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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My Final Training Flight

Just over four weeks have passed since my last post, and in that time all eight cadets on my course have completed the Core Phase of our flight training. This means we've each flown our final training flights in the single-engined Cessna 182T Skylane and aerobatic Zlin Z242L, and also the twin-engined Piper PA34-200T Seneca II.

The Training Plan:

Ground School > Core Phase > Basic Phase > Intermediate Phase > Advanced Phase

(Timeframes available on the Progress page)

The Core Phase is our introduction to handling aircraft, dealing with emergencies, and working as part of a multi-crew environment. From next month, we will begin the Basic Phase of training, where we will spend 90 hours operating the Bombardier CRJ-200 advanced jet simulator at Oxford Airport. During this time we will be trained how to handle a modern airliner, and further develop our skills in a multi-crew environment. This is the final section of training we will complete at Oxford, as the final two phases (Intermediate and Advanced) are usually completed at CAE's type rating facilities in Gatwick, London.


The images above (click to enlarge) show the flight instrumentation panel of each of the three aircraft we fly during our 18-month training course. From left to right, the Cessna (2005), Zlin (1992), and Piper Seneca (1979) as mentioned above. Notice the glass-cockpit display in the Cessna, a truer representation of modern airline flight decks as opposed to the older analogue gauges in the other two aircraft. There are many other differences between the aircraft, although their fundamental operation is very similar.

The final Cessna flights of the course are designed to develop our multi-crew skills, by navigating as a team to distant airfields, and also practising instrument approaches (using the Instrument Landing System, ILS, to fly the approach without any visual references until around 500ft). I was fortunate enough to fly three of these trips with my flight instructor and flight partner. Our first trip was to Newquay on the South-West coast of England, via Exeter for an instrument approach and Lands End for a navigation exercise. Fortunately the weather played ball and the visibility across the English Channel as we flew along the coast was brilliant. Next up was possibly my longest flight, a trip to Norwich to fly an instrument approach and a return leg below very busy London airspace just to the North of Heathrow. Finally, I was able to fly back up North to Chester, and to Hawarden Airport for another instrument approach. It was brilliant being able to fly back to my old flight training school, Flintshire Flying School, and also to see many points local to my home. Our route took us North over Oswestry, close to Wrexham and Chester (over my old work place and high school!), and then along the North Wales coast for a short time before returning South. Both my flight partner and I even managed to spot our houses, one to the North and one to the South of Chester!

The flight plan from Oxford to Newquay and back via Exeter and Lands End, which we loaded manually into the Cessna's navigation system during our pre-flight planning. This screen, the MFD, shows an overview of the flight plan, as well as displaying critical engine parameters on the left, and communication/radio aid frequencies along the top.

Final approach into Runway 22 at Hawarden Airport (EGNR), Chester, the airfield where both myself and my flight partner flew from in the early days of our flight training.

This development of our navigation, communication, decision-making, and multi-crew skills prepared us ideally for entry into Progress Test 4. PT4 is flown in the Cessna with an experienced examiner, and is our final flight test in an aircraft before our base training in the Airbus A319. The flight is a particularly demanding 1h15m, and sees our instrument flying skills (single needle and VOR tracking), decision making processes, and emergency handling all put to the test. Fortunately each and every member of my course passed the test over the last two weeks or so, making us eligible for progress onto the CRJ simulator (and also for the long-awaited award of our gold bars and wings - stayed tuned for the award of these in the next update!)

A recent highlight of our course was a team visit to easyJet's headquarters in Luton. Under the guidance of our very helpful Pilot Training and Course Liaison Managers we were able to visit the operational control centre from where the company is run on a daily basis, the Safety & Emergency Procedure (SEP) training centre, the Luton crew room, and even the apron to tour an easyJet aircraft. It was impressive to see the vast number of people involved in running the airline on a regular basis, and also to see how friendly and happy to chat they all seemed to be! Whilst the day was a fantastic opportunity for some photos to be taken, it was also a thoroughly informative event and a chance for the course to learn more about the operations side of the airline. The day also showed the vast responsibilities my coursemates and I will soon have, and how important every stage of our training is to achieve our goal. It proved the levels of maturity, commitment, and dedication required to progress as an airline pilot cadet.

A few images from Luton, and also a panorama of an easyJet flight that'd just arrived from Heraklion, Greece. Our team was fortunate enough to be given a guided tour of both inside and outside the Airbus A319 by our company Liaison Pilot.

As an introduction to twin-engined flying, we fly 5 hours in the Piper Seneca II aircraft once we have completed our single-engine training. The majority of these hours is actually flown with one engine simulated inoperative (where the engine is placed in a situation to simulate zero thrust or even turned off completely) to enable us to learn how to handle an in-flight engine failure. This time is crucial to our training, and is an aspect of the course that will be revisited many times in the simulator throughout our careers. The chances of an engine failure in any aircraft in real life are very slim, although good training and preparation means that even in that situation the aircraft is still perfectly controllable. During the 5 hours I learned that in a matter of seconds, with the correct timely actions, a twin-engined aircraft with an engine failure can be brought under total control and flown normally. We also practised many approaches and landings with one engine simulated inoperative, which I must admit does increase the workload pretty dramatically, but does still allow for smooth landings to be made with practise. It's definitely up there with my favourite hours of flying, along with aerobatics and night solo!

My final flight from Oxford/Kidlington Airport, back on the ground with "Fox Hotel"

The success of the last five months is due to the efforts of many people, during the planning phases and during the course itself. I'd like to thank the operations staff, the air traffic control team, flight training management, and many other CAE Oxford Aviation Academy staff who have allowed this phase to run as smoothly as possible. However, it's the team of flight instructors who on a daily basis ensure our progress is safe and expeditious in this phase. I'd particularly like to thank my Cessna flight instructor for his help and commitment over the last few months, my flight partner, Adam, and also the many other instructors and examiners that I've flown with.

My next blog update will surface in mid-July, when I'll have seen the end of my short period of leave and will just be getting started on the CRJ simulator. As always, feel free to contact me with any questions or comments, and don't forget to try your hand at the new #TheAviatorBlogGame! Until next time, take it easy!

The Next Step: Bombardier CRJ200, the aircraft we'll be flying during July and August in the Basic Phase of our course (or at least a simulated version!)

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