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Eoin O'Callaghan


A place where some of my family used to call home.

It is also the hometown of someone I immediately struck a major chord with on Twitter a few months ago and have been friends with ever since. Through Twitter, Facebook, iMessage, Skype, and other communications online, technology and social networking joined us together from across the globe to know each other on a greater scale - hitting many high notes through our dual passions for both aviation and classical music.

It is my honor and pleasure to welcome aboard 
my flight deck, Eoin ("Owen") O'Callaghan!

Welcome, Eoin!

Please share which roles music come to play in your life?

I am a full-time pianist, accompanist, church organist and all round good egg!

Mostly I teach piano in a small school of music in Kilkenny, Ireland. Once or twice a year I try to give some form of recital. I'd love to perform more often but teaching so much and travelling in between, it's not easy making time to practice. 

Beethoven's Sonata Op. 13, Pathetique, 1st Movement
Performed by Eoin O'Callaghan Live in Cork, Ireland 2007
A little music while you read the rest of this interview...

Recently I've been expanding my chamber music repertoire playing with clarinettists, flautists and piano quintets. I’ve had the opportunity to play with singers on occasion too. It has been some time since I have given a solo recital or performed with an orchestra. I will get back to solo repertoire but for now I’m enjoying working with other musicians.

With this Eoin, it sounds like you have a good repertoire you follow in life. Like myself, you have another passion and, like everyone, a story to tell with it.

I think my love of aviation first came about from my summer holidays as a child. Growing up, we used to visit my Grandmother in the US, so twice a year I got to go on an Aer Lingus 747-100 from SNN-BOS. 


 For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be the pilot up the front flying the plane. I think at the time flying was also an ordeal and a somewhat special event. It was not so common for people to be able to afford to fly on a regular basis (low cost carriers didn’t really exist in the 80s and early 90s) and so there was always something very special about every time I got on an aircraft. I think seeing a pilot was something that used to make people's heads turn. Pilots were special or considered elitist and I suppose that was a an attractive aspect also; still is.

I see that, like me, you were exposed early to the 747. Music to anyone's ears, especially the earlier models. Please share with us how aviation became music to your ears?

The initial attraction with aviation for me is just being to fly a very large, very powerful hunk of metal at 500mph and get paid for it! Any pilot I’ve spoken to feels the same. I think you always need a little of that to want to fly planes. For me, there's always a sense of excitement boarding flights. There's always the anticipation of departure waiting in the lounge watching the pilots through the windows do their pre-flight checks and seeing the ground crew loading and fueling the aircraft.

Over the Atlantic en route SNN - JFK

I totally agree with you: getting paid to take something to 500 mph? I'm all in it! I've also heard pilots express how they had will to take off on that career path. To do what one loves to do. To follow those dreams and passions..

Passions can take on many forms, however, the skills of a pilot and a classical musician do have their similarities. Perhaps, you could name us a few?

As far as ‘transferable skills’ go, there are many that one learns as a pianist that can be used as a pilot:

Playing any instrument is extreme multi-tasking to put it mildly. There's a certain amount that becomes instinctive over the years but for the most part there are so many things to consider while playing.

The first and most obvious skill I suppose is hand-eye coordination (and feet). Over the years, I have leaned how to absorb huge volumes of information on a score, process and interpret it and transfer it into my hands and feet to play. Logically, what follows from this are that you develop exceptionally fast reflexes. If you go wrong you must almost instinctively know what is was and how to correct it all before your audience knows anything is amiss. Whilst doing all of this one must also listen to not only the sound you create and make necessary adjustments but listen to everyone else playing with you and blend with them.

Musicians also have to develop high levels of concentration and focus. Some pieces of music can go on for as long as 25 minutes without stopping. The longest work I have for piano is around 45 minutes. It involves a huge amount of stamina to get through physically and mentally.

Performing for an audience or in a competition means that you are constantly working in high pressure situations. Practicing at home is one thing but it's entirely another to be able to do it again with 1000 people watching and expecting you to play it as well as their recording of it at home! An entirely wrong expectation to have going to a recital but there you have it.

