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.


Week 3: Stalling, IFR & A Lot of Hanging Around

Up until this week we have managed to get quite a bit of flying in each week…. this week was completely different!

Piper Seneca VMonday 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.

Route Oxford-BirminghamOn 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.

FGarmin 1000inally 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.

Week 9 : The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Mass & BalanceAfter 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.
ChartsBeyond 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!


Week 7: Time, Cargo & Flight Plan

MRJT PerfAnother 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!

MAN ApproachDuring 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.

Ground School LessonOutside 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!

Week 2 – Wind, NGM & Visa

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!

MAN ApproachAfter 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!).

TrainMy 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!

Week 1 – Great Circles, Propagation & Moments

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

PerformanceI 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.

Great CirlcesThis 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.

Climbing PerformanceOn 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!).


Week 11 was our final full week of Ground School Phase 1!
Oxford Aviation Academy tailpainAt the beginning of the week I was expecting a difficult week with lots of cramming, however most of the week was centred around revision. Revision sessions are always reassuring that I actually do know a lot more than I think I do.
By the end of the week we had completed the syllabus in Human Performance, Electrics, Engines, Airframe Systems, Instrumentation, Principles of Flight and Communications. That just leaves us with Meteorology! On Monday (week 12) we have been timetabled for 4 hours of Met, which will complete the syllabus and leave us with over a week of study leave before our school finals in Week 13. We have also found out that due to the new e-exams we are likely to do our finals on the Thursday/Friday instead on Tuesday/Wednesday, which gives us even more time to study!

OXFOn Thursday we had a mock Instruments exam. The main purpose of the exam was for the school to test the new e-exam system but it was incredibly useful for us to see exactly what we would score in our school finals. All in all my result was good and I have a very clear idea of what I need to do to score well in the final exams. On Friday I stayed in Oxford a bit later and picked Amy up in Swindon (on her way back from Devon). I usually don’t end up doing a lot of work on a Friday night so it was good to have 5 hours with noting else to do except study! On Saturday (yesterday), after a full day of studying Amy and I went to celebrate Frances and Jimmy’s engagement at a lovely little pub in Islington. It is always nice to have something planned for a Saturday night or I would probably spend the whole evening with my nose in a  text book!

Tomorrow (Monday) is our final day of Phase 1. As I’m only back for the morning Amy is going to come with me and then (hopefully) we will have a nice lunch with the rest of my course mates.