PPL Lesson 5: Slow Flight

Clear Blue Skies Cranfield

Yesterday was PPL Lesson 5: Slow Flight.
We seem to be working through the syllabus quite quickly and things are starting to click. Today we started doing stalling for the first time.
In our pre flight briefing my instructor taught me HASELL which helps you remember the procedure before doing a stall recovery.

  • Height – Do we have enough height to practice stalls?
  • Airframe – Is there ice on the plane?
  • Security – Are you strapped in?
  • Engine – Are the T’s and P’s (temperature and pressure) good?
  • Location – Where are you? You cant do this over built up areas etc.
  • Lookout – Are there any other aircraft around?

Stalling wasn’t what I expected at all, I anticipated when a plane stalls it would start to lose altitude and be reasonably unstable. However in the Cessna 152 I learn in, all that really happened was an audio stall warning sounded and that the plane shook very slightly which you corrected with the rudder. The plane of course lost altitude while we was doing this.
Following this, you pitch the nose down and apply full power then climb back out at 65 knots at which point the stall is recovered.
There wasn’t much else to say about the lesson as the stalls was the focus.
I did get to see the sun set behind the horizon which was absolutely breath taking.
I also did my first radio call today, I felt a little nervous calling the tower incase I got it wrong but I got both calls perfect.
I feel like I am making solid progress and I cant wait to get up in the air again.
Hopefully next week I can sort out the exercise spirometry that is holding up my class 1 medical.

Another 1.1 hours in the log book and we are now at 5.9 hours!

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Should I become a pilot?

Piper PA 44

This is a question that all of us who love flying ask. Should we take the high risk gamble to train as a pilot knowing that we may never get to use our licence? To be completely honest, nobody bar you can answer that question as everybody’s personal circumstances are different.
I will try to go through all the things you must consider when asking yourself should I become a pilot?

No matter which method of training you choose, integrated or modular the costs range from the 10’s to in excess of £100,000 pounds.
Modular flight training where you are willing to travel the world to get the best price will cost you around £35,000.
If you want to do your modular flight training in the UK only then you need to budget closer to £55,000.
However if you want to go integrated at a big school your training will cost you in excess of £100,000!
On top of this you need to know that most airlines these days you will have to pay for your type rating. The cost of this will be around £20,000 and is not included in the headline prices you see.
Remember all loans will gain interest while you are training, remember to factor this in as well.
No matter what route you choose do your own research. Don’t listen to any school or anyone with any desires on your money. Ignore the glossy magazines and the flash presentations and do your own research.
Read up about the so-called pilot shortage (hint – It doesn’t exist).
The salaries are not excellent and most likely are a lot less than you are expecting. Look them up & work out what you owe, can you make these payments and still afford to live?
Don’t get shiny jet syndrome as having £600 a month to live on after paying your payment on your £100,000+ loan, that will syndrome will go real fast.

Passion & Sacrifice
Are you passionate about this? Do you really want this? You will meet people who do, so you need to make sure you want it just as much. Unless you have a lot of money behind you, you will have to sacrifice a lot. Holidays, nights out, eating out, the latest phones and gadgets etc. That money becomes flying money. At one lesson a week at £170 a hour you will spend £680 a month on flying alone. I would say that is the bare minimum you should be looking to fly when training for your PPL.
If you are not prepared to do all this then you may want to reconsider.

Job Prospects
Competition for jobs is fierce and there is a chance you may never get to earn a thing with your licence. You could also lose your medical and you would not be able to fly.
What would you do if the worse happens? Do you have a back up plan? How will you earn money? How will you pay back your loans, which of course will still need paying back?
You need to also work out what your plan B is if plan A doesn’t work out. I personally am an IT Engineer and I hold multiple Microsoft certifications, so I have a career I can fall back on while waiting for my dream job or if the worse should happen. I have also saved a fair chunk of the training costs and I have a decent wage coming in.
Are you relying on your wages from your job? What happens if you lose your job in the middle of your training? What is the alternative. If you have put say £20,000 in you then don’t want to be out of money with no way to finish your training.

Full time or part time?
If you can afford it full time would be the best so you can focus on your training, however you will have no money coming in and a LOT going out. You need to factor in living costs during these times as they are not included in the headline price you see.

