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 skills 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, followed 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 the 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!