Happy New Year! What a year 2015 has been. It started with my first solo and the birth of my daughter and continued with earning a single engine class rating, commercial pilots license, multi engine class rating and finally ended with me taking (and passing) my instrument rating.
Last time I posted I had completed most of the simulator lessons. From there I moved onto the flights which we managed to fit into a very short period of time. For three weeks I was flying a minimum of four times a week trying to get through all of the Oxford approved routes and finishing off my hours. The routes I flew were;
Oxford – Bournemouth – Oxford
Oxford – Coventry – Oxford
Oxford – Gloucestershire – Oxford
Oxford – Bristol – Oxford
Oxford – Cardiff – Oxford
Oxford – Cranfield – Oxford
All of the routes follow a pretty similar format which I discussed in the last post so there are very few surprises along the way. The weather over November and December has been very different to previous years with temperatures average 10 degrees higher than usual and with the wind being mainly southernly and quite a bit stronger. These made flying quite interesting, we very rarely needed to use the aircraft ice protection system but at the same time I became very familiar with strong winds, especially whilst flying the ILS.
Just before Christmas I was submitted for my final progress test, PT6, which also acts as the 170 – a test that every pilot is required to take and pass before they can take the IR. For this flight I was assigned the Coventry route, which is one of the harder routes we fly. I started the day looking at the weather which wasn’t looking great but also wasn’t looking bad enough that the flight needed to be cancelled. Shortly after take-off we entered the airways on our way to Coventry when we noticed the aircraft was rapidly accumulating ice and the de-ice boots couldn’t keep up with the speed at which it was happening. As a result I had to request to leave the airway by descent to try an get us into warmer air. On our approach to Coventry I checked the wether to find out I would be dealing with gusting winds on the ILS – fun!!! After the ILS we started our return to Oxford and were told by radar that Oxford was currently in the middle of a thunder storm and advised us to remain clear. We decided to hold to the west of Oxford where we could see the storm and wait for it to pass. During this time we did the general handling section of the test. Once the storm was clear we returned to the airport for a hold and NDB approach. Once we had landed I was told straight away that I had passed.
Following PT6 I had 3 flying hours remaining which we decided to leave until after Christmas. I drove back to Oxford on Boxing day to make sure I was ready to make the last 3 hours my best flying. For the final flight we did an IR profile flight down to Bournemouth (the route I would actually do for my IR) and then come back to Oxford to do some circuits. Once I landed ops told me I was scheduled for my IRT the following day – gulp!
The next morning I was up early to start the preparation for my test. I headed to the airport to check the weather and found that the wind was forecast to be out of limits for my scheduled landing time. After a lot of thought and looking at other options I decided to cancel the flight and re-schedule for the following day when the weather was looking much better. The next morning I went through the same process, this time the results were much better and I decided to go ahead with the test. I met my examiner at 8am to discuss the flight and do some admin, he then left to go flying with another candidate. My take-off time was 14:00 so I now had lots of time to prepare all of my paperwork ready for our departure. When the examiner returned we discussed the route, the aircraft, the weather and went through a few other things which all contribute to the theory section of the test. Once we had finished the brief we headed out to the aircraft and prepped for our departure. From here on it was a very normal day for me. We departed Oxford and were immediately given radar vectors to take us into the airway, where we were passed to London Control. We were then radar vectored onto the ILS (runway 26) at Bournemouth. On the go-around we simulated an engine failure and started the diversion back to Oxford. On route I was given my engine back so that we could do the general handling section of the test which includes, stalling, flying on standby instruments and unusual attitude recoveries. From here we continued towards Oxford where I entered the hold for runway 19, whilst in the hold we simulated another engine failure (from here onwards I would only have one engine). After the hold I flew the NDB procedure for runway 19 which ended with an asymmetric go-around and visual circuits for an asymmetric landing. Once we had taxied back to the school line I was told I had passed! After a very short debrief we completed all of the relevant paperwork and I was finished until the new year!
Next step on the ladder to the ATPL is MCC/JOC which is flown in the Boeing 737 sim.
It has now been 22 months since I started my training in January 2014 and I am just coming to the end of my instrument rating.
So far I am really enjoying the instrument rating as it is much closer to the type of flying I hope to do once I graduate from OAA. I started the IR in the sim getting used to the aircraft (Piper Seneca V) and learning how to fly holds and precision/non precision approaches. Once these skills were (almost) mastered we moved on to flying the IR routes in the sim. The routes contain an instrument departure from Oxford to another airfield, usually via controlled airspace. At the arrival airport we carry out either a precision (ILS) or non precision (NDB) approach. At the decision altitude we go-around and divert to another airport (usually oxford) to carry out the second approach. As always during the flight we suffer an engine failure which makes the rest of the flight a lot more time consuming and there is the general handling section which seems to be present in all flying tests.
