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.
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.
My last blog post was in January just after my first solo flight – a lot has happened since then!
I passed my next progress test and I am now flying solo cross country flights around the UK, I have temporarily moved out of my London house to a house in Abingdon (South Oxfordshire) and the biggest news is that I am now a Dad!
Not long after writing my last post my daughter, Millie, was born which lead me to take a few weeks away from my flying training. I don’t really like to use this blog to talk too much about my personal life so all I will say is that Millie continues to brighten our day and it is a pleasure to come home from the amazing experiences of flying to the equally amazing experiences of being a parent.
When I returned to Oxford after a few weeks getting used to being a Dad I started with a few additional hours to get myself back to the solo standard I was at before I left. The weather at the start of February was pretty bad so it actually took a bit longer than I thought it would to get me back on track. After the additional training and a few more hours in the circuit I started navigation and preparing for the next progress test. Navigation exercises use a lot of the theory we used in General Navigation in ground school combined with the general handling we did early on in our flight training.
After around 5 navigation flights with my instructor i was put in for the next progress test to asses whether I am able to fly navigation sorties solo. For the progress test (which I did on my birthday in March!) I had the usual preflight briefing of weather, mass & balance and general information about the aircraft. We then departed Oxford and headed to the north West towards Ludlow. The examiner didn’t give me anymore information about the flight beyond Ludlow so this was as much as I had prepared. Once we approached Ludlow I was told to divert to Newent and then to carry out a further diversion to Gloucester airport where we would carry out a touch-and -go and then head back towards Oxford. On the way back we simulated an engine fire which turned into a practice forced landing drill and was followed by an engine failure after take-off. I was also asked to use the radio beacons around us to provide a position fix on my way back to the airfield. Once we landed I was told I had passed but there were a few minor points that needed work (the same is said to most people after a progress test).
Since this test I have been doing quite a lot of solo navigation including trips to the Bristol Channel, Brighton and The Wash (near Norwich). I have also been doing dual instrument flights, which cover quite a bit of the material covered during the instrument rating.
The next step of my training will be night flying and PT3.
Not a massive amount to report on this week as it has been relatively uneventful.
The beginning of the week I was preparing for my EASA resit which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon at 4pm, that left me with almost an entire week to make sure I was as prepared as I could be for it. I drove to Oxford early in morning and worked solidly in the quiet study room until it was time for my exam. The exam seemed to go well and I received my result early Friday morning – a pass! That means I have now passed all 14 of my EASA ATPL theory exams and can’t start the fun bit of training – the flying!
We already have a (rough) schedule for next week which includes pre-flight briefings and checks on Monday and then starting the flying on Tuesday.
“Man must rise above the Earth—to the top of the atmosphere and beyond—for only thus will he fully understand the world in which he lives.” — Socrates
After exactly 8 months of sitting in a classroom for 7 hours a day we have finally reached the end of phase 2 and more importantly the end of ground school! All that is left now is our week of EASA exams followed by a week of flight safety training then we are ready to fly out to Phoenix and actually start flying!
Although this week has been short (hence writing this on a Thursday) it has been quite intense. We have had our school finals, which are pretty much mock exams, which you have to pass to be submitted for the EASAs next month. The timetable was much more intense than it is in the EASA exams as we did all 7 subjects over 2 days instead of 4.
All in all the exams went smoothly and more than anything it was useful to see just how little time you have in some of the more involved exams like Gen Nav and Flight Planning. We received our results early Tuesday evening and I was pleasantly surprised to see I had passed them all with an 86% average! Knowing I had passed them all and wouldn’t need to re-sit meant I would enjoy our course night out much more.
That night we went into Kidlington for Tuesday night pizza and a ‘few’ drinks. After a few hours we thought it would be a good idea to go on a night out in Oxford – you don’t get to do that often during ground school! After a great night I got back to Langford Hall at 3am worrying about how fragile I would be for our final day on Wednesday.
Its tradition at OAA to dress up for your final day of ground school which, as you can see from the photo above, we all did pretty well! I was dressed as Biggles, a fictional pilot from the 1930’s. The costume came complete with hat, goggles and a scarf that actually flew when I stood outside in the wind.
We made sure that we really took the opportunity to thank all of the instructors that we have had teach us over the entire course. During lunch all 26 of us piled into the instructors office to give them cards and wine – I gave mine to Paul Hardie, the deputy chief ground instructor who taught us for parts of Flight Planning and Gen Nav and also really helped me out with the re-sits at the end of Phase 1.
All of the instructors really seemed to be touched by the gifts and I can imagine they had a great party once we left!
Today (Thursday) I am still in Oxford as I have to renew my medical later this afternoon then I’ll be heading back to London to start my 10 days of study leave!
Another week done and another step closer to exams! This week has been pretty intense as we charge towards the end of phase 2. Over the week we finished all but one subject with only revision left before we sit our school finals. Once again the workload stepped up a notch this week and I have started to feel more and more tired as the week progressed – looking forward to a week off in 5 weeks time!
This week in Performance we finished looking at the specific performance aspects of the medium range jet, focusing on the descent and landing stages. In Gen Nav we have mainly been doing revision with a practice exam paper thrown in on Thursday. The content of the Gen Nav exam is pretty straight forward (as long as you know the techniques), the difficulty is in answering all of the questions in the allocated time! In Radio Nav we studied GPS, which was the final segment of the syllabus.
In Law we did 5 practice papers, which is really useful as you get to see which questions appear regularly. In Flight Planning we finished the flight plan and also looked at point of equal time and point of safe return. Both PET and PSR seem difficult at first but with a bit of practice are actually straight forward. In Mass and Balance we looked at the load sheet which is probably the most relevant part of the subject and the piece of paperwork ill be using everyday of my flying career. As we have finished everything (except for a few hours of Mass and Balance) we were hoping for some study leave next week, however the school have scheduled us for a full week – 7 hours a day!
On Friday night I won tickets to go and see Elbow perform at the Camden Roundhouse as part of the iTunes festival. They were incredible! The band were supported by Nick Mulvey, who I wasn’t as familiar with, but he was also brilliant. The whole evening was a great way to keep my mind off of the looming exams and have a well deserved evening off!
The rest of the weekend is revolving around work… today (Saturday) I have concentrated on Performance, Gen Nav and Law and tomorrow ill be working on Radio Nav and a bit more Gen Nav. Only one week of teaching to go!