More changes to the ATPL exams

Well it looks like there will be even more changes to the ATPL exams as apparently 1500 new questions and 2000 reviewed questions a year wasnt enough, they have decided to change the exams from multiple choice to now having four different types of questions.

Navigation planning

  1. Multiple-choice – This is the style we have at the moment.
  2. Multi-select – Where you have to select options from a list to correctly answer the question.
  3. Inline – In this one you have to complete sentences using a drop down menu containing words, numbers, or a combination of both.
  4. Text – In these questions you will have to type in answers or numbers, so an input field.

The dates that the changes will come in for each exam is detailed below. Quite frankly from my time doing these ATPL’s, I have no interest in being a guinea pig for any of their changes, so I will now try to move my ATPL exams from the start of October to September. The reason for this is October would be the first week for Mass & Balance and POF changes and in September the only exam affected should be VFR communications.

Subject Date
010 Air Law 14-Aug-17
062 Radio Navigation 14-Aug-17
091 VFR Communications 21-Aug-17
092 IFR Communications 21-Aug-17
040 Human Performance and Limitations 28-Aug-17
061 General Navigation 04-Sep-17
033 Flight Planning and Flight Monitoring 04-Sep-17
050 Meteorology 11-Sep-17
071 Operational Procedures 11-Sep-17
021 Airframe and Systems, Electrics, Powerplant, Emergency Equipment 18-Sep-17
022 Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation 18-Sep-17
031 Mass and Balance – Aeroplane & Helicopters 02-Oct-17
081 Principles of Flight – Aeroplane 02-Oct-17
082 Principles of Flight – Helicopter 02-Oct-17
032 Performance – Aeroplanes 09-Oct-17
034 Performance – Helicopters 23-Oct-17


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ATPL Module 2 Results

In what feels like a whirlwind week with my eyes and brain taking a pounding, I have finally got my ATPL Module 2 results back from the CAA.

en route to kemble

As you may know, I sat my module 1 exams back in January and passed the 3 I took. This time round I took another 3 at CATS in Luton which were Air Law, AGK and Rnav. It has been a long slog with these exams with many hours put in at evenings and weekends to try to get above the 75% pass mark that is required for these exams.
Before sitting the exams my scores were between 80 and 90% in the question banks. Anyways these are my results for mod 2!

Air Law – 88%
No real surprises in this exam. There were a few new and reworded questions but nothing that threw me or that I wasn’t expecting. No nasty surprises to be had here but remember you can get hit with new questions at any time…. as I found out in AGK.

Rnav – 80%
I would say that Rnav was on the whole what I was expecting. However there were quite a few reworded or new questions in it. One question that I do remember from the bank was something along the lines of “What is Kalman filtering used in?” and the answer given in the bank was “Navigation display”. I got this question however Navigation display was no longer and answer and seems to have been replaced with Electronic Flight Information System.
Now if you didn’t know that the navigation display was part of the EFIS you would have been in some difficulty. This is why you need to do your best to try to learn more than just the question bank.

AGK – 77%
Brutal, absolutely brutal. Lots of new questions and lots of reworded questions. I remember on my first pass through thinking a more colourful version of “Good heavens, this is quite a difficult exam”. However on second pass I did my best to really think about the question and do my best to solve them. I remember changing quite a few answers on this second pass through and it looks like it just did the trick.
Another guy who sat the exam said the same thing about it, it’s my opinion that a lot of questions have been released for this exam. Some did seem like they were translated from elsewhere as they didn’t read properly. I came out of this exam unsure as to which way it would go. Needless to say when I got that email this morning I was relieved! This sums up my reaction –

Anyways no re sits which I’m ecstatic about! Next up it’s Mass and Balance, Principles of Flight, Performance & VFR Communications.

