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.
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!
This week was probably the shortest week I have had whilst studying at OAA, Monday was a bank holiday and Friday was our Visa trip to London. I would have thought with only 3 days in school the week would seem a little less intense, but I was very wrong! The school didn’t schedule us for Air Law, Ops or Mass and Balance which are the easier subjects and therefore we ended up having the 4 difficult subjects (Radio Nav, Gen Nav, Performance and Flight Planning) every day. We Also covered a massive amount in each of the subjects in a very short time.
In Gen Nav we finished looking at the polar charts and moved on to grid navigation. Grid is the final part of the ‘charts’ section of the syllabus which feels like a massive chunk of the course. We also started looking at time, which for a pilot flying round the world is quite important. In Radio Nav we finished the work on radar and moved onto DME (Distance Measuring Equipment) which is a radio aid that uses the same principles as radar. We also moved onto the FMS (Flight Management System) which we have already studied in Instruments during Phase 1. In Flight Planning we began to work our way through the Jeppesen, starting with charts. Ultimately this is very simple, however in an exam situation I can imagine finding locations on a massive map will be time consuming. Finally in Performance we finished working our way through the MEP (Multi-Engine Piston) sections of the CAP, which now leaves us with the MRJT (Medium Range Jet Transport Aeroplane).
Friday was my visa interview so I drove back to London on Thursday night. My appointment was at 9.30am so a nice easy start to the day with a typical London commute on the tube. The interview was pretty straight forward – I was only asked one question then told my application had been accepted and I will receive the visa next week. I then headed back home and decided to go shopping! The rest of the weekend was centred around studying, with the exception of going in to London on Sunday afternoon for a friends engagement drinks – you know you’re getting older when you have lots of weddings/engagement drinks happening regularly! Next week is looking pretty intense with full 7 hour days most of the week… Only 3 weeks of ground school left!
This week signalled the half way point of Phase 2 (School finals in week 10) and the end of our test 2’s. This is the point of the course where the studying needs to step up!
This week we had our test 2’s in Mass and Balance, General Navigation, Operational Procedures, Aircraft Performance and Flight Planning – all of the results are good with room to improve in almost every subject. Its really useful at this stage to see the areas that need extra work and all to see the types of question we can expect in the final exams.
The rest of the week was business as usual! In Performance we continued to look at the specific performance qualities of the single engine piston (SEP), which included lots of graph work in the CAP. In Law we started looking at the specifics of Aerodrome design, in Ops we began the rules of flying across the Atlantic – which is completely different to any other rules in aviation. In Radio Nav we kicked off the next big topic, looking at Radar, specifically ground radar and secondary surveillance radar (transponders). In Gen Nav we moved on to our second chart, the Lambert Conical Conformal – with Gen Nav you apply the same theory to every chart so this isn’t as complicated as it may seem. In Flight Planning we finished fuel planning with a quick look at the LRJT (Long Range Jet Transport – Airbus A330) and moved on to our Jeppesen route manual. The Jeppesen contains lots of maps and charts that you would use for planning a flight, although our manual is only a training resource it is still really useful to get your head around the charts I’ll be using for the rest of my life.
This week was also the end of ground school for AP359 which means we are now the most senior course in ground school and even more daunting we are the next to finish! This week also saw a few EASA re-sits and therefore everyone on my old course (AP358) have now passed ground school and will be heading to Phoenix next week – I’m not jealous…. honest!
This weekend is a bank holiday so a great opportunity to catch up on my studying and to have some time to myself away from the text books. On Friday night I had a very nice dinner with Amy and an evening of TV with all of my text books staying in my bag. Yesterday (Saturday) I worked for most of the morning/afternoon and in the evening went to the beach while the weather is still nice. During the morning I worked on my Jeppesen, familiarising myself with the layout and highlighting a few bits that will be useful int he exam. Later in the day we went to Whitstable, which is about an hour from where we live. After a really nice walk around the harbour, along the beach and through the town we went for dinner on the way home.
Today is a studying day and as I write this I have Radio Navigation questions in front of me…. looks like a fun day for me! Next week should be a nice easy week with an extra day off (study day) tomorrow and then on Friday Ill be back in London as I have an interview at the US Embassy for my visa application.