Commercial Pilot!

It’s been a long time coming, over a year of CPL training and nearly 150 hours of flying later, I finally have my Commercial Pilot’s Licence! An incredible feeling and one I have been eagerly anticipating since I started my training.

18/11/2019 | Commercial Pilot’s Licence | G-CTCE

Having been sat on the ground waiting for the poor UK weather to pass, the cloud finally broke and I was able to complete my test on Monday 18th November at L3’s UK base in Cranfield. The test was completed in a Diamond DA42 (G-CTCE) and consists of 6 main sections:

  1. Pre flight operations and departure
  2. General airwork: Stalls, steep turns, position fixing, intercepting and tracking radials
  3. Enroute navigation and diversion
  4. Approach and landing procedures
  5. Abnormal and emergency procedures
  6. Simulated asymmetric flight

The CPL test is designed to cover the practical side of the course on a multi engine aircraft in VFR conditions. On successful completion of the test, we move onto flying under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) and begin to revise the published departure, holding, enroute and arrival procedures associated with it. I found the transition from VFR navigation in the middle of the desert to the green UK landscape quite a challenge, however with a number of CPL profiles and back seating numerous other cadets fights, I built confidence and managed to pass the CPL at the first attempt.

The test flew by (pardon the pun) and before I knew it my examiner was shaking my hand and congratulating me on passing. I felt more relief that anything as the weight was lifted off my shoulders and I could finally set my mind on the Instrument Rating which I started on 2nd December 2019 in Cork, Ireland with Atlantic Flight Training Academy.

At the end of September I also completed my Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) with CRM Aviation which was incredible. Putting the aircraft into unusual attitudes feels so unnatural but its an overwhelming adrenaline-filling activity.

Only one registration for the job…

Since passing my test, I have enjoyed some down time at home with friends and family but am now situated in Cork for the Instrument Rating and am a number of events into the syllabus. It finally starts to feel like things are beginning to move and the end is nearly in sight ready for the job hunt to start in the early part of 2020.

Thanks for all your support on this long journey!

Heading back home…

My time in the United Arab Emirates has finally come to an end and my training here is now finished. This almost marks the end of my CPL training as upon my return to the UK I will complete the remaining flights before sitting my CPL Skills Test.

Living in the UAE for 11 months has been a huge experience and learning curve. The challenges faced have been different to those experienced during Ground School. Infrequent flying rates, weather cancellations (although not too many!) and a stand down period have been testing. However the feeling of achievement overrides the negatives. Learning to fly has been everything I thought and more, and being able to experience it in the middle of the desert is something I never thought would happen. Here are some top moments during my time in the United Arab Emirates…

Tallest building in the world – Burj Khalifa
A day I’ll never forget, my first solo in A6-FTK!
PT1 passed which signified the end of my foundation phase of training…
Getting to grips with the Diamond and how a twin engine handles.
Probably my favourite picture since moving to the UAE last October!
Finishing my training in the United Arab Emirates, PT2 completed.
Surrounded by sand…
The most incredible Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Although living in the UAE has been a wonderful experience and one I will never forget, the home comforts are something I’m extremely looking forward to – namely pork and beer. A brilliant beginning to the practical side of my journey to becoming a pilot and one I have thoroughly enjoyed. Thanks UAE!

Foundation Phase Complete!

On Saturday 8th June 2019 I passed my first flight test, which signifies the end of my Foundation Phase of training flying the Cessna 172. The test is designed to evaluate the skills we have been taught from the previous 52 lessons to ensure we can perform the basic flight manoeuvres, navigation skills and emergency procedures to a high standard in order to continue our training to the Wings Module, where we begin training under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). The test, known as PT1, is an opportunity for us to demonstrate our skills to the instructor in order for us to progress onto the Diamond DA42 for twin engine instrument flights. The test included:

