ATPL Theory Month 6: Revision

Another month down so here is a quick recap of ATPL theory month 6: Revision.

Bristol hand outs

I had my revision week at Bristol this month which was intense but good and helped me to work out where I was in regards to the other people in my class.
I made two decisions, I decided to not do my GNAV exam yet as it was taking up to much of my time and I was neglecting the other subjects, so I will now only be sitting Met, Instrumentation and Human performance. The Bristol course is split into 3 modules but you do actually have six sittings so I think I will try to do it in four sittings.
The second decision I made was to push my exams back one month from December to the start of January to give me the time over December to get up to the required level in these three subjects. I made this choice while at the revision week as I saw some people who were sitting the exams the following week and feeling unprepared, so I decided I shouldn’t put myself in the same position as really its a marathon and not a sprint.
Apart from the week at Bristol I have just been going through the question bank as much as I can and trying to get my scores up. Most are sitting between 70% and 80% and I really want to them to be at least at 90% before I sit the exams. It’s funny, you feel like you have a lot of time but you really don’t. For instance a Met exams in the evening takes me about an hour and 45 mins to complete. That is the hardest part about these exams for me, doing them around a full time job. Sometimes when you get in from work you are just so worn out and tired that you just want to chill out or go to sleep but you have to get your second wind and study.
The time passes very quickly and if I was taking my exams next week (like I was scheduled to) I wouldn’t be feeling super confident now.
Over the next month I will be doing more of the same really with a little bit of time of for Xmas but I will be taking the exams the second week of January so there is just over a week to go.


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Night Rating Lesson 3: Solo Circuits

I had a week off last week to attend the revision week for my first set of ATPL exams, so yesterday I had night rating lesson 3: solo circuits.
Night rating
My instructor and I had managed to do 3.3 hours in the last 2 lessons so it was possible that the night rating could have been finished that night.
I arrived with about 15 mins to go before night started, so I ran out to the plane and pre flighted it so we could depart on time. My instructor called for the circuits he had booked, which of course the ATC had no idea about, but thankfully he had no issues with us going into the circuit.
There was two of us tonight, an instructor doing night circuits with the CFI and me. I did two quick circuits with my instructor then we landed and he jumped out as it was time for me to go back up solo.
To be fair it really wasn’t that bad, apart from the ultra low light and extra concentration required due to the plane having no backlight it wasn’t much different from the circuit in the day. The only difference is you climb to 700ft before turning and try to be at 1200ft in downwind. The winds were really mild tonight as well which was very helpful as it made the landings easier.
I managed to get the required 5 take off and landings in with no real issues, well no real issues until the last circuit. As I turned base there was something there that wasn’t there just minutes before on my previous circuit. A huge cloud! As a VFR pilot this is a no go for me so I basically had no choice but to land. The issue was it was covering the majority of the route to the runway and im not allowed to fly through it.
I managed to navigate around it out to the left and then cut back inside before lining up and landing. I got back inside and totaled up my night time which came to 4 hours and 46 mins. Yeap, I was just 14 minutes short of finishing the course but nature decided it wasn’t to be. My instructor has a commercial job so no more night flying for me until the 5th of December, at which point I should finally be able to complete it.