In Conclusion
At the end of the day if you have done your research and decide it’s time to go for it then you are going to have some amazing fun. Learning to fly is a joy and an everyone should have the experience of at least 1 lesson.
Remember you will defiantly never get to fly a plane for a living without the licence! Just remember that job may be years down the line, so make sure your plan B is solid.
You need to get in this game for the love, but you need to also be able to live your life, so the finances have to add up.

Lastly remember, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Do you want to look back in 20 years and say I wished I tried, or I am glad I tried?

PPL Lesson 4: Night flying

Night 2

I was supposed to have a lesson yesterday but once again the Great British weather decided it was not to be. To be honest I’m glad because the only lesson available today gave me my first taste of night flying! Today I had PPL lesson 4: Night flying.
I am still stuck at one lesson a week as I am still waiting for the CAA to decide what they are doing with my class 1 medical, but it’s better than nothing.
Look at that view! Everything is so much better at night. The sunset, the moon, the skies, the runway lights, the lights of the towns, EVERYTHING! I managed to log 0.6 hours towards my night rating and I plan to get it all done over the winter as I wont be able to do it in the summer. My instructor said we can do it as part of the PPL so it might even work out cheaper to do it now.
On this lesson I took of for the first time, a massive 60 knots then gently pull back on the column and bam, you are airborne trying to keep 65 knots in the climb.
On to the lesson, we focused on doing climbing & descending turns. I’m sure this would be easier in the day where you can see the instruments however for some reason the Cessna has no back lights so they are a bit hard to see with just a head torch.
Either way I got the hang of these pretty quickly and they are not something I found very difficult.
At the end of the lesson I did my first landing (my instructor did the power). What an amazing feeling and to be honest, it’s always nice to know that you can put the plane back down on the ground so I am looking forward to perfecting that.
The first two lessons I was thinking I am never going to get the hang of the settings for climbing and descending and using the trim. However it all clicked today, the settings were coming naturally and I left the Cessna thinking that I had done a good job.

Another 1.1 hours into the log book and we are up to 4.8 hours in total!

Don’t pay for flight training upfront

Coming into land

Cabair collage of air training is one of the reason you don’t pay for flight training upfront. It was a big renowned flight training school based at Cranfield airport.
Cabair liked to take payment upfront for their zero to ATPL courses which a the time of their administration was £60,000-£70,000.
Unfortunately for the students of Cabair when the company went into administration with their money, they became an unsecured creditor. To make things worse, as a student you are normally after people like the government and suppliers who are all trying to recover their cash.
Cabair was in trouble well before they finally closed for good. They even managed to talk students into paying more money to finish up their training, so some of these poor students were hit twice.
A google search about the school would have shown up their difficulties which were well known in the aviation community. It would seem that some students were not doing their research. This is why you cannot believe what the schools tell you (or any business for that matter) and must do your own search.
Can you imagine being a student and losing tens of thousands of pounds? A lot of this money would have been borrowed or loaned which makes it even worse. I can’t help but feel bad for these people. Remember that any money that was borrowed would still need to be repaid.
Nobody is training pilots out of the kindness of their heart. They are a business to make money and it makes sense for them to tell you things like there is a pilot shortage (I have a post on why there is no pilot shortage).
Instructors are there to build hours or earn a living / some extra money. Some love to teach, of course they do, but would they do it for free? Would anyone work for free? Would you?
No students = No money, remember that.
Other things schools like to say are all their students go on to fly for airlines. There some caveats like they have waited years, or found the jobs on their own, or only done part of their training with that school. These are the things they don’t mention for obvious reason but by doing some research on the internet you can find these things out.

Essential rules when paying for flight training

  1. Do not ever pay for training up front – I mean EVER. If someone wants you to pay up front rather than in installments say no. Why should you pay for training that isn’t going to be delivered for up to 18 months? You should either pay as you go or split the payment over the course.
  2. Pay as you fly – If you are doing a PPL or some other part of training then you should be able to pay as you fly. At my current school I fly then I pay. This is the best way to do it as I have had the service then I pay for it.
  3. If you do pay for part up front, use a credit card – Credit cards protect you for all purchases over £100. For instance if ground school costs £2000, put it all on a credit card.
    Credit Card -> Debit Card -> Cash. The credit card is defiantly king however. If you pay cash you will just be another unsecured creditor with no other way to get it back. With the debit card you have some hope and with the credit card you have legal protection.
    That way if the school goes bust you can go to your credit card company and should be able to get it back.