A biggy and it definitely goes for pilots too (and no doubt most jobs) is having excellent interpersonal skills. Unfortunately there are many occasions where a lack of communication and coordination has lead to a major airline accident. As a musician and teacher it’s essential to have good communication skills. I work one to one with people or in small ensembles on a daily basis where you really can't be very successful or productive without being able to interact with others. The other half of the coin though, and possibly more important, is that you are able to listen to what someone else has to say. There's nothing worse in music or aviation than someone that is so narrow minded that they cannot consider other views and opinions.

Finally, musicians must have attention to detail. The precision involved in playing any instrument (or conducting for that matter) cannot be over stated. It's why professionals spend anywhere from 6-9 hours a day practicing. There's no room for inaccurate, indecisive playing in public. You must dot every "i" so to speak. One might say you must be sharp.

Yes, one must definitely be "sharp" (definitely taking note of that pun). In all, I agree with your thoughts above. Having played as a pianist, a cellist, and an orchestral bassist in front of many audiences, there is room for error, however, to fix it you must have fast reflexes and great communication skills if you are in an ensemble setting.  Just like an audience, passengers expect the best out of pilots just as those attending a concert or recital who expect that performance to be as good as the Deutsche Grammophon recording at home.  But to err is human, as we all are, and everyone needs to realise just that from the get-go.

Speaking of which, our lives sometimes become so intense with our passions that the notes start to fly off the pages. How do take some time away? Travel?

Landing In Shannon From The Last US visit.

My travels have taken to me around various parts of Europe and the US. I am also a US citizen (thanks mom!) and have been to New England many times. I spent most of my childhood summers in Pittsfield, MA, where my mum grew up. The little bit of flying I have done brought me to Long Beach, CA which was a great experience also.

In Europe, music has brought me to Holland to perform but for general merriment I have been to London (possibly my favourite place to visit for a weekend), Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Krakow, Munich, Salzburg (to see Mozart's house, naturally), Malta, Zurich and Luxembourg (my brother lives there). 

Zurich, Switzerland

When you live in Europe, Ryanair, is your best friend for cheap flights everywhere. It's a European version of Southwest Airlines. Also, being and EU citizen allows you to freely travel between countries. On my list is Berlin, anywhere in wine drinking country and Scotland to drink some whiskey. Oh boy, do I love whiskey. Actually, that's somewhat of an understatement. It barely hints at my level of dedication. (Smile)

Besides music and aviation I love photography. I bought a semi-professional Canon DSLR last year. I like taking photos of scenery and wildlife for the most part. It’s a nice way to pass a day or a weekend. After all, I live in one of the most scenic countries in the world. All I have to do is throw lunch in a bag and jump over the back fence.

Small road in the Irish countryside..
Torc Waterfall, Kerry

Eoin, like myself, also has an eye for flowers.  Here is an awesome thistle.

Kylemore Abby, Galway

Fenit Pier, Coast of Kerry

In terms of sports, I LOVE golf and American Football! When I was in my teens I used to caddy on the Old Head of Kinsale which for many years has been a popular links course and has gained world recognition as one of the most beautiful places to play golf in the world (as well as being a good golf course). It is a popular stop for Americans on holidays. It was at this job that I learned to play. I’m not very good but I still like to play.

In Ireland it is not easy to get American Football on TV but I watch what I can. I’m a Pats follower (don’t hold it against me but at least I don't follow the Browns) 

Paragliding in Turkey

Mountaineering is also something I really like. As if I didn’t get enough risk from flying planes around (so my mother says. She thinks it’s safer behind my piano since its unlikely to fall on me) 

THE REEK: On a rare clear day.  Visible is Craogh Patrick.  Catholic pilgrims would make an annual visit barefoot to a small summit on top to celebrate mass there.
I want to climb, or attempt to climb and 8000er. For anyone not into mountain climbing, there are 14 peaks in the world higher than 8000m. All are located in the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges of Tibet and Pakistan and are affectionately known as, The 8000ers. Only a handful of people in the world have climbed all 14. To my knowledge, only one Irish man has summited Everest, and K2 (second highest mountain) but sadly he died while aiding others high on the peak when a massive corneas broke loose from a serac and killed him in 2008. 

