* Archie & Buddy demanding I walk them! *
Having landed in the UK on the 17th November, it's been lovely to spend some time at home. The 17th also happened to be my Mum's birthday and while I wish I could claim credit for planning my return home in that way, it was actually a total coincidence. Either way, it made her day. It's safe to say that jet lag set in pretty darn fast given I'd spend over 24 hours in the air before you even factor in the airport transfers and time in each airport. To tackle it I decided to stay awake until the evening but as my flight landed around 9am was considerably tougher than it sounds! I slept like a baby that first night but I can't say the same for nights that followed as I must have woken numerous times. I reckon it took me about 10 days to fully acclimatise!
With about a month off before my instrument rating I had a lot of spare time ahead and it didn't take long before the boredom set in. Who would have thought that freedom could be so dull! I'm being melodramatic of course, but when you're sat in limbo between stages of training and all of your old friends are working full time jobs it's almost impossible to arrange something when you're all free. On the plus side, I rediscovered my love for the Suits TV show and managed to catch up to the current series. If you've not watched Suits before then you totally should as it's a great series! Despite all the hectic schedules a few friends and I were eventually able to catch up over some lovely pub grub before they disappeared to work a ski season. I also took a trip to Bristol and caught up with a friend from University which was nice.
* The Bournemouth Training Centre *
To break-up my time off I attended a careers drop-in event at the Bournemouth Training Centre. It was nice to chat about my own training experiences and somewhat a surreal feeling to learn that many of you had been following my flight training blog from the very start. As I'd yet to attend the Bournemouth training centre the visit was also new for me too and gave me an insight into the environment I'll be completing the next phase of training in.
* Amazing hot chocolate from the Jazz Café, Bournemouth *
To make my journey down from Somerset all the more worthwhile I popped by one of the houses of my original coursemates (CP149G) for a catch up. Turns out a few of them were meeting up for a drink or two and I ended up staying with them for the majority of the weekend which was nice. We even took one of the guys dogs for a walk as his parents lived locally and popped into the dog friendly Jazz Café for a hot chocolate. A fairly productive use of a weekend I'd say. A few of the group had received some exciting news that they now qualified for an interview opportunity with British Airways which is excellent for them and I wish them the best of luck with their up and coming Waterside visit - which will have come and gone by the time I publish this post!
* One of many Christmas trees setup around Dibden Manor for the annual graduation event *
Given I'd spent a lot more money in New Zealand than I'd hoped, I felt it a good idea to seek a part-time job during my time at home to top up the living expenses piggy bank. The only downside to finding a job is the fact it can take a fair amount of time to find someone willing to take you on for such a short amount of time but it was a challenge I was up for. Before I could even start doing this though I had to seek permission from someone at the academy. I guarantee that most readers will now think "What?! You needed the academy's permission to get a job?" and I don't blame you for thinking that to be honest. In fact, in knowing I had a month off the training team had no issues in granting said permission but, by comparison, if I happened to be in the middle of my instrument rating and took a part-time job without consent then Performance Protection would essentially become null and void. Considering Performance Protection has helped me out quite a bit thus far, that wasn't a risk I wanted to take. As December happens to be the month of the academy's annual graduation and staff party I was actually offered a paid role with the academy to assist in setting up, supporting and then clearing away both events. Their offer removed the need for the job hunt which worked out quite nicely.
* A selection of photos from the Graduation Ceremony & Ball *
Working to support the graduation event was really nice actually and I'll tell you what, L3 sure don't do things by halves in this regard! The marquee was absolutely enormous comprising of two large spaces with interconnecting tunnels and space for toilets and a kitchen. If you've ever had the opportunity to attend Dibden Manor then you'll know how large a building it is. The marquee ran the entire length of it and even wrapped around to cover the new(ish) car park extension too and the amount of manpower on site to set it up over the preceding days was quite something. Everybody involved did a really nice job and it's actually made me quite excited to attend my own graduation next year to be fair so credit to all of those involved. I just want to give a special shoutout to Leighton at this point as he was running around like a mad man but despite this managed to get everything done. Those at L3 at the moment may well know Leighton as an ex-cadet and customer experience team member, however, after a stint in the hold pool he's had the incredible news that he's off to start his career on the A320 at Royal Brunei Airlines! Huge congratulations and I wish you all the best in your type rating and career.
