Module 3 revision week at Bristol Ground School

So I have just returned from my module 3 revision week at Bristol Ground School.
Bristol Ground School
Being a good 5.5-6 hour round trip I must say I am glad the this is the 3rd and final revision week that I have to attend.
Normally when I have attended modules 1,2 & 3 have been run at the same time, however this time we were the only ones in the school.
First thing I want to say is that there was a guy who was 51 on this course. I point this out as I get a lot of mail from people asking if they are too old, some are only in their mid 20’s!
This course was a 5 day assault on the brain, with non stop facts, figures and graphs being presented in Priciples of Flight, Performance and Mass and Balance.
There is no revision of communications done on this course, which I find weird as I tried to book VFR communications as part of my mod 2 exams but was told to move it till after this revision week, where we did nothing on it?
We had a good mix of people with military, PPL’s and conversion. 1 of the guys converting was flying the A320 in Brazil and another had worked for Boeing for years and was now the technical pilot for an airline.
Day 1 was all Operational Procedures, then day 2 was Mass and Balance and performance. Day 3 was all performance, day 4 was all Principles of Flight and day 5 was Principles of Flight and Mass and Balance.
My the end of the week my brain was bogged down.
My exams are booked for the first week of September and I have Mass and Balance on Monday, POF on Tuesday, Perf on weds and VFR communications on Thurs.
These exams will be the last ones on the currently multiple choice system as at the end of September they will be moving to the quadrant system.
This weekend will be spent doing Mass and Balance as it’s gotten neglected this week. Going forward till the exams I will get up at 5am to do Mass and Balance and then alternate Performance and Principles of Flight daily up until the exams. I will do 1-2 VFR communications practice tests a day as they don’t take too much time.
If this weather ever changes, I might actually get to build some hours too!


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ATPL Theory Month 14: Mass & Balance, Performance, POF and VFR Comms

Another month down so this post is just a quick recap of ATPL theory month 14: Mass & Balance, Performance, POF and VFR Comms.
atp digital complete

As you can see I have completed the theory requirements in the app, however I still have 8 exams to sit 🙁
This month I finished the material in the ATP digital app which is a prerequisite of attending the brush up courses at Bristol. I am actually heading down to Bristol tomorrow as the mod 3 course starts on Monday.
This month has been full of question practice and googling things trying to get my head around some concepts.
Maths  is not my strong point so mass and balance is taking a lot of my time but thankfully my exams are not until early September so I still have over a month to get my head around what I need to.
In regards to POF and Performance I am getting better and it just seems to be a case of keep working on questions, looking things up and googling till the concept comes into my head.
VFR communications is going well so far, I am still making the odd silly mistake but this would be the exam I am feeling the most confident about at the moment.
I have more time than usual to study this month due to the poor weather. Hour building is proving to be a real slow process in the UK this year. As I sit looking out the window it’s grey skies, overcast and raining, useless for VFR flight.
I am hoping the school has some tips and tricks to share with me next week to make processing this easier, time will tell.

