Monday, 21 November 2011

A320 Simulator Phase

I can’t believe it’s only been a month or so since I began the type rating, so much seems to have happened in this time. I also can’t believe I’ve been living in hotels for nearly a month, and there’s plenty more of that to come! The final part of ground school went absolutely fine and the whole class managed to pass everything with flying colours which was fantastic. It was one of the most intense experiences I’ve been through, I don’t think I’ve ever learnt so much in such a short space of time, and I certainly can’t guarantee that everything has stuck in. However we were told from day one of pilot training that this is one of those jobs where you never stop learning, and I am beginning to see how true this is. Although the course is386706_10150962976990366_901085365_21783812_1580525182_n very comprehensive, there is only so much the human brain can hold on to at one time, and it is the finer details of the aircraft that we will spend our days on the line committing to memory.

Following on from Gatwick, I managed to have a few well appreciated days at home, though there was next to no time for relaxation as I had the whole normal procedures of the A320 SOPs to learn ready for our first sim. There are no real checklists on this aircraft, everything is done from memory really with a few checks just to confirm we have completed everything. This has made it quite a difficult learning process, but luckily there are a few acronyms and flows we can use for different phases of flight which makes it a bit simpler. Then it was off to Heathrow where I am now staying for the start of the simulator phase. The Oxford Aviation Academy sim block here is actually part of the BMI Training Centre just north of Heathrow airport. It certainly is a strange building, it is very large but always very quiet and quite old fashioned. Oxford have 3 sims there, an A320, and A330/340 and a B737-300. 310183_10150962977105366_901085365_21783813_2093121206_nThe first two lessons were just to practice the many procedures we had learnt; just to get the plane on to the runway takes a huge amount of planning and checks, it is a relief when we get the gear up and get on our way! We then moved on to the full motion simulator lessons, which have involved so many different aspects of handling the aircraft, flying approaches and dealing with different emergencies.

And so I am now in the position where I have one more lesson left today before my Type Rating Skills Test tomorrow, which I need to pass successfully in order to obtain my A320 Type Rating. After that we have a couple more lessons here of Low Visibility Operations and Base Training procedures before I get a weekend at home. Then it is off to Luton for our induction week with the airline, and is when we start getting paid after these couple of years of training! Our roster for December is quite busy and involves a mix of more sim training, a few office duties and a few days of jump seating a few routes just to get a feel for how to operate the aircraft commercially. We also have our Base Training on the 15th, which will be the first time I get to fly the actual aircraft for a few circuits at Doncaster (or elsewhere if the weather is too bad). Then my first commercial flight will be from Gatwick to Toulouse on 21st December! It will be such an exciting day to have paying passengers on board with me at the controls, though it’s probably best not to tell them until after the flight that it is my first day! Then I have a few more days before Christmas, which I have off, and then I am being sent to Glasgow for a few days of flying from there.

After a couple of years of hard work (and a little fun I admit) everything is finally coming together, and it is clear my adventures are only just beginning!

Monday, 31 October 2011

A320 Ground School

Wow, even just typing that title makes we think about how far I have come in just a couple of years! It was in November 2009 that I started at Oxford, and now I have gone from not 300686_10150895359810366_901085365_21413219_1135049402_nknowing my HSI from my VSI to sitting in a classroom doing my A320 theoretical knowledge test! And that’s what I did today, or at least 6 out of the 8 sections. We have a few lessons of performance and mass & balance bits to sit through tomorrow before we are tested on those in the afternoon, then ground school is complete! It has been the most intense experience, the whole learning process is crammed in to an 8 day period, and the days have been very long indeed. We have often been staying at school until late in to the evening just to get the work done.

The system has been very good though. Most work is done by following computer based training (CBT) modules, backed up by self study and revision sessions with the excellent 293579_2185003818205_1040281310_2464997_6317913_ninstructors here at Gatwick. The problem is the sheer volume of knowledge you have to process in this time, though today’s exams were a big success and all of us passed without a problem. Hopefully tomorrow will be the same story, and we can all start flying the sims at the end of the week. After a few days at home I am off to Heathrow with my flying partner to do the simulator phase, beginning with a late night/early hours session on Sunday. Having briefly visited one of the sims this week I am now hugely excited to make a start on what is an absolutely incredible aircraft.

Also a bit of good news with regards to a base; it seems I will be based at Gatwick! Most of the company’s training captains seem to be here so that is where a lot of people seem to be ending up. I still have quite a way to go 301495_10150895360700366_901085365_21413224_1016809605_nthough before I’ll be sitting on that flight deck, but it is becoming more a reality every day!

Finally, it was our Oxford graduation ceremony a couple of weekends ago which was absolutely fantastic. There were 5 or 6 courses sharing it so it was a huge event, set in a giant marquee at the front of Langford Halls. Our guest speaker was the Chief of Flight Operations (or something) at British Airways, and he presented all our course certificates and the awards. It was brilliant to see everyone again, and was nice to bring my life at Oxford to a nice conclusion just before I began this new adventure.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Turning Europe Orange

Well it’s certainly been a while since I wrote an update on here, and the simple explanation is that there has been nothing to report for a while! After leaving Oxford at the start of June I a320sent a few applications out to a number of companies, though there was one particular airline I decided to hold out for as my first choice. After being rejected by a few airlines, I think because of a lack of experience, and also turning down a couple of interviews for a certain low-cost Irish carrier, I finally heard back from my number one choice. And, having successfully completed the assessment process, I am very proud to say that I shall shortly be taking to the skies as a First Officer on board an A320 for Britain’s largest low-cost carrier. In fact the UK’s largest carrier all together in terms of passenger numbers!

