April/May; Nights, Long Navigation & Another Progress Test

GMPLB Wolverhampton 1

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.

GMPLB Wolverhampton 1Following 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.

10982143_10152742896287117_8009524947476593966_nJust 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!

FullSizeRender-3The 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.

FullSizeRender-2Outside 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.

FullSizeRender-1Over 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.


February/March 2015; Solo Navigation, Progress Tests & A New Addition

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!

Millie 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. PT2The 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. CountrysideOnce 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).

South CoastSince 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.

Week 10: The End of Ground School


RevisionAfter 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.
IMG_1386All 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.

BigglesIts 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.
AP360 - instructorsAll 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!


AP360 Jump

Week 6 – Test 1

It has been another straight forward week at COAA. This week we had our first progress exams, Test 1.

Late night revisionThe tests monitor our progress over the first 5 weeks to see if we are heading in the right direction. Overall I did OK in the exams with two not going so well! After debriefing each subject it is clear where I need to put in the extra work. All-in-all it is a positive process!
I have now registered for an online question bank which will help me with my revision and also get me used to the types of questions I will get in my EASA exams in May.

We all decided to go for a few drinks on Wednesday evening following our final exam. It was a great evening and a nice opportunity for the whole course to get together without having revision looming over us. On Thursday it was happy hour at school; an opportunity for us to welcome the new course and a celebration for the two courses that had just finished exams.

Birthday CardMonday was my birthday – a great week for a birthday! The class got me a card and a birthday cake. We didn’t eat the cake until Wednesday night once exams were over and we could truly enjoy it!

The work continues next week as we continue with the subjects we started before Test 1’s with the addition of AC Electrics and Gas Turbine Engines.

Skills Assesment

In order to gain a place at Oxford Aviation Academy I had to take part in a two day assessment to determine my suitability for the course and a life as an airline pilot. Here is a account of my two days;

Tuesday 6th August 2013

The day started at 8.30am at Oxford Aviation Academy’s  home at Oxford Airport in Kidlington. After a quick registration I met the other four candidates who were also applying for a place on the course. We were all lead upstairs and given a brief talk about OAA and the Skills Assessment process. The talk was very informal and made us all feel much more relaxed about the daunting two days ahead.
My first task was the C.O.M.P.A.S.S test, the section I had been most worried about. The test is all computer based and tests a basic understanding of maths, physics and aptitude. The first section of this test is aptitude, which is split into five tests;

Image Slalom

In this test you have to keep the plane within a given boundary using a joystick for 90 seconds. This test is repeated 3 times.



Flight Control

This tests hand-eye-foot coordination. We had to keep the dial on ‘0’ using a joystick whilst keeping the ball between the two white lines using rudder pedals.


rsz_medium29 Bearings

In this test we were given 3 aircraft instruments, giving you the aircraft’s altitude and position in physical space. You then, using this information, had to say which of the four aircraft bellow matched the instruments.


In this test we were given four pieces of information for a flight; Altitude (36,500), Heading (055), Speed (320) and Radio Frequency (122.55). The information was displayed for 10 seconds, after that time it disappeared and we had to recall as much information as we could. This test was repeated with different information for two minutes.


During this test we were constantly receiving information about the aircraft’s Altitude, Heading and Speed which we had to input into the primary flight display using the arrow keys and numeric keypad. At the same time warming lights would appear on the screen that we would have to extinguish within seconds.

Following this section was the maths test, 24 questions in 20 minutes all approximate to G.C.S.E standard. this was then followed by the technical test, which is made up of Maths, general science and mechanics questions. The technical test consisted of 15 questions. The C.O.M.P.A.S.S test concludes with a psychometric profiling, 250 questions which are meant to give an indication of your personality.

After a short lunch we moved on the second section of the day, the simulator test. In the this section we had to fly a simple 45 minute flight in Oxford’s CRJ-200 simulator. This test took in all of the basics of flight control with some fun thrown in at the end – I actually got to perform a barrel roll!
The first day concluded with a quick talk on course financing if we were to be accepted…. Fun!

Wednesday 7th August 2013

The second day started a little later as some of the group had an early interview slot – mine was scheduled for after lunch, the last one of the day!
My first activity was the team building exercises. In the first one we were given a map and were told we were stranded and had to find our way to a rendezvous point within a set amount of time. Each member of the group were given two cards each with clues as to how we would achieve this goal. In the second exercise we were given a box full of wooden blocks and rods and had to build a bridge that would support a glass of water. We finished both exercises and felt very confident leaving the room.
After lunch I had my interview with two people from British Airways. I must admit this was the hardest part for the day for me. I felt like I was on an episode of The Apprentice, being questioned about why I want to become a pilot, what I have done to help me prepare for the training and why i had left it until i was 27 to apply.

After the gruelling interview I waited for my debrief, which was the longest hour of my life! During the debrief I was told I had performed really well in all areas, including getting full marks on the team building exercises. Unfortunately I was one mark short of a pass on the technical test and was asked to come back after a few week for a resit.
It was disappointing to have come so far to fall at one hurdle, however in hindsight I think it was a good think. Ground School is such an intense part of the training process it is important to have the correct level of knowledge before starting at OAA.

1st October 2013

After a few weeks of revising I went back to Oxford to resit the technical test. The test was incredibly short (only 10 minutes) and felt much more familiar than the previous test. This was followed by a debrief.
As soon as I walked into the room for my debrief i was told I had been successful and officially offered a place on the course. It was such a  relief to know all of the hard work had paid off!
After the debrief I met with one of the airline managers at Oxford who took my through the course structure and made a provisional booking to start in January.

The next step on my road to an ATPL is to get my Class 1 Medical and arrange the course finance before I start…. still a long way to go!