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.

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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.

This weather is awful

Not really much to say at the moment as this weather is awful so I am pretty much grounded because of it.
Awful weather
As you can see from the forecast from two of my local airports the chances of getting any flying done are pretty slim. I don’t recall the weather last year being this bad but in the first few months of 2017 it has pretty much been awful whenever I have tried to fly.
I really want to start navigating away from the circuit / local area again and I am looking to do my first trip to Kimble in the Cotswolds, however every time I have the plane booked the weather is seeming to put an end to it.
The other day it had dawned on me that my last land away was actually my PPL cross-country qualifier which was ages ago now! I did do a trip to Shoreham (nice airport but £30 landing fee?) but I flew the return leg back to Cranfield. I don’t want to get rusty on the radio or my navigation so I need to make sure I keep practicing.
Also I only have around 60 hours of flight time. I still have a lot of hours to build to be ready for my CPL course and I also need to do a qualifying flight of 300NM with landings at 2 aerodromes.
In the mean time I am focusing on my ATPL theory, I have not to long started Airframe and Systems, Electrics, Power Plant and Emergency Equipment. To say I am not loving it is an understatement but I will go into that in more detail on my next ATPL theory post.
Anyways, lets hope that the weather improves over the next week or so. I can see that Monday and Tuesday are looking good but it seems to head downhill once again after that.
Send your prayers to the weather goods to send us some clear blue skies to disappear into!

Interview with Lauren Richardson, Aerobatics display pilot

It has been a while since we did an interview, so I am very happy to bring you an Interview with Lauren Richardson, Aerobatics display pilot.
As we all know there are many different types of flying that you can do, so it’s great to have Lauren talk about Aerobatics.
If you don’t know about Lauren, then she is a 29 year old PPL holder who has been flying for around 10 years and displaying Aerobatics for 5. You can check her out in the following video!

  1. Hi Lauren, how did you get into flying?
    I’d always wanted to fly for as long as I can remember – from the very first time as a child I asked my parents what the thing was that was drawing a line in the sky over our house. Not being from a monied family I never put too much thought into actually getting into aviation as it was obviously something we as a family could never afford. I decided to leave school when I was 16 to do an apprenticeship in engineering, and when I’d completed that and begun earning a decent wage, I set about saving what spare money I had toward taking flying lessons – I was 19 or 20 when I took my first lesson and loved it.

  2. Tell me about your initial training?
    By the time I’d saved enough money to actually contemplate learning to fly (I didn’t want to get into any debt, or start flying without the means to complete my PPL so this took a while), I lived alongside the runway at RAF Halton – home to a small flying club who catered not just for service personnel, but for a limited number of civilians (mostly local) too. I was fortunate to be allowed to join the club and train there to get my PPL.
    I spent the majority of my time on the venerable Cessna 152, with a mix of some PA28 and even some Cessna 182 flying to mix things up a little. I remember enjoying the challenge of learning to fly immensely, and I think to date, my first solo is still my proudest flying achievement.

  3. How did you end up flying aerobatics?
    People ask me this one all the time, and the answer is simple yet probably quite disappointing. Basically, I got bored. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing A-to-B flying or hiring C152/PA28s to take your mates for a spin, it just wasn’t enough to keep me entertained once I’d gained a few hours. I’ve always needed to be challenged in every aspect of my life or I lose interest. I can distinctly remember one flight where I went out alone in a C152 with no real aim or goal other than to keep some form of currency, when I suddenly realised I wasn’t actually enjoying it all that much. Once the challenge of learning to fly had seemingly finished and I’d got my license, ticked the box, I guess I really needed something else to force me to continue to learn. This is where aerobatics came in (after nearly a 2 year complete layoff from flying after that C152 flight actually). I had a go in a friend of a friend’s Pitts S2A (something I’d always wanted a go in, just so I could say I’d had a go in a Pitts! I didn’t want him to actually turn it upside down…).
    After some persuasion I let the instructor demonstrate a loop to me and that was it – the moment I sat there, looking up through the canopy at the ground BELOW me, I was hooked. I had to do more. It was like a hit of a narcotic, an instant addiction, a challenge that I knew would always be far greater than I could ever perceive myself.

  4. You fly a Pitts Special S1-S, what makes this plane so special?
    Just look at her!
    In all seriousness, she’s about the best value aerobatic aeroplane you can buy. Incredibly capable but still with the character of a biplane. What’s not to love?Lauren Richardson 2
  5. You have achieved so much, how did you manage to progress to where you are at now?
    There are many stories to tell but the truth is, everything I’ve done and achieved has been a result of three key elements: sheer stubbornness/determination, intense hard work (that has at times necessitated some heartbreaking sacrifice), and the support and enthusiasm of some amazing people in the community around me.
    It hasn’t been easy, it has been harder than I can express in words. At times it honestly hasn’t seemed worth it, but each time I’ve felt low something or someone has picked me up – I have a picture on my wall drawn by a 4 year old girl of my aeroplane flying over her family at an airshow a couple of years ago that I look at every now and then as a reminder. I have a selection of emails from people telling me their own stories of things that my efforts and journey have inspired them to go and do. The messages of encouragement and thanks make all the hardship worth it. To inspire and bring some joy into other people’s lives through my own love affair with flying is a huge privilege and something I hope to never lose sight of.