So just to say it one last time, don’t pay for flight training upfront!

Initial class 1 medical at CAA Gatwick

CAA Gatwick

Yesterday I had my Initial Class 1 medical at CAA Gatwick.
It was a weird day that I’m going to run through now so that anyone who has one upcoming can know what to expect.
First things first, the directions of how to get to the CAA Gatwick on their website are basically rubbish. What you need to do is find Costa in the south terminal, walk in the walkway to the emergency exit then down the stairs and outside.
Walk towards the road, you will see a bus stop. Walk past it and then you will see a subway, walk under there to the bus stop on the other side which is bus stop 13. The bus will cost you £1.50 and the CAA is less than 5 mins on it.
Also on the letter it says car parking is limited, when I went there was ample car parking.
Right onto the actual tests and what happens.

Height and weight
I had my height and weight taken, nothing really to report here.

You will have a test to check your hearing. These beeps are super quiet, so quiet that if people are walking outside of the room you will have difficulty in hearing them. I think this is a bit unfair and they should do a better job in isolating the booth.
What you will have to do is click a button everytime you hear something, nice and straight forward.

There are two tests here. One where you look into a machine and see a house in a distance, it will go in and out and focus. This is to measure how your eye reacts.
You will then have your head put in a weird cone type thing and have to focus on a dot. White dot’s will appear in your peripheral vision and you have to press a clicker when you see them. It takes four minutes per eye to complete this test.

This is the classic pee in a cup. You will be sent to the toilet and have to provide a sample in a cup which you then put in a hole in the wall. The sample has to be mid stream which means you have start to pee, stop in the middle and get your sample, then finish peeing in the toilet.

You will be taken into a room and have to remove your top and have these pads put on your which are then hooked up to a ECG. This machine has a look at your heart to make sure everything is ok.

Lung Tests
You will be taken to a room which has a machine that you pretty much need to blow into. This machine will measure your lung functionality with tests to check the capacity & how much air you can blow out.

More in depth tests.

You will then have to go see a specialist eye doctor who will do a lot more in depth tests on your eyes. You will have the traditional read the letters, another 1 to see where lines are in relation to one on a screen. There was also an air pressure test which blows gusts of air into your eyes.
There are a few things you need to focus on as the doctor moves it, a book with some numbers in it in sort of a magic eye type situation and a few paragraphs that he asks you to read.
You will be asked to look in every direction while the doctor shines a light into your eyes and gives them a good going over.

Medical tests with a doctor.
In this test which was the final one for me, the doctor asked about my health & took my blood pressure. He then did a variety of tests that checked my balance, reflexes, movement, if I had any hernias with the classic cough tests. He listened to my breathing with his stethoscope and looked into my ears.

This is where you find out the results of your medical. For me, it couldn’t be issued as I need to go and see a specialist because I had asthma when I was younger. As far as I can tell my lung tests were fine, it was simply because I had asthma when I was younger I have to go back for a respiratory consultation with a specialist.
There was also something with the ECG that the doctor told me he had to have the heart specialist take a quick look at but shouldn’t be a issue.
He told me he doesn’t think either of these things will be and issue, so I hope he is right. The further test cost me £115 so on top of the £344 for the medical, this is 2.5 hours of “air time” I have lost here.
Unfortunately for me the next appointment is not for another 3 weeks so I have to wait. It will almost be a month with my medical in limbo so I am a bit gutted about that.

What now?

I have a flying lesson book for next Saturday which I will still take however I wont ramp up the frequency like planned. This will have to wait until my class 1 is issued as I wouldn’t want to spend a fortune on training and then not be able to get a class 1.
At one lesson a week I will have only had 5 lessons by the time I meet with the doctor which I’m ok with.
I was also surprised to see some of the much younger guys who could have only been in their early twenties not be able to have their medical issued. I overheard one comment that he failed his medical so I guess it could be a lot worse. Saying that I’m not sure what he meant by failed, he may just need to go see another doctor or pay for another test.
At least I can get started on the theory I guess. There is no point wasting time when I could be getting started on the infamous air law.
I will update the blog after I have the next set of tests, which will require another day off work.

