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!

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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.

Eric Thomas – I Made My Mark

Today I have the video Eric Thomas- I made my mark. Anyone who knows me, knows that Eric Thomas is one of my favourite motivational speakers as I feel what he says resonates deeply with me. In this video Eric talks about the level of work and commitment that you are putting in and how this affects what is happening in your life. He is saying that you have to give your all when you are working towards your goal and that you need to leave your mark when doing it.
He also speaks about how you make compromises when chasing what you should be chasing and that you have no real need to. You need to keep your goal in site and everything you do should be working towards that goal, no exceptions!
You shouldn’t let people talk you out of what you want to do, it doesn’t matter if they don’t understand or they don’t believe in you. As long as YOU believe in YOU then that is all you need!

Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution – David J. Schwartz

Hour Building: Shoreham to Cranfield

Yesterday I went up the school to do a local flight but when I got there a few people were going on a navigation flight to Shoreham so we tagged along and I did hour building: Shoreham to Cranfield.
Shoreham to Cranfield
This was cool because I got to do a lot of things for the first time. I
 got to do a zone transit of the Luton ATZ and fly near the runway where I got to see the big boys (easyJet and Ryanair up close and personal). I got to fly inbetween all the restricted airspace for all the London airports and I got to fly to Shoreham which is a really cool airport down in Brighton.
The PA28 is a cool plane especially as it holds four people. I have learnt on and only flew a C152 up to this point and I love this plane but the fact it only holds two people is pretty limiting especially when planning landaways. I need to get some more time on the PA28 as it will allow me to go on trips with some people at my school as well as take more people flying at the same time.
We departed the Cranfield and headed towards Luton, from here we got a zone transit across luton at no more than 2000ft. We went down between the airspace at Gatwick and Stansted before flying down to the coast at Brighton before requesting the join to land at Shoreham.
Shoreham Airport
We was on a tight turn around so we grabbed a quick bite to eat before I flew the return leg along the same route (but reversed obviously). Flying the PA28 turned out to be not all that different from the C152. The main things I needed to remember were the new rotation speeds, climb speeds and the speeds for the different parts of the approach. 
Oh there is a manual fuel tank switch that you have to remember to change, which I find quite weird.
The PA28 we were flying G-HARN also had much fancier equipment that I had to learn. 
The flight each way was 1 hour and we flew the majority of the flight around 2000ft. I did have my GoPro’s with me but I didn’t really have time to set them up but I do have a video that I made from camera / phone footage which is below. 
I am not flying next week, then I am off to Scotland the following weekend (with easyJet not flying myself) and I am at Bristol Ground School the one after for my accelerator weekend so hopefully I can go flying in four weeks time.

VFR into IMC

VFR into IMC is one of the most dangerous situations a VFR pilot can find themselves in.
VFR into IMC  is when a pilot takes of in VFR conditions, and is only trained for these conditions, but ends up flying into IMC conditions. Things go badly so fast that it is actually said that an untrained pilot has 178 seconds to live at this point. When flying VFR you are flying by reference to visual points as soon as these visual points are taken away from you, you have to fly in a completely different way, a way which you haven’t learnt to fly which is by flying with only reference to your instruments.
Ask an instructor to take you into IMC and see for yourself how different it is if you haven’t already!
NOTE – VFR pilots can do a IMC course to learn how to fly in these conditions.

This is why your go/no go decision is unbelievably important. As the pilot it is your job decide if it is safe to fly and this includes looking up the weather en route before you even set off. We also have to be willing to turn around! I have flown into IMC conditions twice, with my instructor as part of my training.
The first time was on my practice cross-country qualifier where we had to end up turning back as the viability was just too poor to land. There was some visual reference left (not a huge amount) so it was possible just about to navigate but it isn’t something I would have wanted to experience on my own.
The second time was deliberate as my instructor wanted to show me how quickly the situation could go wrong with even a moderate workload in the aircraft, he asked me to do a few things such as tune a VOR and look up something on a map while keeping the plane level. By the time I had looked back at the instruments the plane was already banked while I thought we were still flying straight and level!
If you watch this video you can see how quickly pilots with different amounts of VFR flight time take to lose control of the aircraft in the simulator.

As you can see the pilots all seem to lose control of the aircraft and a lot of them end up in a steep turn or a spin. You also see that a lot of them end up flying way too fast and their altitude starts running out real fast! If you look at this next video you will hear stories of more pilots who found themselves in this situation, what caused them to get into the situation, how scary the situation was and most importantly what they think what could have happened!

