Header Photo: easyJet at Dusk - Bristol Airport. Copyright © Ryan Williams - a good friend.
Blinkers off - A patient reality.
A little over two months ago - 10 weeks and 3 days to be exact - I received the incredible news that I would soon become an Airbus A320 pilot. What made the news all the more exciting was not the fact I'd be flying just any old Airbus, but the fact I'd be flying them for the airline I'd always dreamt of working for. I received a fair few messages after announcing the news and would like to thank you all for your kind words. I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank the easyJet pilots that reached out to me via Facebook and LinkedIn as chatting with a few of you made me even more excited to start!
At this point I imagine the question that's on many of your minds is:- Why have you not started with the airline yet?
It's a great question and you'd be forgiven for thinking that being offered that all important job would mean you'd start at the airline immediately afterwards. Unfortunately, unless you trained on an airline specific program, an applicants time from successful interview to their type-rating and first flight will vary. Airlines will often look at future fleet plans, route launches and expected retirements combined with the capacity of both partner schools and all available simulators in order to plan the on-boarding of crew. This practice is not unique to the fresh-faced and has also been applied to direct-entry pilots and even cabin crew. I'll stress it's also something not unique to easyJet either. With this in mind successful candidates may well find themselves held in the airlines' post-offer "hold pool" while awaiting call up for a type rating. This is where I find myself now, patiently awaiting that life changing email.
I felt it important to share this information as while most cadets will follow the same timeline throughout their course, post-graduation it's the airlines market. What I mean by this is that two comparable cadets could both graduate on the same day with one starting with an airline a month later and the other perhaps eight months later. In my case I graduated in May 2018 and secured a job in July 2018 yet one of my peers secured his job in June 2018 and is currently doing his type-rating. Out of my original CP those who secured roles at BA are completing their type-ratings at present with only a few weeks left until their first flights. I find myself in easyJet's type-rating pool and the rest of the group are still on the job hunt. A modular peer of mine recently secured employment with CityJet and has been giving his type-rating date in January 2019. As you can see, each cadets journey will vary once training completes and one airline's timeline can be very different to the next. I suppose this highlights the very importance of having a backup plan of some description. It also demonstrates how much the industry can change as if you go back two years then most L3 graduates commenced their type-ratings within a couple of weeks of finishing.
For the parents reading or anyone that may be funding a course themselves, this additional wait time on top of your basic training could sound alarm bells for you. I'm not saying this to discourage you from the training itself as it was incredibly rewarding and fortunately I do have a job lined up but the uncertainty itself comes with the start date. It not the waiting that becomes a concern as i've waited 24 years for the job so can wait a little while longer, it's the associated finance that becomes the reality. Fortunately my bank permit a 24 month payment holiday on repayments which lapses this December. I haven't had to nor will I have to pay a single penny until 31st December 2018 and just for clarity's sake, on £70,000 my repayments are looking to be around £600 p.c.m. with recent interest rate rises taken into account. Other cadets aren't so lucky and a few peers of mine are currently making repayments all while searching for their first flying job. It's sadly a harsh reality.
In my case I was incredibly fortunate to find employment with an I.T. company post-graduation. I earn an salary comparable to that of your typical university-graduate and work from my parents home - thanks Mum & Dad for your kind hospitality. Reduced overheads have allowed me to save £700 a month as a somewhat buffer to cover repayments from December. In some ways this is a positive which means that when I eventually commence my Airbus training I'll have enough money to meet both the banks demands and any associated living expenses during my training. With type-ratings often not including accommodation and with type-rating providers in all corners of the world this is something else to factor into any budgeting. Other cadets have recently completed type-ratings in the Netherlands and Germany and the location is once again airline dependant.
How long can I expect to be in this hold pool?
