Where are they now – Marcus Ritchie (SPC 1988-89)
December 1, 2020
The College recently reconnected with former boarder Marcus Ritchie (SPC 1988-89) who worked in woolsheds and picked fruit to achieve his dream of becoming a pilot. Since then, Marcus has flown tourists over some of Australia’s most picturesque country, conducted long range reconnaissance sea patrols, and has worked for the world’s major airlines and flown into internationally-renowned airports including Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle and in zero visibility into Moscow!
Where has life taken you since leaving SPC?
After leaving SPC, I had little desire to go to university so I worked around Victoria in woolsheds, picking fruit and behind the bar at various hotels to save money for flying lessons which I wanted to do from an early age. After a few years of working, I had enough to finish my commercial pilot’s license and moved to the Kimberley region of WA where I began flying in remote Aboriginal communities and also flying tourists around some of the Kimberley’s fantastic natural wonders.
In the Kimberley, I played and coached football for several years and had the pleasure of playing with some of the most talented indigenous footballers that I have seen. Most had little desire to move to the city so playing with their family and friends was the highlight of their week, most certainly mine.
In the late 1990s I started flying for Australian Customs Coastwatch conducting long range reconnaissance patrols of Australia’s sea borders. It was great flying and a great lifestyle but after 10 years of living in remote areas, I wanted to move to Perth where I started flying for Qantaslink throughout WA, QLD and NT. I also flew for Jetstar for a few years and then was recruited to Skywest (which later became Virgin Australia Regional Airlines) to start an Airbus A320 operation for them. I spent a number of years with the company in various management positions becoming a Training Captain, Flight Examiner and then eventually the Head of Training and Checking for about 300 pilots.
I was recruited by Qantas to be the Head of Training and Checking for a new airline that they acquired in Perth and after a year or so of that, I had a desire to get back to do some real flying again, so I moved to Qatar in the Middle East where I was employed as an Airbus A330 Captain flying international passenger and cargo flights. It been an amazing experience flying into a few countries that I had never heard of before but also managed to land at places such as Heathrow, Charles de Gaulle or landing in zero visibility in Moscow. A far cry from picking fruit.
Flying also gave me the opportunity to catch up with fellow SPC students throughout Europe and the USA and get to meet their families which has been a great experience.
How is the coronavirus presently affecting your work and industry?
The corona virus has hit the aviation industry hard. My airline has grounded a lot of its aircraft and furloughed many pilots. My fleet has been completely grounded so I have returned to Perth after starting my own small charter company. There has been a silver lining though, my parents sold their farm in Victoria and took the big step of moving to Perth where all of our family now call home. My brother Nick has also come home after spending many years overseas and my sister Emily, calls Perth home as well. It’s the first time we’ve all been together for many years which has been great.
Do you have family ties with SPC?
Yes my brother Nick was also at SPC (1990-93). The small district we hailed from (Meredith) had many SPC students and we were all quite close. We still keep in touch.
What are your fondest memories of your time at St Patrick’s College?
Certainly playing football and cricket for SPC was a highlight. Head of the Lake was a great time and the year after I completed HSC, SPC won the event so I remember coming back with the class from our year and having a great weekend watching the win. I had a very good friend and fellow student that passed away a few years after we completed HSC so the time at school, especially Year 11, has very fond memories as he was such an inspirational person and is sorely missed.
I also enjoyed watching people that I went to school with becoming successful in sports and in their chosen professions.
Which teacher from your time at SPC had the greatest impact on you? Why?
Mr Gutteridge was a great teacher and a pretty decent bloke. Mr Cosgriff would always have a crack but only because he had high expectations and I always managed to disappoint! But I guess they both taught me never to give up and if you put in the effort the reward would come. Trish Burke was a fine teacher and related very well with all the students. I can never forget Br Miller – he still haunts me!
How has your education shaped your professional life?
I was certainly not the best student (too easily distracted!) but SPC did teach me the discipline I needed to study. Being a pilot requires a lot of continual study and later I became an adult educator teaching pilots how to fly new jet aircraft types which was extremely rewarding (I had a newfound respect for the people that had to teach me…) SPC also sowed the seeds of the importance of teamwork which I have used throughout my professional career. After many years of not wanting to go, I had a sudden desire to go to university so I completed a degree which didn’t think I would ever do, let alone enjoy as much as I did.
How has your time at SPC shaped your personal values and your family life?
I think SPC offers a great network of people from all walks of life. Especially as a boarder where you lived 24/7 with people from vastly different backgrounds. The experience taught me tolerance, importance of family, life structure and the value of friendship.
If you could pass on one message to the students of today, what would it be?
I’m probably not a great one to give advice however, SPC is an institution that instils in you a set of core values that will help you all of your life. If you embrace the time you are there, without knowing it these values will help guide you along your journey.