One part of the course at OAA that attracted me originally was the emphasis of training cadets to be a First Officer within a commercial airline environment. This week we started this training with the first of two weeks of First Officer Fundamentals (the second week happens after foundation flight training). The first week is based around flight safety, hence the week being renamed ‘Flight Safety Fundamentals’.
We started the week with an late start (13:00) with a general introduction to flight safety. This was followed by safety management systems and specifics of error reporting whilst flying at OAA. The system in place at Oxford is very much based around preventing accidents and learning from previous problems rather than assigning blame to a particular person or people. We finished the day looking at runway incursions which, surprisingly, seems to happen in aviation more often than we would like! The day finished at 15:30 giving me a whole evening to study for my Air Law re-sit.
Tuesday (and Wednesday morning) was our Bucks New University day, with lectures relating to our foundation degree. The foundation degree, in Air Transport Management and Operations, came from Bucks New University doing market research and finding airlines like pilots to have some industry awareness. Tuesday was a day of lectures finished off with a multiple choice test based on a paper about the EU-US Open Skies Policy. On Wednesday morning we were having a debate about whether a long haul low cost business model could work in the current economic climate. In order to prepare for this i met up with my group after school to do our research. On Wednesday morning we had our debate, which went very well – although I am not sure which side of the fence i fall on in regards to long haul low cost. The there half of the course had a debate on the proposed Heathrow expansion – I subject at the heart of British aviation at the moment.
After all of that fun we returned to flight safety in the afternoon looking at stabilised approaches (basically make sure the landing gear is down, you’re at the correct altitude and don’t fly too slow/fast!).
Thursday was our communication skills day lead by a SFO currently flying with British Airways. It was a day I was dreading as i usually find any kind of communication workshop can be quite cringe worthy… this was not.We looked at a major communication breakdown with an Air France crash at an airshow in the 1980’s – a great example of how not to plan a flight! We also discussed the role of a FO and what is expected of us as professional pilots (a lot of the talk was based around how to behave in Phoenix, although i think it applies to everyone). In the evening I packed up my room at Langford ready to move out on Friday – an exciting prospect after living there since January!
The week ended (on Friday) with a talk on the single pilot cockpit and a general overview of the training environment we are abut to enter. This was followed by collecting our study guides (another 2 text books), our headsets and logbooks. We finished around lunchtime so after handing over the key to my room at Langford I drove back to London for a few days of studies before my re-sit next week!
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!
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!
Another week down and another step closer to flight training! Phase 2 is incredibly short and to prove it we are now a quarter of the way through the classroom time!
After a crazy first week I felt like I had found my stride much more during this week, and it was a good job because the content was continuing to come at us thick and fast!
In Aircraft Performance we looked at the basic principles of climbing and descending and started looking at en-route performance. In Radio Navigation we continued to work through the different types of radio beacons we will use, including NDB, VOR and we started looking at ILS. In General Navigation we had a crash course in how to use our navigation computer (CRP-5), which can do almost any calculation possible! In Air Law we looked at licensing, which covers the difference between all of the pilots licenses (PPL, CPL and ATPL) and we also looked at the basic rules of the air – which takes us up to our phase 2 progress test, test 2. In Mass & Balance we looked at loading sheets, using the examples we are given in the CAP and how you can manipulate the data to have an optimum CoG position. In Flight Planning we also looked at the CAP, but this time in regards to fuel flow and endurance for a single engine piston aircraft and a multi engined piston aircraft.
This week we also had an introduction to our foundation degree which is run by Bucks New University. The 2 hour session showed us how to log on to the online service where we will submit our work over the course of the next few months. They also talked through the course structure and luckily no work is due while we are still in ground school. We also began our online visa application in preparation for our little holiday in Phoenix at the end of the year. Its exciting to get that started however phoenix still seems a long way away (its only 3 months!).
My evenings this week were taken up with studying so unfortunately no time for fun! I am really trying to stay on top of the practical parts of the course which ultimately takes up more time than anything I did in Phase 1. At the weekend I popped down to Devon, which gave me a nice change of scenery (a different desk to work at) and a nice trip to the beach!
I have just finished the first week of Phase 2 and we are already 1/8 of the way through the syllabus – they warned us phase 2 was short!
We have started 7 new subjects which, on the whole, are much more practical than the phase 1 subjects. Also in a lot of cases they seem to be the practical application of the theory we studied in phase 1. The 7 subjects are;
- Air Law
- General Navigation
- Radio Navigation
- Mass & Balance
- Flight Planning
- Aircraft Performance
- Operational Procedures
I have made sure I have hit the ground running by taking lots of notes in class and then going over them in detail on an evening. As most of this phase is practical it seems to be really important to become confident with techniques so that you can apply them quickly in the exam. After talking to people who have finished phase 2 EASA’s it seems that the biggest problem is time; unlike phase 1 it seems you use all of the allocated time in the exams.
I am really enjoying the subjects so far, possibly because it all seems much more relevant to flying.
This week we covered calculating distances using magnetism and great circle tracks in Gen Nav. In Radio Nav we looked at the basic principles of radio waves (propagation, attenuation and frequencies) as well as the first radio navigation aid, Non-Directional Beacon (NDB). In Performance we looked at the basic theory of an aircraft taking off, which included calculating the optimum take off distance from a series of variables (temperature, density, wind etc…). In Mass & Balance we started looking at the centre of gravity location of an aircraft and how this can be calculated using moments (in simple terms you turn the airlift in to a giant see-saw). In Flight Planning we looked at calculating the fuel needed for a flight, which includes contingency and fuel required to fly to alternate airports en-route. In Air Law we began to look at the 18 Annexes that make up aviation law (its a pretty dull subject). Finally is Op’s we looked at the responsibilities of the airline and the different roles that are required to legally run an airline and carry paying passengers. We have also been introduced to several Civil Aviation Publications (CAP 696 , CAP 697 & CAP 698), which contain performance data for certain aircraft. This data is used in Flight Planning, Mass and Balance and Aircraft Performance to answer specific questions in the EASA exams.
On Tuesday I went to the Red Lion for pizza night – its been a few months since I was last there. My old course, AP358, had their school finals this week so were celebrating finishing ground school on Tuesday evening – with quite a few bottles of wine…
The rest of the week was pretty uneventful. As phase 2 is so short I really want to make sure I stay on top of the work and as maths isn’t my strongest area I think it will take quite a bit of extra work for me to be at the standard I need to be at for the exams.
This weekend will be mainly taken up by work again. Its my wedding anniversary next week so before the work load really piles up we are going to have a night away on Saturday (after a morning of work!).