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.


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The cheapest way to hour build

Another subject that has come up recently was what is the cheapest way to hour build was, so in this post I will explain the options.
Air to Air C150

Flying School
So the first option and the most “familiar” will be to rent a plane from the school that you learnt at. Now I am going to say straight away that this is most likely going to be the most expensive option. Flying schools normally have the highest charges and on top of this if the school is busy then the availability will be pretty poor. I think I “built” 4-5 hours at the school I learnt at before I moved on to new (and cheaper) pastures.
The school I trained at wants an eye watering £165 for 1 hour solo hire in a C152. If I needed 100 hours that would be £16,500! Needless to say this was not an option. However some flying schools have lower rates maybe £120 ish but this would still cost you £12,000. Flying is expensive, we don’t need to make it more expensive than necessary.
Also you got to remember that the schools are using these planes for training, it is unlikely that they are going to let you take it away for half a day  if you are only planning 1.5 – 2 hours of flying.
Maybe in a less busy time of year you can negotiate a discount with a school, however in my opinion I would focus on the following options.

Going Abroad
The next popular option is to go abroad. Years ago when the pound was stronger the US was incredibly good value. Don’t get me wrong, it is still cheaper to fly stateside then it is in the UK however with the weakening pound it is not as cheap as it once was. What you do get however in some states is almost guaranteed clear flying weather and the ability to build 50-60 hours in a month or so which can be difficult in the UK.
You do have to factor in flights, hotels, car rental etc when you go abroad so you need to add this onto the rate you are getting, it might actually be cheaper to stay put if you can find the right deal.
Popular destinations are Florida (be careful of the time of year) or Phoenix. Also South Africa is a pretty cheap place to fly.

Buying a plane
What do you think I am loaded? Well, if you can afford it you can normally buy an aircraft, fly the hours you need and then sell it on without losing much money. The real risk with this is if something goes wrong in your time of ownership and you have to pay to fix it. If you can find the right plane at the right price then this just might be the thing for you.

en route to kemble

Finding a share
Now this makes a lot of sense, there are two types of shares equity or non equity shares. The first you buy a part of the ownership of the plane and the second you don’t. Doing it this way means there are a set number of people who will be using the aircraft and the availability is better. When you have finished building your hours you can sell your share onto someone else, which means really you have only played for the hours built. However you also have to consider that possibly the share wont go ASAP and if you need the money to continue your flying, that can be a big issue.
Some shares won’t like hour builders and others will not mind, you just have to have a look and see what is available. If you can find the right share, this could be the right way to get your hours built.
You also will have to chip in for running costs / new engine.

A flying group / club
This is similar to a share apart from normally someone owns the planes (or a group of people) and you have a fixed rate to fly the plane, the group owner takes care of maintenance, inspections etc. The rate normally works out at somewhere between a share and a flying school, more likely towards the share side of things.
Make sure you check out the rules in relation to how often you are allowed to book, how long you can have the plane for etc. There is no point finding a cheap rate if you can only have the aircraft for 2 hours at a time or so.

Private Deal
There are a lot of planes owned by private individuals that are not utilised that much. Some of these owners may be interested in selling you some time in their plane maybe over a month or two when they know they wont be using it. Obviously this would be an arrangement between the two of you but this can work out to be a an excellent way of getting the hours you need relatively cheaply. You never know what a quick convo with someone who has a C150, C152, PA28 etc at your local airfield might lead too.

All of these really depend on your situation so I am sure some will appeal more than others. Also remember maintenance is important, you do not want to be flying in a cheap but poorly maintained aircraft.

