PPL lesson 6: Slow Flight

G-BRTX

Yesterday I finally got back in the air for PPL lesson 6: Slow Flight, after an 11 days absence from flying. This was due to a mixture of the weather being pretty awful and my instructor being away the last 2 weekends which is when I normally fly.
When we last left of we were doing stalling, however our normal plane Yankee Bravo was in use by another instructor and the other plane we fly in Alpha Charlie has just had a new engine fitted.
This meant that stalling was of the cards for today and we jumped ahead a bit and did steep turns.
Now today was a VERY windy and bumpy day, the worst I have had so far. My instructor did the take of for this reason. I took over the controls during the climb and we went up to around 2000ft and leveled off. We then tried to head to a less bumpy part where we started to learn the steep turns.
I got the hang of steep turns very quickly. The only real thing you need to remember is that you need to pull back on the column while doing the 45 degree turn to keep your height up.
You also need to check that there is no traffic around before starting a steep turn and then do a scan from outside to instruments while doing the turn. The two instruments you really pay attention to is the attitude indicator and the altimeter.
I must admit after doing around 8 turns I started to feel a bit sick. My instructor said that this is normal and even he still feels a bit sick while doing this. The fact that it was a really windy and bumpy day also did not help the situation however he said that I did a good job.
We then started to head back to the airport and while we was coming into land we got told to go around due to a vehicle being on the runway. We did a circuit and came back and landed.
Apart from the sickness I felt this was a pretty good lesson and another hour in the log book. I have another 2 booked for next Saturday and I plan to sit my first lot of exams.


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PPL Theory – Air Law, Human Performance & Operational Procedures

Easa Private Pilot Studies

I have started my PPL Theory – Air Law, Human Performance & Operational Procedures.
I was looking on the internet on opinions on if I should use the AFE or the Pooleys books when I came across a guy who writes his own books.
The guy is called Phil Croucher and he seems to be a very knowledgeable man, so I took his recommendation and purchased the book he wrote. The PDF version set me back just £20.05 and is called EASA Private Pilot Studies.
I will be studying the three simultaneously but the first one I have decided to tackle is air law simply because you need it to be able to fly solo. I plan to sit all three exams at the same time due to the 6 sittings rules (you can only go in the test center 6 times). To be fair, I don’t really understand the point of this rule as I would prefer to pay focus to one thing, learn it, then move on, but I don’t make the rules.
After about 5 minutes of reading the air law chapter in this book, this was my exact reaction.

what

 

It is basically a whole chapter of facts and rules which of course is very important but it is hard to make such things exciting. To be fair, I have been warned about air law before so I guess it’s just a case of trying to get all the facts and rules to stick.
The book actually combines air law and operation procedures into one chapter. This is probably why I thought this chapter was so hard and a lot to take in. So it looks like I have actually done the revision for that to which means I just have one more to read before getting ready to take the exams.
Once I finally made it through air law I decided next up would be human performance & limitations.
At first when I was reading it I was thinking, wow this is quite “fun” actually. However after around an hour it was clear that I was being eased in, once again this is intense and the facts and data come up you thick and fast.
My face …
jay z yikes
However as I kept reading through the chapter it was really interesting to find out more about what the human body can and can’t do, and how the brain fills in information it thinks it should be seeing.
When we think we are doing a simple task, there is so much going on in our body, in our senses, in our brain, both on a conscious and unconscious level.
The rest of it brought back memories of my GCSE science and PE theory lessons. In fact I quite liked this section it was just a LOT of information to take in and try to remember.
These chapters take a few days to read at a few hours per session, it’s just information overload. I try to break the studying into 1-2 hour sessions at a time otherwise I find that I am reading and its not sticking.
Having read through the material for the 3 exams I will now go back throw and skim them to try and make more information stick and do some exam practice.

Results

Air law – 93%
Operational procedures – 75%
Human performance and limitations – 93%

I’m actually pretty gutted about only scraping through operational procedures with the minimum grade but happy with my air law and human performance and limitations score.
Due to this sitting rule I have another 10 days to fit more exams into the same sitting. I am going to try to sit aircraft general knowledge and possibly principles of flight next week.

Wings Alliance

wings alliance

Great news for us modular flight students. The modular schools are coming together to offer something similar to what the big integrated schools do.
Under the Wings Alliance students can train via the modular route and benefit from airline links just like the integrated school courses do.
The wings route will also have a MPP (Mentored Pilot Program) of it’s own where the schools who are signed up can recommend students who meet the requirements to the partner airlines.
The Wings Alliance say that the training via the modular route can be 70% of the cost of integrated training. I think that is a conservative estimate and I would say it can be at least 50% of the cost.
BALPA (British Airline Pilots Association) had this to say about the Wings Alliance.

BALPA supports initiatives that open up the training options for aspiring pilots. The Modular route gives students the same licence as integrated programmes, but gives them flexibility because it allows them to complete sections of the course at a time, and pace that suits them and their finances.

The following schools are members of Wings Alliance in the UK.

  • Aeros Flight Training
  • Airways Flight Training
  • Bartolini Air
  • Bristol Ground School
  • Cardiff Aviation
  • Multiflight
  • Stapleford Flight Center
  • Tayside Aviation
  • Ultimate Flight

Abroad the following schools have signed up

  • Ayla Aviation in Jordan
  • Bartolini Air in Poland
  • Egnatia Aviation in Greece
  • Hubair in France
  • Orbit Groundschool in Holland

It will be interesting to see how this program develops over the next few months as more details are released and more modular schools sign up.

Visit their website

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!

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?

Cost
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.

Audio
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.

Eyesight
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.

Urine
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.

ECG
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.

Optometrist
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

G-BLAC

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.
And
3 A-Levels at Grades BBC or above, excluding General Studies and Critical thinking.
Or
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.