  • Stalls (clean, base to final, final approach)
  • Practised Forced Landings (PFL’s)
  • Slow Flight (clean, full flap)
  • Steep Turns ( ≥45˚) and Medium Turns ( ≥30˚)
  • Unusual Attitude Recovery (UPT)
  • Basics: climbing, descending, lookout
  • Navigation Techniques: Standard Correction Angle (SCA), feature identification, ETA amendments, groundspeed calculation
  • Departure and approach

With over 45 hours of solo flight time practising these manoeuvres and skills, I was confident that I was able to reach the required standard to pass, and so I did! Although only a check of our progress, I was apprehensive as to how I would feel operating under increased pressure in an aircraft for the first time – I treated it as a normal flight and was pleased with my performance and ultimately, the outcome.

Up to this point, all my flights have been on the single engine Cessna 172 – an aircraft which I have thoroughly enjoyed learning to fly. Moving onto the twin also sees a change in aircraft build, the Diamond has a low wing compared to the Cessna’s high wing design as well as a high t-tail – a design prone to deep stalls which are difficult to recover from.

Saturday 8th June – Passing my first flight test, PT1!

The past week has been busy, with preparation for PT1 as well as covering the required initial briefings for the Diamond DA42 and the specific IFR procedures we will begin to learn in the simulator. These include VOR and ILS approaches, hold procedures and the rules of the air when flying IFR. In total, we have had 16 hours of briefings, with more to come in the not so distant future that focus on the Diamond’s systems – such as the fuel and landing gear system. As this is the aircraft that I will complete both my CPL and IR skills test on, I want to ensure I have the required knowledge and confidence to answer all possible questions the examiner may throw at me. From what I have seen already, the aircraft bears some similar characteristics to the Cessna, however I am sure handling a twin engine aircraft with one engine inoperative (OEI) will increase the workload a little…

Diamond DA42 Cockpit

For now my attention turns to learning the flows and procedures associated with the Diamond DA42, something which I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and feel free to message me with any questions you may have! Thanks for reading.

May Training Update!

It’s been quite a while since I last made a blog post on my training and what I’ve been up to. I am currently 10 flights off my first flight test, referred to as PT1 (Progress Test 1). PT1 will involve a recap and test on everything we have covered so far, that includes stalls, PFL’s, circuits, navigation skills and techniques as well as emergency procedures. So fingers crossed that all goes to plan! Once PT1 has been completed our attention turns to learning the ins and outs of the Diamond DA42 Twinstar as we move onto the ‘Wings Module’ section of the training course. I’m really looking forward to learning and getting my hands on the DA42 – most notably due to the fact its got two engines not one!

We have recently been completing a number of solo flights, mainly navigation and general handling to practise the sections involved in PT1. I will soon complete my Qualifying Cross Country (QXC) flight which involves flying to 3 different airports, completing over 300nm with a flight time of around 4 hours – the route will be from Al Ain to Fujairah and then Ras al Khaimah and back. Something to definitely look forward to. To become familiar with the route, I have completed a few solo flights to Fujairah, an airport on the East cost of the United Arab Emirates. See below for a beautiful sunrise!

Fujairah Sunrise!

Other than flying we have been enjoying days off relaxing, visiting Dubai a couple of times and chilling round the pool – although temperatures are now up to the low 40’s so I tend to take the shade! I also flew home for a week in April to celebrate my birthday and have some quality time with the girlfriend, family and friends! It provided me with some well needed motivation to push on and get the course finished as soon as possible.

Beach walks back home in Poole!

On my flight back to the United Arab Emirates I flew on the 787 Dreamliner for the first time. It was a really nice aircraft with an ultra modern looking cockpit – however due to its size, I think I’d prefer to fly the A380 which I flew on the way to the UK!

Boeing 787 Dreamliner cockpit…featuring me!

Our new amended schedule also means I will be completing my Instrument Rating in Bournemouth as well as finishing our CPL there. Due to the UK CAA not allowing our CPL test to be conducted in the UAE, L3 have placed us in the UK for both the CPL Skills Test and the entirety of the IR. It’s quite handy as my family home is in Poole, just 20 minutes from Bournemouth Airport.

