ATPL Theory Month 4: Revision

Just a quick recap on ATPL Theory Month 4: Revision.
Bristol hand outs
As I have my revision week booked for November and my first exams booked for December (General Navigation, Meteorology, Instrumentation & Human Performance & Limitations). With these looming I have taken my first look at the question banks this month to get familiar with the phrasing and style of the questions. I have focused my time on General Navigation where I try to work through 30 questions a day and Meteorology where I try to work through 70 questions a day.
I try to do some General Navigation every day so that I get faster with the CRP and also how to do it is fresh in my mind.
I don’t think just learning question bank answers is much help so if I can’t work it out I then look online or through my material to work out how to get the answer some areas are a lot harder than others but I just keep cracking on and working through them.
The work load is high and as I haven’t sat any exams it’s hard to know what the correct exam technique is.
I deliberately left a long time before finishing the material and sitting my first exams (3 months). The reason for this is so I don’t feel time pressure and that I can be really prepared when December rolls round and I sit the exams.
I have a few days away coming up so I am happy to take a break and not deal with any study for the first time in about a year (PPL then ATPL’s). My brain is overloaded and I think that this will be good to have a break and just chill out a little bit.
It is hard work however, and doing it around a full-time job is even harder, you have to be pretty dedicated to keep this up.



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Is this the end of General Aviation at Cranfield?

I got a few emails in the last few days that has made me think to myself, Is this the end of General Aviation at Cranfield?
Clear Blue Skies Cranfield
The latest email I have received has stated that due to a controller shortage that the airport will be closed every weekend from 24th September until the March 2017. On top of this there are the following closures.

Closed
September 2016: 15th-18th for Festival of Flight.
20th – 25th September possibly to relay the runway.
November 2016: 3rd
December 2016: 21st, 24th-27th
February 2017: 8th
March 2017: 1st

Single ATCO days – Opening times will be 0900-1100 / 1600-1800. Prior Permission Required.
October 2016: 14th
November 2016: 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 18th
December 2016: 2nd, 16th, 19th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd
January 2017: 20th
February 2017: 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 24th, 27th, 28th
March 2017: 2nd, 3rd, 24th

As you can see, this is a horribly unworkable situation for just about everyone involved. As a student I completed my PPL (Private Pilot Licence) on weekends. I am sure there are students that will be massively impacted by this, especially the ones who are also trying to complete their training around a full time job.
I guess I can consider myself lucky as I have completed my PPL, if I was still training now I would be in a pretty bad situation. I just wouldn’t have the time to complete it mid-week and I would be left with no choice but to change schools.
The schools / flying clubs based there will also be pretty badly impacted. At my school the weekend flying is normally non stop. This is also a lot of cash that they now cannot earn, and GA schools work to a pretty tight margins, so I can only imagine that this is really going to affect them.
If the schools / flying clubs are not making that much money then you have to question their ability to survive. The airfield has already lost some famous schools like Cabair (twice) and Bonus Aviation.
I know people have a love / hate relationship with Cranfield, however it really is a nice place to fly from. Is it the cheapest? Most defiantly not, but it has full ATC, fire services and well maintained facilities.
The lack of weekend flying means that finding the time to actually fly is going to be a lot harder, I work a 9-5 and winter is coming up so it gets dark a lot quicker. This is ok at the moment as I need to complete a night rating but what about after that? The thought of having to book half days to go flying until March is not really an ideal situation.
I hope everyone can come together and find a workable situation for Cranfield, I know there are suggestions of a radio service being put on for the weekends. I will wait to see if anything will come from it but I will not be holding my breath.