The second to last video I have for you is about a pilot who happened to fly into IMC conditions and sadly the worst happened. As I am sure you can see from this video, the pilot is stressed, has a high workload, is trying to workout what to do. His decision-making is becoming increasingly erratic and despite the controllers giving him what is most likely his best option (landing at Palwaukee / executive) he decides to do otherwise.

Firstly RIP to that guy and his 3 passengers 🙁 VFR into IMC can and DOES kill in fact for VFR pilots it is the leading cause of death.

This video shows a pilot has despite plenty of warnings and towards the end has ATC telling him the route he plans to take is not advised, yet he continues to fly this route. This unfortunately also ended in the death of the pilot so RIP to him also.

Last week I was doing circuits, I did plan to do a navigation flight but due to the weather not being excellent, I decided that was a no go as I didn’t want to risk getting stuck en route in bad weather conditions. On my second circuit I was on final with clearance for a touch and go when the skies opened up, in seconds visibility went from perfectly fine to hardly being able to see in front of me. I immediately called ATC to change from a touch and go, to instead land. That landing was much harder than any other I have done, it was harder to judge my height & to judge my flair and the simple reason for this was because the viability had became bad and I lost my visual cues. After I had got the plane on the ground the taxi was hard work, I could hardly see in front of me.
We all need to have respect for the weather, it is strong and it can come on very quickly.
Always remember there is no shame in turning back and there is even less shame in deciding not to go. I have learnt a lot from these videos that hopefully I can apply to my flying. Get-home-itis (OK not an official word, but the desire to want to get home) is also a thing that can affect us. This is where the desire to get home clouds our judgement and makes us proceed in situations where we should really stay put!

This video I have saved for last, as it is an hour long and I wanted people to watch the other videos first. This is a great lecture on VFR to IMC and most defiantly worth a watch.

Lessons to be learned.

  1. Your go / no go decision is important.
  2. Don’t be afraid to turn back.
  3. If ATC recommend you don’t do something, you should probably listen!
  4. Always get the weather for your route.


Remember, we are always learning!


Why flight training needs to embrace GPS

One thing that I have always found weird is that despite the technology we have at our disposal, flight training at least at PPL level has a reluctance to embrace GPS and uses a training system that was designed well before these modern technologies existed. So this is why flight training needs to embrace GPS.
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of dead reckoning and map reading skills and yes they most defiantly should still feature heavily in the learning process. However GPS isn’t going away and it is here to stay, so why are we not being taught how to use it properly?
Of course following a magenta line on the screen is not how we should learn to fly, however in the UK at least there is so much restricted airspace and with the CAA now announcing that you may lose your licence if you stray into it, why should we take any risks?
There are free and paid for options that would be able to help us avoid this all together.
When you are lost temporarily unsure of position 🙂 the workload in the cockpit goes up as you are trying to work out where exactly you are. Obviously map reading skills are still essential and should your GPS fail you still need to be able to work out where you are, but doesn’t it make more sense to take a quick look at the GPS and know exactly where you are?
It just seems to me at least, rather than resist these aides, and they are just that, aides to the tried and tested methods. The training should be redesigned to incorporate them alongside what we are already taught.
Also a few flights with no GPS to keep skills sharp would also make sense knowing that if something did go wrong, you could just flick it on.
I see no reason in modern time to set of into unfamiliar airspace without some form of GPS, I mean we all carry a phone with us that has a GPS chipset so why not use it? The technology and apps are out there.

ATPL theory week 4: Instrumentation

Still studying hard for the ATPL theory, so here is my recap of ATPL theory week 4: Instrumentation.

ATPL Theory Week 4

Following on from last weeks decision to focus on one subject at a time I have been working through the instrumentation lessons.
This week I was learning about gyro principles, direction indicators, artificial horizons, turn and slip indicators, rate gyros, magnetism, direct reading compasses, remote indicating compasses, deviation and compass swings. On top of this I had two practice tests thrown in for good measure.
Now I must admit, I knew the ATPL theory would be hard, but the sheer amount of information you have to process and learn can be quite overwhelming. I am now four weeks in and I can already see that when I get to the end of the module I will have to spend a lot of time going back and looking things up to make sure they have stuck. I anticipate at least a month (maybe two) of revision before I enrol on the revision week at the school.
I also have my accelerator weekend coming up at the start of August so ideally I would like to be doing the general nav subjects around that time.
It is hard to fit in so much study around work so you have to be very strict about getting in from work and putting a few hours in on your ATPL.
I will just do one update a month from now on to prevent all the posts being very similar.