* L3's new training centre, London Gatwick *
I hope it's not that much longer :-)
It's positive to hear that the applicants attending the assessment day two weeks prior to mine have now been allocated type rating dates in October, so with any luck my group will be allocated dates not too far after them which is inline with the airlines' initial prediction. L3 Airline Academy are the selected type-rating partner in this instance with technical ground school completed in Nursling and the simulator details in either Burgess Hill or their Head Office in Crawley. Should my start date happen to be early 2019 then it may well be delivered in L3's new type-rating centre. It's still being built at the moment (as pictured) but it'd certainly be pretty cool to use the latest simulator technology.
If I'm honest I'm not that worried - yet. I say this as i've got funds to cover loan repayments from December but should I still be waiting into the New Year then I'll have my Instrument Rating to consider. This isn't something communicated by most-schools but the Instrument Rating you gain towards the end of an Integrated ATPL course, or modular course for that matter, is of finite validity. It must be revalidated / renewed annually at the graduate's expense. With mine expiring early March 2019 and with a valid Instrument Rating being a condition of commencing my type-rating, I'm also starting to save up for this as a "just in case". Should my type-rating commence prior to the Instrument Rating's expiry then it will be renewed as part of the type-rating training itself.
The next question then is: what have I been up to in the last two months? - Read on to find out.
* Presenting to a full audience of aspiring pilots at L3's July Open Day *
At the end of July I returned to L3 to deliver a presentation on my own journey through L3. Titled "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again" I somehow manage to squeeze this entire blog into 15 minutes of talking, but I very much enjoy it. I've been asked to return to the event at the end of September so if you would like to visit L3 Airline Academy and hear all about my journey and those of other cadets ensure you book yourselves onto an open day. I attended the open days of a variety of different flying schools during my research and they're incredibly useful. I also attended Pilot Careers Live in Heathrow and I believe they've an event coming up in London soon so give them a visit too if you can as there's lots of other schools there.
* Boeing 737 Simulator Refresher *
At the end of August I attended L3 to complete a simulator refresher session. As part of our training we're provided with a couple of graduate-led sessions and an instructor led session to ensure our skills to not degrade. As a condition of an airline role I visited L3 after 3 months to complete my first session. My simulator partner graduated a year prior and was still hunting for a job. I'm really pleased to hear he's since gone on to land a role at Singapore Airlines and would like to wish him the best of luck as he goes into his career. It's amazing how quickly your skills degrade when you've not flown in a while but it only took a few attempts at takeoffs etc for them to return to me like riding a bike. No words can describe how keen I am to get going in the world of jets now.
* Visiting the Coral Reef - Beautiful Sights *
* The pools -- take me back :-( *
What a great way to end two years of full-on study! My family and I ventured across the pond to Mexico earlier this month for what I'd consider a holiday of a life time. It'll probably be the last time that most of us go abroad together what with any up and coming career likely to cause havoc to my life in the short term. My Mum, Dad, Brother, his girlfriend, Auntie, Uncle, their two children, Grandparents and my partner and I stayed together in a single block at the Bahia Principe resort in Tulum, Mexico. What a place! Beautiful gardens etc. Can't fault it. It was a big celebratory holiday really in that I graduated flight school and landed a job, my brother graduated his Masters, his girlfriend her Bachelors and my partner the same, my grandparents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and my parents their 25th anniversary.
Getting to swim with Turtles was a true highlight as was visiting another wonder of the world, the Chichen Itza. It sure is a place I'll visit again but the flight on the way home made me question just how long-haul pilots do it. I felt exhausted! Who knows if i'll venture down that avenue in future, but for now I find short-haul quite appealing. I'm sure the more stable lifestyle long-haul can provide will be the decision maker down the line though!
Well, it's more of the same really. I work Monday to Friday 9am-6pm with my current employer and shall continue to do so until I get the call with my type-rating details. I would quite like to get back in the air at some point in the near future so if any of you happen in live in the South West of England and can recommend a fairly priced flying club/school then I'm all ears. Send us a message on Facebook :-)
I'll be sure to update you all as soon as I have any more information, or anything worthy of blogging.