Hour Building: With An unexpected return to Cranfield

Continuing with my effort to get my hours and experience up on Sunday I did some hour building: With an unexpected return to Cranfield.
Cranfield C150

Now my day never started with any intention of going to Cranfield, in fact I was routing to Conington as I tried to the last time I flew.
I did my pre flight at Blackbushe which was using runway 07, which I had never used before so that was pretty cool. I took off and started heading towards the north under the London TMA of 2500 with a traffic service from Farnborough until I popped out the other side and changed to Cranfield.
I then routed up the west of Milton Keynes before heading to the south of Sywell when the cloud base dropped and the visibility seemed to get worse. I decided there was no way it was possible for me to fly through that and I knew I didn’t have enough fuel to make it back to Blackbushe so I would have to land. I had two options, Sywell or Cranfield.
As I would only be stopping for fuel then heading back I decided to choose my old stomping ground of Cranfield. I reported at Olney and joined downwind runway 03 before landing.
Now as great of an airfield that Cranfield is, there isn’t much to do there so it made the perfect choice for a refueling stop. One thing that did surprise me is the landing fee is only £7.50. I had never paid it before due to being in based aircrafts but I think that is very reasonable, actually it is the lowest of any airfield that I have ever visited.
The fuel truck promptly arrived and thankfully accepted my fuel card which was nice (it is so useful having fuel cards).
As I didn’t want to risk the weather setting in on the return I promptly departed and headed back to Blackbushe. The weather on the way back was actually perfectly fine so there was no issues there. I joined downwind at Blackbushe and choose to extend downwind for separation as a C150 popped out just under me and rather than do a go around it was easier to extend my leg.
All in all a busy day of flying and I ended up with another 2.2 hours in the log book, I’m up to 69.1 in total now so still a lot of flying to get done.
I am really enjoying spreading my wings and exploring the UK. I think I am going to give up on Conington for now and pick another airfield to try to visit and come back to Conington in the summer.
I am not flying for the next few weeks as I am away a lot with work, so I will focus on the ATPL exams that are coming up.

I booked my CPL ME IR course at Bartolini Air

So I have been looking at schools to do my CPL ME IR at and yesterday I booked my CPL ME IR course at Bartolini which will be starting in August 2018. The reason I have picked August 2018 is because I have until July 2018 to pass my ATPL exams. I figure that as I must have them passed by then (hopefully before) this would be a good time to pick for the training.
Shoreham to Cranfield
I know, it’s early but Bartolini are booked out like 7 months in advance so I figured I would pay my deposit now so the course is at least guaranteed for next summer. The deposit to reserve my place was €800 which worked out to be just over £700 which aint that bad.
I haven’t actually been to the school, which to be honest really is one of the no no’s but I have heard so many good things about them and by brothers friend went so I booked on the back of his recommendation. I will probably go and visit them later this year.

Why I choose Bartolini?

  1. Price – Bartolini seem to be the cheapest CPL ME IR course provider that I have found that have a good reputation. I mean the course still costs €17,500.00 which at today’s exchange rate is £14,763. Now this is much cheaper than anything I can find in the UK. The price here seems to be around £23,000 so as you can see it is a huge saving. Also the course at Bartolini includes aircraft rental for the tests and the landing fees which a lot of the courses here do not.
  2. Speed – Bartolini can do the training in as little as 8 weeks. Now I have a full time job which I may or may not have to give up to complete my course, so the less time to ask to have off the better really.
  3. Recommendations – My brothers friend who told me about the modular path went to Bartolini and couldn’t speak more highly of them. For this reason they were always right at the top of my list of schools to go to.
  4. Flexible – They have no issues splitting the course so you could go out and do say the CPL then go back in a few weeks and do the IR if needed.
  5. Placement record – The students are getting jobs, this means that the training has to be very good.
  6. Wings alliance member – Bartolini are part of the Wings Alliance and as I am a student at Bristol Ground School it made a lot of sense. By doing the training with Bartolini I will possibly be eligible for the Wings Alliance ARC course.
  7. Testing under UK CAA – The skills test can be done under a UK CAA examiner.

All in all Bartolini ticked a lot of boxes and I like the idea of going abroad for a few months to learn in some new airspace. On top of this I am looking forward to flying the Technam aircraft the P2006T twin and the P2002. This aircraft is maybe not as popular as others but they do seem to be modern planes.

Now just the small issue of 11 exams and lots of hour building to do first.

