UK ATPL pass rates for 16/17 and 17/18

So someone had the genius idea of submitting a freedom of information request for the UK ATPL pass rates for 16/17 and 17/18 from the UK CAA.
The UK CAA doesn’t publish this information so it is probably the first time this information has been shared, well at least publically anyways.
I thought I would share it here incase anyone has an interest in seeing it.

Navigation planning

SUBJECT // PASS RATE 17-18 // (PASS RATE 16-17)
Air Law – 83% (87%)
Airframe/Systems/Power Plant/Electrics – 87% (89%)
Aircraft General Knowledge – Instrumentation – 83% (81%)
Mass & Balance – 81% (82%)
Performance – 78% (72%)
Flight Planning – 76% (81%)
Human Performance and Limitations – 85% (84%)
Meteorology – 79% (77%)
General Navigation – 86% (82%)
Radio Navigation – 85% (90%)
Operational Procedures – 83% (91%)
Principles of Flight – 76% (73%)
VFR Communications – 95% (96%)
IFR Communications – 97% (98%)

So looking at the stats Flight Planning, Principles of Flight, Perfomance and Meteorology seem to be the exams with the lowest pass rates over the two years.
It would be interesting to see how this compares to other CAA’s.

Jet2 pilot apprentice open day at Virtual Aviation

With an eye on the future today I went to the Jet2 pilot apprentice open day at Virtual Aviation.

en route gamston

So the day started with us registering and then going into a room so that we could mingle with the other students. Most students seemed to be at CPL ME IR stage or has recently completed their training.
Being the small world that it is, I actually met someone who actually trained at Cranfield Flying school also, so that was nice.

We then went down to a room for a presentation from Jet2. I must say, Jet2 seems to be a really good company to work for and they heavily emphasised that they prefer to promote from within and develop people.
Obviously the pilot apprentice with its bonded type rating is one of the premier schemes in the industry.
The main takeaways I got from this in regards to what Jet2 like to see is the following. They did however say this is all considered on a case by case basis.

  • Strong ATPL results.
  • Recent flying – They want to see you flying with a decent amount of consistency.
  • Jet2 are Independent – Jet2 do not prioritise any schools or training organisations and they said it is best to do your MCC / JOC wherever is best for you.

Talk with captains and pilot apprentices.
We then went up into a room to speak to some current captains and two guys who were on the pilot apprentice scheme. This was a good opportunity to ask about the job and if they could offer any advice.
We were probably in here for 20 mins or so.
The pilots were very passionate about how good Jet2 were to work for and how they seem different from other airlines they have worked for.

Sim Visit
We then went to have a look at Virtual Aviation’s new Boeing 737 sim. I must say, the sim is very impressive.
We had a quick go at handling it which was nice but quite rushed as obviously they had a lot of people to get through.

APS MCC talk
Lastly we had a talk from a very nice Easyjet captain about the APS MCC. I must say the course seems very well designed and quite intense.
The guy leading the course seemed to be very passionate about teaching and really helping you get the best you can from it.
The course is designed to last around 20 days and I believe it costs about £6500.
This is much more than the £2650 that CRM Europe are charging for their MCC / JOC course which is not an APS course or on a Boeing 737 sim.
Ryanair are saying that the APS course is preferred but Jet2 stated to do which course you feel is best for you, so there is a decision to be had there.

All in all it was a good day and I was glad I heard both from Jet2 about the pilot apprentice and from Virtual Aviation about the APS MCC.


Class 1 Medical Renewal

The last year seems to have gone pretty fast and today I had my class 1 medical renewal.

I had been trying for a week or two to get hold of my AME only to eventually find out that he has retired which meant I had to find a new one.
I was sent the details of an AME by a friend so I went to see him today and thankfully he isn’t based too far from my workplace so I could fit it in a lunch break.
We went through all the basic tests, eye sight, blood, urine, checking your stomach, in your ears, if you can feel vibration etc. This was all fine thankfully so we moved on to the next section.
As it had been two years since my initial I had to have a ECG which thankfully was also good with no issues.
And that was it, £195 lighter and another year on my class 1. This is good as I actually plan to exercise the privileges for the first time next year on my course.

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.

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.
These posts are about my hour building.
Cost £7000-£15,000


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.
These posdts are about my CPL ME IR.
Cost £15,000 – £25,000.


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.

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.

Choosing a flight instructor

As trainee’s we all need someone we trust to teach us how to fly, in this post we will go over choosing a flight instructor.

G-BOYB and instructors

From my time flying, there are 3 distinct groups that flight instructors fall into each with different positives and negatives which we will go over.

