ATPL Theory Month 11

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

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


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Hour Building: Local flight from Blackbushe

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

 

Cheap Flight Training via the Modular Route

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

*Quick calculations by myself but defiantly around this figure.

When I first looked at flight training I came across the expensive £100,000 ish courses and pretty much said “I can’t afford it” but I started to save money for flying anyways. I was luckily enough that my brothers friend had recently completed his training and was now flying for easyJet. How? I asked as we are from similar backgrounds and he most certainly didn’t have that kind of money lying around either.
“Go modular” he said. I wasn’t totally sure what the modular route was, however he preceded to inform me and the more he talked the more sense it made. This is the real difference between myself and most people I have met. They don’t have that person who is there to show them the “other way” so that is what I am trying to achieve with this post.
Firstly what is the modular route? The modular route is a process where you do your training step by step until you are fully qualified. Flight training is cheaper abroad than it is in the UK, this is just the way it is so if you want to qualify towards the lower end of my estimates you will most certainly have to go abroad for some parts of your training.
This post is not designed to explain each part of the route in detail, I have other posts and there are lots of information online in regards to that. If you need more detailed information that you cannot find then you can contact me. This post is to show you what you can realistically train as a pilot for.

PPL (Private Pilots Licence). 

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

ATPL Theory

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

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

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

en route to kemble

Night Rating

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

Hour Building.

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

CPL ME IR

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

MCC / JOC

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

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

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

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

Bose A20 review

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

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

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

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

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

Module 2 revision week at Bristol Ground School

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

Bristol Ground School

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

Hour Building: Blackbushe to Kemble (Cotswold) Airport

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

en route to kemble

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

old aircraft at kemble

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

Another 1.9 hours in the log book 🙂

Here is a short video from the flight.

ATPL Theory Month 10

The never ending slog of the ATPL exams continues with ATPL theory month 10.
grafam water
I am going to be perfectly honest I was approaching the point where I had enough. Pretty much every night I get in from a long day of work and have to study these exams to the point that it was taking over my life. I made a decision that I am going to make some “me” time every night. If this is watching a movie for 2 hours, or a few games of Fifa, I am no longer going to let the ATPL theory study take over my life.
I have split my study over four modules leaving 2 for any retakes that are needed.
With that being said of course I still have to make sure I put in the work, so I have been studying towards my next set of exams which are in May. I decided that studying 4 exams at the same time around work is way too much, so in my next sitting I will be taking 3. Air Law, Radio Nav and Aircraft General Knowledge. In my opinion this is more than enough to be studying simultanionusly. I have said before I don’t understand the benefit of forcing people to sit multiple exams at the same time rather than one by one so they can get a good understanding of the subject.
I am going through the question bank and looking back at the material to try to fill in gaps in my knowledge.
I am scheduled to do my revision week in Bristol in the middle of April and I will make a decision 1 week before the exams if I am ready to sit them or if I need to push them back a month. I hope I will be ready to sit them as the 18 month clock is already ticking down and quite frankly I want these exams out of my life.
I think I am doing better in AGK and Air Law where as I need to put some more work in Radio Nav.
Hopefully the week down in Bristol next month will be helpful for me and help to fill in what gaps I have in my knowledge.
I also think that the lack of flying this year is not helping me. I have only managed 1.5 hours all in the circuit due to the poor weather. I tried to go to Kemble the weekend just gone but due to 30kts gusting wind en route and 20+ at the airport I decided to scrap that. Hopefully the weather will change soon and I can plan some nice land aways.
For this reason I think it’s a good idea to set my sim back up. I have FSX but as it is so old and with Xplane 11 coming out I think it might be time to make the change.
Anyways, back to my study 🙂