ATPL Theory Month 11

Another month down, so this is my recap of ATPL Theory month 11.
Navigation planning

So this month two things happened really. First I went to the module two revision week down in Bristol and secondly I pushed my exams from the start of May to the start of June. I got quite lucky as my local test centre (Luton) doesn’t have much availability but someone must have cancelled as randomly one day I was able to transfer my exams.
I have Air Law on the Monday, Radio Navigation on the Wednesday and AGK on the Thursday. I have moved Flight Planning to my “Mod 4”. I did try to book a communications exams for this mod but apparently I am not allowed until I have sat the module 3 brush up which is a bit frustrating but it is what it is.
I have spent the majority of this month just going through the question banks and trying to get my head around the areas that I am still struggling with. My scores are going up slowly which is a good and I hope by the time the exams come round that I will be ready for them.
We were told that from August some subjects are going to be going to an input field rather than multiple choice so I will be affected by that (asif there isn’t enough changes at the moment).
So far I think I am doing well, I still need some more work in Radio Navigation hence why I pushed the exams back a bit but I think I will get there.
There is not really a lot more to say apart from that as from now till the exams it will be similar in terms of what I am doing.
Oh yeah, I have booked my CPL ME IR for next year but I will talk about that in an upcoming post.
I also turned 32 yesterday, getting old!

Hour Building: Local flight from Blackbushe

I was down at the airfield today and I did hour building: Local flight from Blackbushe.
Air to Air C150
This is just a quick post so I have a record of the flight for the blog. I never planned to do a local flight, I was actually en route to Conington but I flew into an area of mist and I decided to turn back as the TAF for Luton further on my route showed a possibility of 4km vis in mist and I most certainly did not want to get caught in that. I could have probably pressed on but I guess it is better to be safe rather than sorry.
I mean this wasn’t ideal for me but I still managed to get another 0.9 hours in my log book so it wasn’t a wasted trip.
I was actually routing with a guy that I had been talking to on Instagram so it’s a shame that we had to turn around but I am sure we will get this flight completed in the coming weeks. I was quite excited to be flying that way due to the fact that this is my “old stomping ground” being the area that I learned in but had not actually landed at many of the airfields due to them being so close.
We managed to do some “air to air” on the way back to Blackbushe that you can see in the picture. The weather did clear up not to long after but I only had a four hour slot in the plane so there wasn’t enough time to then get back up and head to Conington.
Anyways, the hours are slowly creeping up and I now have 66.9 hours total. Still a long way from the CPL requirement but I still have a summer of flight in front of me.
I did see that Blackbushe are having an airshow on the 1st July so I think I will look into that and get tickets due to the fact I have never actually been to one.
On top of that I met the editor of Pilot magazine when I was in the cafe, he was with the assistant editor I met the other week. Both are absolutley lovely people by the way 🙂 You just never know who you might see in that Cafe!

 

Cheap Flight Training via the Modular Route

Recently I have been getting contacted by people with the same concern. They want to be a pilot but they cannot afford the £80,000 – £120,000 price that they have been seeing for the training. Some have asked how I am finding such huge amounts to do my training. I always reply the same way, it does not cost anywhere near that much to get a fATPL. You can get cheaper flight training via the modular route and I will show you how.
What’s the catch? There is no catch, no strings, I am not selling you anything. This information is totally free and all I ask that you pass it on to as many people as you possibly can who have the same concerns.
You can qualify as a pilot for as little as £35,200*.  Ok, maybe cheap isn’t the right word, but it is cheaper than £100,000.

*Quick calculations by myself but defiantly around this figure.