SkyDemon Review

So I am late to the game on this one but this is my SkyDemon review.
Skydemon Android
Now I am sure most of you are familiar with this software and most likely have used it a lot more than I have. I also know that there is a large group of people who are about to scream “children of the magenta line” or “maps and CRP”, however this is 2017 and not 1950 when the skies were clear and you could fly where you like. Both GPS and old school navigation techniques are needed.
I recently changed my home airport from Cranfield where there isn’t much restricted airspace around to Blackbushe where Heathrow, Gatwick, Oxford, Southampton and RAF Odiham are both literally on the door step along with all the restricted airspace that these airports bring not to mention danger zones etc. So as you can see it is a much busier restricted environment and you run the risk of airspace infringements more easily.
For these reasons I decided to invest in SkyDemon, a product that I have heard so much about and that I have never heard anyone say a bad word about. The cost is £139 for the first year and then £89 for subsequent years. I also brought a dedicated iPad mini 2 with LTE which is only for my flying apps so it doesn’t get fill up with the other rubbish. It is only 16GB but when you use it like I do that is more than enough. The 4G part is important as it is only these cellular devices that have the inbuilt GPS in the iPad’s. If you have a non cellular iPad then you will have to buy an external GPS receiver, but with Apple being Apple only certain (expensive) ones work.
NB – SkyDemon supports iOS, Android and Windows so you are not limited to an iPad. However, SkyDemon themselves state that the iPad is the best device to run it on and it also seems to have the least issues. I am an Android fan but I believe every pilot needs an iPad anyways.
In the cockpit I use a kneeboard mount which works great as I only need to glance at it every so often as my eyes are outside or on the instruments the majority of the time (as they should be). My mobile phone (Android) has it installed as backup but I haven’t actually used it on this device in the air.
NB – I always have my map with me.
So what makes SkyDemon so great? Well it is its ease of use. Planning a trip is as simple as clicking your start point and your endpoint and then adjusting your route as you see fit (to avoid airspace, dangerzones etc). From here SkyDemon does the rest, it gets all your NOTAMS, TAF, METAR, Winds and the weather for you to check before you go airborne. SkyDemon can also do your mass and balance however I still do this separatly at the moment.
Next you can print out a plog that will have your legs, the time it should take etc along with all the radio frequencies that you should need en route. I really can’t even put into words how simple the whole thing is and in my opinion these programs are becoming essential in our ever crowded skies. However yes I do agree that we should all still practice the conventional methods as no system is infallible and should my tablet and phone fail I will still need to be able to navigate using my map.
In the air SkyDemon will warn you if you are drifting of course, if you should change frequencies, of obstacles and most importantly of airspace. It really does allow you to concentrate on flying the aircraft as even when navigating with your map an accurate position is simply a glance away. Now of course we as pilots are never lost so to say but occasionally we can be “unsure of position”. This takes the high workload of flying the plane, holding the map and trying to work out where you are away and changes it to a “oh I need to go left a bit”. Anything that reduces workload in the cockpit and allows you to focus on flying is a positive thing in my opinion.
One of my favourite parts of SkyDemon is when you approach your destination it pops up and asks you what approach you want then draws handy arrows on the map so you can see visually what you need to do and circuit direction.
When you land you can pull up the Aerodrome information which will help you with your taxi etc, I mean SkyDemon even has fuel prices.
SkyDemon can also do your flight plans, give you estimation of leg times, warn of traffic, provide airfield layouts and information and probably a lot more that I haven’t even managed to dive into yet. The maps are updated frequently and they seem to have maps for most of Europe as well as places such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand & Parts of Africa.
With the amount of money we spend on aviation I must say in my opinion SkyDemon is probably one of the best value bits of software you can possibly buy and I would not hesitate to recommend it. 5/5.

Hour Building: Two Local Flights

As it had been a month since I had flown and due to a pressing need to build hours before next year, I did Hour Building: Two local flights this weekend.

Just a quick update from me. On Saturday I did a local flight just in the local area from Blackbushe with my GF. I had actually just planned to do circuits as the weather wasn’t geat but out of nowhere it cleared up so I decided to head out into the local area. I took the other club C150 for the first time. The one difference with this plane is MPH is the speed on the outer marker with knots on the inner so was just something to make sure I’m paying attention to. I departed Blackbushe and flew up to the north, across to the west in the area towards Swindon, back east towards Popham and then back north and into Blackbushe.
On Sunday I had a new passenger my GF’s friend, who was in a small plane for the first time. I literally just flew around the local area trying to learn the local landmarks etc as I haven’t spent much time in this area as I learned up in Cranfield. Also I didn’t want to stray too far as I didn’t know how she would like flying so I didn’t want to be too far from the airfield incase she wanted to land.
The clouds were also a lot lower so I didn’t stray too far but all in all it was a pleasant flight. My passenger seemed ok with it but almost threw up when I started the landing procedure back at Blackbushe. I hope this was no reflection of my flying skills!
I got another 2.4 much needed hours into the log book this weekend which takes me up to 72.5 total. The 150 I need to have by the time I start my CPL ME IR next year seems a long way away. I will really need to up the frequency I fly, but as I work mid-week and nowhere near the airfield I am restricted to weekends pretty much.
There are still quite a few airfields I still want to visit so hopefully I can visit them over the summer. I also have a week off booked at the end of July to hopefully get my hours up!

ATPL Theory Month 13

After sitting my last set of exams early in June I got cracking with ATPL theory month 13.

mod 3 progress

I had originally intended to sit this next set of exams in October, however due to the fact the CAA decided to make a load of changes to the exams I have moved these forward to September and will now be going to the module three revision week at the end of July.
I am now working hard to get through the material in the software before the course as it is a pre requirement to attend the revision week. I have also departed from my usual material first then question bank method and I am now doing the question banks at the same time as the material due to having less time before I need to sit the exams.
The exams I will be sitting next are Mass and Balance, Performance, Principles of flight and VFR communications.
I am not find it too bad so far apart from Mass and Balance where it seems every time I learn a new formula I see to forget the previous one I learnt. I still have 2 months before the exams, so I hope this will be resolved by then.
I will basically do the same throughout July and put in lots of practice to do my best to get up to scratch. It would be nice if EASA and the CAA could stop moving the goal posts while I am doing the exams, but that is unlikely to happen.
Also on an unrelated note, this weather this year sucks. It is July and I am looking out the window at low grey clouds, this makes hour building impossible and if things don’t change soon I may have to look into going abroad as I still have 80 hours to build.