Hour Building: Cranfield – Grafham water – Sywell – Cranfield

Yesterday I went back to the airfield for Hour Building: Cranfield – Grafham water – Sywell – Cranfield.
Local flight cranfield

I took my friend up for the first time on what is quickly becoming my go to local flight route for people on their first flight.
From Cranfield I did a left turnout and headed over Bedford and up towards Grafham Water (11 mins). From here we then head west over Wellingborough and overhead Sywell airport (18 mins). We then head south back to Olney (8 mins) which is a VRP (Visual Reporting Point) for Cranfield, so I request the join from here.
It was actually a really nice day for a flight which was good considering the weather on Saturday was awful. It was also the 28th day since my last flight and my school has a rule that any time outside of this you have to do two circuits with an instructor first which can be an annoyance when you are trying to build P1 hours.
Something weird did happen on this flight however. As we were setting out past Bedford, the low voltage light came on twice. I found this strange as the Amp meter was not showing a discharge at all. I was considering a return to Cranfield when the light decided to stop lighting up and as Grafham water is right next to a runway at Little Stanton I decided at that point it was better to continue.
The light stayed out until the leg from Sywell to Cranfield. This was 7.5 mins flight time and around 3 mins in it started doing it again, but didn’t go out at all, just constant flashing. Once again the amp meter was not showing a discharge from the battery. I had planned to go into the circuit, but I decided it was better to land and report it to the school so they could investigate.
I am curious to find out what the issue was next time I go up there, unfortunately this won’t be for a month now as I will be away on a much needed break towards the end of the month for a few days.

ATPL Theory: Module 1 is Complete

Good news, ATPL Theory: Module 1 is complete.

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 12.27.29

Slightly earlier than anticipated I have completed the theory (all the lessons) in module 1 of the Bristol Ground School ATP digital software.
I have booked my revision course for November which may seem like quite a while away but really it isn’t. Also the course before the November course is on the 3rd of October which is far too soon.
What I will do now is use the question bank to get up to speed on what areas they will really be testing in the exams and to look for areas I need to go back and revise.
The issue is some subjects I haven’t looked at for months now, so I need to go back through and make sure that the information has stuck.
I won’t be sitting the exams until the first week of December as I have an exam centre where I live so I didn’t see much point in staying in Bristol and paying the extra fees to stay there to sit them just two weeks earlier than I could here.
From the first quick look at the Bristol question bank it seems quite intuitive and easy to work out how to use. I suspect I will be putting a LOT of time into this over the next month or two.
It seems like finishing the subjects in the CBT is only 50% of the work, now I need to get exam ready which seems to be a completely different thing from learning the information as presented.
Out of all the subjects, I must admit General Navigation is giving me the most cause for concern so I will be spending a lot of time going through that and getting up to speed with the methods etc.

ATPL Theory Month 3: Meteorology and General Navigation

Just an update from me about ATPL theory month 3: Meteorology and General Navigation.

ATPL Theory Month 3 - Instrumentation and General Navigation

As you can see from the graph I am making great progress through the module and am scheduled to complete it mid September. I must admit I thought that Meteorology was quite complicated however then I started General Navigation which is normally referred to as Gen Nav.
I don’t really have the words to describe my initial feelings however this GIF does a pretty good job.

Gen Nav blew my mind, this is where the maths comes into play, big time.
There are areas you have to draw graphs, areas you have to use the CRP-5, areas you need to use the calculator, you need to know formulas, division factors and there are areas you have to spend time working out what exactly they are even trying to ask you!
I have booked my revision week for November and will take the exams the first week of December. I must admit this subject has me the most worried of the four I have to take. I have a lot of time to practice and get up to scratch before then and I anticipate that a lot of the time will be spent on Gen Nav.
I think the best way to go about Gen Nav is to hit the question banks, not to learn the answers to the questions as they could easily change figures, but so that you can work out how to answer the questions constantly. Literally keep practising until you can work them out! When you can’t work something out go back to the material and relearn, I don’t see any other way to go about this.
It has been a pretty intense 3 months studying before and after work to get to this point but at least the first part of module 1 is almost at an end.