Hour Building: Local Flight

It had been almost a month since I had flown due to the weather being a bit rubbish, so just to stay on top of my game on Saturday I did Hour Building: Local flight.
Local flight from Blackbushe
Now this pictures shows a reasonably nice day with some clouds however it is quite misleading. The winds were pretty strong, progress was very slow due to a slow ground speed which was due to flight into a headwind and it was generally “challenging”.
I realised I have not really been into the local area so I decide it would be good to have a flight and get to know my relatively new surroundings. I took of from Blackbushe and departed the circuit before going to Farnborough with a traffic service. Farnborough are really good with a traffic service infact there is only one time I have been denied on due to controller workload which is fair enough.
There was a lot of rudder work as well handling to keep the aircraft in level flight, however on the whole it wasn’t that bad and we proceeded north (very slowly due to the headwind).
After about 30 minutes (and very little progress) I then decided to head back towards Blackbushe as the route I had planned would have taken forever. The winds aloft were definitely stronger than the forecasted winds.
I joined from the dead side and positioned downwind again with very strong winds before turning base, on to final and doing a pretty smooth landing.
I think it’s good to get up in these conditions to make sure your skills are still good as flying in perfect weather every time is nice but unfortunately it isn’t always like that.
Anyways, another hour in the book taking me into the 70’s, I still have 80 to build before next summer! Looking at the weather this week I don’t think there will be any flying this weekend. On top of this I have exams all this week so I need to focus on that for now.

ATPL Theory Month 12

Wow, it’s been a year already as this was now ATPL theory month 12.
atpl month 9
I can’t believe a year has passed since I started the ATPL journey and with sitting 3 more exams next week if I pass them I will be around the half way ish point with 6 exams done and 8 to go.
I had my revision week a couple of a months back so that is done and dusted and I did pick up a few bits of information on the course that I found useful.
I will be sitting my exams at CATS Luton as this is the closest exam center to my house. This is very convenient as a lot of people have to travel quite long distances to sit their exams where as it is literally a 5 min drive for me.
In this sitting I will be doing Air Law, Aircraft General Knowledge and Radio Navigation. I have pushed flight planning to my “module 4” so that will be sat early next year.
I haven’t found the exams that bad so far but maths subjects have always been more difficult for me than the pure theory type subjects. Radio Navigation seems to bring in some maths and the subjects I am sitting in module 3 are heavy with the maths so that should be interesting.
It has mainly been a month of using the question bank, Google and YouTube to try to fill in the gaps in my knowledge before sitting the exams. I would say the exam that is giving me the most worries at the moment is radio navigation but we will see what happens next week, hopefully all will be fine.
I have already booked my revision week for module 3 in September and I will be aiming to sit the exams in November of this year if things are going well with sitting the final set around April of next year.
With the course at Bartolini being booked for August 2018 I have a hard goal of when I need to pass these exams which is the end of July 2018 (the official date from the CAA) but if things go to track I hope to pass them all a few months before that.

Interview with Jonathan Willis – easyJet A320 Captain and Air Racer

Today I have another interview with Jonathan Willis easyJet A320 Captain and Air Racer. I thought it would be good to speak to someone who does airline and GA flying and ask if they think that staying in touch with the GA world is essential.
I was introduced to Jonathan by the assistant editor of Pilot magazine who I met in the wonderful Blackbushe cafe.

G-TNGO at Abbeville

How did you do your training?
My training first involved a couple of one week gliding holidays at Dunstable in my early twenties. A couple of years later I started my powered flying training. I did this full time and did it the modular way. I completed half in Vero Beach, Florida at Flight Safety International, the ground school in London and my CPL/IR (Commercial Pilots Licence/Instrument Rating) with Frozen ATPL (Airline Transport Pilots Licence) at Cabair in Cranfield. Once I’d got my CPL/IR, I did a Jet Appreciation course at Oxford which was 4 hours on a generic fixed base 737 sim. 

What was the most difficult part?
The hardest part was the BCPL flight test in Florida (CPL in today’s terms). You could say that it was like a PPL GFT and NAV test in one but with tighter tolerances. With a typical test time of 3 hours, it was as much a test of endurance as it was skill. I only attained a partial pass on my first attempt. The problem with this test is that it is mostly a VFR examination and VFR is somewhat subjective. An IR (instrument rating) however is purely a numbers game with a bit of handling skill thrown in which is easier in my opinion.