Update – I have a voicemail from the doctor saying I may not need to see the other doctor and he will contact me next week.

Update 2 – I called the CAA medical department and was told that I could just get a report from my doctor about my asthma and submit it to them via email. I have done this but the reply said it may take up to 10 days.

Update 3 – I have jut heard from the CAA doctor and I now have to have an exercise spirometry test done. He told me that the ECG was all fine though. I am just waiting to get the letter to find out exactly what I need to do and then find out if my local doctors can do it.

Update 4 – Success! I have done the exercise spirometry at the CAA as I couldn’t find anyone local to do it. I have been told that they will issue my Class 1 and it will be in the post shortly. It’s been 1 day short of 3 weeks since my first appointment.

Update 5 – No Success! They have said that I will not be getting my medical because this spirometry that I have blown into the machine and passed 5 times now is not good enough. Nor is the report on the asthma they made me go see my doctor and get which states I don’t suffer from asthma anymore.
Infact the doctor that I had paid for to see 3 weeks ago (that they still havent refunded me for even though they have said they have) will have to see me. This exerice spirometry cost me £39 + £25 travel expenses and it was all pointless. I had already booked to see this doctor and have been sent to do all this for no reason and I am right back where I started.

Update 6 – I am being told I will have to come back to see Dr Bramley (yes the same doctor I had originally booked to see) to do what test? EXERCISE SPIROMETRY! Yes the same test I just took a half day off and went down to Gatwick to do.
They also have not refunded me it has been 4 weeks now.
Apprently because it’s an initial class 1 medical I have to do it with the doctor which says to me that going down to do it on it’s own was a redundant and pointless test …. a test which my results were “normal” by the way, just like the original spirometry test.I am so fustrated with the CAA I can’t even find the words right now.

Update 7 – After making a complaint the doctor from the CAA called me and said that nobody has showed him my file since before I did all the spirometry and that he IS going to issue my Class 1.
I am glad that I am getting my class 1 but after being told I need to see Dr Bramley I booked again to see him. The CAA now have 2x £115 from me that I don’t think I will see any time soon (the first refund has been outstanding two days short of a month as of today 20/11/2015)

Update 8 – I finally have my medical! Now I can get on with the flying.

Do not give the CAA a single penny of your money for any exam or test if you are not sure if it is needed. While they say you can cancel with 5 days notice, they seem to think that it is acceptable to take as long as they feel like to refund you.

PPL Lesson 3: Climbing and Descending


Yesterday I had PPL Lesson 3: Climbing and Descending as my instructor was going to be away at the weekend.
It turns out I got lucky as that was only his second flight of the day due to weather (note to self I really need to start calling before making the 20 mile trip to the airfield).
I did the power checks for the first time in this flight which was nice. We were up in Yankee Bravo once again and as soon as we were airborne and in the climb I was in control once again.
We was focusing on climbing, descending and leveling off with this lesson. I really enjoyed this as in the previous lesson we had just learned about trim so this felt like a natural progression.
Towards the end I felt like I was really making progress and I started to really enjoy it.
I also learned that you need full power in the climb, 2400 Rpm when you are trying to level off and 1500 rpm when you are trying to descend.
I was also introduced to the carb heat on this flight.
When we got back to the school I did the checklist for turning the aircraft off and putting it to “bed” for the night.
As it had started to get dark when we got back I also learned the instruments on the plane has no backlight!
Every lesson I’m feeling more and more at ease with flying and it is starting to feel very natural being up in the air.
Today I have my class 1 medical, lets hope all goes well! If I pass it’s straight on to air law!

British Airways Future Pilot Programme

A319 Takeoff

The British Airways Future Pilot Programme is in my opinion one of the best cadet programme running today and something aspiring pilots should apply for.
As long as you are between 18 & 55 years old & have not sat any ATPL exams and meet the following two requirements you are eligible.

