PPL Lesson 1: Basic Handling


Yesterday I tried to get my PPL of to a good start but the weather and poor viability put an end to that. Today I woke up to clear blue skies and so I was very optimistic about managing to get PPL Lesson 1: Basic Handling.
As I suspected, we were able to fly so I spoke to my instructor Martin and found out we will be flying in Yankee Bravo today (pictured).
We ran through the A check which is the check you do if you are the first person to use the plane that day. After this we then went through the pre take off checks before my instructor radioed to the tower that we were ready to go.I did the pedal work to keep the plane on the yellow line and after a few more checks we were lined up on the runway ready to go.
We set of and hit a whopping 60 knots before the instructor rotated then it was over to me.
There was nothing to taxing done up here, we did a few turns and I learned how the trim worked (something I think will be very handy going forward).

Above the clouds c152
We went up above the clouds which was very cool. I was surprised that at only 4000ft we were already above the clouds.
I asked my instructor how we would know if other planes were in the cloud and he told me that they had to radio to the tower which makes perfect sense. He also had an app for traffic which helped you to know what was around you.
It felt like we wasn’t up there that long but it was already time to descend and come back into land. My instructor handled the landing as the visibility on the ground wasn’t excellent. No doubt I will be able to get some practice on take offs and landings on my upcoming lessons.
I must admit I felt a bit weird on the climb out but I quickly got over it and started to enjoy it .
Anyways I am booked up for next Sunday so weather permitting lesson two will take place then.

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Grounded due to low visibility

Today I learned of the joys of the weather here in the UK. When I arrived at the school today visibility was just 3km the minimum for visual flight is 5km which basically means that we was grounded due to low visibility. Luckily there was a slot tomorrow where we will try again to get the first lesson of the PPL out of the way.
cessna 152










I used the time to speak to my instructor and find out a bit more about what I am signing myself up for.
We took a tour of the plane that we was scheduled to use (above) and went through the instruments and controls. I even found out that we may be flying to France at some point!
I saw the Cessna 172 that we flew on my trail lesson and found out that the school has 10 planes in total. The only other customer at the school this morning looked around 14 and with me being 30 I suddenly started to feel pretty  old. The good news is my instructor told me his last few students had completed the course in 45 hours which from a money point of view would be ideal for me.
I plan to get in a few hours a week because I want to spend the majority of 2016 getting through my ATPL exams. The distance learning course I will use says that the exams will take a whooping 9 months! With ground school being 4 days per module and there being 3 modules in total I need to get it all out the way in 2o16 so I can do hour building early in 2017. However I do not want to get ahead of myself and start thinking about the next step when this one has hardly started.
Lets hope the weather tomorrow will allow me to start my aviation career!

Which UK airlines have aircraft on order


As a trainee pilot, vital information is how many aircraft the airlines you want to work for are ordering and when. While not all aircraft will go towards expansion, some will which in turn will create more pilot jobs that you can hopefully fill someday. As of 1/10/2015 this is a list of which UK airlines have aircraft on order. I will include companies such as Ryanair on this list as they have a huge UK presence. Here is the list of which UK airlines have aircraft on order.

British Airways
13 x Airbus A320neo
7x Airbus A321neo
18x Airbus A350-1000 (18 options)
3x Airbus A380 (7 options)
21x Boeing 787-9
12x Boeing 787-10

53x Airbus A320-200
100x Airbus A320neo (100 options)

27x Boeing 737-800

Monarch Airlines
30x Boeing 737 Max 8 (15 options)

162x Boeing 737-800
100x Boeing 737 MAX 200

Titan Airways
1x Airbus A319-100
1x Airbus A321-200

Thomas Cook
25x Airbus A321-211
1x Airbus A330-200

47x Boeing 737 MAX
3x Boeing 787-9

Virgin Atlantic
6x Airbus A380-800 (6 options)
10x Boeing 787-9 (5 options)

So as you can see the UK airlines are ordering planes which will create some jobs. This doesn’t mean that competition for these jobs will not still be fierce, they will, but at leas the jobs are being created in the market. Also you have to keep in mind that these airlines may not be looking to recruit fresh graduates with FATPL’s.