  6. What advice do you have for anyone who want’s to follow in your footsteps?
    Honestly? I’d probably say don’t.
    Unless you’re willing to pursue a goal that will cost everything you earn, scare you senseless, make you ache and hurt and cry and wonder why you even bother…
    If however, you’re willing to give everything of yourself to pursue a dream, and the dream you have is the same as mine, feel free to get in touch and if I can help I will.
    The best advice really is to do what makes you happy. Flying airshows and aerobatics isn’t for everyone but there are a few of us out there who would be lost without it. The sheer joy and freedom is unbeatable, which is why I do it!

  7. What is your favourite aerobatic moves and why?
    It’s very hard to pick just one, so I’m going to list a few:
    The avalanche: a flick roll on top of a loop. There’s just something joyous about the gentle tumble-dryer experience that needs to be felt to be understood.
    Tailslides: straight up until you run out of momentum and thrust, close the throttle and the aeroplane literally drops backward out of the sky on its tail controlled by nothing but gravity. When you get these right they can be insanely violent when the machine transitions from tail down to nose down – it flops very suddenly. I have a video on youtube where you can hear me laughing out loud, they’re so much fun.

  8. What are your goals going forward with your flying?

    Short term:
    Display a few more interesting types (I was honoured to be given a Russian Yak 50 to display last year and I just LOVED it – more of this please!). Write more articles for the aviation magazines (I’m an occasional contributor for Pilot – with Pitts Special and Yak 50 air tests both published, as well as the odd opinion piece). Do more aerobatic and complex/tailwheel instruction. Fly more. Become a better pilot.
    Medium term:
    Do more work as a STEM ambassador and help more youngsters into aviation/engineering. Make a move from engineering for a living into flying.  Do more speaking engagements. Fly more. Become a better pilot.
    Long term:

    Learn to fly historic types and end up as a warbird display pilot. Fly more. Become a better pilot.

    lauren richardson

  9. What are your views on the numbers of female pilots?
    Obviously I’d love to have more women to fly with. Big steps are being made forward by lots of different flying groups to open more women’s eyes to the possibility that they might make good pilots, which ultimately is all we can do. Not everyone wants to fly, not everyone can and not everyone is given the opportunity to. All we can do is try to stack the odds in the favour of those that may want and be able to do it.

  10. You are now doing your ATPL’s, what are your long term goals?
    I’m going through ATPL ground school with Bristol Groundschool and the Wings Alliance (who I’m delighted to say are supporting me as sponsors for the 2017 display season) as I’m wanting to get my CPL and make a bit of a career move into some form of flying for a living (I display on a PPL and the money raised only contributes to the cost of owning and keeping the aeroplane). Ultimately I’d love to get into commercial helicopter flying but it’ll be a few years before I have any chance of affording to do this. In the meantime, CPL, ME/IR if I can afford it – I’d like to do some varied jobs, maybe in the corporate or air ambulance arenas as I’ve no interest in heading to the airlines.

  11. Is there anything you would like to add?
    Flying is amazing, never take for granted the freedom and joy of flight as not everyone gets to experience it. Never stop loving what you do, never stop being scared. The day the dangers no longer scare you or you no longer love what you do, it’s time to move on.
    Never give up on a dream, no matter how nuts it may seem. Determination and hard work are often the keys to opportunity.


I would like to thank Lauren for taking the time to speak to us and you can read all about Lauren and her adventures on her website

ATPL Month 8: Exams and Air Law

A lot happened this month so I will do a quick recap of ATPL month 8: Exams and Air Law.
mod 2 month 8

The month started of with me finally sitting my first ATPL exams.
It felt good to get them out the way, but after having just two days to rest and chill, I ordered module 2 and got cracking.
As you know I am studying with Bristol Ground School and module 2 consists of Air Law, AGK Electrics, Flight Planning and Radio Navigation.
I had previously booked my revision week for May 2017, I am staying with the same lady I did as last time and I have already booked the exams for June. So I am all sorted in regards to the final exam preparation I just need to get through the material and get up to speed before then.
For this reason I had configured my software to make sure I will finish the study material by the end of March at the latest. This should give me around 2 months to go through the QB and to revise in preparation for the exams.
I am currently running a bit ahead of schedule and as things stand I will finish module 2 some point around mid march if I keep the pace up.
I decided to start with air law which is a very important subject with a lot of information, however it is quite possibly the most dry subject you will ever come across and for that reason it is not the most fun to study.
As you can tell it is a lot of rules and regulations that you need to get your head around, however I am making good progress and I am already on lesson 31, there are 37 in total.
It feels like it was so long since I finished reading the material for module 1 but so far I am actually quite enjoying module 2 so far.

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.

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!