  1. Career flight instructors – In this group you have the good and the bad. You will have people who are very passionate about teaching and you will meet people who over the years have become a bit jaded or fed up with teaching. If you can find one who loves teaching they will have a lot of knowledge built up over the years that they can pass to you.
    They will have also taught a LOT of students so they should be able to recognise what you are struggling with and have multiple ways of helping you overcome it.
  2. Time builders who love to teach – These are generally going to be new instructors with a maximum of a few years experience. They are here solely to build hours before moving on to the airlines, however they also show a genuine interest in teaching and seeing their students progress.
    In this group you can find some good teachers but just be aware that should an airline job come up, they will be off and you may have to find a new instructor.
  3. Time builders who hate it – This is the group that you should avoid. They generally do not want to be flying around in a small aircraft and are really focused on how many hours they are building rather than your progress.
    I have found that they are not as proactive in taking an interest in your training as the other two groups and are simply there as they believe it will help them into an airline job.

    The best way to see what somebody is like is to fly with them, you don’t have to accept your lessons with the first instructor who answered the phone when you called. If you don’t get on with someone, try somebody else. The student / instructor relationship is very important and this person will give you the foundation of everything you do going forward.

Class 1 medical revalidation

Dr Cranstons Office
Dr Cranstons Office

So it has been around a year since I got my initial class 1 medical so I had to have a class 1 medical revalidation.

To do this you have to search for an AME and then book to go see them. My local AME who was recommended to me by my housemate was Dr David Cranston, so I popped along to get it done.
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect with the revalidation, but the receptionist told me that it is not as in-depth as the initial (she wasn’t lying).
First was a bit of form filling about medical history etc, nothing really to report here.
Second was the peeing in a cup section, I don’t think I really need to go into detail here 🙂
Then it was time to go and see the AME. The Dr took my blood pressure, asked me to read the bottom line of his eye chart, a paragraph of text, listened to my breathing, asked me if anything has changed or if I had been to see a doctor, and that was about it. The revalidation was over for another year and a new class 1 was printed for me.
Oh we did talk about the training path I am taking and the flying he used to do but that’s not part of the medical.
I came out and paid the £168 fee and was in and out in an hour! Why couldn’t the initial be this easy?


Should I change my flight instructor?

Sometimes training doesn’t work out like you think it should and you start to wonder, should I change my flight instructor?
Above all you need to keep in mind that this is a business transaction. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason with the instructor you have, then you do not have to fly with them. No matter what the reason, you have the right to pick and choose who you fly with.

climbing G-BLAC

Reasons I have come across as to why people change flight instructors include the following.

  1. They are too hands on! There is nothing worse than paying a three figure sum for someone else to do the majority of the flying. You should be flying the aircraft the majority of the time.
  2. Personality clash – You will not get on with everybody you meet, if you don’t really like someone the chances are you will probably dislike flying with them.
  3. They are too panicky – I once flew with a newly qualified flight instructor and I must say I didn’t enjoy it at all. He was so panicky and jumpy as well as a bit shouty. Even though I was flying EXACTLY how my other instructors had taught me, at my home airfield, in the circuit as I had done many times before, HE was making ME nervous. To top it of I wasn’t even a student, I had passed my skills test and was waiting for my licence to come back.
    Note – I know that passing the skills test doesn’t make me a perfect pilot.
  4. You don’t feel like you are progressing as you should – This again is a perfectly valid reason. Everybody learns at a different rate, however if you don’t feel like you are making the progress you should be, you should be prepared to try a new instructor. Maybe their methods may work better for you.
  5. They are never on time – There is nothing worse than being at the airfield at the agreed time only to have a last-minute cancellation or having to wait around half the day for the instructor to turn up. If you can make it there on time, then the least your instructor can do is do the same.
  6. They don’t make time for you – Following on from the last one if you fly every Saturday for instance, you expect your instructor to have tentative slots for you. If they don’t you may be left with no choice but to choose someone else.
  7. You start to question THEM – While I think this is rare I have read a few stories of people questioning the ability of their instructor, this is never a good place to be. You should have full confidence in your instructor.

The first thing to do before you change is to talk to your flight instructor. They may not be aware of what it is that is causing you the issue and you should really give them a chance to resolve it. Sometimes a quick chat is all that is needed to sort out issues and the ability to articulate a problem to your instructor can only bode well for any future airline flying you do.
At the end of the day, it’s your money and you need to get the best value for that money that you possibly can.

VFR into IMC

VFR into IMC is one of the most dangerous situations a VFR pilot can find themselves in.
VFR into IMC  is when a pilot takes of in VFR conditions, and is only trained for these conditions, but ends up flying into IMC conditions. Things go badly so fast that it is actually said that an untrained pilot has 178 seconds to live at this point. When flying VFR you are flying by reference to visual points as soon as these visual points are taken away from you, you have to fly in a completely different way, a way which you haven’t learnt to fly which is by flying with only reference to your instruments.
Ask an instructor to take you into IMC and see for yourself how different it is if you haven’t already!

