It's a wrap...
* My AQC sim partner Tom and I after the completion of our final sim *
One year, eight months and nineteen days later and I can happily call myself a fully qualified, instrument rated and multi-crew certified commercial pilot - something that merely filled the dreams of little ol' child George many years ago. This integrated training course has without a shadow of a doubt been the most demanding thing I've ever completed and it sure wouldn't have been possible without the support of my family and friends. I'd like to take this moment to say a HUGE thank you to each and everyone one of you for being an ear to vent to and a shoulder to cry on - I sure did need it during my CPL struggles out in New Zealand. The phrase "If it was easy, everybody would be doing it" is one I've heard all too often throughout my time at L3 Airline Academy, once CTC Aviation, and I have to say I certainly agree with that. The hard graft that was groundschool, the task of actually flying itself - it's not as easy as it looks - and the horrendous feeling of failure etc. are all part and parcel of becoming a pilot. It's a lot of money to invest and there's a lot riding on success but in getting to this point and having spoken to several airline pilots since, failure is par for the course. Am I stronger as a result of my setbacks? - Yes. Am I as hard on myself as I used to be given the eventual outcome? - No. I guess my ultimate takeaway to anyone considering becoming a pilot is to stick your teeth into the challenge, work your behind off, keep the reason for doing it in the fore of your mind and.. accept that failure is normal. We all fail but at the time it was hard for me to accept as I'd not really failed something that meant so much to me, until that moment. Do you think man made fire on his first attempt? - No, of course not. It's ultimately about how you come back from it and I'm so so happy to able to say I did just that and not only with a 1st Series Instrument Rating pass, but a further pass in my MCC / JOC with no "slows". Therefore, everything is possible with the right mindset. :-)
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this blog! So much so that I intend to continue writing it into my eventual employment with an airline. I would never have imagined that what started out as a personal website would grow into what one reader called, in respect of integrated courses, "the bible for all things pilot training". It's just mad. The fact that so many of you have felt involved in my journey is lovely and it's been great to share the experience with you all. I thought I'd take a moment out of this weeks post to share some crazy blog related stats with you. These still amaze me! (Correct as of 3rd May 2018)
- Views: 421,610
- Most People On Website At Once: 32
- Most Popular Blog Post: Dibden Manor Selection Day
- Blog posts: 107
- Vlog posts: 28
- Blog Reviews: 84
- Email Exchanges: 316
- YouTube Subscribers: 311
- Facebook Page Likes: 323
- New Instagram Followers: 769
- Newsletter Subscribers: 189
- 12.5% SkyTest Discount Redemptions: 74
Thank you so much to every one of you once more. Writing this blog has been the much needed break from the stress of training from time to time and you've all been so lovely and so supportive. I've loved hearing from those of you who smashed selection and have since gone on to secure a place at L3 - some of us even since becoming quite close friends as a result. I wish those of you still in training all the best with your remaining weeks and months and those of you yet to start all the very best for your future. It's a tough road, but it's very much enjoyable at the same time.
I'll try to keep this blog updated as much as I can going forward into my career!!
Following on from the Multi-crew Cooperation Course (MCC) discussed in the previous blog post, the Jet Orientation Course (JOC) aims to introduce cadets to the handling characteristics of a jet. The structure of the lessons and their objectives somewhat replicate those in the MCC although this time the use of autopilot is removed with the exception being phases in the cruise. Just as with the MCC, each lesson was delivered in a Boeing 737 simulator although this time that's to provide a more true manual handling experience without any fly-by-wire capabilities. L3 CTS have previously delivered MCC/JOC courses in Airbus aircraft although they tend to be for those cadets already assigned to airlines where that airline specifically requests it.
The manual handling aspect of the JOC required my sim partner and I to go back to basics. We had to learn pitch and power datums and understand that for a set speed, in a given aircraft configuration, we should set both a certain pitch and power/thrust setting, as we would had done back in our Cessna and Diamond aircraft. Cockpit roles and associated workload management also changes somewhat whereby the pilot flying now focuses solely on the hands on flying and any additional work is handed to the pilot monitoring. Arguably, a pilot in a monitoring capacity has an even tougher a job in this circumstance for no longer is he doing his usual duties but he also has to monitor the pilot flyings pitch/attitude as well as associated thrust settings and associated speed. It can sure make for a sweaty palm scenario in the right situation.. but I have to say, the past week has actually made me enjoy flying the B737. It sure feels heavier compared to the somewhat "point and shoot" tendency of fly-by-wire aircraft but the more I think about it I think I'd quite enjoy starting my career flying one. My sim partner, however, was not so convinced.