In the sim I have flown most of the company routes (with the exception on Bristol and Cardiff):
Oxford – Bournemouth – Oxford
Oxford – Coventry – Oxford
Oxford – Gloucestershire – Oxford
Oxford – Cambridge – Cranfield
Oxford – Birmingham – Gloucestershire
Oxford – East Midlands – Gloucestershire
All though these are the routes OAA use most regularly we can also expect to be taken to any of the above airfields in any combination. In the aircraft so far I have flown both Bournemouth and Coventry routes. Today (Monday 23rd Nov) I was planning to fly the Gloucestershire route, however we were experiencing a few problems during the take-off roll which resulted in two rejected take-offs and ultimately the cancelling of the flight.
Last week I also attended a wing ceremony with one of the courses returning from Phoenix. Unfortunately as my training has been slightly different to the normal OAA course I (and the rest of my UK course mates) missed the opportunity to have our own wings ceremony. It was slightly odd being given the wings certificate when I already have my wings – however I am still really glad I got to attend a ceremony to acknowledge the achievement of reach CPL standard.
In the same week I also attended the OAA European Graduation Ceremony – again another odd feeling as I have not yet finished the course so technically haven’t graduated. As most of my course have now finished (and in most cases got airline jobs) it was nice to still graduate with all of them. The evening was fantastic and I cannot compliment the organisation enough! It was a fantastic celebration of everything everyone has achieved with family and friends there too! The gust of honour was Capt. Christopher Kingswood from easyJet who delivered the perfect speech to continue to ignite my passion for aviation and being a pilot.
Next step for me will be Progress Test 6 which I hope to complete in the next two/three weeks, which will be followed by the Instrument Rating Test. After that I will only have four weeks of training to go where I will finally be let lose with the Boeing 737!
The engine is the heart of an aeroplane, but the pilot is its soul.
— Sir Walter Alexander Raleigh.
As part of our flight training we carry out Upset Prevention and Recovery training. This part of the course usually happens during the CPL phase of training and happens in Phoenix. As I did my training in the UK I was sent to The Netherlands to do my UPR training with a company called APS (the same company COAA use in the USA).
4 of us went in total and we left the UK on Saturday afternoon flying from London Heathrow to Amsterdam with KLM. The flight was only 40 mins so after a quick visit to the cockpit we headed to collect our bags and our hire car. The UPRT was being held at Breda airport which is around 100km from Amsterdam and our hotel was in a town called Roosendaal which is very close to the Belgium border. After driving for 90 mins we arrived at our hotel and decided to head straight out for dinner.
The next morning we had an early start ready for our first day. The day consisted of an introduction to the training which was followed by a brief for our first flight. The brief was about 2 hours long and consisted of a lot of ground school type theory. After this I was ready to get in the aircraft (Slingsby T67 Firefly) for my first flight. The flight consisted of several different types of stalls and a few aerobatic manoeuvres (inverted flight, aileron roll and loop). Following the flight I had a debrief and a lunch break. This was then followed by a brief for our second flight which would be flown the next day.
That evening we decided to visit Roosendaal, which had a fairground throughout the whole town on an evening. After dinner I decided to do a bit of reading to get my head around the next flight then had an early night ready for another early start.
Day two followed the same format as day one without the introduction at the beginning of the day. I headed straight out into the aircraft ready to fly. As we taxied out to the runway the instructor asked me if I wanted to take-off which I took him up on! The Slingsby is a great aircraft to fly, incredibly nibble and so easy to control. As we sped off down the runway I could feel the aircraft wanted to be I the air so it didn’t take much to get it off the ground and into the air. This lesson involved more advanced stall recoveries from much more extreme situations and again concluded with a few aerobatic manoeuvres (Split-S & Cuban 8). Ad we returned to the airfield my instructor asked me if I wanted to land the aircraft, which I again said yes to! As with the take-off the aircraft felt like a dream to land. Following the flight we again briefed ready for flight 3 on day 3.
Day 3 was a slight later start and again I headed straight off into the aircraft. Once again it was my take-off and we quickly claimed out above the clouds. This flight was a bit if a summary of the previous two flights with some unusual attitude training thrown in as well. We finished the flight with a Hammerhead which is the most extreme of the aerobatic manoeuvres that I had done of the three days. We returned to the airfield and I again landed the aircraft. Once all four of us had returned we were given a souvenir photo, our completion certificate and a USB with all of the flights on video! A great reference to reflect on the training throughout my career.
The next day we had a day off so decided to spend the day in Amsterdam, which I absolutely loved!
This was followed by a few drinks in the evening and then back to the hotel to pack up ready for our flight back to London the next day.