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My Pilot Training Experience

My Pilot Training Experience

My Pilot Training Experience
Posted Tuesday 8 Apr 2014 by neil

After completing my Mathematics degrees I decided on making my lifelong dream to become a pilot a reality. I attended many open days with different training companies and from this I decided to train with CTC Aviation. They provide integrated course training which involves completing ATPL exams, CPL skills test and IR rating. 

During CTC selection I had to complete a group exercise, roughly 9 people, which involved having to discuss an emergency situation. The emergency situation I got given was the traditional stranded on an island story where we had a list of important items to take with us, however we could only bring 5 items. These made us discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each item and argue are points in a constructive way. The second part was the PILOT test aptitude tests which involved a number of tests which assesses hand­‐eye coordination, multi tasking, reactions etc. The final part of the selection was an interview, this was a very informal interview and this gave the opportunity to ask any questions and also for them to look at you and see if you are the type of person they would like within their cadet scheme.

After successfully completing CTC selection I started training on my ATPL exams in Southampton, UK. This was an intense 6 months where I had to cram in all the theory I need to know to fly an aircraft at the highest level. The 14 subjects were broken down into 2 modules, 6 subjects in each. This was a high pressured and frustrating 6 months of classroom work and everyone was looking forward to the next stage in New Zealand.

The next stage is learning the skills required to fly an aircraft all the way to CPL level. This was done in New Zealand because the weather is consistently better than the UK’s weather giving more opportunities to fly with less cancellation. I started my flying training on the DA20 where I learnt the basic effects of controls to going solo in just 12 hours flying time. My first solo flight was a circuit flight before completing more circuit flights where I practiced glide approaches and flapless approaches. After a certain number of solo flights I was then allowed to fly out of the controlled airspace and explore New Zealand for myself. This was the most enjoyable part of training for me where I had the freedom to go where I wanted to without the pressure of an instructor watching every move. After passing a single engine aircraft flight test I then started to learn how to fly IFR.

I found IR flying is completely different to VFR flying where I now have to learn how to interpret what the instruments in the cockpit are telling me, and to keep my situational awareness at all times. I also had to learn the different procedures including the SID’s, VOR/DME/NDB and ILS approaches and also the different radio phases. This is when training started to get intense again and I had to learn everything very fast to keep up with the course. During this phase I was flying the DA42 simulators where I was focusing on how to read and understand the different instruments, instead of looking outside the cockpit at a datum. I then moved on to fly the Garmin 1000 equipped Cessna 172 where I completed each different type of approach within IFR.

After getting familiar with the basic IFR I then started to fly the DA42, which is a multi engine aircraft. I then learnt all the new drills on how to fly a multi engine and the differences from flying a single engine aircraft. After a few flights getting used to this new aircraft I then did a few CPL profiles before taking my CPL test. This was the first official licence skills test I would have done so it was a very nervous time. After passing this I then flew back to the UK as a proud owner of a CPL.

Once back in the UK I started training for my IR in Bournemouth. This consisted of a number of flight simulator training sessions getting used to the IF skills and re‐familiarising with all the procedures and radio phases that I learnt back in New Zealand. After getting used to IFR again I then flew the DA42 on IR routes and through UK airways to places like Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Bristol, and Channel Islands etc. Again this was a very nervous and intense time within the course due to the short number of flights before taking my IR license skills test.

This was the end of my CTC course where I had 150 flying hours, CPL, IR, a Multi Engine Rating and a night rating. After this I then started to look around for a MCC/JOC course.

The MCC/JOC course I decided to go to was Simtech in Ireland. This was a two week course in a fixed based 737 simulator. Since this point all the flying I have done has been single pilot so this course taught me about CRM and flying a multi crew aircraft efficiently and safely. This was very interesting and had a more airline feel to it. During this time I had a sim buddy who I was with throughout the two weeks. This enabled us to get to know each other and learn from our different experiences and flying techniques. Towards the end of the course we became used to one another and because of this we flew the simulator as a professional team.

