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.
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!
After possibly the most intense 8 months of my life I am finally reaching the end of ground school. This week was the final teaching week of phase 2 which means next week we will start our final exams. As we had finished most of the syllabus the week was centred around revision (as well as finishing mass & balance).
In Performance and Flight Planning we worked through a few practice tests, which gives a great indication as to the work that needs to be done before the EASA exams in a few weeks. In every other subject it was a case of focusing on the weakest areas ready for next weeks school finals.
Beyond studying this week not a lot else has happened. I am hoping that once the exams are finished I will have a life again! Over the weekend I have tried to devote a bit of time to each subject, however with only a few days it has been quite difficult!
The schedule for next week is pretty intense with all 7 exams being sat between Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday we will have our last day of ground school – it is tradition to wear fancy dress for the last day. Im sure I will have an interesting picture of the last day in my next post!
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!
Another week of living the dream is complete! I have reached a point in the training where I have well and truly ‘hit the wall’ and I have to remind myself why I am putting myself through the ground school training. When I think of how many people (me included) have a childhood dream of becoming a pilot and then think of the pain we are going through at the moment, studying over 12 hours a day and constantly having new material thrown at us, it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Although it is difficult the light is starting to appear…. with only 2 weeks left of ground school teaching, 4 weeks until our EASA exams and only 7 weeks until we fly to Phoenix to start the exciting parts of the training!
During the week we also finished a few subjects, which is quite scary because it means we are close to exams! We finished Air Law and started to look at a few past exam papers… putting the whole syllabus in perspective. In Gen Nav we finished looking at time and time zone calculations, which was the final chapter of the syllabus! In Ops we finished looking at special procedures which includes bird strikes, security and ditching – again this brought us to the end of the syllabus. In flight planning we finished the charts section of the Jeppesen, which now only leaves us with flight plans and a few little bits before we finish. In Performance we continued looking at the specifics of the jet transport aircraft, in particular the take-off and climb segments of flight. In mass and balance we looked at cargo loading and how this can affect the aerodynamics of the aircraft.
Outside of class the workload has ramped up again and I have created myself a revision schedule to focus my attention each evening and make sure each subject is given the time it needs.
Next week is the penultimate week of classroom studies before things are going to get a bit more exciting!
We are only 4 weeks into Phase 2 and the exams have started! This week we had Test 2’s (progress tests) in both Radio Nav and Law. Although it is important to perform well in these test they are actually used as an indicator of what you need to focus on going forward. Also, for certain exams, it give you a good indication of how the questions and presented in the EASA exams and how accurate you need to be with calculations and the (many) graphs. Both exams went smoothly and I am performing exactly how I want to be in both subjects but with room for improvement.
The rest of the week was either continuing the syllabus or going over what we have covered so far in revision sessions. In Gen Nav we looked at the Mercator Chart, which is one of four charts we look at. This includes looking at how the chart is constructed, its scale and basic navigation techniques. In Performance we finished the general principles section of the course, looking specifically at landing. This included looking at factors that effect the lading such as weather, runway surface and runway contamination (i.e. water!). In Mass and Balance we looked at the legal side of the subject, which includes the laws on how much luggage you can take on board and how you determine the weight of passengers. In Flight Planning we finished the MRJT section of the CAP, looking at non-standard flying, including with an engine inoperative or with the landing gear in place.We didn’t cover anything new in Law or Radio Nav due the exam and the debrief that follows.
This week I was a little bit more sociable then i have been over previous weeks; on Wednesday I went up to Upper Heyford for a game of Tennis and on Thursday I went to Newbury to see Fred and Kat fresh from honeymoon!
The weekend was full of revision, however i did manage to take Saturday evening off and me and Amy went to the Canary Wharf Jazz Festival and had a nice dinner out.
Next week I have another 4 test 2’s including Gen Nav, Flight Planning, Ops and Mass and Balance…. the fun doesn’t stop at OAA!
“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
Here we go, the week my whole training has been building towards – Phase One EASA exams.
As this is the second time I had sat these exams I felt much more confident at the beginning of the week than I had for the previous exams. I already knew the process and what to expect when sitting the exams which relieved some of the fear of the ‘unknown’ (it didn’t relieve any of the pressure though!).
My schedule for the week was much nicer than the previous sitting as well:
Monday 7th July – Aircraft General Knowledge (Systems/Electrics/Engines)
Tuesday 8th July – Instrumentation
Wednesday 9th July – Principles of Flight
Thursday 10th July – Meteorology
Most of the exams were at either 11.30am or 1.30pm which gave me more than enough time to go through some last minute notes before I went in. All in all I found the exams much better than the last time I sat them which I think was from a mixture of sitting in more classes and generally being more confident with the subject matter.
After my last exam on Thursday I drove back to London for the long agonising wait for results. Results were due out on Friday (11th July) and true to form the CAA maintained the pressure all day by drip feeding the results one by one with over an hour between some results. By about 2.30pm I had my final result and I can happily say that i will be progressing into Phase 2 with an average score of 86%. It is such a relief to know that I don’t have look at any of these subjects over the next few months and I can now move on to do something completely different.
Saturday was Oxford’s family day to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the company. I went along with Amy to show her around the school. Now I am on leave for the next week – I am planning a relatively relaxed week catching up with as many family and friends as possible.