It has been a crazy few days but I have now been registered and officially started as a trainee pilot at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy!
Friday morning, enrolment day, was exciting but I also felt quite nervous. I met the rest of the group at 8.20am in the schools restaurant where we had coffee and continued getting to know each other (not too difficult after Thursday night). There are 11 of us in total and a further 9 who are sponsored by Emirates.
After about half an hour we were taken up to the lecture theatre and given our official course welcome. We were briefed on how difficult the task ahead is and given advice on how to approach the study and life around the school. COAA operate an airline environment from day 1 so you are always expected to work with that mindset. We were also given a motto which really stuck in my head: “Being good is not good enough”
Following this welcome we received our health and safety briefing. Its quite a dull subject and most of it is common sense, however COAA made it much more interesting adding videos of Faulty Tower and Live at the Apollo to punctuate a point.
Next we went to collect our uniforms. This took quite a bit longer than I thought it would! The uniform consists of a COAA Shirt with epaulettes (one silver bar for ground school, 2 gold bars following Phoenix and 3 gold bars for First Officer), navy trousers, navy tie, a COAA jumper (we are give a thick jumper and a thin jumper) and a COAA pilot jacket. It is a very smart uniform and I feel very proud when I am wearing it!
While we were trying our uniforms on lots of my course mates had to exchange items for different sizes – including me! I can imagine it happens quite regularly on the first day!
Once we were all satisfied with our uniform we had a short half hour break. I took the opportunity to take my uniform back to my room at Langford Hall.
After our break it was time to have our security pictures taken and collect our books. The school had a professional photographer as the pictures would also be used for our USA Visa applications. After the pictures we went to collect our cardboard box full of books. Before we took the books we were given a warning that the books weighed 50 kilos! – thats heavy! Books in hand we went back to exam room, where we had been based all morning, to complete quite a bit of paperwork. We were handed a folder with our COAA registration documents, NHS registration documents (for the local doctor and our new AME) and a registration form for Bucks New University (where we will be awarded our foundation degree). Forms completed and passport/Class 1 medical handed over and we were finished for the day. On our way out of school of flight bags were waiting for us.
The flight bags are full of lots of interesting things that will obviously be explained to us over the coming weeks as we progress through Ground School.
That evening we all ventured into Oxford for dinner and a few drinks. It was a great night and I didn’t get back to my room until 1.30am, a time I am unlikely to see again (unless I am still studying!)
Saturday morning I was up at 7.00am to head back to London for the weekend to make the most of my free time before the mountain of work next week!
The day has finally arrived! Thursday 23rd January – time to move to Oxford!
After a releasing morning at home getting my things together I left London at 2.30pm for my 2 hour drive to Oxford. I had no idea what to expect of my halls of residence as I have a) never stayed in halls before and b) missed the tour of the halls during my COAA interview. Langford Halls are located on the main London Oxford Airport site, so the first thing you see (and hear) are the planes leaving the airport. The halls are very basic, my room consists of a bed, fridge, sink, desk, wardrobe and drawers. The whole ethos of the site is based around study – its currently 11.00pm and you can hear a pin drop anywhere on site.
This evening I met with 10 of my course mates to have dinner at a pub in the local village, Kidlington. It was lovely to meet everyone ahead of what is going to be a daunting day tomorrow and the start of our epic 18 month journey to ATPL.
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci
It has been just over 3 months since I was offered a place at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy to begin training as a Commercial Airline Pilot. A lot has happened it that time, including Christmas, and I now have two days of freedom left before I start the 18 month course.
The first step on the road to COAA was getting my Class 1 Medical Certificate. The initial medical takes place at the Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) medical centre at Gatwick Airport. This wasn’t too much hassle for me as I live in London!
My exam was booked in for 8.30am, which wasn’t the best idea as I had been working in Birmingham the previous day and didn’t get home until 2am. The CAA headquarters is an impressive building housing the offices that regulate the UK’s aviation. The medical unit is a relatively small area on the ground floor. The exam covers everything you could images from in-depth hearing and sight tests, Blood test, ECG, Breathing test, etc. The exam started pretty quickly being taken from room to room, conducting each part of the test in a different room. I was sat in the waiting room after 30 minutes and having completed the whole medical and was waiting to see the doctor. After 2 hours the doctor was ready to see me. After a quick chat and check up I was told they wanted to look into my history of headaches before issuing my certificate.
Back in London I went to see my GP and collecting all information he had on file relating to headaches. After a few weeks waiting the CAA issued my Class 1 Medical Certificate!
After receiving my medical certificate the only thing left for my to have in place before confirming my place at COAA was my loan. The loan for trainee pilots is offered by the Spanish bank Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA). The application form was pretty straight forward and COAA provide a business plan detailing the training and work possibilities, which really help with securing the loan. The difficult part of the application is collecting all of the extra information they require, like old bank statements, business accounts, etc… After about two months I had a message from BBVA to say my application had been successful and I could confirm my place with COAA. At the beginning of December I received confirmation from Oxford, I am booked on course AP358 starting on 24th January – this Friday!
The past few weeks I have been wrapping up my theatre career, saying goodbye to the many work colleagues I have become friends with over the past 8 years. It is a great feeling to have the support of so many people as I start a very exciting new chapter in my life.