3 A-Levels at Grades BBC or above, excluding General Studies and Critical thinking.
3 A-Levels at Grades BBC or above, excluding General Studies and Critical thinking.
An Honours Degree at 2:2 (or higher) or a pass (or above) in a higher degree such as MSc, MA, MPhil, DPhil, PhD, MBA.

If you are lucky enough to pass the selection with BA then they will training you up to fly one of their short-haul aircraft. The big selling point is that BA will repay your entire training bond back to you over the next 7 years of employment with the company.
British Airways are a flagship airline and you can advance your career years if you manage to get picked.
The Future Pilot Programme is run by two training organisations here in the UK and one in Spain.
You have to pick which organization you want to apply to (you can only apply to one). From here they will screen your application and if selected you will be invited to screening with people from the school. This will include tests, group exercises and interviews.
Should you be successful here then you will go to the BA selection day for tests with BA. If you pass these then you go to the final section day, again with British Airways where you will be assessed once more.
Should you be successful then you will receive a conditional offer of employment with British Airways.
British Airways will require you to deposit a £84,000 security deposit before you start your training.

You can read all about the British Airways Future Pilot Programme here.

Competition is fierce so you will need to make sure you brush up before you attend each process. Remember, failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Pilot cadet programs

A380 Airbus cockpit

This post will be focusing on the pilot cadet programs available in the UK. I will list them from the best which are ones where the airline will repay your entire training costs, to the newer MPL licence where the airline may pay some of your costs.

Sponsorship programs where the airline repay your costs.

  1. Aer Lingus Cadet Programme – Aer Lingus actually cover your costs through training if you are luckily enough to get selected. There were 12 positions available this year. On completion you will be luckily enough to fly the Airbus A320 for the company.
  2. British Airways Future Pilot Programme – BA only take cadets from their own schemes so you cannot go through the modular then apply to BA. However they will consider you when you have experience after flying for another airline.

High cost cadetships / MPL (Multi crew Pilot Licence)

  1. Virgin Atlantic Future Flyers Programme – This is quite a unique programme as after training you will end up flying an Airbus A330 which of course is a long haul jet. This is pretty much unheard of in the industry so instantly this programme has a unique selling point. The cost is £110,000 however part of it is a bond that will be repayed by the airline. You will of course have to be able to finance it somehow before that happens though.
  2. Easyjet Cadet Programme – Easyjet have partnered with two of the big integrated schools to run their cadet programme on a MPL licence. The airline takes over 200 cadets a year and at the end of training you will end up on their A320 range of aircraft. Once again big finance will be required with the course costing £100,500.
  3. Flybe Cadet Programme – Flybe run a MPL with the same schools as Easyjet. However unlike Easyjet, they also have been taking modularly trained pilots. The Flybe course will cost £89,800, with the airline covering £23,760. Flybe will then cover your type rating at the cost of £13,500 but this will be paid back to you in a bond over the next 3 years.

With all these pilot cadet programs you should also check if accommodation and or food is included, as well as other living expenses. Which of course over 18 months could add a LOT to the upfront cost of the course.
As always do your own research and make sure you know what you are signing up to. Best of luck!


Integrated v Modular Flight Training

C152 Instrument Panel

If you have been wondering what the difference is between integrated and modular flight training then you have come to the right place. I will explain in this post the two routes that you can take that will end up with a Frozen Air Transport Licence (fATPL).
Both routes require a serious commitment of both time and money and should not be something that you go into lightly. You should give serious thought into what it takes to get through the training.
Sit back while I explain Integrated v Modular Flight Training.

Integrated v Modular Flight Training.

