Following a lovely week with my family and having spent some time with my partner, the all important and highly anticipated date had finally arrived. With an early drive ahead of me I set off for L3 Airline Academy's Nursling training centre for a 9AM start and having waited so long for a start date it sure was exciting that the first day of my Airbus A320 type rating was finally here.
Despite visiting this very training centre to speak at several open days over the past six months, there's something about returning for yet another course of training that sparks a sense of nervousness within me. A flying career means so much to me and I simply have to pass - There's no other option. However, with only 6 weeks to master the relevant procedures of the A320 you can hardly blame me, eh! There is no doubt that the intensity of this type rating course is going to be tough; so I expect to all but live in this building over the coming weeks. This "semi-resident" status is reminiscent of my time in ATPL Groundschool - a period of my career I'd sooner forget - yet without that initial hard graft I'd not be sat here typing out this very post. So I suppose that alone is proof that hard work pays off.
If truth be told I can't wait to get stuck in and start learning all about the Airbus A320 family of aircraft and while my nerves can be a pain they're also fuel for the fire that is my success. Throughout every step of my training to date the quality of instruction and level of care from every member of the training department has been simply brilliant! With any luck, the type rating team here at L3 will rise up to that same bar and, not without undue effort from my side, the 7th February will become the day that I say "I'm a qualified Airbus pilot". That statement will undoubtedly be accompanied by a huge smile no less!
Anyway... enough of the boring introduction and here's what i've been up to during the first few days of the course.
* Screenshot of L3 ETHOS App - Communications Module *
Despite only being here for four days my type rating course have already covered the following content areas:
These topics, alongside others to be covered in the New Year, form the foundation technical knowledge an Airbus pilot is expected to have in order to operate the aircraft safely. The technical stage of the type rating concludes with an exam on systems and aircraft performance which are a pre-requisite to moving on to the more fun part: the fixed-base simulators and last but by no means least, the full-motion simulators.
There are 6 of us on my course and we have been split up into three crews of two. Who was in each group was of our own choosing but in our case it came down to the logistics of whom either lived with, or lived near an another trainee on the course. In my case I had pre-planned to share the same accommodation with a coursemate from my easyJet selection back in July and so we naturally became a crew. We're both willing to put as much work in as each other and in that respect I'm confident we'll both do well.
* A VFD - Virtual Flight Deck *
Our type rating is split into two sections - which is fairly common across all type ratings - meaning we have to complete both a technical ground school phase and simulator phase. The groundschool is typically two weeks in duration and concludes with both a technical examination on the systems of the aircraft (roughly 100 - 120 questions in 2 hours) and a performance exam which covers take-off and landing calculations etc. For now that's all I really know of the latter test but I'm sure the detail will become apparent before too long. You have to pass the tech exams to be able to progress onto the simulators.
We're quite fortunate in that our technical ground school phase is being delivered by a former British Airways A320 pilot. He also happens to be an ex-L3 cadet himself which is good as it means he can relate to us somewhat. With many an hour logged, he's also well versed in the operation of the various systems etc from both a technical and operational standpoint - which is great for the questions you may have.
As type rating specifications vary from airline to airline and from aircraft to aircraft, it's important to note that the content of this post is a recollection of my own experiences. If you attend your own type rating at L3, another FTO or even for another airline altogether then your experiences may differ.
On the easyJet type rating course at L3, our average day of technical ground school is split into a morning introduction session where we also recap on the previous days technical knowledge, a 2 hour instructed time slot in an A320 VFD (virtual flight decks) where we begin applying the airlines procedures to both setting up and flying the aircraft, and finally some self-study CBT time with a series of questions to answer on each topic.
* Screenshot of L3 ETHOS App - Cockpit Familiarisation Module *
For those wondering, CBT stands for Computer Based Training which is essentially a period of self-study using an iPad app called ETHOS. There's a screenshot of it above and another towards the top of the page. The app basically walks you through each of the systems in the A320 and how they operate and in parts is also interactive. As a visual learner who relied on CAE's CBT during ground school, this helps me out hugely and reinforces the manuals of both Airbus and easyJet themselves. While the ETHOS app is a great tool to have available - and at a guess perhaps one of the major driving forces behind L3's choice to acquire it's developers (Aerosim) in the US - I would personally prefer it be combined with some additional classroom teaching. Nevertheless, the combination of airline manuals and CBT content have thus far enabled me to learn a fair amount about the operation of the aircraft.
Learning everything in the timeframe we need to requires a pretty long day. As the days progress I'd say it's fairly similar to groundschool in the sense that everything builds and builds on the content learnt previously which certainly adds to the intensity. The timetable has us starting at 9am and ending around 5pm. However, we then end up using the VFDs until around 7pm to revise that days procedures. My sim partner and I end up spending about 10 hours in L3 each day before then returning home, having some dinner and continuing our CBT study into the night. I go to bed between 10pm-11pm at night.
We've now got a couple of days over New Year which is nice before we all return on the 3rd January for a progress test on everything learnt to date. Once that's out of the way it's on to the final few aircraft systems ahead of our type rating tech exam around the 10th January. We'll also be taught all about calculating aircraft performance, i.e. take off speeds, required runway lengths etc. Once that's all out of the way we enter the simulator phase of the course, which i'm looking forward to the most.
Until next time,