More changes to the ATPL exams

Well it looks like there will be even more changes to the ATPL exams as apparently 1500 new questions and 2000 reviewed questions a year wasnt enough, they have decided to change the exams from multiple choice to now having four different types of questions.

Navigation planning

  1. Multiple-choice – This is the style we have at the moment.
  2. Multi-select – Where you have to select options from a list to correctly answer the question.
  3. Inline – In this one you have to complete sentences using a drop down menu containing words, numbers, or a combination of both.
  4. Text – In these questions you will have to type in answers or numbers, so an input field.

The dates that the changes will come in for each exam is detailed below. Quite frankly from my time doing these ATPL’s, I have no interest in being a guinea pig for any of their changes, so I will now try to move my ATPL exams from the start of October to September. The reason for this is October would be the first week for Mass & Balance and POF changes and in September the only exam affected should be VFR communications.

Subject Date
010 AIR LAW 14-Aug-17
091 VFR COMMUNICATIONS 21-Aug-17
092 IFR COMMUNICATIONS 21-Aug-17
040 HUMAN PERFORMANCE AND LIMITATIONS 28-Aug-17
061 GENERAL NAVIGATION 04-Sep-17
062 RADIO NAVIGATION 04-Sep-17
050 METEOROLOGY 11-Sep-17
071 OPERATIONAL PROCEDURES 11-Sep-17
021 AIRFRAME AND SYSTEMS, ELECTRICS, POWERPLANT, EMERGENCY EQUIPMENT 18-Sep-17
022 AIRCRAFT GENERAL KNOWLEDGE – INSTRUMENTATION 18-Sep-17
031 MASS AND BALANCE – AEROPLANE & HELICOPTERS 02-Oct-17
081 PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT – AEROPLANE 02-Oct-17
082 PRINCIPLES OF FLIGHT – HELICOPTER 02-Oct-17
032 PERFORMANCE – AEROPLANES 09-Oct-17
033 FLIGHT PLANNING AND FLIGHT MONITORING 16-Oct-17
034 PERFORMANCE – HELICOPTERS 23-Oct-17

ATPL Module 2 Results

In what feels like a whirlwind week with my eyes and brain taking a pounding, I have finally got my ATPL Module 2 results back from the CAA.

en route to kemble

As you may know, I sat my module 1 exams back in January and passed the 3 I took. This time round I took another 3 at CATS in Luton which were Air Law, AGK and Rnav. It has been a long slog with these exams with many hours put in at evenings and weekends to try to get above the 75% pass mark that is required for these exams.
Before sitting the exams my scores were between 80 and 90% in the question banks. Anyways these are my results for mod 2!

Air Law – 88%
No real surprises in this exam. There were a few new and reworded questions but nothing that threw me or that I wasn’t expecting. No nasty surprises to be had here but remember you can get hit with new questions at any time…. as I found out in AGK.

Rnav – 80%
I would say that Rnav was on the whole what I was expecting. However there were quite a few reworded or new questions in it. One question that I do remember from the bank was something along the lines of “What is Kalman filtering used in?” and the answer given in the bank was “Navigation display”. I got this question however Navigation display was no longer and answer and seems to have been replaced with Electronic Flight Information System.
Now if you didn’t know that the navigation display was part of the EFIS you would have been in some difficulty. This is why you need to do your best to try to learn more than just the question bank.

AGK – 77%
Brutal, absolutely brutal. Lots of new questions and lots of reworded questions. I remember on my first pass through thinking a more colourful version of “Good heavens, this is quite a difficult exam”. However on second pass I did my best to really think about the question and do my best to solve them. I remember changing quite a few answers on this second pass through and it looks like it just did the trick.
Another guy who sat the exam said the same thing about it, it’s my opinion that a lot of questions have been released for this exam. Some did seem like they were translated from elsewhere as they didn’t read properly. I came out of this exam unsure as to which way it would go. Needless to say when I got that email this morning I was relieved! This sums up my reaction –

Anyways no re sits which I’m ecstatic about! Next up it’s Mass and Balance, Principles of Flight, Performance & VFR Communications.