When I first looked at flight training I came across the expensive £80,000 ish courses and pretty much said “I can’t afford it” but I started to save money for flying anyways. I was luckily enough that my brothers friend had recently completed his training and was now flying for easyJet. How? I asked as we are from similar backgrounds and he most certainly didn’t have that kind of money lying around either.
“Go modular” he said. I wasn’t totally sure what the modular route was, however he preceded to inform me and the more he talked the more sense it made. This is the real difference between myself and most people I have met. They don’t have that person who is there to show them the “other way” so that is what I am trying to achieve with this post.
Firstly what is the modular route? The modular route is a process where you do your training step by step until you are fully qualified. Flight training is cheaper abroad than it is in the UK, this is just the way it is so if you want to qualify towards the lower end of my estimates you will most certainly have to go abroad for some parts of your training.
This post is not designed to explain each part of the route in detail, I have other posts and there are lots of information online in regards to that. If you need more detailed information that you cannot find then you can contact me. This post is to show you what you can realistically train as a pilot for.

PPL (Private Pilots Licence). 

This is your initial licence you must complete. You will learn the basics of flying and how an aircraft works before finally doing your cross-country qualifier and skills test. During the course of this you will also have to complete 9 exams.
I know this is a UK based blog and my experience is mainly based from a UK point of view but this information is valid for anyone who is looking to get a EASA licence.
You can get your PPL anywhere in the world as long as they PPL is a ICAO standard PPL. This means that you can go to cheaper locations such as the USA and South Africa and complete this training and still come back and complete the next step.
These posts are about my PPL training. I made a post about every single lessons so it really is a start to finish account.
Cost £6000-£10,000.

ATPL Theory

Again, you can complete this anywhere that offers EASA theory training. During the ATPL theory you will complete 14 exams covering the following subjects.

  • Air law
  • Aircraft general knowledge
  • Flight planning and monitoring
  • Human performance and limitations
  • Meteorology
  • Operational procedures
  • Principles of flight
  • Communications (IFR & VFR)
  • Performance
  • General navigation
  • Radio navigation
  • Instrumentation
  • Mass and balance

There are many theory providers and you need to do your own research on to what school you go to as they all offer different things and it is a personal decision.  Also you need to decide if you want to do distance learning or full-time in a classroom based environment.
I am currently working through these exams and at the time of writing I have sat 3 with another 3 in a month.
These posts are about my ATPL theory.
Cost £2000-£6000.

en route to kemble

Night Rating

This is your first “add on” course. It is normally around 5 hours of flying time. The aim of this course is to get you familiar with flying at night as pretty much all of your training would have been done in daylight hours up until this point.
These posts are about my night rating.
Cost £700-£1300

Hour Building.

Again you can do this pretty much anywhere in the world as long as the aircraft qualifies. On the whole the UK is a very expensive place to do this however this doesn’t mean that you can’t find a good deal.
Flying schools on the whole in the UK are the most expensive way of doing this, so should be discarded unless you can negotiate a favorable rate. Cheaper ways of doing this are by joining a flying club / group or a buying a share in a plane. If you do not want to do this then some of the cheapest flying in the world at the moment is in the USA or South Africa. You should also not be afraid to negotiate as there are more savings to be had.
Cost £7000-£15,000

CPL ME IR

Now this is the most expensive section of your training. The commercial Pilots Licence, Multi Engine and Instrument Rating. In the UK this is most likely going to cost you something like £21,000 – £25,000. However in Eastern Europe this will cost you as “little” as £15,000. As you can see there is quite a difference and if you can be away from the UK it makes sense to go abroad to complete this if possible. The training in Europe should still be EASA and can normally be conducted under your local aviation authority.
Cost £15,000 – £25,000.

MCC / JOC

This is the final part you will do. This is the course where you learn to work as part of a crew as you would in an airline.
These courses are not all equal. Some courses you will get the bare minimum in regards to get the certificate. Other course you will get a lot more, interview prep and even support in finding a job. So again this is a personal choice that you need to make and do your own research on.
Cost £4000 – £10,000.

Others.
Things like flights, hotels, licence application forms etc do need to be budgeted for.
£500 – £4000

So as you can see the cost of becoming a pilot is nowhere near £100,000 and you can train for considerably less. Adding up the figures I personally put the cost at between £35,200 – £70,000.
You would only see the £70,000 cost if you choose the most expensive possible option at every stage. Realistically if you are smart, you can be qualified for £35,200 – £45,000 with high quality training.
Yes, it’s still expensive but it is perfectly doable for anyone who is dedicated and willing to put in the work.

