The Aviator | Student Pilot Blog

Follow my journey as an airline pilot cadet

Hello, I'm James, and I'm a First Officer flying for a UK airline. The aim of this website is to share my journey through integrated pilot training, and to hopefully inspire other future airline pilots to follow their dream.

A little more about me: I started training when I was 19, I'm originally from Cheshire, UK, and I was a member of the seventh airline-mentored MPL course at CAE Oxford Aviation Academy. Our team of eight met together for the first time on 28th June 2013. During ground school we were joined by fifteen other trainee pilots, making us part of the AP351 course. Whilst we completed all of our flight training in the UK, the AP351 members of our course completed their flight training in Phoenix, Arizona.

My aim was to keep my friends and family up-to-date with my training through periodic updates to the The Aviator Blog page of my website. I always welcome questions, suggestions or contributions at any time through the Contact page. You can now also Subscribe to my blog, to receive an email when an update is posted.

Disclaimer: Personal thoughts and views expressed on this website are entirely my own, and not those of any company I may be affiliated with. Any sponsored links or advertisements on this site are managed by a third-party and are computer generated, they are not endorsements by myself or any company I may be affiliated with.

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The Transition to Multi Pilot Flying

It's been another busy few weeks here in Oxford, as my course enters the final weeks of the Core Flight Training phase in the Cessna 182T at London Oxford Airport. We're due to finish this phase approximately eight weeks ahead of schedule, offering us more time to complete the following simulator training phases (and maybe even squeeze in a week or two off!)

In my last post I mentioned a few milestones in the Cessna phase, many of which our course have now completed. The Solo Cross-Country Qualifier is a solo flight of around 3 hours duration, which involves full-stop landings at two other airports as well as back at Oxford. For me, this trip took me to the West of Oxford for a visit to Gloucestershire Airport (EGBJ), and then North to Wolverhampton Halfpenny Green (EGBO) before heading back to Oxford. I'd visited Wolverhampton's airfield once before, back in August 2012, when I flew as a passenger with a friend in a Piper PA28. It was a different yet thoroughly enjoyable experience navigating to and joining the airfield on my own this time!

Three Cessna aircraft lined up during a land-away from a solo navigation sortie 

In addition to completing Progress Test 3, the final single-pilot flight test of the Cessna phase, a highlight of the training recently was a solo night flight. With complete darkness out of each window, the majority of the flight must be flown solely on instruments inside the cockpit. This involves using our Garmin G1000 flight instrument system to monitor the aircraft's attitude, airspeed, altitude, course and engine parameters without external reference to a visual horizon. A useful aid for the final approach and landing phase of night flying is the Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs), a set of four lights which indicate when your aircraft is flying close to the correct glide slope. Four white lights indicate the aircraft is too high, and that the pilot must increase the rate of descent to regain the glide slope, while four red lights indicate the aircraft is too low. Whilst many towns are lit up in the vicinity of the airport to allow the use of maps for navigation, it isn't until around 25ft above the ground that the landing light illuminates the runway that we can see the ground clearly again! The flight instruments are highly sensitive and also very accurate, making this type of flying interesting, exciting, and intense at the same time. It's also part of the transition to multi-crew airline instrument flying, where we will often use an Instrument Landing System (ILS) to land at airfields in poor visibility or at night.

The image below shows an example of a runway at night, with the four small horizontal Precision Approach Path Indicators (PAPIs) lights to the left of the runway. You can just about make out two white and two red lights, indicating the aircraft is on the correct glide slope.

Thanks to A Pilot's View (Copyright © 2014 A Pilot's View) for this image of final approach into London Gatwick Airport at night. Similar to Oxford, but with more lights and a higher landing fee!

