Getting the night rating in the licence 

So after doing the night rating course and getting the sign off, the next job was getting the night rating in the licence.

The day started at 6:45 as I heard it’s best to get to the CAA early as the later you leave it the longer the queues.
Yeah well, that didn’t work as by the time I got there at 8:20 (10 mins before opening) I was number 7 in the queue!
Anyway I sat down and anxious kept an eye on my email box as I was awaiting my first ATPL exam results. The wait turned out to not be that bad and after an hour I was seen to by a lady, so result! She needed my course completion certificate from the school, my licence and my medical and after about 15 mins she return to me as it was all done.
Being the CAA there is of course a extortionate charge to reprint an A4 licence and put some details in a computer. Can you guess the cost? £20? maybe £30? Oh no £88. Yup, how they arrive at that price I have no idea but what can you do! At least my new bit of A4 says “night” on it.
So all in all a reasonably fast process and if you live near Gatwick it is a much better idea then sending all your documents down and the risks that involves such as your log book getting lost in the mail etc.
I don’t see me doing much night flying going forward but it is always nice to have the training behind me if I ever need it.

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Hour Building: Blackbushe Circuits

After passing my first atpl exams this week I really wanted to go flying so I ended up doing Hour Building: Blackbushe Circuits.
c150 parked

There’s not really much to say here as I really wanted to do a Nav. However, the weather was a bit marginal (and I may have put too much fuel in so my passenger couldn’t come, whoops!).
I went up and did 6 touch and go’s to work on my handling etc. I must admit after 2-3 circuits they get very repetitive, however I really love flying this plane and considering that it is older than I am (the plane is 40), it flies really well.
Anyways I came back down and checked out Blackbushe Cafe for the first time and the food is spot on, so I will be checking that out more often!
Hopefully as the weather picks up and gets better I will have something more exciting to write about!
The only issue with the C150 is the max all up weight isn’t that great and you have to take less fuel if you have a passenger, therefore limiting your range.

ATPL Module 1 results 

After months of hard studying I finally got ATPL Module 1 results.

cats luton

First of all let me just say phew! What a stressful few weeks / months this has been.

There are two things I will say.
1. The ATPL’s are harder than you think and will take more time than you think. I compare the ATPL’s to having a full time job, so I have two full time jobs! If you can do these full time then do it. (This includes full time distance learning).
2. The exams are changing. Years ago it may have been possible to learn question banks inside out and pass with a 95% average. These days have gone however.
They are introducing 1500 new questions every year and reviewing another 2000.
For instance there is over 1600 questions in the met question bank, if you can remember all them then you are better than me. It’s easier to learn how to work it out!

I sat my exams are CATS Luton, which from their website you would think is a dedicated building but it is actually just 3 rooms in a managed building called Basepoint. So set your sat nav to find that.

My module 1 exams consisted of the following subjects.

  1. General Navigation
  2. Meteorology
  3. Human performance and limitation
  4. Instrumentation

First things, I decided about two months ago to move General Navigation to “mod 4” as it was taking far too much of my time. I am not a natural mathematician so I have to work hard on subjects like this. I feel I will be able to give it the time it deserves here.

So here comes the results.

1. Meteorology – 80% – This was the exam I was the most worried about as Meteorology is known as one of the hardest exams. Ironically I got a score of 80% in it which I am ok with as I put a lot of time into trying to understand the concepts.
If i had to have a resit on this i would have been gutted.
However as something you have to use all the time it’s worth trying to get your head around it.

2. Human Performace and Limitations-77% –
This subject has gone through so many changes in the last year.
You may hear people who did it a while ago talking about how easy it is. Forget that, this is not the same exam.
There are a lot of new questions that come up and new areas of study.

3. Instrumentation – 76% –Wow 1% over the minimum of 75%.
Another hard exam, there are a lot of concepts to get your head around and know. Quite a few new questions in the exam also.

While I would have liked to score higher, in the words of my instructor “A pass is a pass is a pass”.

3 down, 11 to go!

I have purchased module 2 and will get cracking on that next week, no rest for the wicked and all that!

ATPL Month 7: Revision

Just a quick update about ATPL Month 7: Revision.
Bristol Ground School
I have been revising over the last month as I am going to be sitting my first exams in the second week of January. I will be sitting Meteorology, Human Performance and Instrumentation.
It feels like I have been getting ready for the exams for a while but I am still a bit apprehensive about taking them. I feel that it is time to sit them regardless, and in a way I am looking forward to getting the first ones out the way.
The exam I am most worried about is probably Meteorology as I feel it is the hardest out of the three. I will be sitting Human Performance and Instrumentation one after the other on the Monday and Meterology on the Thursday afternoon.
Wish me luck!