Module 1 revision week at Bristol Ground School

So last week I was attending Module 1 revision week at Bristol Ground School.
Bristol Ground School
This is a requirement before you are allowed to sit the exams and takes places in Clevedon which is about 2.5 hours away from me.
There are some cheap B&B’s around and I stayed with a lovely couple in a village just outside Clevedon which cost a very reasonable £30 a night.
Bristol is a school which seems to be mainly ex military men who are all super knowledgeable in their areas. If you have something that you need help with, they will get an answer for you.
Your first day will start with an introduction from Alex Whittingham who you will know was the owner of the school. He then introduces all his teachers and gives you a bit of background about them all. They are all pretty much former military men and some also have some civilian airline experience also.
From this point it’s in at the deep end, we went straight into instrumentation.
The days are long 8:50am – 5pm. You do get a break of about 10-15 mins every 1.5 hours or so and a 1 hour lunch. I must admit, sometimes by 5pm you are seriously burned out. Every day at night I did some questions in the question bank.
Our class was once again mainly military guys getting their ATPL, one licence conversion and about 6 of us “self improvers” so a mixed bag overall.
As always there are people at various different stages in their studies. This week was good to try and find out where you are in relation to everybody else.
By Wednesday I had a decision to make. I had already decided 2 weeks before that I wasn’t going to sit General Navigation yet and will sit it at the end. The reason for this is that maths is not my strongest subject and General Navigation was taking up so much of my time the other three subjects were getting neglected.
I didn’t feel quite ready to sit the remaining three exams either which are Met, Human Performance and Instrumentation. I decided that there was no need to rush into it and pushed my exams back 1 month to the start of January. More time studying can’t really hurt can it? Also I think I will be more than prepared to sit these three exams by then.
The week was full on but on the whole not that painful, sometimes it helps having someone in front of you explaining and being able to ask questions.
We managed to “escape” around 3pm on the Friday which was nice as you can try to miss the traffic. Some people were sitting the exams at Bristol the following week, others at other centres in a few week and some the following month.
Between now and my January sitting I will just spend my time going through the question bank.
Oh yeah, when you first walk into the school you will see Noush sitting on reception. No doubt by this point you would have communicated with her at some point.

Hour Building: Circuits at Blackbushe

Following on from my checkout last week I decided to do Hour Building: Circuits at Blackbushe.

C150 at Blackbushe

The real reason for doing circuits was I was at my revision week in Bristol all week and I didn’t have any time to plan a route. The other issue I was suffering from was that I never had the 3 take off’s and landing’s in the last 90 days I require to carry passengers, so I needed to get that done also.
I am still getting used to the procedures at Blackbushe and something that differs from Cranfield is that you have to book out with the tower before your flight. There are also radio differences between an information service and a full ATC service which is what you get at Cranfield.
I got this done then went out to the plane, did the check out and taxied to runway 25 and did 3 quick touch and go’s before coming back down.
Now that I had that done, my girlfriend could come up and join the fun. Well, I say fun, it’s fun for me but as she hadn’t been up in a while and is not the best flyer as it is, she was apprehensive.
We set of again and did another 3 touch and go’s before coming back down. We timed it perfectly as the next guy was ready to go, and benefit from the de icing job I had done for him 🙂
Top tip, the second flight of the day is better than the first especially during winter!
Next time I hope to do a navigation flight and get familiar with the local area as I haven’t really ventured out as of yet.
I also need to get a skydemon subscription as well for travelling further afield.

Checkout with Blackbushe Flying Club

Due to the issues at Cranfield and the cost of hiring there I have been looking around for a new place to fly. With this in mind, yesterday I had a checkout with Blackbushe Flying Club.

Cessna 150

I got to the club and met both my instructor and the owner Dan who are both very nice people.
We went out to check out the Cessna 150, which is a very well presented aircraft and coming from a Cessna 152 it was immediately familiar.
This is a French manufactured 150 and unlike the French 172 I flew it has its speed in knots and it has the notched flaps rather than the electric switch.
We took of and went into the local area. There is Farnborough and RAF Odiham who both have airpsace nearby so you have to be careful on your departure. I can see a skydemon subscription being purchased in the near future.
We flew around the local area where the instructor pointed out a few local land marks.
We then did some stalls in clean and landing configuration. There wasn’t really much to report here, both went well.
Next up we did some steep turns, one to the left and one to the right, all good here.
Then things got interesting. The instructor had asked me if I had even been in a spin, to which I replied no as it had been dropped from the PPL syllabus. He then asked me if I would like to, to which I thought, sure why not.
I was a bit apprehensive, but hey in for a penny in for a pound. It is a very weird feeling seeing the ground going round and round with the aircraft heading to the ground and the G forces acting on you. But it was also quite good to see how the instructor stopped the spin. Power to idle, opposite rudder and control column all the way back and before I knew it we were climbing back up as if nothing had happened.
We then headed back to Blackbushe to do some circuits. First up was the standard circuit with just 20 degrees of flaps, then we went and did a flapless approach before we landed.
Back in the club and that was it, no issues and I can hire and fly at will.
Although I am doing my night rating at Cranfield, I hope this will be my new base for pleasure flying / hour building.