What do you think of the changes of training between when you did it and now?
I fly with a lot of newly trained people and we often compare notes on what we did for our IR and the equipment we used. Most have done their IR on the DA42 Twin Star with the G1000. I’ve not flown this but it does sound a little easier when you’re presented with a track line compared with doing an IR in the Grumman Cougar with its steam driven gauges which is what I did mine on. However, none of the pilots I fly with who have trained on the DA42 lack any of the necessary skills to operate an Airbus and if anything, being fully conversant on the G1000 or equivalent is probably more useful when converting onto an EFIS equipped airliner.
With regard to course content, this seems largely unchanged since I did my training 20 years ago.

What advice do you have for trainees?
There will always be someone better than you in some or all of the areas of your course, accept this, achieve what you can and you’ll find that your instructors and fellow pupils will warm to you, you’ll relax more and therefore progress more rapidly and probably enjoy the training experience more.
When you make a mistake, don’t be angry with yourself (I know this is easier said than done). Instructors don’t want to see this because this negativity can inhibit further learning. Acknowledge your fault, verbalise it in a calm manner and move on. We are organic beings who make stupid and I repeat stupid mistakes and often the same one more than once.

Could you tell me about the flying jobs you have had?
My first flying job was flying the BAC 1-11 for AB Airlines who were also known as Air Bristol. These old jets were built in the 1960s and were the perfect airliner to transition onto from an old fashioned light piston twin owing to the commonality of old fashioned instrumentation. I loved this job and would still be there today had they not gone bankrupt in 1999. The BAC 1-11 had a fairly basic autopilot by today’s standard, no manual thrust, flight management computer or area navigation. This made the job extremely rewarding as you had to calculate you top of decent by using your 2.5 times table instead of the more common 3 times table of more modern jets owing to its low by-pass ratio jet engines, navigate using raw data VORs, NDB,s or even dead reckoning if a VOR was out of range (if only the passengers knew!) and then when a bit closer to the ground, good old fashioned seat of the pants hand flying.
I then joined GB Airways in 2000 and spent 2 years flying their B737 300/400s before converting onto their Airbus 320s and 321s. They were nice airline who put lifestyle above pay in their order of priorities.
In 2008 GB Airways were bought by Easyjet with whom I have stayed with since.

USAF Alconbury

How is life working for easyJet?
Easyjet are a good company to work for. They have a wide variety of destinations, lots bases across Europe potentially allowing you to live in a variety of countries and they pay well. The only negatives from a personal point of view is that the work shifts can be very tiring. For example in one week you may be rostered to fly 5 consecutive early duties each with a report time between 5am and 630am. Three of those five days might involve 4 sector duties. You then might have three days off and then the next block of 5 duties will have late finishes, sometimes as late as 3 am and again with three or four of those 5 days work being 4 sector duties. In fairness to Easyjet however, they do have fatigue management system in place and so if when you get up for your day’s duty you feel too tired to carry it out, you can call them and they will take you off that duty. This is a vital safety valve for which they should be commended. The only other negative is the lack of nightstops at most of the bases. This means that each day tends to merge into the next as there isn’t much social interaction between the crew.


How did you get into air racing?
I’ve always enjoyed watching or reading about the Reno air-races and often wished for an equivalent to be available in the UK. Then one day I read an article in a UK GA magazine about air-racing in the UK. I went with my family to Compton Abbas to watch one, really liked what I saw and then set about revalidating my SEP and finding an aircraft that I could rent to race. Once these were obtained, I enrolled onto an Air Race course run by Roger Hayes and then entered my first race at North Weald in a C152.

What attracts you to the sport?
Aspects that attract me to the sport are:
It’s not easy to do well and this forces me to hone my flying skills
I love seeing how fast something will go and then tweaking it to try make it go faster!!!
It’s reason to fly somewhere
Great social scene

Do you feel it is important to stay in touch with GA as an airline pilot?
GA flying and Airline flying are so different that I don’t think it’s important for an airline pilot to stay in touch with GA. However, I have noticed that during extended periods where I’ve not flown GA a slight drop in my overall situational awareness. Perhaps its to do with the fact that when you’re in a GA aircraft on your own, you have to look over your shoulder more as there’s no one else to do it for you.

