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.
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.
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!