Night Rating Lesson 4: Dual Circuits

So after a month of trying and failing due to the weather I finally got up to the school for night rating lesson 4: dual circuits.
night rating lesson 2
I only had 20 minutes of time required to complete the course but the school apparently has a 30 min minimum time that you have to fly, so we did just that. I decided to just finish it dual as I hadn’t flown in a month and as I was paying for an instructor I might as well use him.
We went out to the plane and I got to test my Bose A20’s that I had purchased a month ago but have had zero chance to use. It took some getting used to how much more quiet the engine was and I’m sure they will do wonders to protect my ears over the next few years. I will talk about that in more detail in a future post however.
We taxied out to runway 21 which had a slight crosswind from the right but nothing too serious. I did three circuits in total before landing and returning back to the school pretty much bang on 30 minutes later.
You then have a paperwork exercise that the CFI needs to do filling in total time and signing your course completion certificate etc.
After the long wait for my PPL issue I think I will drive to Gatwick and use the counter service to have this added as that should be a same day service. However with Xmas and exams in the first week of January I doubt I will be doing this before mid January, but at least the night rating is now complete.
For me this was something I completed as it was a CPL requirement, I doubt I will be doing much night flying in a single engine piston to be honest.


ATPL Theory Month 6: Revision

Another month down so here is a quick recap of ATPL theory month 6: Revision.

Bristol hand outs

I had my revision week at Bristol this month which was intense but good and helped me to work out where I was in regards to the other people in my class.
I made two decisions, I decided to not do my GNAV exam yet as it was taking up to much of my time and I was neglecting the other subjects, so I will now only be sitting Met, Instrumentation and Human performance. The Bristol course is split into 3 modules but you do actually have six sittings so I think I will try to do it in four sittings.
The second decision I made was to push my exams back one month from December to the start of January to give me the time over December to get up to the required level in these three subjects. I made this choice while at the revision week as I saw some people who were sitting the exams the following week and feeling unprepared, so I decided I shouldn’t put myself in the same position as really its a marathon and not a sprint.
Apart from the week at Bristol I have just been going through the question bank as much as I can and trying to get my scores up. Most are sitting between 70% and 80% and I really want to them to be at least at 90% before I sit the exams. It’s funny, you feel like you have a lot of time but you really don’t. For instance a Met exams in the evening takes me about an hour and 45 mins to complete. That is the hardest part about these exams for me, doing them around a full time job. Sometimes when you get in from work you are just so worn out and tired that you just want to chill out or go to sleep but you have to get your second wind and study.
The time passes very quickly and if I was taking my exams next week (like I was scheduled to) I wouldn’t be feeling super confident now.
Over the next month I will be doing more of the same really with a little bit of time of for Xmas but I will be taking the exams the second week of January so there is just over a week to go.

Night Rating Lesson 3: Solo Circuits

I had a week off last week to attend the revision week for my first set of ATPL exams, so yesterday I had night rating lesson 3: solo circuits.
Night rating
My instructor and I had managed to do 3.3 hours in the last 2 lessons so it was possible that the night rating could have been finished that night.
I arrived with about 15 mins to go before night started, so I ran out to the plane and pre flighted it so we could depart on time. My instructor called for the circuits he had booked, which of course the ATC had no idea about, but thankfully he had no issues with us going into the circuit.
There was two of us tonight, an instructor doing night circuits with the CFI and me. I did two quick circuits with my instructor then we landed and he jumped out as it was time for me to go back up solo.
To be fair it really wasn’t that bad, apart from the ultra low light and extra concentration required due to the plane having no backlight it wasn’t much different from the circuit in the day. The only difference is you climb to 700ft before turning and try to be at 1200ft in downwind. The winds were really mild tonight as well which was very helpful as it made the landings easier.
I managed to get the required 5 take off and landings in with no real issues, well no real issues until the last circuit. As I turned base there was something there that wasn’t there just minutes before on my previous circuit. A huge cloud! As a VFR pilot this is a no go for me so I basically had no choice but to land. The issue was it was covering the majority of the route to the runway and im not allowed to fly through it.
I managed to navigate around it out to the left and then cut back inside before lining up and landing. I got back inside and totaled up my night time which came to 4 hours and 46 mins. Yeap, I was just 14 minutes short of finishing the course but nature decided it wasn’t to be. My instructor has a commercial job so no more night flying for me until the 5th of December, at which point I should finally be able to complete it.