One of the next stages of our flight training involves learning to fly multi-engine aircraft, and how to deal with failures of the additional engine. Whilst learning to handle an aircraft with all instruments and systems fully operational is important, learning to deal with failures at any point during a flight is also vital to flight training. Of the five hours I'll spend flying the Piper Seneca (similar to the one shown below), the majority of those hours will be asymmetric, with one engine simulated as having failed (with the throttle back reducing the engines thrust). This will be an introduction to the multi-engine flying that we'll be experiencing in the CRJ200 jet simulator in the next phase in a few weeks time, and eventually the Airbus A320.

G-OXFD, one of Oxford's brand new twin-engine Piper Seneca PA34 aircraft, fitted with glass-cockpit Garmin G1000 flight instruments, for multi-engine flight training toward MPL and CPL/IR courses.

In further preparation for airline flying, this month marks the start of our multi-crew (or multi-pilot) flight training. For the entirety of the Cessna training to date, all operations have been "single-pilot", where the student is in control of all decisions, actions, radio and controls, unless the flight instructor takes over. This is beneficial to gain experience and confidence in handling the aircraft, however, it is a very different environment to multi-crew airliner flying. Multi-crew flying is where all the tasks on the flight deck are simultaneously shared between both pilots, with one assuming the role of Pilot Flying (PF) and one assuming a Pilot Monitoring (PM) role. This sharing of the workload allows maximum utilisation of the crew's resources, and is now the standard way of operating in the airlines.

For example, in the early days of my single-pilot flight training, if I wanted to lower the aircraft's flaps, I would simply reach out and lower the necessary control lever and a stage of flaps would be set. Now, during multi-crew training as Pilot Flying, I would ask the Pilot Monitoring (in our case currently, the flight instructor) to "Set Flap 10", to which the PM would reply "Speed checked, Flap 10" before he would set the flaps whilst I continue flying the aircraft. This saves me diverting my attention, and allows me to focus on flying the aircraft. It's a different way of working, and one that can take some getting used to. Whilst it is designed to ease the workload on both pilots, it also means both pilots must be continually cross-checking and confirming each others actions to ensure tasks are completed correctly. Beginning this type of training from such an early stage is the key asset to the Multi Pilot License which we're training toward. Once we commence employment with the airline we may find ourselves flying as either Pilot Flying or Pilot Monitoring, meaning we may be flying the aircraft whilst the Captain handles the radios and sets the necessary systems, or vice versa, where we are setting up the systems whilst the Captain flies the aircraft. This ensures both pilots stay familiar with the different aspects of handling the aircraft, and also helps to increase situational awareness through continual cross-checking.

The CAE Oxford Aviation Academy stand at the Flyer Professional Flight Training Exhibition at Sofitel London Heathrow last month. A busy event, and another image where I'm pretty difficult to spot! (Image from PFTE)

In other news, a team from CAE Oxford Aviation Academy recently attended the Flyer Exhibition in London, an event where future pilots can gain more information about the aviation industry and the types of flight training available to them. It was an interesting day out, and a great opportunity to meet many motivated people eager to begin flight training. I visited the event last year as an eager future pilot, so it was great to visit again this year as an exhibitor. I'd like to wish the very best of luck to the people I spoke to. A link to Flyer Exhibition website to gain further information and to view future dates is available on the Recommended Sites section of my blog.

The easyJet MPL programme has recently re-opened for applications to start a course in July 2014, and is currently still open. If you're interested in commencing training toward a career with easyJet this year, visit http://www.caeoaa.com/easyjet, and make sure your application is submitted by 08:30am on Monday 26th May.

I'm now more than halfway through my training, and I can't quite believe how quickly the time is flying by. I'll more than likely have flown my final Cessna flight by the next time I visit my blog, meaning the jet simulator is just around the corner. As always, feel free to Contact Me with any questions regarding my training or the course, and please subscribe to my blog below to receive my updates directly to your inbox.

Many thanks to everyone for the support and encouragement I've received through my blog so far. Keep an eye out for my next update around early June. In the meantime, take it easy!

Don't forget it's the third Red Bull Air Race of the year next weekend, visit www.redbullairrace.com on the 17th and 18th May to stream the race live, or to book tickets for the air race in Ascot, UK this August.

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