NOTE – VFR pilots can do a IMC course to learn how to fly in these conditions.

This is why your go/no go decision is unbelievably important. As the pilot it is your job decide if it is safe to fly and this includes looking up the weather en route before you even set off. We also have to be willing to turn around! I have flown into IMC conditions twice, with my instructor as part of my training.
The first time was on my practice cross-country qualifier where we had to end up turning back as the viability was just too poor to land. There was some visual reference left (not a huge amount) so it was possible just about to navigate but it isn’t something I would have wanted to experience on my own.
The second time was deliberate as my instructor wanted to show me how quickly the situation could go wrong with even a moderate workload in the aircraft, he asked me to do a few things such as tune a VOR and look up something on a map while keeping the plane level. By the time I had looked back at the instruments the plane was already banked while I thought we were still flying straight and level!
If you watch this video you can see how quickly pilots with different amounts of VFR flight time take to lose control of the aircraft in the simulator.

As you can see the pilots all seem to lose control of the aircraft and a lot of them end up in a steep turn or a spin. You also see that a lot of them end up flying way too fast and their altitude starts running out real fast! If you look at this next video you will hear stories of more pilots who found themselves in this situation, what caused them to get into the situation, how scary the situation was and most importantly what they think what could have happened!

This video shows a pilot has despite plenty of warnings and towards the end has ATC telling him the route he plans to take is not advised, yet he continues to fly this route. This unfortunately also ended in the death of the pilot so RIP to him also.

Last week I was doing circuits, I did plan to do a navigation flight but due to the weather not being excellent, I decided that was a no go as I didn’t want to risk getting stuck en route in bad weather conditions. On my second circuit I was on final with clearance for a touch and go when the skies opened up, in seconds visibility went from perfectly fine to hardly being able to see in front of me. I immediately called ATC to change from a touch and go, to instead land. That landing was much harder than any other I have done, it was harder to judge my height & to judge my flair and the simple reason for this was because the viability had became bad and I lost my visual cues. After I had got the plane on the ground the taxi was hard work, I could hardly see in front of me.
We all need to have respect for the weather, it is strong and it can come on very quickly.
Always remember there is no shame in turning back and there is even less shame in deciding not to go. I have learnt a lot from these videos that hopefully I can apply to my flying. Get-home-itis (OK not an official word, but the desire to want to get home) is also a thing that can affect us. This is where the desire to get home clouds our judgement and makes us proceed in situations where we should really stay put!

This video I have saved for last, as it is an hour long and I wanted people to watch the other videos first. This is a great lecture on VFR to IMC and most defiantly worth a watch.

Lessons to be learned.

  1. Your go / no go decision is important.
  2. Don’t be afraid to turn back.
  3. If ATC recommend you don’t do something, you should probably listen!
  4. Always get the weather for your route.


Remember, we are always learning!


Class 1, Class 2 or LAPL Medical

CAA Gatwick
UK CAA Building, unfortunately they no longer provide medicals.

When it comes to flight training in the UK at least there are 3 types of medicals that you can which are a Class 1, Class 2 or LAPL Medical.
The medical you need to choose depends on what your goals are with your flying. In this post I will go through all the medicals to make sure that you pick the correct medical for the type of flying that you wish to do.

Class 1 Medical

  • Needed to train for a CPL or ATPL
  • Done at an AeMC (Aeromedical Centre).
  • Also provides a class 2 medical.
  • Valid for 12 months unless you are over 40 and carry out single pilot operations or if you are over 60 in both cases it would be valid for 6 months
  • You can read about my initial class 1 medical at CAA Gatwick.


Class 2 Medical

  • Needed to train for a PPL
  • Done with an AME (Aeromedical Examiner) rather than at a medical centre.
  • Less strict than your Class 1 medical
  • Valid for 60 months if you are under 40 years old, 24 months if you are 40-49 years old and 12 months if you are 50 or over.


LAPL Medical

  • Needed to train for the LAPL (Light Aircraft Pilot Licence)
  • Done by your GP or an AME
  • Valid for 60 months if you are under 40 and 24 months if you are over 40


So you have three medicals to choose from for your flight training. I see a few people get their class 2 medical because they are doing their PPL but they have plans to fly commercially so they should really get their class 1.
The reason for this is because your class 1 also provides you with a class 2 medical, and more importantly if you cannot obtain a class 1 medical then you cannot fly commercially. So if your only goal is to fly for the airlines, you will never be able to achieve it until you can hold a class 1 medical. I hope this has helped you pick which medical you need to achieve your goal.