Cranfield Flying School

Cranfield Flying School

When looking for a school to train out I had 3 real things to consider. First was the location of the school, I needed somewhere that was within a reasonable distance. Second was the quality of the training and instructors and last was the fleet of aircraft at the school.
After searching I discovered a school at a small airport called Cranfield. The school was named Cranfield Flying School.
Cranfield is just 18 miles away from where I live so that was ideal for me and from their website I saw that they had Cessna 152, 172, Piper PA28 Warrior, Piper 28R Arrow, PA44 Seminole and even an Schweizer 300 Helicopter!
After looking at their website I felt like this was a professional outfit so I decided to book a trial lesson of a 30 minute flight. I loved this and you can read about it on more detail on this blog post about my first flying lesson.
I am now about to start my PPL (I had to wait a few months while I saved) and I am very confident about doing it at Cranfield flying school. I feel that the quality of the instruction I am about to get will be professional and hopefully in a few short months I will be writing about how I am now a fully certified PPL and will be able to progress on to an ATPL theory course.
For anyone in the Hearts, Beds & Bucks area who are thinking about learning to fly I suggest you give the guys at Cranfield Flying School a call.

New pilot jobs

Air Asia A320

With many new pilots qualifying every year the one worry for everybody on a non tagged scheme is are there any new pilot jobs?
Well the answer is yes there are, however you may not get a job within your first few months or even years. This is something that you will need to be prepared for and will need to put a contingency plan in place.Of course there are people who qualify and get a job flying within a few weeks and this could happen to you which of course would be great. However for everybody who has been so lucky there are people who haven’t and are months / years into trying to get their first job.
The main question you need to answer is how will I put food on the table if I cannot find a flying job anytime soon? For me the answer is to keep working in my current industry (IT) until the job I need shows up.
If you do not have a career behind you then you need to be willing to do whatever it takes to keep the cash coming in. You have to remember that as a qualified pilot you will want to one thing more than anything else and that’s fly! Flying is not cheap, this is something we all know.
On top of this you will have to renew your ratings & medical yearly, which again is going to take more of your hard earned cash.
If this is your dream chase it I say, life is short, too short for regrets but make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. Make a business plan, work out the costs, put in contingencies and most importantly get somebody to check it over to make sure the numbers and figures add up.
The jobs are out there, you just have to be prepared to relocate anywhere and possibly wait for them to be offered to you. Being flexible is a benefit, if a job comes up in Italy tomorrow you need to be willing to take it. Your first job may not be in the United Kingdom.
Remember, you only fail if you give up.

Flight training process explained

Training as an airline pilot is a very complicated, time-consuming and intense process, much more involved than many people think.
There are two routes to becoming and airline pilot, one is called integrated (ab initio) or the modular route.

Thai Lion 737

Modular route
The modular route is where you do your training in stages then keep adding to it. Modular training costs anything from £40,000-£65,000 depending on where in the world you go to do it. When you have completed training and if you are lucky enough of be offered a job, depending on the airline you may have to pay up to £30,000 for a Type rating. Type rating is specific training so you can fly a certain type of aircraft. For most new pilots this will likely be the A320 or the 737. Modular training involves gaining the following qualifications.

  1. PPL (Private Pilots Licence)
  2. Hour Building
  3. ATPL Theory
  4. CPL (Commercial Pilots Licence)
  5. MEP (Multi Engine Piston)
  6. IR (instrument Rating)
  7. MCC (Multi Crew Co-operation)
  8. JOC (Jet Orientation Course)
  9. Apply, hope, pray & never give up.

As you can see it is quite involved. The good thing about the modular route is that it allows you to gradually build up the skills required to get your FATPL (Frozen Air Transport Pilots Licence). The bad thing is in recent years airlines seem to be showing a preference for Integrated students. There are some airlines who still hire modular (Ryanair, Jet2, Flybe, Thomas Cook) however a lot of airlines are launching their own integrated cadet courses with the 3 big training schools (CTC Aviation, CAE Oxford and FTE Jerez).