Now don’t forget that once you get your fATPL you may still have to find £15,000-£40,000 for a type rating. However you most likely would have to find this on the more expensive courses also.

Bose A20 review

So a few months back I decided to upgrade my David Clark H10-13.4 to a set of Bose A20’s. I wanted to fly a bit with the new headset before I gave my opinion of them, so this is my Bose A20 review.

Firstly I want to start by saying the David Clark are a great starter headset, in fact of the passive headsets I used they were by far the best and you may find they are perfect for your needs. I am working towards the airlines and as I have a lot of flying to do, I wanted to at least see what the Bose could offer.

Price
The main stumbling point in regards to the Bose is getting your head around the price. Bose strictly control the price of new headsets so you won’t find much variation in regards to price and the standard selling price is £999 for the bluetooth version and £910 for the non bluetooth version in the UK.
The non bluetooth does have a line in so you can feed your iPad or your phone into this headset also, it is just one wire. It does have a mix mode which cuts the line in when you get radio communications but I cannot comment on this as I have never used this mode.
In regards to price there is a second option and that is to purchase a used set. I managed to pick up a later model A20 headset for £500 which to me is a more justifiable cost. I mean £500 is still a lot of money of course but Aviation is not a cheap thing to be involved in and by this point you have probably realised that. It didn’t cost me much to buy a replacement mic sock and foam cups for the the headset.
However, just because something is expensive doesn’t make it poor value for money. You should really do what you can to protect your hearing as once it goes it doesn’t come back. ANR helps this and while you don’t have to spend £900 it doesn’t make a £900 headset poor value. As with anything try a few headsets, I am sure there is someone at your flying club who has a set they will be willing to let you try.

Value / Features
Anyways onto the actual headset and if I think it offers value for money in regards to the cheaper headsets (as it should at £900+).
The first thing to talk about is the active noise reduction. I read reviews where people say they plug it in and turn it on and think is the engine on? I don’t know about all of that as you can clearly hear the engine, but what does change is what level of engine noise you hear.
You can hear the engine running and any changes in it, the difference is how loud it is. When I am wearing the Bose A20 the engine noise is significantly lower. This also extends to communications with ATC, they are nice and clear and the communication is easy to make out. The headset removes the sounds you don’t “need” and just leaves you with the essential sounds. If you try a passive headset then put on the Bose headset you will hear a clear difference between the two.
The next main selling point for me is the comfort levels. As this headset is £910+ you would expect a high quality construction, which you do get. When you pick up the Bose it fees high quality and looks like it costs a lot of money.
I remember after long flights with the David Clarks sometimes I just couldn’t wait to get the headset of my head. As they are passive noise reduction they have quite a high clamping pressure to achieve this. When wearing the Bose I tend to forget it’s there, they are very light and don’t put pressure on my head when flying. After landing I am in no rush to get them off my head which sometimes I am with a long flight with the David Clark’s. In fact, the Bose really are a joy to wear, they are light and so well put together.
The batteries last for ages, in fact since I have gotten them I haven’t had to replace them. Bose state that the two AA batteries should last around 40 hours.
Bose also offer a 5 year warranty on the headsets and from what I can see their fixed price out of warranty repairs are very reasonable also.

Conclusion
So would I recommend the headset? Without a doubt I would say yes, protecting our hearing is important and the Bose A20 can grow with you as you can change the cable for the different type of aircraft you may end up flying.
If the cost of the headset is top much then cheaper headsets like the David Clark’s are still great. In fact these are now my passenger set and I have not had any complaints in regards to them, however now that I have gone ANR, I won’t be going back!

Module 2 revision week at Bristol Ground School

So I have just got back from Module 2 revision week at Bristol Ground School.