It still amazes me that outside of aviation and music, how much we have in common. (Although I must say that I am a NY Giants Fan, sorry to break it to you there..) It seems that no matter what, you seem to climb to the highest levels either through flying or climbing a mountain. I, too, would love to take some people, yourself included, with me to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro someday...

Even though we like to climb the mountains ourselves, to fly the planes into the sunsets at the highest flight levels ourselves, we still have those people who help guide us, like the brave Irishman you mentioned above, to fine tune us into who we are today. Who has helped to fine tune your passions?

I have had many influences but if I were to single out one for music and another for aviation I would have to start with the Late Annette DeFoubert that taught me piano for eight years prior to going into my undergraduate degree in music. She was one of Ireland’s finest teachers and wasn’t I lucky she lived around the corner? She drew out the best from my playing and exposed me to all the right opportunities I needed as a young musician. I was sad to leave her tutelage after so many years but I couldn’t have been prouder to play for her four years in later in my final recital. I think had I not had her as young boy learning piano I would most likely have ended up doing computers or something in sciences (not an unpleasant prospect but I'm pleased I stuck with music.)

My biggest aviation influence would have to be my partner, Siobhan. When I was around 18 and left school I went straight into music having not adequately explored the options in flight training and soon put it to the back of my mind as something I just wouldn’t get to do in life. When I met Siobhan (6 years ago) I mentioned I would love to be able to fly but I didn’t see how it would ever happen as it’s too expensive. She persuaded me to really explore all my options some more and eventually I found a way to finance my PPL. 

Eoin being dunked upon the successful completion of his PPL

 I suppose without her nudge I might never have gone back to explore a career as a pilot. She encourages me all the time to not give up and one day I'll find the funding to finish training as a pilot.

Yes, you were very lucky to have had one of Ireland's finest teachers right there in your own back yard.  It was very meant to be.  Also, teachers definitely do make the difference not only in a person's life but their life choices. It's amazing the impact she made on you and how she shaped you into the fine musician you are today.

And thank you to Siobhan, someone I am also proud to say that I recently became acquainted with, she has been the carrying voice, the support you needed to take your life into new levels.  We all need somone like this in our lives to be there for us, to be our co-pilot so to speak and I am so happy that you have found yours..

Ever since FFCLIVENYC, I and others present, have come to learn that social networking has no longer become an escape from the world, but if used wisely, one can connect with others and form the most priceless friendships.

Eoin, you are a tremendous example of this and it is my hope that we all should gather soon, whether here in the US, in Ireland or abroad, as I believe we have some fine adult beverage tasting that is in order. That is, when we're not flying together, of course! 

The famous collection I've been hearing about

Eoin can be found on Twitter at @PilotmanEIWith those words, I thank you, Eoin, for coming aboard and I will say:


Wine Tasting




  1. Jeremy, what a beautiful tribute to an incredible man.

    Eoin, how fun it was to get to know more about you beyond twitter. Your talents are amazing, as is your piano playing. And 45 minutes? Wow.

    I too see many crossover talents between playing an instrument and flying. I suspect you can make your plane sing.

    Keep embracing life to the fullest. I will come and visit you and Siobhan on my next trip to Ireland. To have someone by your side who will encourage and support is a gift.

    It's been an absolute pleasure to share a bit of your life.

    Thank you Jeremy.

  2. Karlene, thank you so much for stopping by and for your comments. Indeed, Eoin is one incredible individual and I knew that once I got to know him, that I had to ask him to share his story with us. I absolutely agree that with the right qualities than a very skilled pilot can make any plane sing. Thank you, once again!


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