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.

All Content Copyright © 2017 The Aviator Blog Unless Stated. All Rights Reserved.

Learning to Fly: The Airbus

It's been a while! Here, in my sixteenth blog update, it's all about learning to fly the Airbus. The main reason I've not updated my blog earlier is due to my course finishing much earlier than planned, resulting in an unscheduled 12-week period of leave between September and November. In some ways this was highly beneficial, as it allowed us plenty of time to relax and prepare for our 3-week ground school before  the 4-week Intermediate and Advanced Phases of training (collectively, the Type Rating) which began on 1st December in London.

The Training Plan:

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

(More information and previous updates available on the Progress page)

The Type Rating is a total of 7 weeks long, with the first three spent in various classrooms, and the latter four spent in full-motion flight simulators. Due to our Type Rating falling over the holiday season, our course was able to enjoy a 2-week break between these two phases.

This second round of ground school was much shorter than the first (over 20 weeks shorter!), but was similarly intense. We've already learned how to fly and operate an aircraft, but now came the type-specific Airbus instruction. This phase of training will take us from multi-engine aircraft pilots, to Airbus type-rated First Officers.  The lessons were split between instructor-led classroom presentations, computer-based training (CBT) modules, and flat-panel simulator time. This gave us the best opportunity to learn, in-depth, the systems in use on-board the Airbus A319 and A320, and also to become accustomed to the company flows, sequences, and checklists involved in safely operating the aircraft.

We covered 27 learning modules in the three weeks, and all were assessed in our 120-question final examination. Some of these modules included :

  • Aircraft Performance
  • Hydraulic Systems
  • Navigation
  • Pressurisation
  • Communications

The flat-panel simulator shown on the right is a fully-featured yet cost-effective simulator used to teach standard procedures in the Airbus.

The unit is comprised of 9 touchscreen monitors; four of which are just visible to my right in the image, with two mounted above our heads to replicate the overhead panel, two at the side of each pilot displaying systematic diagrams, and one situated in front of the other pilot.

The screens provide an exact copy of the Airbus A320 instrumentation, and include on-screen versions of all switches, push-buttons and levers. The only piece of physical hardware is the glareshield, situated in my eyeline, which houses the Flight Control Unit (FCU) and is used primarily to control the autopilot. There is no sidestick in these simulators, so, unusually, the entire flight is flown by automatic systems that we have pre-configured.

  • Electrical Systems
  • Power Plant
  • Auto Flight
  • Flight Controls
  • Fire Safety and Protection


To the left is one of the 9 full-flight simulators housed in the training facility we use in London.

This is where it gets even more real! Throughout January I'll be spending 66 hours in one of these CAE 7000 Series Airbus A320 full-flight simulators. At a unit cost of well over £10 million each, I'm sure our time in these simulators will be used very efficiently.

Whilst training us to handle the aircraft in standard, day-to-day operations, the experienced instructors will also expect us to handle some rare and unusual situations such as engine malfunctions or multiple system failures.

I'll be able to talk in more depth about these simulators in around 4 weeks time, when our Type Rating will have concluded, and Base Training will be imminent!

The next four weeks promise to be a challenging but exciting time. With it being the final period of training before we fly the Airbus for the first time, there will be a huge focus on our teamwork, communication and multi-crew cooperation skills, as well as our ability to fly the aircraft. I believe there will always be two pilots on the flightdeck, continually monitoring and assisting each other. The image below shows my flight partner, Adam, and I getting used to the Airbus simulator that we'll be spending most of January in.

Although the image doesn't quite do the scenery justice, the visual system in the simulator is spectacular, and provides a very real environment to train in. The simulators are designed to be an exact replication of the Airbus A320; from the Flight Management and Guidance System (FMGS), to the oxygen masks (which we'll hopefully never use in a real aircraft), and to the simulated aircraft traffic waiting to depart before us.

I'd also like to take time today to think of the families and friends of the passengers and crew involved in aviation incidents this year, notably the Malaysia Airlines and Indonesia AirAsia tragedies. Whilst these high-profile incidents shook the world and will never be forgotten, it is worth remembering that flying remains the safest form of transport, and that 2014 actually has the lowest number for passenger flight accidents in modern aviation history. The aviation industry improves and learns from each and every incident, whether major or minor, and changes for the better are made by many organisations including training providers, airlines, air traffic controllers and airline manufacturers.

The final few weeks of my training are nearly complete. If you've enjoyed keeping up-to-date with my training over the last 18 months, please share my blog with your friends and family using the social icons, and remember you can subscribe to future updates by simply entering your email address below. As always, thank you for all your support. Take it easy, I'll see you in a few weeks!

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