 

Registering for ATPL exams with the UK CAA

Once you start your ATPL study, eventually you will need to sit some exams. In this post I will go through the process of registering for ATPL exams with the UK CAA.
Navigation planning
The first link you will need is this one. This is where you register on the UK CAA website to be able to take your exams.
The CAA will then ask your for your details and then to upload copies of some documents. The first one is a passport, driving licence or national ID card. Next you will need to upload proof of address. If you have a PPL or letter from the UK CAA they suggest that you use this.
They will take a few days to verify your documents and then send you an email when it is done.
Now you have to log back into the portal and register for the flight crew licence service. Your application once again goes back to the UK CAA who will let you know when the service is available to you in the portal.
You would think you are done at this point but you would be wrong! Now you have to register with your school and they have to accept you as a student, so more waiting lies ahead.
Once your school has accepted you, you can now log in once again and FINALLY book an exam!
As you can see this is quite a time-consuming activity so make sure that you do it as soon as possible as you don’t want to leave it till the last min!
Now you just have the small matter of passing all 14 exams!

Hour Building: Local Flight from Cranfield in a Cessna 152

It has been a while since I have managed to do a navigation flight so I took the opportunity to do Hour Building: Local Flight from Cranfield in a Cessna 152.
through the air
I wasn’t planning to go anywhere really special I just wanted to make sure I had at least 1 radio frequency change just to make sure my radio skills did not deteriorate.  I arrived at the school and planned a flight from Cranfield -> Gratham Water -> Sywell -> Olney -> Cranfield.
Olney is a VRP (Visual Reporting Point) for Cranfield so it is just where I report that I am ready for rejoin to the airfield.
The weather wasn’t bad at all, it was a little bit rocky up there but nothing too bad (220/20). It had been 3 months since my last navigation so I really wanted to work on my altitude holding and trimming of the aircraft. On top of this I really wanted to make sure that I wasn’t getting rusty on the radio. I remembered that radio calls basically go who, where, what. Who are you? Where are you? What do you want?
We first flew out towards Bedford before heading east towards Grafam Water which looks incredible from the air!
grafam water
From here I headed east and switched to Sywell and let them know I planned to fly overhead before heading south towards Olney to return to Cranfield. They had no issues at all with this, just wanted to know when I was overhead which I of course let them know.
I always take extra care on my lookout when flying around airports as that is where planes take of and land!
When I got back to Olney I rejoined right base runway 21 and landed. All in all an uneventful flight (the best type) and I had my GoPro’s so made this video.

Bristol Ground School Accelerator Weekend: General Navigation

Last weekend I went on the Bristol Ground School Accelerator Weekend: General Navigation.
Bristol Ground School
The accelerator is held at the Bristol Ground School in Clevedon which is around a 2.2 hour drive for me, I set of at 6am and got there in plenty of time.
I have gone about module one slightly differently from most, I didn’t get on with the switching of subjects so I have actually worked through them one by one. I have completed instrumentation, and I have just about completed Meteorology so I just have General Navigation and Human Performance and Limitations left to do. After seeing how involved general navigation really is I think I will do HPL next so I can then really focus on general navigation as it is going to take a lot longer than the others.
I would have taken a later accelerator but the dates didn’t line up so this was the only one I could take.
The class was a mixed bunch, around 70% were armed forces converting, there was 3 PPL holders and 1 US ATP holder converting to an EASA licence. The age range I would say was mid 20’s to early 40’s, with the majority being around 30 ish.
The class was taken by John Jones who really knows Gen Nav inside out. We did some work on the CRP 5 which is a lot easier to understand when somebody is explaining it to you.
We then went through questions around the CDMVT formula. Obviously these questions made more sense to the rest of the class who were a lot further through gen nav than I was.
On day two we went through solar, time, maps and charts.
Both days the class lasted from 9 till 5 with 1 hour for lunch and two 15 minute breaks.
Bristol hand outs
You get a lot of handouts during the two days which is really useful and you get tips and tricks around quicker ways to work things out. I would say go on the course when you are around half way through or at the end as it will help to fill in any gaps in your knowledge. Obviously I can’t upload them on here as they are the schools documents but you will get your own when you attend.
You will need to take the following with you.

