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 is 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. The 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!