Throughout the week our non-technical skills were being assessed alongside our manual handling capabilities as part of the wider objective of L3 CTS's MCC/JOC course.
For the sake of not duplicating content from the MCC blog post I'll just provide the summary of each JOC lesson to give you an idea of what was covered:
- Monday - Introduction to Manual Flying...
Flying the jet by hand for the first time. One word: tough. It was a lot heavier to handle than I thought it would've been and it took a little getting used to.
- Tuesday - Procedural Flying & Single Engine...
Taking it up a notch we handled engine failures and started to use the ruder for the first time as a result; something airliners seldom use.
- Wednesday - Management of the Non-Normals...
Working together as a crew to handle non-normal situations. The situations themselves were similar to those experienced last week to provide us a chance to go through the procedures again.
- Thursday - Final JOC Assessment...
This assessment was flown as a positioner of one aircraft from Manchester to Glasgow and then another from Prestwick to Manchester. As is the nature of assessments, it didn't go quite to plan and we both had engine failures or other scenarios to handle. In my case the engine failure happened on the go around and with poor visibility at Glasgow we worked together to divert elsewhere.
All in all the MCC/JOC course was thoroughly enjoyable but certainly tough! I learnt a fair amount from it and now have an idea of where my strengths and weaknesses will be as each of us progress into type-ratings at our eventual airlines. I can totally see the value in an MCC/JOC course and certainly understand why airlines tend to ask for them these days as multi-crew environments seem alien at first but once they click they're much more enjoyable than the additional stress single pilot operations bring.
Useful information for current/future cadets:
At the time of writing EASA has released a new standard for MCC/JOC courses called "APS MCC". This new standard essentially regulates the delivery of the JOC portion of such courses, which I'll complete next week, and is designed to ensure flight schools deliver the same output. APS MCC doubles the minimum number of simulator hours, brings about a new marking scheme and mandates 'advanced swept-wing jet aeroplane handling' and 'advanced airline operation scenarios'. The new APS MCC can also be failed should a trainee be marked "Unsatisfactory". It is not a legal requirement for flight schools to deliver this new training, but airlines will likely require it sooner rather than later - what with Ryanair stating APS MCC is preferred over the traditional MCC/JOC. At the time of writing I've been told by those responsible for the AQC at L3 CTS that discussions are in place to have the L3 CTS AQC offering signed off as APS MCC compliant. The new course structure will then be delivered to Integrated cadets in place of the existing MCC/JOC. It is likely this will happen in coming months and with it, Integrated ATPL cadets commencing AQC after such date will receive APS MCC complaint certificates.
Hold Pool / Job Hunt
The ever so spoken about hold pool awaits. Or does it? Given my slip up with the CPL out in New Zealand I need to wait to hear from the Training Review Board at L3 CTS as to whether I will find a place in the recruitment hold pool. I'm hoping I should find this out a week or so after I finish training which is inline with when most other cadets find out although it may take longer. By and large the requirements for the hold pool are that you match the criteria of the airlines within it and at the current stage I don't meet the vast majority of them thanks to the CPL fail. I'll find out soon enough though. For those of you interested, the airlines currently taking from the hold pool or at least those who have done very recently are:
- Turkish Airlines - Boeing 737 & Airbus A320 - Istanbul Base
- Wizz Air - Airbus A320 - Eastern European Bases
- Royal Brunei Airlines - Airbus A320 - Brunei Bases
It's worth saying that while i'm not yet in the pool, I was offered the chance to apply to Turkish Airlines while still completing my JOC course as an out of pool opportunity. They're a very recent addition to the L3 CTS partner airline line-up and are after quite a number of cadets. Turkish's recruitment process clashed with my time in the simulators and given a pass is required in the MCC/JOC to be considered by most European airlines it was important for me to focus on that first and foremost. The total number of cadets in the pool sits at around 80 people at the moment, although given the Turkish recruitment drive I'd imagine that will decline in the coming weeks as the selection process comes to a close.