  1. CRP 5
  2. Calculator
  3. Marker Pen
  4. Paper and Pen

When distance learning you are on your own a lot of the time so it is nice to be in an environment where you can bounce of other students and see how they are finding it also.
All in all I think it is a worthwhile thing and it is included in your course so why not do it? There are lots of cheap places to stay nearby with a list on the Bristol Ground School website. Food wise there is a Tesco just a few minutes drive away but apart from that I didn’t see much else.

 

Should I change my flight instructor?

Sometimes training doesn’t work out like you think it should and you start to wonder, should I change my flight instructor?
Above all you need to keep in mind that this is a business transaction. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason with the instructor you have, then you do not have to fly with them. No matter what the reason, you have the right to pick and choose who you fly with.

climbing G-BLAC

Reasons I have come across as to why people change flight instructors include the following.

  1. They are too hands on! There is nothing worse than paying a three figure sum for someone else to do the majority of the flying. You should be flying the aircraft the majority of the time.
  2. Personality clash – You will not get on with everybody you meet, if you don’t really like someone the chances are you will probably dislike flying with them.
  3. They are too panicky – I once flew with a newly qualified flight instructor and I must say I didn’t enjoy it at all. He was so panicky and jumpy as well as a bit shouty. Even though I was flying EXACTLY how my other instructors had taught me, at my home airfield, in the circuit as I had done many times before, HE was making ME nervous. To top it of I wasn’t even a student, I had passed my skills test and was waiting for my licence to come back.
    Note – I know that passing the skills test doesn’t make me a perfect pilot.
  4. You don’t feel like you are progressing as you should – This again is a perfectly valid reason. Everybody learns at a different rate, however if you don’t feel like you are making the progress you should be, you should be prepared to try a new instructor. Maybe their methods may work better for you.
  5. They are never on time – There is nothing worse than being at the airfield at the agreed time only to have a last-minute cancellation or having to wait around half the day for the instructor to turn up. If you can make it there on time, then the least your instructor can do is do the same.
  6. They don’t make time for you – Following on from the last one if you fly every Saturday for instance, you expect your instructor to have tentative slots for you. If they don’t you may be left with no choice but to choose someone else.
  7. You start to question THEM – While I think this is rare I have read a few stories of people questioning the ability of their instructor, this is never a good place to be. You should have full confidence in your instructor.

The first thing to do before you change is totalk to your flight instructor. They may not be aware of what it is that is causing you the issue and you should really give them a chance to resolve it. Sometimes a quick chat is all that is needed to sort out issues and the ability to articulate a problem to your instructor can only bode well for any future airline flying you do.
At the end of the day, it’s your money and you need to get the best value for that money that you possibly can.

ATPL Theory Month 2: Instrumentation and Meteorology

Just an update from ATPL Theory Month 2: Instrumentation and Meteorology.

ATPL Theory month 2

I have made pretty good progress over the last month and finished the instrumentation subjects and I am around 80% through meteorology. This is ideal as this weekend I will be down at Bristol Ground School for the General Navigation accelerator weekend. I really want to have meteorology finished by then so I can focus on General Navigation for the next few weeks.
I found instrumentation quite a fun subject and enjoyed learning about things such as TCAS and the PFD. Meteorology I found a much more difficult subject and I will need to put a lot more time in when it comes the stage to revise and practice for the exams, I can see YouTube being quite handy for this.
As you can see from the graph I am around 60% of the way through module one. I revised my estimate date of  completion and I am now on track to have module one finished around the second weekend of September at which point I will start preparing for the tests and looking at the question banks for the first time.
I will do a post with my views of the accelerator weekend after next week.