Wednesday, 25 November 2009

The joys of the International Standard Atmosphere

I'm now halfway into my second week and my head is already swimming with many interesting (and quite a few un-interesting) facts about aeroplanes, aerofoils, piston engines etc etc etc! One thing I have learnt is the sheer volume of work that is involved, life at the moment pretty much just consists of working! We start classes at 8.40 every morning, and finish at 4.20, then it's straight back home and the text books open, and we continue working for a few hours. Am keeping on top of stuff at the moment, which is good as it's pretty hard to catch up once you get behind!

We also had our welcome party at the airport today, one hour of free food and drinks which the whole of OAA was invited to, and man there were a lot of people there! Was great though, really feel like part of the furniture now, and with AP309 starting in a couple of weeks we won't be the new kids any more! Also means we'll be closer to exams, but trying not to think about that...

Finally, Upper Heyford is still the most depressing place in the world, but we have a few house viewing lined up so hopefully life will be on the up up up soon! Watch this space!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Ground School

Time to take a 'break' from homework to update you on the last few days. After a rather messy night of Carlsberg, Malibu and X-Factor on Saturday night with Andrew (alcohol the only thing to do in Upper Heyford), Sunday was a rather more relaxed affair. We ventured out for a wander around the base, and boy our first impressions of this place weren't wrong. It is almost all completely abandoned, we are one of the few buildings with any signs of life. You can still see into some of the old places like the cinema, which still has the show times up on the window from when everyone left. Scary stuff.

The afternoon was much nicer, we ventured out on the 'nearby' Park & Ride into Oxford, and wow what an amazing city! It obviously has all the modern shops any city would have, but the architecture everywhere you look is just stunning, and when we ventured out along the river the views back over the city were just amazing. We wandered down to the University boathouses and managed to catch a boat race going past, which was good fun.

Today marked the official start of ground school, and after a long introduction from our Chief Ground Instructor we got a bit of exercise collecting our course books - 14 in total, and some of them are pretty giant. Pictures to follow, they have to be seen to be believed! After lunch, we had our first 2 classes comprising of 'Theory of Flight' and 'Human Factors', though not much exciting to report from either so far!

Anyway, am putting off my first bit of homework in 5 years (much like I did back then!), so I'm gonna crack on with that now! Start as I mean to go on...

Saturday, 14 November 2009


It's Saturday morning and after a pretty crazy couple of days I've got a bit of time to myself, so just time for a quick update and then who knows?

Travelled up on Thursday, had to pick up my keys and stuff from the airport before making the 20min drive to my new digs at Upper Heyford. We're situated on an old USAF base, it's pretty desolate to be honest. Our first impression was that it was a bit like arriving in Chernobyl! Apparently when the Americans moved out in 1994 they just upped and left, someone was telling us they found a way into an old restaurant and the tables are still laid with the menus out and everything! It is quite a nice drive to the airport though, and some of the countryside is really good. As for my flat, it is a bit dodgy, but suffice to say there is a bed and a kitchen and a bathroom and that's all I need! We are expected to do at least 3 hours work a night, and my roommate was saying it was more like 5 so not much time for enjoying the d├ęcor really!

We met up in one of the local pubs on Thursday night, so met a lot my course mates then. There's actually 5 of us staying at Heyford; myself, two other English guys and two French guys. Most of the rest of the course are staying in the halls at the airport, though word of mouth is we got the better deal being up here.

Early start on Friday morning, though the day turned out to be pretty admin based. We received a welcome talk from the head of the school first of all, full of 'it'll be fun but it'll be hard work' and 'i'm sure you'll get a job at the end of it' type stuff. After that we received our uniforms which was pretty great, we fit in with everyone else at the school now! After lunch it really was just filling in a load of forms and talking H&S, and after a pretty restless night (my bed isn't great) I was almost falling asleep, but managed to keep it together to receive our flight bags full of goodies at the end of the day. We didn't receive our books yet, a) because they're so heavy and we had loads of stuff already, and b) because they didn't want us getting ahead of ourselves.

Finally, a group of us headed out to one of the cinemas in the area, which was actually about half an hour away for us Heyford guys. Saw 2012 which was great because there was lot's of flying based action for us to enjoy! Saw a late showing, didn't arrive back until about half 2, so actually got a much better sleep last night! Now just a long lazy weekend before it all starts on Monday!

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Ready for Takeoff

Having just finished packing my life in the boot of my car, I'm now ready for the big move to Oxford tomorrow. Still yet to find out much about the apartment i'm going to be living in, OAA don't provide much information so it's going to be either a pleasant or unpleasant surprise! Never mind, all I need is a bed, desk, kitchen and bathroom and I should be fine, there'll be more than enough work to keep me busy I imagaine! Due to arrive early afternoon after picking up my keys at the airport, and then we already have a bit of pubbing scheduled for the evening so it should be an exciting day.

After that, enrolment is scheduled for Friday, so that will mean spending the day at the airport. There'll be some meet & greet type stuff involved, plus lot's of paperwork and checking out our uniforms! The weekend is free, and then work begins Monday morning. So, it's going to be a mad few days but hopefully will have exciting updates to follow soon!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

The Journey Begins!

Well everyone, what better way to share my experiences over the next couple of years than with this shiny new blog?! For those who don't know, 2 weeks tomorrow I will be starting my first day as a trainee pilot with Oxford Aviation Academy. In August this year I was accepted by them after a challenging 2 day selection process, involving all kinds of personality, hand/eye/feet co-ordination, memory, numerical (and many more) tests, the highlight of which was a short checkride on a CAA-approved Bombardier CRJ200 simulator. This involved a few short climbs and descents and some co-ordinated turns, a lot of which whilst being asked questions by the examiner, but most of all was a great taste of the kind of position I want to be sitting in in 2 years time! All of these tests, plus successfully passing my Class 1 medical at Gatwick, means I am officially enrolled on class AP308 (November 2009) of the APP First Officer programme!

So what does the course involve? Well, the first 6 months will be the hugely intensive 'ground school' at Oxford Airport, leading up to the 14 written exams set by the CAA. Once those exams are passed (and no sooner!) I'll be on a plane to Phoenix, Arizona to begin my Foundation Flight Training! After 5 months of flying in the desert sun I will return to the UK, the proud owner of a Multi-Engine Commercial Pilot's Licence. The next part of the course is Advanced Flight Training at Oxford Airport, working towards the enormously challenging Instrument Rating, meaning I'll be able to fly in poor weather solely using the aircraft's instruments. And then's into the amazing simulators at Oxford for Jet Training - learning to work as part of a two man team to pilot a commercial jet. All this will result in me receiving my frozen Airline Traffic Pilot's Licence as well as a Foundation Degree in Air Transport Management. Then it's just a simple case of finding a job with an airline and completing the necessary training on a specific aircraft and...I'll officially be an airline pilot!! Phew!

Well, as you can tell it's the start of a very long journey, and there is definitely a lot of hard work ahead of me before I get that licence, but I'm looking forward to many exciting adventures along the way! I'll be moving to Oxford a week on Thursday, so the challenge starts there!