Integrated flight training.
There are two ways you can end up with a fATPL licence. The first is what is called the integrated route.
When you sign up for integrated training you do all your training with 1 school who will take you from no experience to the issue of your licence.
They will teach you the ATPL theory, and give you flying experience.
Unlike the modular route you will not get a PPL (Private Pilots Licence) in your training program but of course this is something you can complete afterwards.
The theory learning will most likely be here in the UK but the majority of the flying at the big schools is done abroad. You would most likely be flying in New Zealand or Phoenix, Arizona.
The reason for this is that not only is it cheaper to fly abroad, but the weather is more suited to this. In the UK the weather can leave you grounded for long periods of time.
At the end of the course you will complete your MCC (multi crew co-operation)  / JOC (Jet Orientation Course) and be able to apply for your licence.
From there the schools have holding pools where they try to place you with airlines.
Integrated flight training is super expensive you will need upwards of £110,000 (including living expenses).
Modular Flight Training.
Modular flight training is different in that you gradually build up to your licence issue and you can train at different FTO’s. Modular flight training can also fit around your current job allowing your to fly and study around a full-time job.
With modular flight training you start with a PPL. From here you then move on to do your ATPL theory at a ground school where you complete the 14 exams. You can either do ground school full-time or distance learning.
Next up you do your hours building to get you up to the CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence) requirements. It is cheaper to go abroad to somewhere like America and do this. The reason is that the cost per hour of aircraft rental is a lot cheaper.
Once you have done that you find a school or schools to teach you your CPL ME (multi engine) / IR (instrument rating).
Before finally completing your MCC / JOC which will lead to the issue of your fATPL.
The beauty of this is that it allows your to fit each section in as you have the money and to go abroad to take advantage of cheaper flying rates.
The modular flight training route is a lot cheaper than the integrated route.
It is possible to train for as little as £35,000 which when you compare that to the integrated route is a huge saving.

Ok, then what?
For the integrated route, depending on your school, you either sit in their hold pool waiting for them to try to place you at an airline. Or you go on the job hunt like everybody else and try to get a flying job.
If you took the modular route you are on your own and you start knocking doors, sending CV’s, applying online and try to get a job just like everyone else will be doing.

Do integrated students get all the jobs?
A big source of debate between the two routes is who gets the jobs at the end of it. There are some airlines who run schemes with the big schools and only take cadets from there such as Easyjet, BA & Virgin.
There are other airlines that will take modular students such as Ryanair, Jet2 and Flybe.
On top of this you have private jobs and cargo jobs.

Other essential information.
Either way, you need to know that there is no pilot shortage and there is no guarantee you will ever get to earn a single penny with your licence.
The benefit of the modular route over the integrated is the cost. If you don’t have £100,000k down the back of your sofa then the loan you will need to take out is huge. Do not get shiny jet syndrome and make sure you do the finances over and over and realise what you are getting yourself into.
Look at the salary you will likely earn IF you get a job and compare it to the loan repayments you will need to make.

Do not pay for flight training upfront. If someone tries to make you do so don’t walk away, RUN. Schools have gone bust before taking all the students money with them (read about Cabair).
Just remember everyone modular or integrated is a business trying to sell you something, so do in depth research before handing over any money.


Which ATPL Ground School?

After you complete your PPL if you plan to get to the airlines the next step is ATPL ground school. This is where you do the 14 exams that will allow you to then move on to the CPL ME / IR after you have completed your hour building.
In the UK there are three big ground school providers that people either do a distance learning or residential ground school course with.  So we will show you a list of which ATPL ground school.

  1. Bristol Ground School – One of the most recognisable names in the game. Bristol ground school have been helping pilots through their exams for over 21 years. They are also well known for their question bank which you can subscribe to even if you are not a ground school student.
    As the name suggests the school is based in Bristol. Study is mainly done with books and an online CBT.
    The school says your exams can be completed in 10 to 13 months and the cost of the distance learning package is £2140 including the brush up weekends.
  2. CATS Aviation Training – CATS aviation is based out of Luton with a campus also at Gatwick.
    This school has many options of how to study depending on what you prefer. You can get an online CBT only course with all brush up weekends for £1399 or you can get the course with books provided for £1999.
    If you prefer a residential course you can sign up for their in-house course at a cost of £3999. The residential course comes with the books included.
    CATS also have an offline Ipad application.
  3. ProPilot – ProPilot are based up in Coventry and offer both residential courses as well as distance learning. The distance learning course costs £2100 and comes with printed books or and Ipad app depending on what you prefer. They also have their own question bank called ATPL online which you get 12 months access too. If you are not studying with ProPilot you can still subscribe to this question bank.

On top of this there are many other schools scattered up and down the country that could assist you with the ATPL theory.
No matter which school you pick the ATPL theory is no joke and you will need to commit a substitutional amount of time to studying and passing the exams.