After completing the MCC/JOC course I am now qualified to start applying for the airlines. However, because of my low hours this has proved very difficult and I am still yet to get a pilot job after 5 months of constantly applying to airlines. I have been advised by many pilots that this is not unusual and getting the first pilot job is considered to be the hardest part of becoming a pilot, which I can now appreciate. Not only have I been applying to airlines, with very little response, I have also been trying to network as this industry seems to be more of a ‘who you know other than what you know’ type of industry.

With no job success yet to come I decided to get my single engine rating so I can build my hours by hiring aircraft for a few hours every week.

After a few months I had an email from Ryanair inviting me to an assessment at Stansted. This was brilliant news and the first offer of assessment from all the airlines I applied to. This assessment involved a simulator on a 737. Because I haven’t flown for a few months I decided to increase my chance of passing the simulator assessment by booking a two hour slot with Jet Simulation, which I did via a friend I know who is involved in the company.

I decided to book a full motion B737 simulator at Jet Simulation as I knew this would be the same sim used in the Ryanair assessment. After explaining my situation I was sent all the required information, not only about Jet Simulation, but also what previous assessments had been like. The instructor was very informative about the profile that I was predicted to do on the assessment and he also sent me information on what I needed to know in good time.

On arriving at Jet Simulation I was introduced to my instructor and we made our way to the briefing rooms. During the briefing the instructor explained fully all the instruments and profiles that I would need to know. The instructor knew what needed to be done and also how much I needed to know to stand me in good stead for the Ryanair assessment. I was also accompanied by an Emirates pilot who stayed with me during both the briefing and the simulator, this was a major benefit as I had the chance to talk to her and make another connection which a high airline.

After an informative brief and once both parties understood fully what was going to be done we left to go into the simulator. During the simulator I was initially a little nervous as I knew it had been a few months since I last flew. I started off doing a normal take off and some flying exercises. This allowed me to get use to the scan and flying skills I had learnt and to ease me into the session. Another reason for this was to get me used to the handling characteristics of the aircraft I was flying. After a few flying exercises and once I was used to the handling of the aircraft I then started practicing both the VOR, NDB and ILS procedural approaches. This was an intense, yet enjoyable two hours of flying with the instructor giving me all the information, tips and help I needed to improve my flying and situational awareness. If the instructor wasn’t happy with anything he would give advice, help and then I would practice over again until I was comfortable at doing it perfectly.

After the simulator I then had a full debrief which involved all the things I did well and also talked about the things I need to watch out for on my assessment. In debrief the instructor was very honest and made me aware of all the previous assessment tricks and tips.

After leaving Jet Simulation I felt very confident to tackle anything Ryanair had to offer me in the sim assessment and I felt I had a major advantage after completing a two hour sim session with Jet Simulation.

The Ryanair assessment began with a briefing explaining the day and what was expected by each cadet. The brief also involved what is happening within the Company and any planned future developments. The assessors tried their best to keep everyone relaxed and made it as informal as they could. After the brief we were split in two groups, 3 people per group. We then had some time to brief each other on the SID and approaches from the plates we had been given. After an hour of briefing we were then called upstairs to an interview, which lasted around 40 minutes per person within our group.

After the interview session we went straight into the sim where one person was pilot flying, one person pilot monitoring and the other person back seating. Each profile included a SID, flight exercises, an abnormal emergency and a procedural approach and a landing back to the airport. We repeated this profile, with each profile having a different abnormal emergency and approach, until everyone had a turn pilot monitoring and pilot flying. The assessor was looking at each individual on their CRM skills and there MCC skills. Also how the pilot flying handled the aircraft and situation which evolved.

After the simulator assessment we were free to go. We have been told that we will get an answer within two weeks on how well we did and if we have done enough to pass the assessment and carry on to the next stage, which will be the type rating.

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