* The new home (The tall one). *
After a jam packed week of induction I somehow thought it'd be a great idea to drive the round trip from Gatwick to Liverpool across two days. In my mind I thought it would make moving in easier if I moved my stuff up over two weekends, as I'd not then need the parents to drive the equally long journey from Somerset with the rest of my stuff. However, I soon discovered that driving such a distance over two days is rather tiring and I sure won't be doing that again in a hurry!
Putting the hideous drive aside, I finally got the keys to my new flat which is great! Construction had only completed 10 days previously and having signed the contracts over a couple of months ago now it was nice to see it all finished. The flat is only a 10 minute drive from the airport and a 15-20 minute walk from the city centre so it's an ideal first place to call home. For those who have asked how much I've budgeted to live alone, the rent is approx. £645 a month inclusive of the car park space and gym access but sadly excluding bills. I could have paid way less if I opted to move into shared accomodation - with my coursemate only paying £400ish - but having had my fair share of that during university I quite fancied the idea of living in my own space for a while.
* CAE Burgess Hill Training Centre - Photo Credit: CAE *
After a weekend full of driving it was time to return to the classroom for Line Training Ground School. The classroom sessions were split over a period of two days and pretty much broke down a flight into its component parts. It took us two days to discuss an entire flight right the way from start-up in one airport all the way through to the shutdown at the other end. The type rating may have taught my coursemates and I how to fly the Airbus according to the manufacturers recommendations, albeit using easyJet specific standard operating procedures (SOPs for short), but what the type rating won't have time to teach you is what you airline specific stuff you complete from the top of climb to the top of descent and/or the interactions with your cabin crew or the specific processes on the ground.
As an example, to depart you need to know how much runway you need etc. Fundamentally take off calculations for the same physical aircraft would return a similar result irrespective of the airline you work for and this is because each airline loads the aircraft according to Airbus manuals and makes use of Airbus's own calculation methodology. What differs though is the way in which a pilot may calculate such figures. One airline may do this using an iPad app, another may automatically send the figures to the aircraft via a data link / ACARS and others may simply refer to paper load sheets and work it out by hand. easyJet use an Airbus application on Panasonic Touchpad tablets. We'd previously spent time learning how to use these devices during the type rating but given some of the class had moved to easyJet from other airlines and were in effect completing an "Operator Conversion Course" it was very useful to be able to see all of the steps and validation processes from the very start once more.
Another example would be how a crew interacts with dispatchers or Turn Around Co-ordinators as they're now often known. I was in the fortunate position that I had previously worked as one of easyJet's dispatchers during my time working for Swissport at Bristol Airport. Even so, it was nice to see how pilots were to make use of the information I use to give them. It's odd to think i'm now on the other end of the turn around process. Once we'd completed these two days of discussion / teaching the next items on the agenda were simulator sessions.
* CAE A320 Simulator, Gatwick *
When a pilot joins easyJet they follow a set syllabus of training prior to flying the aircraft. The first week and a bit are common to most entrants but the remainder of the onboarding differs. Our peers from other airlines complete around seven simulator sessions covering easyJet standard operating procedures etc and then go on to complete a set number of sectors depending on their experience levels / rank etc. As cadets we were exposed to the airlines SOPs in our type ratings and therefore only complete two simulator sessions. The first of these is known as LOE and the second is called Pre-base. We then go on to complete Base Training - which i'm so excited for - prior to flying a total of 50 sectors (flights) under the supervision of the training team.
LOE Initial Simulator
The LOE Initial simulator effectively serves more than one purpose. On one hand it's easyJet's opportunity to develop our knowledge of their procedures, but it's also the first time one of their own trainers can assess our ability to fly the aircraft. Fortunately the instructor was confident that my sim partner and I were both able to handle the aircraft to the easyJet standard - which was a relief. We were asked to demonstrate the following items among other things:
When it comes to the last item the airline has their own engine failure procedures should an engine fail on departure. These are referred to as Engine Out Standard Instrument Departures... or EOSID for short. For each airport the airline fly to they have assessed the safest route to fly in the event of a failed engine and with this in mind we practiced the few variations we might see out on the line. Our Training Captain was satisfied with our overall handling and technique and only provided a few pointers here and there to refine it. The word 'refine' being key there. It's nice to know we've both been to standard with only minor pointers here and there.
Passing the LOE Initial meant we could progress onto the Pre-Base simulator, described below.
The Pre-Base simulator exists to assist in refining each cadets' final approach and landing technique. Due to the large amount of content that needs to be covered during your typical type rating there isn't that much sim time devoted to simply flying the circuit and landing. Circuit training is akin to that back in the day of single-engine piston flying although this time there is considerably more inertia behind behind the aircraft. To satisfy any concerns it's important I say that in order for any of us to get to this point in our training the high majority of our simulator landings to date have had to have been deemed safe.
* Turning on to final approach in the circuit *
Unlike the type rating this sim is run with the Training Captain in the left hand seat watching over our technique. It is effectively run as an extension or pre-exposure to the way in which our Base Training day will run. The pros for the airline are no fuel costs in addition to the fact they don't need to take the aircraft out of passenger service. The pros to the trainee, i.e. me, are that we get to practice landings over and over again and mess a few up if necessary without any need to worry about a) landing too firm or b) having to waste fuel on a go-around. All in all the session was highly valuable!
We take off, climb to 1500 feet above the runway, engage autopilot and turn on a right hand circuit. Once established in the downwind leg we remove the autopilot, flight directors etc and simply fly the required pitch attitudes for level flight. We're fortunate that auto-thrust is a thing in the jet so that's being handled by the computers for us although we also fly a few circuits in this session without that luxury to prevent an over-reliance on it. When we're abeam the landing runway we start a timer and depending on the wind start our descent between 40 to 45 seconds with a 20 degree angle of bank towards the landing runway. As pilot flying we command "Gear down", followed shortly by "Flaps Three", "Flaps Full" and then "Landing Checklist". By this point we'd be turning the aircraft onto final approach and aligning with centre line as in the photo above. Everything happens very quickly when you're flying at 200 mph over the ground but it's just like riding a bike. All of your training comes back to you.
Given the legal requirement for the Base Training is a only six safe landings, my partner and I must have completed roughly 15 - 20 landings each during this session. The beauty of a sim was that we could adjust the wind, time of day and also weather so to practice landings in varying conditions. as it's very unlikely that the wind will be down the centre of the runway and/or conditions calm when it comes to flying the jet for real. This sim was really useful and it'll certainly take the nerves out of the equation (somewhat) come our first day at the controls.
That'd be base training of course! - My first time flying the aircraft for real. We're rostered to take an aircraft from Liverpool to Newquay in order to complete this but the location of training depends entirely on the weather. The group who completed base training this week us ended up flying to the South of France for theirs so it's very much captain's discretion on that one. Before that though, I'll be spending the weekend moving the rest of my life up to Liverpool.
I'll no doubt post another blog - or perhaps a Vlog - of my time in Base Training sometime next week.
All the best,