That’s it! After 2 years, 14 theory exams, 6 progress tests, 2 flying exams, 175 flight hours, 41 sim hours and 40 hours in the Boeing 737, I have finished my training at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy and leave as a qualified Commercial Airline Pilot.
The final three weeks of training was the Multi-Crew (MCC)/Jet Orientation (JOC) training. This section of the course is flown int he full motion Boeing 737-400 simulator and is intended to introduce us the jet flying and operating as a two person crew (everything up until now has been flown as a single pilot).
The first week of the course is
ground school and covers crew resource management (CRM) and aircraft systems. The CRM section is relatively relaxed with lots of videos, many of which involving accidents that could have been prevented. The systems section of the week is a bit more intense, looking at the checklists, cockpit flow, quick reference handbook (QRH) and mass, balance and performance calculations. After 4 days in the classroom we are ready for our first mission in the 737.
Monday morning was an early start (as was the rest of the week) for MCC/JOC 1. Every day of the MCC/JOC course we are in the sim for 4 hours, split into two sessions. For one session you act as pilot flying and the other as pilot monitoring. The first week was mainly getting used to the aircraft with a few minor faults thrown in every now and again. Week 2 was much more in depth with full route flying with much more severe problems thrown in such as a rapid decompression and engine fires.
The two weeks of flying came and went very quickly and after an early flight on Friday 22nd January I had finished my training and graduated from CAE Oxford Aviation Academy. I have had an incredible two years which at times has been massively challenging but overall very rewarding. When I started writing this blog I intended to document my journey through my training, which is now complete. As I now begin the job hunt and secure my first position as a First Officer I will possibly keep this blog up to date through selection, type rating and initial training.
Thanks for reading!
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!
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!
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!
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!