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.
June has been another productive month with me completing my Cross Country Qualifying flight, my final single engine progress test, my final solo flight and my last flight on the Cessna 182.
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.
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.
First day back after the christmas holidays, first flight of 2015 and first solo!
I started the day with a dual flight with my instructor, which includes 4 full circuits to make sure I am still flying safely, my instructor then jumped out of the aircraft and I went up for another circuit on my own.
What an experience it was! It felt equally exciting and terrifying to be left alone with an aircraft after I’ve only been flying for two months. Once I started to taxi away from the school line all of the nerves disappeared and I really enjoyed the rest of the flight! I should be doing lots more solo flying over the coming weeks.
Up until this week we have managed to get quite a bit of flying in each week…. this week was completely different!
Monday we had a day off due to instructor availability. I decided to drive back from London early Monday morning and pop into school of my way. It was really lucky that I did because after only being in the building for a few minutes I was asked by one of the instructors if I wanted to backseat an Instrument flight going to Birmingham. The flight was conducted under instrument flight rules all the way to Birmingham, cruising at 9000ft and joining regular commercial traffic such as Ryanair, Flybe and Turkish Airlines. We then did an ILS procedure at Birmingham which ended with a go-around and engine failure procedure. We then flew back to Oxford under visual flight rules with some general handling and stalling practice on the way. The whole flight was on one of Oxfords brand new Seneca V’s.
On Tuesday the weather was bad so we were grounded. It was a great opportunity to catch up on some of the SOP’s and our essay for the foundation degree. We decided to go out into Oxford on Tuesday evening for a burger and a cocktail… we could have stayed out all night but we were very careful to observe the 8 hour flight rules!
The weather on Wednesday was a little better in the afternoon, however as I was a lesson ahead we ran out of time before I got to fly. I did get to backseat again so at least i had some airtime. Thursday was another bad weather day so after a brief for the next flight and a lot of waiting around we decided to call it a day and head home.
Finally the weather picked up on Friday and i got to fly! This lesson was the first part of stalling. After a smooth taxi and take-off we climbed to the north east at 4,000ft to carry out our stalling drills. Stalling is a very strange thing to experience because there is a point where you have basically lost control of the aircraft. I have been told by a few people that the sign of a good pilot is one who can regain control of the aircraft with minimum height lost… hopefully I managed to achieve this to a high standard and with a bit of practice will be perfect!
Hopefully the weather next week will be much better and ill get a few more hours of flying.