Hour Building: Local Flight

It had been almost a month since I had flown due to the weather being a bit rubbish, so just to stay on top of my game on Saturday I did Hour Building: Local flight.
Local flight from Blackbushe
Now this pictures shows a reasonably nice day with some clouds however it is quite misleading. The winds were pretty strong, progress was very slow due to a slow ground speed which was due to flight into a headwind and it was generally “challenging”.
I realised I have not really been into the local area so I decide it would be good to have a flight and get to know my relatively new surroundings. I took of from Blackbushe and departed the circuit before going to Farnborough with a traffic service. Farnborough are really good with a traffic service infact there is only one time I have been denied on due to controller workload which is fair enough.
There was a lot of rudder work as well handling to keep the aircraft in level flight, however on the whole it wasn’t that bad and we proceeded north (very slowly due to the headwind).
After about 30 minutes (and very little progress) I then decided to head back towards Blackbushe as the route I had planned would have taken forever. The winds aloft were definitely stronger than the forecasted winds.
I joined from the dead side and positioned downwind again with very strong winds before turning base, on to final and doing a pretty smooth landing.
I think it’s good to get up in these conditions to make sure your skills are still good as flying in perfect weather every time is nice but unfortunately it isn’t always like that.
Anyways, another hour in the book taking me into the 70’s, I still have 80 to build before next summer! Looking at the weather this week I don’t think there will be any flying this weekend. On top of this I have exams all this week so I need to focus on that for now.

ATPL Theory Month 12

Wow, it’s been a year already as this was now ATPL theory month 12.
atpl month 9
I can’t believe a year has passed since I started the ATPL journey and with sitting 3 more exams next week if I pass them I will be around the half way ish point with 6 exams done and 8 to go.
I had my revision week a couple of a months back so that is done and dusted and I did pick up a few bits of information on the course that I found useful.
I will be sitting my exams at CATS Luton as this is the closest exam center to my house. This is very convenient as a lot of people have to travel quite long distances to sit their exams where as it is literally a 5 min drive for me.
In this sitting I will be doing Air Law, Aircraft General Knowledge and Radio Navigation. I have pushed flight planning to my “module 4” so that will be sat early next year.
I haven’t found the exams that bad so far but maths subjects have always been more difficult for me than the pure theory type subjects. Radio Navigation seems to bring in some maths and the subjects I am sitting in module 3 are heavy with the maths so that should be interesting.
It has mainly been a month of using the question bank, Google and YouTube to try to fill in the gaps in my knowledge before sitting the exams. I would say the exam that is giving me the most worries at the moment is radio navigation but we will see what happens next week, hopefully all will be fine.
I have already booked my revision week for module 3 in September and I will be aiming to sit the exams in November of this year if things are going well with sitting the final set around April of next year.
With the course at Bartolini being booked for August 2018 I have a hard goal of when I need to pass these exams which is the end of July 2018 (the official date from the CAA) but if things go to track I hope to pass them all a few months before that.

Interview with Jonathan Willis – easyJet A320 Captain and Air Racer

Today I have another interview with Jonathan Willis easyJet A320 Captain and Air Racer. I thought it would be good to speak to someone who does airline and GA flying and ask if they think that staying in touch with the GA world is essential.
I was introduced to Jonathan by the assistant editor of Pilot magazine who I met in the wonderful Blackbushe cafe.

G-TNGO at Abbeville

How did you do your training?
My training first involved a couple of one week gliding holidays at Dunstable in my early twenties. A couple of years later I started my powered flying training. I did this full time and did it the modular way. I completed half in Vero Beach, Florida at Flight Safety International, the ground school in London and my CPL/IR (Commercial Pilots Licence/Instrument Rating) with Frozen ATPL (Airline Transport Pilots Licence) at Cabair in Cranfield. Once I’d got my CPL/IR, I did a Jet Appreciation course at Oxford which was 4 hours on a generic fixed base 737 sim. 

What was the most difficult part?
The hardest part was the BCPL flight test in Florida (CPL in today’s terms). You could say that it was like a PPL GFT and NAV test in one but with tighter tolerances. With a typical test time of 3 hours, it was as much a test of endurance as it was skill. I only attained a partial pass on my first attempt. The problem with this test is that it is mostly a VFR examination and VFR is somewhat subjective. An IR (instrument rating) however is purely a numbers game with a bit of handling skill thrown in which is easier in my opinion.