Now there are two types of integrated training. The FATPL training as detailed in the modular section (minus the PPL) and the newer MPL (Multi Crew Pilot Licence). The MPL is interesting because it is set up to take you to the deck of a multi crew aircraft for day 1. However the most important thing about it is, it is sponsored by an airline from day 1 and comes with a conditional job offer on competition. In the UK both EasyJet, Flybe and Virgin offer this type of training. Obviously for this reason competition is high and while the FATPL training is still good and the flight school will help you to find a job there are no guarantees at the end of it. The airline industry is a very expensive risk but when it pays of, it’s amazing.

Now don’t get me wrong modular training can and does work so I’m not making out it’s all doom and gloom because it isn’t. The MPL seems to be the best route at the moment due to the airline sponsoring you from day one.
If an MPL is not possible I would look at modular training due to the cost savings over a FATPL training course.
However all routes can and do lead to the cockpit and people from both paths are successful every year.
I hope that this is the flight training process explained.

Financing flight training

Above the clouds c152

This is a big question that every aspiring pilot must answer, just how to I afford to follow this dream. I recommend every pilot take a long hard look at the finances of doing this. Lets look at the main ways for financing flight training.

  1. Get the money from family – If you are in the position where a parent or family member can afford to give you the money to train, then this would be the best way. Paying cash and having no debt will be a massive bonus and will make the lower salary on offer less of an issue.
  2. Repaid sponsorship – unfortunately there are not many of these around, in fact the only ones I know of are the BA Future Pilot Programme and the Aer Lingus program. Competition is ridiculously high but you should of course apply to this. I believe this is the best way into the profession.
  3. Loan – This is the one that I really want to spend some time talking about. A popular way to fund the training with the big flight schools is a loan with BBVA. I think this is a horrible way for financing your flight training, let me tell you why.
    You will take out a loan for around £100,000+ secured against either your, or your parents house. That should be first red flag, I will state it again. £100,000 loan secured against a house, you could make your parents homeless if you cannot afford to repay this.
    The salary on offer does not allow you to comfortably service this loan and live a comfortable life. You will not have much spare money, you will have to live at home or even a bed sit / rent a room.
    Currently we are at an all time low rate of 0.5% Bank of England interest rate. When I looked at this loan it was 3.0% apr PLUS the Bank of England interest rate. So the loan may be just about manageable now, what happens when the rates go up and the repayments get higher? Can you service this on a salary of £30,000? Not likely.
    I understand the desire to fly is a strong one but please do not let your heart rule your head. This is not a good idea, at all.
  4. Go Modular – If you can get a job, live frugally and save, the modular route works very well. It allows you to pay as you go and add ratings bit by bit. Yes it is still expensive but it costs quite a bit less than integrated training (£40,000-£60,000). However please remember you may be required to fund a type rating (up to £25,000) on top of this.

My first flying lesson

So earlier this year I took the skies for the my first flying lesson at a local school called Cranfield Flying School. I had applied for the British Airways future pilot programme and realised how ridiculous it would be if I had never had a flying lesson, even thought the programme says you don’t need any flight time.
My First Flying Lesson
When I arrived I was met by my flight instructor Daniel (who is about to go fly for Ryanair) and had a good chat about the training and what was involved. We then went out to the plane a Cessna 172 where he explained a bit about the aircraft and did all the pre flight checks.
I then was allowed to taxi down the runway before my instructor took of and before I knew it we was airborne and after a few short minutes I was given the controls and we went through some basic maneuvers.
This was honestly one of the best days of my life and even though the time in the air was only around 20 minutes I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I knew this would happen and it was why I put of taking to the skies while I saved.
Since my lesson I have been saving money to be in a position to start training and now is the time. I am 30 years old and not getting any younger, it is time to start training towards my commercial licence and the first step is the PPL.
I am going to book another lesson for next week and then look at getting my class 1 medical done before I take anymore. The reason for this is because I plan to go all the way, I want to become a commerical pilot and without a class 1 medical you have no chance of that happening. Anyone who plans to follow this route I suggest you do the same before plouging so much cash into this.
I plan to stay in my current career as long as I can so I can keep money coming in to fund this. The more I can fund without touching what I have saved so far the better.
I plan to share my journey with you on this blog as I make my progress.