That’s all for now, hopefully I can update again soon with news on both my QXC and PT1. Thanks for reading and give me an email if you have any questions!

How to become an airline pilot!

The selection is rigorous, the process is demanding and the course is overwhelming. In this post, I try to give you everything I wish I knew before joining L3 Airline Academy as well as my best advice.

Choosing the right school and programme! 

So many training organisations and independent flight schools offer the same product so it can be hard to determine who to choose for your training and why. Whether it be their airline links, facilities or training locations, each establishment has its benefits and drawbacks. When choosing my flight school, I visited and researched all of my available options. Some I disregarded straight away, others it was difficult to determine what they could offer me in comparison to other flight schools – I wanted somewhere that was going to be right for me and help me gain quality training into an airline.

 

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L3 offered an intense training course with high quality facilities such as new generation aircraft and state of the art in house simulators. When I completed my selection day, it was still known as CTC Aviation – they ensured a very personal touch and really seemed to care about the individual.

Integrated or modular? 

Before beginning my journey with L3, I researched heavily into the modular training programmes and the benefits they have over the integrated course. They tend to be cheaper, you choose where you want to complete ground school and your flight training. In that regard, you could make your training exactly what you want it to be. However, I chose the integrated course as it offered me the quickest route to the flight deck, something which I was conscience of as I want to get into the right hand seat as quickly as possible. The knowledge that L3 had unrivalled airline placement statistics instilled confidence in me that I had made the best choice for my training.

ATPL or MPL? 

At the time of applying this question never really crossed my mind. MPL’s have been designed by the airlines for the airlines – it allows them to get their standard procedures into their cadets much sooner in training as well as allowing you to work with future colleagues during training. Flight schools don’t offer a non-airline specific MPL course, hence why the L3 Integrated ATPL Whitetail course is so popular. The term “whitetail” simply means the cadet is not sponsored or part of an airline training programme and will apply for jobs on completion of training.

I chose the Whitetail course as I wanted choice over my first airline. However, after entering the industry and realsiing that most accept any airline job offer that comes their way, I wish I had done some more research into the MPL routes their airlines had to offer. Other than that, there is not much choice on ATPL or MPL as I stated above due to schools not offering a non-airline specific MPL course.

Finances 

The dreaded question: how much does it cost to be a pilot? Integrated routes are known to be extremely efficient, however they come with a much larger price tag than a modular route. In some cases, integrated routes can be nearly twice as expensive. L3’s Integrated ATPL Course costs £96,800, not including type rating – however airline MPL programmes can cost just shy of £130,000. Banks and training organisations have some solutions to help overcome funding issues – L3 have a unique package which allows those who cannot afford to train to be a pilot gain access to the funds required, you can read about that here: https://www.l3airlineacademy.com/become-a-pilot/finance/optimum-credit-pilot-funding.

This question is best answered based on your personal situation and what you deem to be the most economically viable option for yourself. That, weighed up with everything else should leave you with an answer as to which training organisation is the best fit for you.

Additional Costs

This is certainly something I wish I had thought about more before joining. Additional costs may be low in cost, but they come in their plentiful, below is a list of the items not included in the training cost:

  • Selection fees
  • Class 1 Medical (Initial and yearly renewal) and any additional required tests
    • Initial: Approximately £550.
    • Renewals: Approximately £115 – I complete mine with Aviation Medicals Wessex, they provide a 25% discount as an L3 student pilot, the link to their website is here: https://aviationmedicalswessex.co.uk/.

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  • Insurance (Travel, loss of license, medical)
    • Provided by Finch Group Insurance Brokers.
  • Living costs
  • Additional uniform and equipment – L3 require an iPad for their programmes
  • Exam costs and resists if required (if course doesn’t include them)

I hope this gives you an insight and helps you decide on your path to becoming an airline pilot. I’ve included a contact form below if you have any more questions or feel free to message me privately on any of my social media accounts. Stay tuned for future posts!