Night Rating: Lesson 2

Following hot on the heals of yesterdays lesson I was back up the airfield today for night rating: lesson 2.
night rating lesson 2

I took the picture above at the start of night and within about 5 mins it was pretty much totally black.
This lesson we wanted to focus on the circuits so we took of and entered the circuit and surprise, surprise we were the only ones in it.
When flying at night the circuit height is 1200ft instead of the normal 1000ft, so after take of we extended the leg to 700ft before turning rather than the normal 500 ft.
We did 4 regular circuits, 3 flapless and 2 without any landing light.
What makes it harder at night is that the runway lights only work within 30 degrees of head on so when you are downwind they are very hard to make out. My instructor said in America they are 360 degrees which would make a lot more sense but what can you do.
I guess I am quite lucky that Cranfield is well equipped and the runway is fully lit with PAPI indicators which you can use to judge your height above the runway.
The most interesting one was landing without the landing light. I know we turn it on during the day but at night it really does make a difference. With it turned off you cannot really see the runway and just have to do your best to judge where the flare should take place. This can lead to some ‘firm’ landings, as you have little visual reference.
I don’t think night circuits are that much more difficult and it most definable would be easier if the plane had a backlit panel. You would think for £185 a hour (I know, how much!) that it would.
I am down in Bristol next week for my ATPL theory brush up week so there will be no more night flying for at least a week. However I now have 3.3 hours logged at night so I am hoping that I can get the final 1.7 hours and 5 landings done in my next lesson the following week.

Night Rating: Lesson 1

Now that the nights are dark I have decided it is time to get signed of for flying in the dark, so yesterday I had Night Rating: Lesson 1.
Night rating

So the first thing you can see from the picture is that it is dark, really dark. The only things that are really available to navigate by are the built up areas and major roads. Everything else just looks like a black abyss that you don’t really want to head into. One exception however is emergency services flashing blues, they look awesome!
At least the plane had a backlight panel .. oh wait no it didn’t. Instead my instructor and I had head torches with red lights in them, the red light allows you to keep your night vision.
Cranfield (the airport I fly from) is open until 6.30pm on a week day and as night is officially starting around 4:50 this seems like a good time to get it done as it can be done in just a few days.
I had dragged my instructor back from his job flying the fancy Pilatus PC 12 around Europe and instead convinced him that the mighty Cessna 152 is where he should be spending his time. To be fair, he was happy to do it (I think).
When we took of it wasn’t too windy we climbed to 2500ft and then leveled off and then did some turns. There isn’t much to report here, just one turn to the left and one turn to the right.
Next up I was told to look down and then he would move the plane around and ask me what I think he did. This was to show me that the “seat of the pants” sense couldn’t always be trusted (looks like Human Performance is coming in handy).
From here we did a navigation flight before returning back to Cranfield to do a landing.
By now the wind was gusting up to 22kts and my instructor told me the best approach was flaplesss, I hadn’t done one of these since my test (months ago) so here I was doing a flapless landing, in the dark, with the wind gusting and a crosswind … great.
On the first approach I was too high so in the words of my instructor “Don’t try to save a landing in the dark” so I did a go around and set myself up again. This one went better, I did land a bit long but apart from that it wasn’t bad at all. I never really did have too many issues with crosswind landings.
On the after landing checklist I found one issue which was “landing light – off” erm I don’t think so, you can’t actually see anything if you do that!
1.6 hours of night in the book. My instructor says tomorrow we will do some night circuits, lets just hope the wind isn’t as strong!

I also found this great PDF on night flying.