What is the best part of being a pilot?
The best part of being a commercial pilot are the days off because when you’ve had a long week, then oh boy do you enjoy them. However, there are times when you fly an approach into somewhere with breathtaking scenery such as Innsbruck and you think …what a privilege and you wouldn’t change it for the Earth. Regarding GA, hell, I love everything about it, well everything except the cost and the fact that one always seems to be running late!

I would like to thank Jonathan for taking the time to talk to me and I hope that you enjoyed his interview.

The cheapest way to hour build

Another subject that has come up recently was what is the cheapest way to hour build was, so in this post I will explain the options.
Air to Air C150

Flying School
So the first option and the most “familiar” will be to rent a plane from the school that you learnt at. Now I am going to say straight away that this is most likely going to be the most expensive option. Flying schools normally have the highest charges and on top of this if the school is busy then the availability will be pretty poor. I think I “built” 4-5 hours at the school I learnt at before I moved on to new (and cheaper) pastures.
The school I trained at wants an eye watering £165 for 1 hour solo hire in a C152. If I needed 100 hours that would be £16,500! Needless to say this was not an option. However some flying schools have lower rates maybe £120 ish but this would still cost you £12,000. Flying is expensive, we don’t need to make it more expensive than necessary.
Also you got to remember that the schools are using these planes for training, it is unlikely that they are going to let you take it away for half a day  if you are only planning 1.5 – 2 hours of flying.
Maybe in a less busy time of year you can negotiate a discount with a school, however in my opinion I would focus on the following options.

Going Abroad
The next popular option is to go abroad. Years ago when the pound was stronger the US was incredibly good value. Don’t get me wrong, it is still cheaper to fly stateside then it is in the UK however with the weakening pound it is not as cheap as it once was. What you do get however in some states is almost guaranteed clear flying weather and the ability to build 50-60 hours in a month or so which can be difficult in the UK.
You do have to factor in flights, hotels, car rental etc when you go abroad so you need to add this onto the rate you are getting, it might actually be cheaper to stay put if you can find the right deal.
Popular destinations are Florida (be careful of the time of year) or Phoenix. Also South Africa is a pretty cheap place to fly.

Buying a plane
What do you think I am loaded? Well, if you can afford it you can normally buy an aircraft, fly the hours you need and then sell it on without losing much money. The real risk with this is if something goes wrong in your time of ownership and you have to pay to fix it. If you can find the right plane at the right price then this just might be the thing for you.

en route to kemble

Finding a share
Now this makes a lot of sense, there are two types of shares equity or non equity shares. The first you buy a part of the ownership of the plane and the second you don’t. Doing it this way means there are a set number of people who will be using the aircraft and the availability is better. When you have finished building your hours you can sell your share onto someone else, which means really you have only played for the hours built. However you also have to consider that possibly the share wont go ASAP and if you need the money to continue your flying, that can be a big issue.
Some shares won’t like hour builders and others will not mind, you just have to have a look and see what is available. If you can find the right share, this could be the right way to get your hours built.
You also will have to chip in for running costs / new engine but this is normally built into your hourly flying rate.

A flying group / club
This is similar to a share apart from normally someone owns the planes (or a group of people) and you have a fixed rate to fly the plane, the group owner takes care of maintenance, inspections etc. The rate normally works out at somewhere between a share and a flying school, more likely towards the share side of things.
Make sure you check out the rules in relation to how often you are allowed to book, how long you can have the plane for etc. There is no point finding a cheap rate if you can only have the aircraft for 2 hours at a time or so.

Private Deal
There are a lot of planes owned by private individuals that are not utilised that much. Some of these owners may be interested in selling you some time in their plane maybe over a month or two when they know they wont be using it. Obviously this would be an arrangement between the two of you but this can work out to be a an excellent way of getting the hours you need relatively cheaply. You never know what a quick convo with someone who has a C150, C152, PA28 etc at your local airfield might lead too.

All of these really depend on your situation so I am sure some will appeal more than others. Also remember maintenance is important, you do not want to be flying in a cheap but poorly maintained aircraft.