A day in the life (flight training)…

This blog post will be written based on my experiences with Etihad Aviation Training/L3 Airline Academy at their Al Ain training location in the United Arab Emirates. L3 are currently utilising Etihad’s facilities to ensure they maintain an adequate number of flight training positions for their cadets worldwide.

A typical flight day usually begins quite early, however this depends on the slot times that Etihad have on the day. Sometimes wake up’s can be as early as 3am, or, if you’re lucky, as late as 12pm. I tend to ensure all my preparation for the flight is done the evening before so I can be certain of a good, stress-free night sleep. This includes: completing the relevant mass and balance, practicing flows and procedures, and ensuring I have all the necessary equipment in my flight bag. Although there isn’t much to prepare for except from the above, it allows me to feel prepared and ready for the flight the following day.

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Here is an outline of what a typical day in Al Ain can look like:

  • 03:00 – Wake up and get ready for the day. This includes getting myself ready and double-checking I have all the relevant and necessary items that I need to complete the flight. I usually give myself 45 minutes to 1 hour to ensure I am not rushed.
  • 04:00 – Depart for Al Ain International Airport. The airport is located 30 minutes away from our accommodation in Green Mubazzarah and Etihad’s stipulations require us to arrive at the airport 30 minutes before our scheduled briefing time to allow us to complete the walk around and ensure all relevant documents such as the mass and balance and solo authorisation forms have been completed properly.
  • 04:30 – Check in with operations at Etihad.
  • 05:00 – Briefing with the instructor on the lesson plan and outline the key parts of what to expect. This is done in coordination with L3’s Training Manual to ensure our training is completed correctly. The lesson has a mission number, such as FM008 and its relevant information such as prerequisites, duration of flight and type of flight e.g. dual or solo.
  • 06:00 – Briefings are usually scheduled 1 hour before take-off time, which of course depends on sunrise times. Most lessons are scheduled to be 1 hour long, however some are less and some are more.
  • 07:15 – After returning to the airport after the flight and having a short rest period, the instructor and student debrief to reflect on the flight. This tends to include whether the flight met expectations, how the student felt throughout as well as the instructors thoughts. The flight is then graded depending on performance and comments are made as to whether or not any elements of the flights must be repeated.
  • 07:30 – Debrief done and its time to head home. Depending on delays and cancellations etc, the entire flight including briefs can last as long as 8 or 9 hours – however if all runs smoothly I can be back in bed for 9am!

Although the flight doesn’t last awfully long, it is extremely intense and therefore I tend to be exhausted after its completion. Depending on the time, I asses whether or not it’s worth me heading back to bed for a few hours or not. If not, I take some time to just relax for the next flight. Preparation is key!

I hope this has given you an insight in what you can expect as an L3 cadet undertaking their flight training with Etihad Aviation Training.

My first solo!

I am elated to be writing this blog post. It feels like it has been a long time coming as we have been out in the United Arab Emirates completing our flight training for 12 weeks now; but with just 11.7 hours under my belt I have gone solo!

Al Ain International Airport, 04/01/2019, A6-FTK

Listen to my solo congratulations from ATC here: https://1drv.ms/u/s!AtqoIx8qKf40iSuwyb2Tuz7RtxgA!

Having been cancelled the day before due to solo crosswind limitations being exceeded, I completed my first solo check on 04/01/2019 followed by my first solo circuit which lasted all of 24 minutes! I felt this week was the perfect time for me to go solo, I had flown every day leading up to it and felt very confident in previous lessons.