ATPL Theory Month 5: Revision

Just a quick post on ATPL theory month 5: revision.
Bristol hand outs
This month was spent going over the question banks and trying to fill in the gaps in my knowledge paying extra attention to Gnav and Met.
I must admit that I am finding them both quite hard, but I am slowly gaining a greater understanding of the concepts behind both subjects.
At the moment I am doing Gnav pretty much 6 days a week including all Saturday and then I dedicate Sunday to Met. I rotate Met, Instrumentation and Human Performance and limitation throughout the week also.
My revision week is booked for mid November at Bristol Ground School with my exams being two weeks after that at the start of December. This has come round pretty fast but it feels like I am now at the business end of module 1.
I am quite looking forward to the revision week as you are sort of studying blind until then. I feel it will be good to see where everyone else thinks they are and what the teacher think you should know .
I expect the next month to be pretty hard with the time starting to run out and the exam dates getting closer. In the mean time I will keep cracking on with the revision and hopefully by the time the exams come I will be ready.

Choosing a flight instructor

As trainee’s we all need someone we trust to teach us how to fly, in this post we will go over choosing a flight instructor.

G-BOYB and instructors

From my time flying, there are 3 distinct groups that flight instructors fall into each with different positives and negatives which we will go over.

  1. Career flight instructors – In this group you have the good and the bad. You will have people who are very passionate about teaching and you will meet people who over the years have become a bit jaded or fed up with teaching. If you can find one who loves teaching they will have a lot of knowledge built up over the years that they can pass to you.
    They will have also taught a LOT of students so they should be able to recognise what you are struggling with and have multiple ways of helping you overcome it.
  2. Time builders who love to teach – These are generally going to be new instructors with a maximum of a few years experience. They are here solely to build hours before moving on to the airlines, however they also show a genuine interest in teaching and seeing their students progress.
    In this group you can find some good teachers but just be aware that should an airline job come up, they will be off and you may have to find a new instructor.
  3. Time builders who hate it – This is the group that you should avoid. They generally do not want to be flying around in a small aircraft and are really focused on how many hours they are building rather than your progress.
    I have found that they are not as proactive in taking an interest in your training as the other two groups and are simply there as they believe it will help them into an airline job.

    The best way to see what somebody is like is to fly with them, you don’t have to accept your lessons with the first instructor who answered the phone when you called. If you don’t get on with someone, try somebody else. The student / instructor relationship is very important and this person will give you the foundation of everything you do going forward.

One year of flying

So it has dawned on me that my one year flying anniversary was this month, so I thought I would reflect on what I have achieved and learnt in the last one year of flying.
C152 G-BMVB
I remember my first lesson pretty well, I remember not really liking the feeling of the plane rocking on take off. It took me a good 4-5 lessons before I was totally comfortable with feeling every slight bump and the turbulence. I lucked out as I had great instructors who really took an interest in my training, I feel this is very important.
My first solo was very memorable, I had been at the stage of being ready for a few weeks but the weather wasn’t playing ball. Eventually I got it done on a lunch break from work. The realisation that the plane climbs so much faster with just two people in it was awesome fun. I love the fact that you are in charge and it is your responsibility to get it down on the ground and there is nobody else to help you.
The next big thing was the cross country qualifier. The feeling of being let loose to fly across the country and land at other aerodromes is amazing. My first contact with radar, doing over hand joins (for just the second time) and navigating long distances! This day will never be forgotten and was a huge milestone in my PPL.
The most nerve-racking part was the PPL skills test. The nerves building up to it, the actual flight and trying to remember everything, the landing back at the airfield and waiting to see how you did (I passed!).
Now that I had my licence it was time for the first flight with a passenger. One of the joys of getting your licence is the ability to take people flying with you, so they can see what you have been working on. Also knowing that they have the faith to come up with you and trust you as pilot in command is a great feeling.
Lastly it was time to pick an ATPL ground school and then the work put into the material (on going work). It is hard work doing it around a full-time job but still fun at the same time.

It has been a fun year of flying and I feel like I have achieved a lot. I hope the next year is just as good and I can’t wait for all the adventures that lay ahead.