The interview process was fairly standard for the airline industry, comprising of a day spent at Oxford doing aptitude/cognitive tests, and a formal interview with a HR professional and a technical interview with an airline pilot. I was able to take great positives away from the7aece6fb7ecef5cf7b080d41310655b2 process, as well as having a few areas highlighted that I need to work on which is fine. I am due to start my A320 type rating on 19th October at Gatwick, and hopefully should be flying lucky passengers around Europe towards the end of December or the start of next year. I am really looking forward to the next big challenge, and will be working hard to make my dream become a reality. Because if there is one piece of advice I could give to aspiring pilots, it would be to never stop believing that you can do it, and to work as hard as you possibly can. Results only come from the effort you put in. I can’t wait to share my new experiences on here in the coming months!

Finally, it has not just been an aviation free few months. Since I have been living back at home in Norfolk, I decided to join the local flying club at Norwich Airport, and get checked out back on my old friend, the PA-28 Warrior. The check flight was done over two days as weather was a bit of an issue; of course it would be in the UK! Since then I have been flying a few friends and family around, under my own license for the first time, which was a France 069fantastic feeling. A highlight was meeting up with my old Oxford flying partner, and we managed to successfully navigate our way down to Southend Airport for a spot of lunch and a relax in the Executive Lounge, before guiding ourselves through the low level clouds to safely arrive back in Norwich. I am thinking of billing my new airline for the flight; maybe it could count as research as Southend will be their newest base as of 2012! I also spent a few days in the South of France with another coursemate (and now workmate) who took me for my first experience of gliding around Les Alpilles. It was a fun and unique experience, though I’m not really sure I mastered it, and some of the aerobatic exercises made me glad I’ll be flying a smooth airliner in the future!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Thursday, 11 August 2011

British Airways Future Pilot

I don’t normally post links on here, but if you’re reading this blog and you’re interested in becoming a pilot some day then this is an absolutely unmissable opportunity from British Airways that has just opened up:

BA Future

More details and how to apply can be found at

Monday, 20 June 2011

Goodbye Oxford

After 18 months of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, I graduated from Oxford on 1st June! The last few weeks of the course were so enjoyable as we finally ended up where we wanted 247529_10150630066010366_901085365_18971643_1538840_nto be, in the seat of a 737-400 and we were the ones flying it! After a lot of initial hard work learning the checks and the procedures, and a couple of introduction flights to flying the aircraft and the use of the autopilot, we were put to work flying a few routes. Initially they start off fine with all going smoothly, but very soon we were introduced to complex problems that we would have to work as a team to deal with, from deteriorating weather to engine failures and rapid decompressions. At the end of those few weeks I received the final part of my license, the Multi-Crew Co-operation (MCC) certificate and also a Jet Orientation Course (JOC) certificate, meaning my training is complete, and I now have all the parts that make up a ‘Frozen’ ATPL. The reason it is still frozen is because you are required to have 1500 hours before it becomes a full ATPL and the 255961_10150630854070643_573820642_18697184_148454_oonly way to do that is to get a job and work on the line.

So I have headed back home to Norfolk to begin the job hunt. Things are definitely looking a lot more positive these days compared to when I started the course, and I have been lucky to have a choice of a few airlines to apply to. I am hoping that my first interview will be sometime next month, and within a few months all being well I’ll be starting the next step in my journey, the type rating. To fly a particular jet you must undergo specific training for that type, including more ground school and a lot of hours in the sim before we finally get our hands on the real thing. In short it may be a quiet period for me on here but I’m looking forward to having some good news soon!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Instrument Rated

Nearly a year and a half since I started, and with 14 ATPL ground exams and a CPL under my belt, I am very pleased to say that last Thursday I successfully passed my Instrument Rating 040skills test! It has been a while since my last post, and in that time we have progressed slowly yet steadily. It has been a tough journey too, and with most pilots saying that the IR is the most difficult thing you will face in your career, I am tempted to agree!

Since my last post we have been flying routes of increasing difficulty building up to full IR test profiles. The IR itself consists of flying a route in to controlled airspace and performing a precision approach at your destination. We then simulate that the weather is too bad to land, and make a diversion to our alternate. On this diversion we suffer a simulated engine failure after take off, and therefore at our diversion the non precision approach is performed with just one engine. Once again the weather is below minima, and we make another go-around, Instrument Rating 004followed by a circuit to land with a single engine. Enroute we also have a general handling section including stalls, unusual attitudes and partial panel work. Oh, and all of this is done behind the screens, ie. solely by the use of our instruments. It is a very tough couple of hours, and with so many variables to deal with, it can be very stressful.

Before being submitted for the IR test, UK candidates must do a mock exam called a 170A, which I completed the week before. I flew from Oxford to Bournemouth with a diversion back to Oxford, and the flight was a big success. Afterwards the real nerves started to kick in, and after a few days of waiting on reserve, my IR was scheduled for last Thursday. After an 5am wake up and early start to prepare my route and briefing for the examiner, we took to Instrument Rating 011the skies around 10am. The flight was to Bristol Filton and back to Oxford, and once again my examiner was really pleased with my flight, and I got a hard earned first time pass, no small achievement!

I now have around an hour left of flying to do on the Seneca, and then I will join the waiting list for the next and final stage, which is the MCC/JOC (multi-crew co-operation/jet orientation course). Gone are the days of single-pilot, piston engine aircraft, and now we begin our training on jets! Oxford have 2 full motion Boeing 737-400 simulators, and a Bombardier CRJ simulator used for this purpose, and it’s likely that me and my flying partner will be booking on to the 737s as soon as possible. The course lasts just over 2 weeks, and once that is completed then I will leave Oxford a fully qualified pilot. All that comes next is finding a job, though for now I am just going to enjoy my time off and prepare for my fun as a 737 Captain for a couple of weeks!