Hour Building: With An unexpected return to Cranfield

Continuing with my effort to get my hours and experience up on Sunday I did some hour building: With an unexpected return to Cranfield.
Cranfield C150

Now my day never started with any intention of going to Cranfield, in fact I was routing to Conington as I tried to the last time I flew.
I did my pre flight at Blackbushe which was using runway 07, which I had never used before so that was pretty cool. I took off and started heading towards the north under the London TMA of 2500 with a traffic service from Farnborough until I popped out the other side and changed to Cranfield.
I then routed up the west of Milton Keynes before heading to the south of Sywell when the cloud base dropped and the visibility seemed to get worse. I decided there was no way it was possible for me to fly through that and I knew I didn’t have enough fuel to make it back to Blackbushe so I would have to land. I had two options, Sywell or Cranfield.
As I would only be stopping for fuel then heading back I decided to choose my old stomping ground of Cranfield. I reported at Olney and joined downwind runway 03 before landing.
Now as great of an airfield that Cranfield is, there isn’t much to do there so it made the perfect choice for a refueling stop. One thing that did surprise me is the landing fee is only £7.50. I had never paid it before due to being in based aircrafts but I think that is very reasonable, actually it is the lowest of any airfield that I have ever visited.
The fuel truck promptly arrived and thankfully accepted my fuel card which was nice (it is so useful having fuel cards).
As I didn’t want to risk the weather setting in on the return I promptly departed and headed back to Blackbushe. The weather on the way back was actually perfectly fine so there was no issues there. I joined downwind at Blackbushe and choose to extend downwind for separation as a C150 popped out just under me and rather than do a go around it was easier to extend my leg.
All in all a busy day of flying and I ended up with another 2.2 hours in the log book, I’m up to 69.1 in total now so still a lot of flying to get done.
I am really enjoying spreading my wings and exploring the UK. I think I am going to give up on Conington for now and pick another airfield to try to visit and come back to Conington in the summer.
I am not flying for the next few weeks as I am away a lot with work, so I will focus on the ATPL exams that are coming up.

I booked my CPL ME IR course at Bartolini Air

So I have been looking at schools to do my CPL ME IR at and yesterday I booked my CPL ME IR course at Bartolini which will be starting in August 2018. The reason I have picked August 2018 is because I have until July 2018 to pass my ATPL exams. I figure that as I must have them passed by then (hopefully before) this would be a good time to pick for the training.
Shoreham to Cranfield
I know, it’s early but Bartolini are booked out like 7 months in advance so I figured I would pay my deposit now so the course is at least guaranteed for next summer. The deposit to reserve my place was €800 which worked out to be just over £700 which aint that bad.
I haven’t actually been to the school, which to be honest really is one of the no no’s but I have heard so many good things about them and my brothers friend went so I booked on the back of his recommendation. I will probably go and visit them later this year.

Why I choose Bartolini?

  1. Price – Bartolini seem to be the cheapest CPL ME IR course provider that I have found that have a good reputation. I mean the course still costs €17,500.00 which at today’s exchange rate is £14,763. Now this is much cheaper than anything I can find in the UK. The price here seems to be around £23,000 so as you can see it is a huge saving. Also the course at Bartolini includes aircraft rental for the tests and the landing fees which a lot of the courses here do not.
  2. Speed – Bartolini can do the training in as little as 8 weeks. Now I have a full time job which I may or may not have to give up to complete my course, so the less time to ask to have off the better really.
  3. Recommendations – My brothers friend who told me about the modular path went to Bartolini and couldn’t speak more highly of them. For this reason they were always right at the top of my list of schools to go to.
  4. Flexible – They have no issues splitting the course so you could go out and do say the CPL then go back in a few weeks and do the IR if needed.
  5. Placement record – The students are getting jobs, this means that the training has to be very good.
  6. Wings alliance member – Bartolini are part of the Wings Alliance and as I am a student at Bristol Ground School it made a lot of sense. By doing the training with Bartolini I will possibly be eligible for the Wings Alliance ARC course.
  7. Testing under UK CAA – The skills test can be done under a UK CAA examiner.

All in all Bartolini ticked a lot of boxes and I like the idea of going abroad for a few months to learn in some new airspace. On top of this I am looking forward to flying the Technam aircraft the P2006T twin and the P2002. This aircraft is maybe not as popular as others but they do seem to be modern planes.

Now just the small issue of 11 exams and lots of hour building to do first.

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!

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!