What do you think of the changes of training between when you did it and now?
I fly with a lot of newly trained people and we often compare notes on what we did for our IR and the equipment we used. Most have done their IR on the DA42 Twin Star with the G1000. I’ve not flown this but it does sound a little easier when you’re presented with a track line compared with doing an IR in the Grumman Cougar with its steam driven gauges which is what I did mine on. However, none of the pilots I fly with who have trained on the DA42 lack any of the necessary skills to operate an Airbus and if anything, being fully conversant on the G1000 or equivalent is probably more useful when converting onto an EFIS equipped airliner.
With regard to course content, this seems largely unchanged since I did my training 20 years ago.

What advice do you have for trainees?
There will always be someone better than you in some or all of the areas of your course, accept this, achieve what you can and you’ll find that your instructors and fellow pupils will warm to you, you’ll relax more and therefore progress more rapidly and probably enjoy the training experience more.
When you make a mistake, don’t be angry with yourself (I know this is easier said than done). Instructors don’t want to see this because this negativity can inhibit further learning. Acknowledge your fault, verbalise it in a calm manner and move on. We are organic beings who make stupid and I repeat stupid mistakes and often the same one more than once.

Could you tell me about the flying jobs you have had?
My first flying job was flying the BAC 1-11 for AB Airlines who were also known as Air Bristol. These old jets were built in the 1960s and were the perfect airliner to transition onto from an old fashioned light piston twin owing to the commonality of old fashioned instrumentation. I loved this job and would still be there today had they not gone bankrupt in 1999. The BAC 1-11 had a fairly basic autopilot by today’s standard, no manual thrust, flight management computer or area navigation. This made the job extremely rewarding as you had to calculate you top of decent by using your 2.5 times table instead of the more common 3 times table of more modern jets owing to its low by-pass ratio jet engines, navigate using raw data VORs, NDB,s or even dead reckoning if a VOR was out of range (if only the passengers knew!) and then when a bit closer to the ground, good old fashioned seat of the pants hand flying.
I then joined GB Airways in 2000 and spent 2 years flying their B737 300/400s before converting onto their Airbus 320s and 321s. They were nice airline who put lifestyle above pay in their order of priorities.
In 2008 GB Airways were bought by Easyjet with whom I have stayed with since.

USAF Alconbury

How is life working for easyJet?
Easyjet are a good company to work for. They have a wide variety of destinations, lots bases across Europe potentially allowing you to live in a variety of countries and they pay well. The only negatives from a personal point of view is that the work shifts can be very tiring. For example in one week you may be rostered to fly 5 consecutive early duties each with a report time between 5am and 630am. Three of those five days might involve 4 sector duties. You then might have three days off and then the next block of 5 duties will have late finishes, sometimes as late as 3 am and again with three or four of those 5 days work being 4 sector duties. In fairness to Easyjet however, they do have fatigue management system in place and so if when you get up for your day’s duty you feel too tired to carry it out, you can call them and they will take you off that duty. This is a vital safety valve for which they should be commended. The only other negative is the lack of nightstops at most of the bases. This means that each day tends to merge into the next as there isn’t much social interaction between the crew.

How did you get into air racing?
I’ve always enjoyed watching or reading about the Reno air-races and often wished for an equivalent to be available in the UK. Then one day I read an article in a UK GA magazine about air-racing in the UK. I went with my family to Compton Abbas to watch one, really liked what I saw and then set about revalidating my SEP and finding an aircraft that I could rent to race. Once these were obtained, I enrolled onto an Air Race course run by Roger Hayes and then entered my first race at North Weald in a C152.

What attracts you to the sport?
Aspects that attract me to the sport are:
It’s not easy to do well and this forces me to hone my flying skills
I love seeing how fast something will go and then tweaking it to try make it go faster!!!
It’s reason to fly somewhere
Great social scene

Do you feel it is important to stay in touch with GA as an airline pilot?
GA flying and Airline flying are so different that I don’t think it’s important for an airline pilot to stay in touch with GA. However, I have noticed that during extended periods where I’ve not flown GA a slight drop in my overall situational awareness. Perhaps its to do with the fact that when you’re in a GA aircraft on your own, you have to look over your shoulder more as there’s no one else to do it for you.

What is the best part of being a pilot?
The best part of being a commercial pilot are the days off because when you’ve had a long week, then oh boy do you enjoy them. However, there are times when you fly an approach into somewhere with breathtaking scenery such as Innsbruck and you think …what a privilege and you wouldn’t change it for the Earth. Regarding GA, hell, I love everything about it, well everything accept the cost and the fact that one always seems to be running late!

I would like to thank Jonathan for taking the time to talk to me and I hope that you enjoyed his interview.