Bristol Ground School

This course started on a Sunday due to Easter which is great as I only had to take 4 days of work.
There were actually a few people on the course I talk online so it was nice to meet them in person.
I was actually sitting next to a guy I met at my exams in Jan and it seems our schedules are lining up in regards to exams at mod 3, which is nice.
It seems crazy to me that he lives in Newcastle and has to come all the way down south to sit his exams. I think the CAA really need to open more centres in the UK. I am quite lucky that there is a centre right here in Luton.
Pro tip – Book your exams as soon as you start your module even if its 4-6 months away. You will be surprised how quickly some of these exams can fill up.
Oh, I put my exams back to June, I was looking and saw some availability so I decided that I would take the extra month as it can’t hurt can it?
The days at the school are long and I would describe it as a fast paced recap of the ATPL material you have previously read. The real benefit of the course for me is that if you are stuck on something you have a teacher you can ask who will try to answer for you.
Also another benefit of the revision weeks is the interaction with other students. You can get a lot of tips and advice and also just gauge how you are getting on.
We had John for Air law / Radio Nav, Chris and Mac for AGK and JJ for Flight Planning.
My real frustration is the lack of flexibility with the ATPL exams. Even if you read the material for a subject you cannot sit it “early” until you have sat the brush up week.
As you know I have decided to move Flight Planning to Mod 4, so I figured hey ill do the material and sit VFR comms now and get it out the way. Well no, for some reason I am not allowed to do that. I can’t sit the exam until I have sat mod 3 brush up where they basically do no covering of comms.
I don’t blame Bristol for this as no doubt this rule comes from the CAA or EASA and their mandated classroom time.
I have now moved both comms exams to “mod 4” as I really want to get Mass and Balance, Performance, Ops and Principles of Flight done in mod 3. Leaving me 2 “hard” and 2 “easier” exams for mod 4 in General Navigation and Flight planning.
Oh, we was told that from August some exams will be going from multiple choice to an input field. I remember it would include Performance, Flight planning, Mass and Balance and I can’t recall the forth one. It was supposed to be next year however the CAA decided that 1500 new questions a year wasn’t enough, so lets hit this group of students with even more changes. The fact we are going through more changes than anyone in ATPL history clearly isn’t enough.
While I was down there I also paid for and picked up my mod 3 material so I am ready to go straight on to it (and saved £13.50 in shipping costs). Every little helps and all that.
I have booked onto mod 3 which will be at the end of September and I am looking to sit the mod 3 exams in either November or December depending on my progress.
I had planned to do some flying weather permitting over the long weekend however the plane has gone tech so looks like it’s revision for me.

Hour Building: Blackbushe to Kemble (Cotswold) Airport

After trying since the turn of the year I finally managed hour building: Blackbushe to Kemble (Cotswold) Airport.

en route to kemble

So earlier this week it looked like we would have a perfect weekend weather wise, however after being disappointed 90% of the time i have tried to fly this year I was apprehensive.
However, when I woke up the skies were clear so I decided to take advantage. I had a three hour slot in the plane and decided to go to Kemble and back. It wouldn’t leave much time on the ground but you got to take these opportunities when you can.
After checking out the plane I knew time would be limited so I got airborne and set off. There was some haze en route but apart from that it really was a great day to fly.
I talked to Farnborough and Brize Radar en route. This was my first experience of talking to Farnborough and you have to be quick to get your message in! I think it took a good 5 minutes before I was able to get my message across. There was a lot of people inadvertently talking over each other and the controller defiantly had their work out.
At Kemble they asked for a standard overhead join which I had not done since my PPL but it went perfectly with no issues. I must say just the simple circuit direction on Skydemon made this process so much easier.
Kemble is a really cool airport with lots of old jets around ready for scrapping. Also the landing fee is only £8 which is pretty good especially when you consider it costs £30 to land at Shoreham!

old aircraft at kemble

With such a small time window there was just enough time to eat before getting back in the air for the return leg to Blackbushe.
It was uneventful and I spoke to London Centre before switching to Farnborough and back to Blackbushe.
All in all was a great day and I was grateful to get my first land away done since my cross-country qualifier almost a year ago! I look forward to exploring the UK some more this year while building my hours.

Another 1.9 hours in the log book 🙂

Here is a short video from the flight.