How I will sit my ATPL exams

As I am sure anyone who reads this blog knows, I am currently doing my ATPL theory with Bristol Ground School. This post is just a quick update on how I will sit my ATPL exams.
atpl month 9
The default course from Bristol is 14 exams in 3 sittings. I tried to stick with this but I am finding this too much around a full-time job in IT and life in general. Even though Bristol suggest 3 sittings, you actually have 6 sittings and 18 months to pass all 14 exams. For this reason I have decided to try to complete the exams in 4 sittings which leaves 2 spare for resists if needed. I wouldn’t suggest trying to do your exams in any more than 4 sittings, as should you fail any exams I personally would want at least 2 more attempts at them.
I have spoken to someone who actually split it into 6 sittings and failed an exam in his final sitting, this is not a position you want to be in as he was left with no choice but to sit them all again!
I have spoken to many different trainees in the last month or two and it would seem that quite a few of us are struggling with some of these exams, with some people unfortunately just missing the 75% min score and others just about scraping over the line. Hopefully this will take of some added pressure and allow me to spend more time per exam.
My new ATPL theory course looks like this.

Mod 1 – January 2017

  • Instrumentation
  • Meteorology
  • Human Performance and Limitations

Mod 2 – June 2017

  • Radio Navigation
  • Aircraft General Knowledge and Electrics
  • Air Law

Mod 3 – September 2017

  • VFR Communications
  • Principle of flight
  • Mass and Balance
  • Performance

Mod 4 – December 2017

  • General Navigation
  • Flight Planning
  • Operational Procedures
  • IFR Communication

As you can see it is a bit more spaced out and also I can spend more time on the mod 4 subjects as hopefully I will have at least 6 months to pass them.
I sat my first exams in January 2017, so I have until July 2018 to pass the rest. It is still a long way to go but hopefully this will make it just a bit easier.

Hour building: More circuits 

I was starting to think this weather was never going to change but thankfully this week I did Hour Building: More Circuits.

The weather so far in 2017 has been shocking every time I have tried to fly. I had 5 weeks of successive cancellations so I was very happy when I spotted a gap in the weather this morning. I called Blackbushe and was told that the clouds are at 2000ft, excellent I thought, lets get some circuits in!
By the time I got to the airfield they were at 1500ft, not excellent but still above circuit height, however I needed to get going. I did the check out, thankfully the plane was fueled as there was a queue of people waiting to fill up.
I went up and did 5 circuits, the first one wasn’t my best as I was getting rid of the “ring rust” but it all improved quickly after that one.
On the last circuit however the wind changed pretty big, it was a real battle on final and required a lot of maneuvering to get the plane back down on the ground. I saw the guy after me cancelled his flight due to wind and to be fair, I don’t blame him.
It looks like maybe spring is arriving and I can do some more interesting flights and visit some airfields in the near future.
Well that was a fun break, back to preparing for my next set of exams as my revision week is next month!

 

ATPL Month 9: Flight Planning, Radio Nav and Aircraft General Knowledge

Oh man what an awful month flying wise this has been. The weather has left me grounded every time I tried to fly so I put in a lot of time on my ATPL theory. This is a quick recap of ATPL Month 9: Flight Planning, Radio Nav and Aircraft General Knowledge.

atpl month 9

As you can see from the last month I have made some great progress and I am currently around 90% through the syllabus in the ATP digital software. I have had just 2 days with no study and I have been putting in on average 4-5 hours a day, it’s been intense.
This only tells half the story, I will now move to the question banks (well once I finish) and refer back to the books often to try to fill in any gaps in my knowledge, so in reality I think finishing the module is only 50% done and the question bank practice is the other 50%.
I have spoken to a few people recently and every is in agreement that the exams seem to be going through huge changes and a lot of people are just about passing some exams and failing others.
On to the subjects, to be fair I didn’t really enjoy that many. AGK, Radio Nav and Air Law are quite a lot of facts to remember and sometimes it feels like my brain is working overtime because these facts are just relentlessly being served up and drilled into your head.
Flight planning I found more “fun”. You use maps and charts to work out your answers. There are two things that I guarantee you will hate MRJT and LRJT. At the moment the feedback seems to be that these questions are not showing up, but they can be put back in at any time!
I have changed my revision week to April due to the speed I was getting through the material and have changed my exams to May. I will see how the progress is over the next few months and if needed push the exams back a month to June, time will tell.
Ah well, lets hope that I can get some flying in this upcoming month to break up this endless study.