My first lessons of circuits were certainly challenging. I found there was so much to do in such a small space of time: flows, checklists, radio communications…breathing! However I would certainly say my confidence and ability grew throughout each of my circuit lessons. The instructor introduced and practised flapless and glide approaches as well as aborted take offs and engine failures after take off – known as EFATO! Although these are all situations I wish to never be in during my career, its so important to know how to deal with these situations if they do arise. After becoming more confident in my circuits and approaches I began to enjoy them more and couldn’t wait to go solo.

On the day of my solo it was still touch and go whether or not I would be allowed to fly due to winds again. However when the METAR came out at 0700, my instructor had no hesitations to at least give it a try. After completing my solo check, consisting of 3 circuits, I dropped my instructor off and was given the all clear to head back into the air, but this time alone. The time flew by and before I knew it I was back on the ground, completely overwhelmed by the whole experience. This certainly feels like one of my biggest achievements so far on my journey to the flight deck.

The solo wouldn’t be complete without the traditional “solo dunking”, which as I’m sure you can imagine is quite welcome out in the desert heat. My instructors didn’t hold back on grabbing the hoses. I was very pleased to be able to share my dunking with 2 fellow cadets, Calvin and Darryl who also went solo just an hour after me. It certainly feels like we are moving in the right direction to getting our CPL!

I sit here writing this with another solo lesson planned for tomorrow, hoping that I can manage to get another hour alone in the skies if the weather allows me!

Thanks for reading.

My L3 selection tips!

Selection can be somewhat difficult to prepare for – you don’t know what to expect, how difficult it will be and you’ll be super nervous. Do not fret, my selection day with L3 Airline Academy was very relaxed and they were very welcoming.

The day is typically split into 2, the technical and non-technical skills areas. Here is what they consist of:

Technical: PILAPT and Maths Test

PILAPT – Perhaps the part of the day I was most nervous for. Having read many blogs online on what to expect, I can say that it surpassed all of those feelings I had anticipated. I would highly recommend using SKYTEST (https://www.skytest.com) for practising anything and everything PILAPT; without this I wouldn’t have passed. PILAPT tested on 6 areas, mainly concentrating on areas which required focus and concentration as well as testing your capacity and speed at which you can monitor and complete tasks. The tasks seemed to get harder as they went on, however SKYTEST prepared me brilliantly for it as they were almost identical tasks. The examiners on the day even said that Captains of airlines still fail the test to this day – so don’t feel too hard on yourself if you don’t manage it first time.

Maths – I found this relatively straight forward having just done both GCSE and A Level Mathematics. For those who haven’t studied maths for a number of years, my tip would be to study the basics such as: long division and multiplication, conversions between fuel and currencies and speed, distance and time calculations. There was nothing in the 15 questions which necessarily throws you off, its just the time limit. 15 questions in 15 minutes can feel somewhat stressful.

Non-technical: Individual Interview and Group Assessment

Individual Interview – A very relaxed setting, the interviewer wants to get to know you and why you would be suitable to join L3 Airline Academy. Most of these questions are scenario based, e.g. “tell me a time when” or “give me an example of”. Before my interview, I brainstormed some key ideas which can help you prepare for those questions which you can expect – as I’m sure many will freeze at points like I did. Try to think outside of the box, I tried my best not to give the most generic answers even if they were true.

Group Assessment – I believe the key to passing this section of the assessment day is finding a correct balance. You want to come across as a good leader and listener, however being a good leader incorporates the individual being a team player and thus allowing others their opportunity to speak and voice their own opinion. The assessors give a scenario to the group, and as a team you must work to an end goal. This includes decision making, time keeping, brainstorming and finally collating. My main tip is to get involved as much as you can, a career in the aviation industry requires people to work as part of a day continuously so the assessors won’t be looking for those who are quiet.

Within a couple of weeks I found out my result stating I had been accept onto the Integrated ATPL programme, it was a truly incredible feeling that marked the beginning of my journey to the flight deck and something that I will never forget.

I only had 2 weeks between discovering out my result and starting the ATPL ground school in Southampton – before I knew it I was at my ‘First Flight Event’.

