Skills Assesment

In order to gain a place at Oxford Aviation Academy I had to take part in a two day assessment to determine my suitability for the course and a life as an airline pilot. Here is a account of my two days;

Tuesday 6th August 2013

The day started at 8.30am at Oxford Aviation Academy’s  home at Oxford Airport in Kidlington. After a quick registration I met the other four candidates who were also applying for a place on the course. We were all lead upstairs and given a brief talk about OAA and the Skills Assessment process. The talk was very informal and made us all feel much more relaxed about the daunting two days ahead.
My first task was the C.O.M.P.A.S.S test, the section I had been most worried about. The test is all computer based and tests a basic understanding of maths, physics and aptitude. The first section of this test is aptitude, which is split into five tests;

Image Slalom

In this test you have to keep the plane within a given boundary using a joystick for 90 seconds. This test is repeated 3 times.



Flight Control

This tests hand-eye-foot coordination. We had to keep the dial on ‘0’ using a joystick whilst keeping the ball between the two white lines using rudder pedals.


rsz_medium29 Bearings

In this test we were given 3 aircraft instruments, giving you the aircraft’s altitude and position in physical space. You then, using this information, had to say which of the four aircraft bellow matched the instruments.


In this test we were given four pieces of information for a flight; Altitude (36,500), Heading (055), Speed (320) and Radio Frequency (122.55). The information was displayed for 10 seconds, after that time it disappeared and we had to recall as much information as we could. This test was repeated with different information for two minutes.


During this test we were constantly receiving information about the aircraft’s Altitude, Heading and Speed which we had to input into the primary flight display using the arrow keys and numeric keypad. At the same time warming lights would appear on the screen that we would have to extinguish within seconds.

Following this section was the maths test, 24 questions in 20 minutes all approximate to G.C.S.E standard. this was then followed by the technical test, which is made up of Maths, general science and mechanics questions. The technical test consisted of 15 questions. The C.O.M.P.A.S.S test concludes with a psychometric profiling, 250 questions which are meant to give an indication of your personality.

After a short lunch we moved on the second section of the day, the simulator test. In the this section we had to fly a simple 45 minute flight in Oxford’s CRJ-200 simulator. This test took in all of the basics of flight control with some fun thrown in at the end – I actually got to perform a barrel roll!
The first day concluded with a quick talk on course financing if we were to be accepted…. Fun!

Wednesday 7th August 2013

The second day started a little later as some of the group had an early interview slot – mine was scheduled for after lunch, the last one of the day!
My first activity was the team building exercises. In the first one we were given a map and were told we were stranded and had to find our way to a rendezvous point within a set amount of time. Each member of the group were given two cards each with clues as to how we would achieve this goal. In the second exercise we were given a box full of wooden blocks and rods and had to build a bridge that would support a glass of water. We finished both exercises and felt very confident leaving the room.
After lunch I had my interview with two people from British Airways. I must admit this was the hardest part for the day for me. I felt like I was on an episode of The Apprentice, being questioned about why I want to become a pilot, what I have done to help me prepare for the training and why i had left it until i was 27 to apply.

After the gruelling interview I waited for my debrief, which was the longest hour of my life! During the debrief I was told I had performed really well in all areas, including getting full marks on the team building exercises. Unfortunately I was one mark short of a pass on the technical test and was asked to come back after a few week for a resit.
It was disappointing to have come so far to fall at one hurdle, however in hindsight I think it was a good think. Ground School is such an intense part of the training process it is important to have the correct level of knowledge before starting at OAA.

1st October 2013

After a few weeks of revising I went back to Oxford to resit the technical test. The test was incredibly short (only 10 minutes) and felt much more familiar than the previous test. This was followed by a debrief.
As soon as I walked into the room for my debrief i was told I had been successful and officially offered a place on the course. It was such a  relief to know all of the hard work had paid off!
After the debrief I met with one of the airline managers at Oxford who took my through the course structure and made a provisional booking to start in January.

The next step on my road to an ATPL is to get my Class 1 Medical and arrange the course finance before I start…. still a long way to go!