ATPL ground school in house v distance learning

C152 Instrument Panel

One of the less “fun” parts of gaining your FATPL (Frozen Air Transport Pilots License) is pass all the ATPL theory exams. Now there are two methods that you can use to do this. You can study in-house in a classroom environment or you can do distance learning normally around your job. Everybody is different and has different needs so it’s up to you to decide which is best for you. ATPL ground school in house v distance learning.

The benefits of the ATPL in house ground school

  1. No interruptions – A distance learning course can of course be done full time however most people choose it as they need to fit it in around their current job. You will study full time Monday to Friday with addition revision done at home in the evening and weekends. This will be an intense period of study with the aim to have all the exams passed in a few months.
  2. Teachers to ask questions to – Having a teacher to ask questions is another useful learning tool. This is especially useful if you find yourself stuck or struggling on some of the information.
  3. Classmates to study with – Again having classmates to study with and just bounce things of makes the material easier to learn for some people.

The benefits of ATPL distance learning courses

  1. Can fit it in around your life – Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot of work to get through. You can keep your full time job but you need to be prepared to give up your evenings and weekends to get through the material. In fact it will most likely feel like you are holding down 2 full time jobs.
  2. Refresher courses – Before you sit your exams you will normally have a 1 week course to make sure you have learnt the information in a classroom with teachers and other distance learning students.
  3. Cheaper – You are not in an office full time and do not need as much of the teacher’s time so the cost of the distance learning course is normally significantly cheaper than the full time course.

As you can see, both methods have their place and it really depends on your approach to your flight training. If you need the full time submerged training you have the full time in house course. If you need to fit it in around work then the distance learning is an option. It is up to you to decide which method is best for you.
I would prefer to do an in house ground school course but that would mean giving up my job and my income. Unfortunately I need this to complete my training and help fund the CPL/ME/IR so I will have to do a distance learning course.



Am I too old to be a pilot?

cessna 152

With the youngest pilots being around 21 years old, it is natural to ask when you are later in life am I too old to be a pilot?
The internet is awash with stories saying that some airlines only want to hire people in their 20’s and while I can’t confirm that this is or isn’t true, I can confirm that airlines are giving jobs to people in their 30’s and even their 40’s.
At the same time we have to be realistic, for instance the British Airways retirement age for pilots is currently 55 years old. It would be illogical to plough so much money into to training at say 50, however at 40 you still would be able to fly 15 years. You would be able to fly even longer at airlines with a higher retirement age.
I am currently 30 years old, I would have loved to start my training in my younger years however it was impossible due to finance.  I did however decide to save with an aim to be able to start training in my very early 30’s. The good thing about having to save up is I have a career, I can come back to this when I am qualified to keep money coming in while I am searching for my first flying role.
Everybody is different you need to analyse your situation and work out if this is right for you, nobody but you can make that decision.
We only get one life and unfortunately many people live theirs with regrets. Do you want to look back in 30 years and say to yourself, I wish I had the determination to follow my dreams and I really regret not doing so. Or would you like to say I’m glad I took a risk, a chance, a leap of faith and followed my heart and took a shot at my dream? I know which one I would prefer.
Personally I am single, young, healthy with no kids so this is the perfect time for me.  Your circumstance may be different but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Modular training can be integrated around your current life with ease that’s the beauty of it.
Just have a Google for stories of older people who didn’t follow their dreams and now regret it. Speak to older family members and see what they say. In fact one article I read suggested as much as 50% of people regret not following their dreams. This shocked even me, it’s easy to get stuck in a career but you need to ask yourself. Do you want to look down on the world from 35,000 ft or do you want to look at a computer monitor from 9-5.30?
So when you ask am I too old to be a pilot? The answer is, you tell me, are you?
Sometimes in life you have to take a risk without knowing if it will all work out at the other end. That’s life, that’s the way it goes.
One thing I can tell you however, you will NEVER fly for an airline without your license.