That’s it! After 2 years, 14 theory exams, 6 progress tests, 2 flying exams, 175 flight hours, 41 sim hours and 40 hours in the Boeing 737, I have finished my training at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and leave as a qualified Commercial Airline Pilot.
The final three weeks of training was the Multi-Crew (MCC)/Jet Orientation (JOC) training. This section of the course is flown int he full motion Boeing 737-400 simulator and is intended to introduce us the jet flying and operating as a two person crew (everything up until now has been flown as a single pilot).
The first week of the course is
ground school and covers crew resource management (CRM) and aircraft systems. The CRM section is relatively relaxed with lots of videos, many of which involving accidents that could have been prevented. The systems section of the week is a bit more intense, looking at the checklists, cockpit flow, quick reference handbook (QRH) and mass, balance and performance calculations. After 4 days in the classroom we are ready for our first mission in the 737.
Monday morning was an early start (as was the rest of the week) for MCC/JOC 1. Every day of the MCC/JOC course we are in the sim for 4 hours, split into two sessions. For one session you act as pilot flying and the other as pilot monitoring. The first week was mainly getting used to the aircraft with a few minor faults thrown in every now and again. Week 2 was much more in depth with full route flying with much more severe problems thrown in such as a rapid decompression and engine fires.
The two weeks of flying came and went very quickly and after an early flight on Friday 22nd January I had finished my training and graduated from CAE Oxford Aviation Academy. I have had an incredible two years which at times has been massively challenging but overall very rewarding. When I started writing this blog I intended to document my journey through my training, which is now complete. As I now begin the job hunt and secure my first position as a First Officer I will possibly keep this blog up to date through selection, type rating and initial training.
Thanks for reading!
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.
My Cross Country Qualifying (CCQ) flight was pretty exciting and I had perfect weather for the flight. In the weeks leading up to the flight i had flown dual to quite a few airports which were all options for my flight. On the day of the flight we decided I should use Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green and Exeter’s my two land away airports. I also structured the flight to make sure that it was over 300nm – which is one of the criteria of the flight. The week previous to the flight I had flown to Exeter with my instructor, however we did the instrument approach whereas for my CCQ it would be a visual approach.
I departed Oxford to the west towards the Malvern Hills, then turned north towards Wolverhampton. This leg only took 20 mins so i didn’t stop for too long once I had landed. I needed to get my paperwork signed off so i did pay a quick visit to the tower. After departing Wolverhampton I headed south towards Weymouth and then followed the coast to Exeter. I stopped in Exeter for lunch and again managed to fit in a visit to the tower. After a longer stop I took off from Exeter – just behind a Flybe Dash 8, and headed towards the east. This route took my over Glastonbury, alongside Bristol and finally over Newbury.
After my CCQ my flights were used to prepare for my PT4 which is an instrument flight. I took my PT4 last week and once again passed first time! As the flight was an instrument flight I didn’t get to look out of the window for any of it! We started with a standard instrument departure from Oxford and then a flew a small route tracking and intercepting NDB’s. We then did some partial panel flying (when I am only able to use the standby instruments), unusual attitude recoveries and stalling. We then returned to Oxford for the NDB 099 procedure for landing. This has probably been the most enjoyable progress test I have flown at Oxford and a very good introduction to what I will cover during the Instrument Rating. PT4 was also my last flight on the Cessna 182 and in the coming weeks I will be flying the Piper Seneca for the final 10 lessons before my CPL skills test.
Inbetween my CCQ and my PT4 I also had my last solo flight not only on the 182 or at Oxford but possibly ever! The flight needed to be 2 hours long and I wanted it to be a memorable flight so I chose my favourite route – down to the south coast. I few out over Abingdon and Newbury before flying over Goodwood (where I had my first ever flight). From Goodwood I few down to Brighton then along the coast to Hastings before returning to Oxford. It was a great flight and I will miss my solo adventures – although I don’t think my instructors will!
Over the past few weeks we have also been back in the classroom for First Officer Fundamentals – a course written by OAA to prepare us for the role of First Officer and getting that all important first job! FOF week normally takes place when everyone has a CPL and have just got back from Phoenix. Our course have now returned from the states so they decided to keep us together as a group. The first week was Bucks week for our foundation degree and was based around the logistics of day to day operation which includes the role of a dispatcher. This was also the week we researched and presented our Air Crash Investigation report. My group were assigned the Eastern 212 crash, where a DC-9 crashed in Charlotte, North Carolina. The investigation concluded the crash was due to the pilots lack of altitude awareness and poor cockpit discipline.
The second week of FOF was all about the role of a First Officer and tips for applying and interviewing for jobs. This section of FOF happened over three days and each day was run by a different industry ‘expert’, two were First Officers for British Airways and the third was former cabin crew for Monarch – all three now conduct interviews for many airlines through OAA. I really enjoyed these three days and I look forward to putting it all onto practice towards the end of the year when the job hunt starts!
April and May have been another two busy months with moments of frustration (at weather delays) thrown in. Due to the nature of flying in the good old British weather my training has been slightly sporadic with several flights a day in some weeks and others weeks hardly flying at all. I now have over 100 hours in my log book so not too many more to go before I sit the CPL skills test.
Following on from my second progress test I continued to practice my navigation technique flying solo sorties around the UK. These flights included trips to the Isle of Wight, Exeter and Brighton. I also had a few flights where I landed at a different airport, one of these flights was to Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green Airport. I also had a much longer navigation flight to Durham Tess Valley Airport, which is over 200 miles from Oxford. The flight was like a trip into my childhood as we flew up the east coast of the UK over many parts of Yorkshire that I grew up in. Hopefully this will be the route I will fly for my cross country qualifier in a few weeks time.
Just after my last progress test I began my night flying which ultimately will give me a night rating when I get my license at the end of the course. The night flying roughly breaks down as five hours in total; two hours dual circuits, two hours solo circuits and a one hour navigation flight. For the navigation flight we flew over north London which is an incredible sight at night. All of the London landmarks were clearly visible from the air.
The rest of my time flying has been preparing for my next progress test. PT3 mainly tests general handling with some basic instrument flying thrown in as well. I took my PT3 last week after waiting for almost a month and can happily say I passed first time!
The test started with a normal departure from Oxford to the north west. Once we were away from the airport i was asked to demonstrate a steep turn, a steep gliding turn and three types of stall each using different stages of flap. After that I was given the hood so that i couldn’t see out of the windows and asked to do some basic manoeuvres (climb, descend and rate 1 turns) using only the aircraft instruments for reference. I was then given an engine fire which turned into a practice forced landing in a field. We then headed back to Oxford and I was given a electrical failure followed by an engine failure. Finally when we got back to Oxford I was asked to demonstrate three types of landing; normal, flapless and glide. Once we had landed and shut the aircraft down I was told I had passed my PT3! The next step in my flight training will be PT4 which is an instrument flight and my cross country qualifier, both of which I hope to do within the next few weeks.
Outside of the course we have done quite a few things as a group including many nights out in Oxford, a trip to Thorpe Park and a trip back to Chequers Smoke House in Whitney. Chequers is the restaurant we went to at the beginning of our flight training to try the burger challenge, this time it was a hot dog challenge! Once again I was well and truly beaten by the share amount of food put in front of me.
Over the bank holiday weekend I went to the Bournemouth Air Museum, which is a great day out for any aviation fanatic. The museum has several general aviation, commercial aviation and military aircraft, most of which you can sit inside. The museum is run by volunteers and you can really see just how passionate they all are about aviation.