Course Structure


Lots of people have been asking me what the course entails. Here is the course breakdown (taken from;


Stage 1 – Ground Training

Stage 2 – Foundation Flight Training

Stage 3 – First Officer Fundamentals

Stage 4 – Advanced Flight Training

Stage 5 – Jet Training MCC & JOC


ATPL Ground Training is conducted at our airline training centre at Oxford Airport. The first phase of theoretical training takes 15 weeks and is followed by internal CAE OAA tests. These thoroughly prepare you for the official JAR-FCL exams – the first 7 of which follow immediately thereafter.

After a short break, you complete the 11 week second phase followed by the remaining 7 JAA exams – again only after you have refined your skills in the internal CAE OAA tests. The JAA examinations are undertaken at Oxford , which is an official CAA Examination Centre.

The Career Development Programme will be introduced to students during the second phase of Ground Training. Some self-study will be required for this and you will complete a short, 1 hour exam. This, together with the 14 JAA ground examinations already completed provides you with half the credits you require to complete the Foundation Degree. Passing the examinations is a pre-requisite to commencing Foundation Flight Training in Phoenix.

Here are the subjects for each phase:


Principles of Flight

Aircraft General Knowledge – Systems

Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation

Human Performance


VFR Communications

IFR Communications


General Navigation

Radio Navigation

Flight Planning

Aircraft Performance

Mass & Balance

Operational Procedures

Air Law


Foundation Flight Training is conducted at our Airline Training Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Weather, equipment and instructors are all first class, allowing you to concentrate on training to be a professional pilot in a highly enjoyable environment which enables you to achieve that all-important continuity from the word ‘go’.

During this 20-week phase you will complete a total of 110 hours of single-engine flight training in the PA28 Warrior aircraft, along with 10 hours in an FNPT II simulator and 14.5 hours multi-engine training in the PA34 aircraft before taking your Multi Engine CPL Skills Test in the PA34 Seneca Aircraft. By the time you return to the UK, you will be a competent multi engine pilot. You will also hold a commercial pilot’s licence pass result, and you will have a firm foundation of instrument flying experience.

In addition to the above you will also complete 3 hours of Upset Recovery Training with CAE Oxford Aviation Academy’s partner APS on an Extra 300L aircraft.


Upon return to Oxford and prior to commencing the final training phase, you will complete the First Officer Fundamentals (FOF) course, which is part of our SkillsPlus Development programme. This short but intensive 1-week course is delivered before you enter the final, advanced training phase at Oxford. Again, careful integration of academic and professional study will allow the remaining requirements of the Air Transport Management Degree to be completed during this week, contributing to the aim of preparing you for your rapidly approaching role as a First Officer. FOF covers the following subject areas:

First Officer Responsibilities and Crew Resource Management

Commercial Appreciation

Communication Skills


From this point forward you will be concentrating on multi-engine flight training, initially using the PA34 Seneca aircraft and simulators; flying in poor weather and tightly controlled airspace amongst commercial airliner traffic. Being so centrally placed, you will find Oxford Airport is well positioned for accessing the busy airways and the many highly challenging destinations – exactly what you need in order to prepare for your future career.

Advanced flight training consists of 52.5 hours – split between aircraft and simulator. The high-fidelity simulators are perfect for the task in hand, enabling you to practise many procedures which cannot be undertaken in the actual aircraft. This phase culminates in the Instrument Rating Skills Test (IRT) with one of our two resident CAA Flight Examiners.


Jet training

The last three weeks of APP FIRST OFFICER concentrates on Multi-Crew Co-operation (MCC) and a Jet Orientation Course (JOC). This phase will teach you how to work in a Multi-Crew environment, and how to operate a modern commercial jet. Whilst MCC training is a JAA requirement, the unique additional JOC is one of the strengths of APP FIRST OFFICER as it gives you that invaluable training in multi-pilot operations which is so appealing to airline employers.

You will fly realistic routes, using genuine airline operating procedures, all in the six-axis, full-motion Boeing 737-400 simulator. By the end of the 40 hour phase, more than twice the time required to comply with JAR-FCL regulatory requirements, you will be as well prepared as it is possible to be to move directly to airline interview and airliner type specific training.