Now, despite the high number of people in the hold pool and an apparent lack of the historic cadet favourite, easyJet, there are still a large number of opportunities out there. A statement I once heard and firmly believe is: there's never a good time to start flight training only a good time to finish and as far as current opportunities go right now, there's a fair number. Some come and go in a flash with one such example opening it's doors and closing them a mere 48 hours later! At the time of writing some of airlines recruiting directly and with no connection to the hold pool include:
- TUI Airways UK - a rare sight!
TUI opened recruitment for low hour pilots on Tuesday 8th May and closed it early on Thursday 10th May! That sure didn't provide long for people to get their applications in so the demand must have been high but.. what an opportunity! TUI advertised roles on their Boeing 737, 757/767 and 787 fleets with the type-rating being paid back to TUI over three years of salary deduction. With a fleet renewal program introducing Boeing 737 MAX 8, Boeing 737 MAX 10 and yet more Boeing 787 Dreamliners successful applicants will eventually fly on some of the youngest aircraft in Europe. Primarily UK bases, with potential for Nordic basing during winter.
Once requiring a full cadet contribution in the region of €30,000 for a type-rating, the newly launched (2018) Ryanair cadet program offers a type-rating for the much lower price of €5,000 with the remainder bonded in exchange for five years service. New employees are now employed as opposed to contractor pilots and receive pay from the first day of base training versus the release of a safety pilot. Just as with TUI, Ryanair have a HUGE order for Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. European wide bases.
- Jet2 Pilot Apprenticeship
Unique in its offering, this program will see successful applicants complete various rotations around the Jet2 business in functions such as Operations, Crewing and Cabin Crew before then receiving a fully sponsored type-rating on either a Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft. Having been a dispatcher already, I definitely see the value in this! UK bases.
There are of course many others including easyJet Swiss, DHL (Germany), Eurowings and FlyBe to name all of a few. Even when looking further afield to Asia, you've airlines such as Singapore Airlines hiring cadets in their long-haul fleet. So despite the large hold pool numbers jobs are almost certainly out there, it's just a case of looking for them. Many of my original coursemates - those not tagged to British Airways which the vast majority are - have applied to multiple airlines and been offered just as many interviews. I wish them all the best of luck and hope to be in a similar situation in the very near future. Likewise to those of you who have already secured employment offers with airlines, I wish you all the best for your up and coming type-ratings and/or apprenticeships.
Finally, to quote a captain I know on the job situation, "It's not a case of if, it's a case of when".
Watch this space for who knows where I may find myself :-)
For now though, it's back to IT...
With payments on my £70,000 training mortgaging commencing in December and with smaller but by no means tiny sums owed to family members I set about applying for full-time positions a week or so before the end of my training. My aim with such a job is to save enough money to cover loan payments in the event I need to study for a type-rating as the last thing I would ever wish for my family is them having to cover a single payment, ever! Of course part of my motivation for seeking immediate employment is to start earning my own money again having not done so since 2016.
I applied to various roles and it's worth saying that I initially wanted to remain in the industry having applied to easyJet for a role as Cabin Crew, subsequently going on to pass the selection, and considering a return to Swissport. However, both organisations would require I move to Bristol inclusive of rent, rates and bills that goes with that. Given my desire to save enough for monthly loan repayments all while having some money to spend on myself, it was impractical.
One job I applied for was with a company called Krystal who happen to host the Pilot George Pilot. My degree, past roles in customer service and my time as a freelancer linked well with their job description and I'm pleased to say that after a couple of phone calls Krystal have offered me a competitively paid position. A true benefit to this role is it's remote by nature meaning I can work from home and save on rent too!
The flying dream very much remains and I'm being incredibly proactive in that regard as far as applications go. In the interim though I'm very happy to have not only been able to find work, but to find work doing something I'll enjoy all while being able to meet up-coming financial committments.
I'll keep you all posted
For now, that's me done. This serves as the final blog post of my training but by no means my last blog post. As soon as I've a career related update I'll be sure to update you all!