Good luck with your assessment and please get in touch if I can be of any more assistance.

Defeating the modules…

Ground school was the most challenging period of my life without question. If you’re an aspiring pilot as I was, you would have heard that a thousand times. But until you’re 3 months in, with 3 months left to go, you’ll be telling everyone exactly the same.

The ATPL course has 14 theory exams, which L3 CTS split into 3 modules:

Module 1:

  • Human Performance and Limitations (HPL)
  • Mass and Balance
  • Principles of Flight (POF)
  • Meteorology (Met)

Module 2:

  • Instruments (Basic and Advanced)
  • Radio Navigation (RNAV)
  • General Navigation (GNAV)
  • Aeroplane Performance

Module 3:

  • Aircraft General Knowledge (AGK)
  • Flight Planning
  • Air Law
  • Operational Procedures
  • VFR Communications
  • IFR Communications

Each of the modules are equally challenging in their own right. I personally struggled in the first Module, but found they became less challenging as ground school went on. I believe a large part of this was becoming familiar with the type and style of revision – it was so different from studying for A Levels or even GCSE’s – the workload was unlike anything I had experienced before. Content was not necessarily hard to comprehend, the difficulty came with the shear volume that needed to be committed to memory in an extremely short and intense period.

These are my top 5 tips to anyone starting ground school…

Work together, others may be struggling too…

I was never afraid to ask others for help. If I didn’t understand an instructor explanation, another cadet may have a better knowledge or understanding of the subject and therefore can describe it in their own words.

Be focused and stay organised…

A night completely free of studying may seem like a good idea, but I would recommend ‘always doing an hour’. Go home and get an hour of solid revision in before stopping for the evening, too much time off leads to you becoming behind – trust me!

Set goals, but be realistic…

I have always worked better with a plan of what I need to achieve that day – especially when it comes to weekends otherwise time will run away.

Be fair to yourself…

Your brain cant concentrate for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – I found going on walks a huge stress relief! It gets you out of your post-it note covered room and exploits you to some very much needed fresh air.

Celebrate your successes!

Be proud of what you have achieved – whatever the outcome. If you’ve worked hard enough, results will come. Grab a few beers, because that next module is already breathing down your neck!

Keep an eye out for my next blog – ‘A day in the life…’.

The Flying Begins

Flying has finally begun. I’m currently located in the UAE, beginning my Commerical Pilots License (CPL) with EAT (Etihad Aviation Training) as part of the L3 CTS Integrated ATPL. With my first hour now in the logbook, I’m more eager than ever.

Having finally completed the dreaded 14 ATPL EASA exams with L3 CTS at their Southampton training centre, I find myself in the middle of the desert, embarking on my flight training. Last week I took to the skies for the first time in the Cessna 172, an extremely reputable single engine aircraft. The flight was somewhat more of a demonstration and a ‘tour’ of the local airspace in Al Ain. It included scanning flows, which EAT have implemented for us to have a smoother transition from flying small aircraft to when we get to the airlines, checklists and preparation for the flight such as the mass and balance and aircraft performance. Due to the extremely warm weather in the UAE, the aircraft produces much less thrust and lift and due to this, cannot carry as much weight – something which we must consider thoroughly when planning quantities of fuel and baggage to take.

Moving from the classroom to the skies also sees an additional stripe added to my shoulders. At L3 CTS as a ground school cadet you begin with no stripes, gain one once you have passed ground school and another after your CPL skills test. They also provide a pair of wings once you have completed your first solo. Here’s me on our first day at EAT, rocking that one stripe epaulette…

One stripe epaulettes...

I feel really privileged to be able to wear the first stripe on my epaulette, hopefully the first of 4 as I begin the long journey to the left hand seat!

It was incredible to get into the skies to have my first contribution towards my CPL, and seemed extremely rewarding after working tirelessly on the EASA exams. Fingers crossed next week brings more flying and a new update to Aviator Taylor.