to be a Captain on the Boeing 777 flying to Los Angeles, which gives him additional skills to interact with the entire Brisbane crew operationally. On top of the 9-5, he is often required to be on-call after hours as the Duty Management Captain and is the first recipient of flight crew reports when issues arise, whether operational or personal.
When something like this comes up, Andy is first point of call for management to support the situation. He told me that he always asks the pilot if everything is okay outside of the cockpit and actively works with the pilots to solve the problem or find a solution. He has a way of calming people down and making them feel comfortable and personally supported.
Andy is literally made for his role. He’s a people person through and through and leads with compassion and empathy. Despite having a family at home, he has the time and capacity for everyone in some way, shape or form. When I watched him at work during my placement in 2017, he always remembered the names of the pilots’ wives, or what grade their child was in.
If he has the capacity to help, he will help. Over the last year and a bit at university, I was responsible for organising guest speakers to present at our weekly mentoring sessions. One week, we had a last minute cancellation. After freaking out for a while over the difficulty of finding a replacement, I gave Andy a call, and he dropped everything he had planned that afternoon to come and speak. He had a natural ability to foster a love of aviation into everyone through the way he spoke and found a way to engage the entire cohort for the whole hour. It was the first time I had seen the room so attentive in quite a while.
Andy has become the best mentor I could have asked for over the last year and a half. Every time I have come out to the airport, he has made the effort to catch up for coffee and see what is going on in my aviation life, offering advice where he can. Everyone knows him and everyone respects him because he is good at what he does and he is genuine about it. I can only hope that I will, one day, become half the pilot he is today.