Module 1 revision week at Bristol Ground School

So last week I was attending Module 1 revision week at Bristol Ground School.
Bristol Ground School
This is a requirement before you are allowed to sit the exams and takes places in Clevedon which is about 2.5 hours away from me.
There are some cheap B&B’s around and I stayed with a lovely couple in a village just outside Clevedon which cost a very reasonable £30 a night.
Bristol is a school which seems to be mainly ex military men who are all super knowledgeable in their areas. If you have something that you need help with, they will get an answer for you.
Your first day will start with an introduction from Alex Whittingham who you will know was the owner of the school. He then introduces all his teachers and gives you a bit of background about them all. They are all pretty much former military men and some also have some civilian airline experience also.
From this point it’s in at the deep end, we went straight into instrumentation.
The days are long 8:50am – 5pm. You do get a break of about 10-15 mins every 1.5 hours or so and a 1 hour lunch. I must admit, sometimes by 5pm you are seriously burned out. Every day at night I did some questions in the question bank.
Our class was once again mainly military guys getting their ATPL, one licence conversion and about 6 of us “self improvers” so a mixed bag overall.
As always there are people at various different stages in their studies. This week was good to try and find out where you are in relation to everybody else.
By Wednesday I had a decision to make. I had already decided 2 weeks before that I wasn’t going to sit General Navigation yet and will sit it at the end. The reason for this is that maths is not my strongest subject and General Navigation was taking up so much of my time the other three subjects were getting neglected.
I didn’t feel quite ready to sit the remaining three exams either which are Met, Human Performance and Instrumentation. I decided that there was no need to rush into it and pushed my exams back 1 month to the start of January. More time studying can’t really hurt can it? Also I think I will be more than prepared to sit these three exams by then.
The week was full on but on the whole not that painful, sometimes it helps having someone in front of you explaining and being able to ask questions.
We managed to “escape” around 3pm on the Friday which was nice as you can try to miss the traffic. Some people were sitting the exams at Bristol the following week, others at other centres in a few week and some the following month.
Between now and my January sitting I will just spend my time going through the question bank.
Oh yeah, when you first walk into the school you will see Noush sitting on reception. No doubt by this point you would have communicated with her at some point.

Hour Building: Circuits at Blackbushe

Following on from my checkout last week I decided to do Hour Building: Circuits at Blackbushe.

C150 at Blackbushe

The real reason for doing circuits was I was at my revision week in Bristol all week and I didn’t have any time to plan a route. The other issue I was suffering from was that I never had the 3 take off’s and landing’s in the last 90 days I require to carry passengers, so I needed to get that done also.
I am still getting used to the procedures at Blackbushe and something that differs from Cranfield is that you have to book out with the tower before your flight. There are also radio differences between an information service and a full ATC service which is what you get at Cranfield.
I got this done then went out to the plane, did the check out and taxied to runway 25 and did 3 quick touch and go’s before coming back down.
Now that I had that done, my girlfriend could come up and join the fun. Well, I say fun, it’s fun for me but as she hadn’t been up in a while and is not the best flyer as it is, she was apprehensive.
We set of again and did another 3 touch and go’s before coming back down. We timed it perfectly as the next guy was ready to go, and benefit from the de icing job I had done for him 🙂
Top tip, the second flight of the day is better than the first especially during winter!
Next time I hope to do a navigation flight and get familiar with the local area as I haven’t really ventured out as of yet.
I also need to get a skydemon subscription as well for travelling further afield.

Checkout with Blackbushe Flying Group

Due to the issues at Cranfield and the cost of hiring there I have been looking around for a new place to fly. With this in mind, yesterday I had a checkout with Blackbushe Flying Group.

Cessna 150

I got to the club and met both my instructor and the owner Dan who are both very nice people.
We went out to check out the Cessna 150, which is a very well presented aircraft and coming from a Cessna 152 it was immediately familiar.
This is a French manufactured 150 and unlike the French 172 I flew it has its speed in knots and it has the notched flaps rather than the electric switch.
We took of and went into the local area. There is Farnborough and RAF Odiham who both have airpsace nearby so you have to be careful on your departure. I can see a skydemon subscription being purchased in the near future.
We flew around the local area where the instructor pointed out a few local land marks.
We then did some stalls in clean and landing configuration. There wasn’t really much to report here, both went well.
Next up we did some steep turns, one to the left and one to the right, all good here.
Then things got interesting. The instructor had asked me if I had even been in a spin, to which I replied no as it had been dropped from the PPL syllabus. He then asked me if I would like to, to which I thought, sure why not.
I was a bit apprehensive, but hey in for a penny in for a pound. It is a very weird feeling seeing the ground going round and round with the aircraft heading to the ground and the G forces acting on you. But it was also quite good to see how the instructor stopped the spin. Power to idle, opposite rudder and control column all the way back and before I knew it we were climbing back up as if nothing had happened.
We then headed back to Blackbushe to do some circuits. First up was the standard circuit with just 20 degrees of flaps, then we went and did a flapless approach before we landed.
Back in the club and that was it, no issues and I can hire and fly at will.
Although I am doing my night rating at Cranfield, I hope this will be my new base for pleasure flying / hour building.