* Feeling festive as a guest at the Christmas Party *
Having spent the best part of the week helping set up and take down the graduation / staff party and shuttling graduates from the venues to the carparks, the team behind the staff party invited me to grab a drink, take a seat and enjoy a tasty meal. It was a lovely gesture which I didn't expect so thanks Karen, if you happen to be reading. Throughout the night I ended up meeting a number of people that work in functions us trainees wouldn't otherwise be exposed to so it was great to hear all about their roles and where they fit within the wider organisation. I also happened to meet members of the selection team who took my initial interview a year or so ago which was an odd feeling to say the least. All in all it was a great week working alongside a great bunch of people and it certainly broke up my time at home.
Aside from L3 employees I also met several former cadets and now line pilots, one of which being Nathan co-founder of Aileron and his business partner Holly. It was lovely to meet you both and it's great to hear your logbook venture is doing well!! If you're a trainee/line pilot and are looking for a new logbook, or are perhaps the family of a trainee pilot and want an awesome Christmas gift, I can't recommend the Aileron Logbooks enough!! Go check out their website for more information. But place your order quickly as I seem to remember the last shipping date for Christmas being the 18th December!!
* L3 Commercial Training Solutions, Crawley *
During my final few weeks in New Zealand I was extended an invitation to visit L3 CTS in Crawley for a tour of the facilities and to meet some of the team there. Quite exciting, I thought, and considering this would be quite an insight into the type-rating stages L3 would now be likely to deliver to cadets of the former CTC organisation, I accepted. While being anywhere near a jet is still quite a way off considering i've both the IR and AQC to complete, I was like a big kid when the day came. One thing that becomes clear the moment you walk through the doors is that this place certainly wasn't just for training newbies and compared with CTC Aviation's Nursling centre there wasn't one fresh faced ground school cadet in sight. The whole visit was insightful to say the least.
* The Crawley Sim Centre, featuring L3's flagship Reality Seven A320 & B737 simulators *
The Crawley centre used to be known as L3 Link Simulation & Training but has since rebranded as L3 CTS alongside CTC Aviation and Aerosim. The wider merger means that L3 now not only trains ab-initio pilots such as me but also designs, manufacturers, installs, sells/leases and provides instruction on full-motion training devices for some of the world's largest airlines. There happens to be six full-motion simulators available for customer-use at the Crawley centre and in the latter half of 2018 an additional six to eight devices will become operational in the newly built L3 London Training Centre, Gatwick. Who knows, I may end up doing my type-rating at one of these locations!
* A Captain's view of the Boeing 737-700 cockpit *
* The visuals were certainly impressive and go a long way to creating ultimate realism *
To my surprise, L3 CTS had actually booked me an hour slot on one of their full-motion 737 simulators and so two members of the team I was visiting and a member of simulator staff walked over the retractable bridge and into the cockpit of a Boeing 737 simulator. Besides how real the actual cockpit environment looked, the visuals were just as, if not more so striking. The simulated aircraft was parked at a gate in front of one of Gatwick's terminals and everything from ground staff to other aircraft were visible out of each of the flight deck windows. After a quick briefing from the sim team we locked the "cockpit" door, the bridge retracted and the full-motion was switched on.
* On the take off roll from Gatwick Airport *
* Yours truly, with South West London in the background on climb out from Gatwick *
The aircraft pushed back from the stand and I, the non-type rated pilot, was let loose at the controls. Full-motion feels odd, yet incredibly realistic at the same time. For example, the application of takeoff thrust actually pushes you into your seat and the sim rocks to create the illusion of you rolling along the runway surface. I genuinely can not explain how fun this experience was as we took off from Gatwick and completed dummy "base training". I also got the chance to manually fly an ILS approach in terrible conditions into my home airport, Bristol, which was pretty cool. No simulated flight would be complete without a curveball though, and in my case I had to avoid traffic with the aircraft saying "TRAFFIC TRAFFIC" and then "CLIMB, CLIMB NOW".
* On final approach for Runway 08 Right at Gatwick. *
I'd like to extend my thanks to Olivia, Rosie and co. for this visit as it went above and beyond everything I expected from the day and you've all certainly boosted my motivation for the up and coming instrument rating. I can't wait until the day I can finally get my hands on the real deal which (hopefully) isn't too long away now. At the time of writing this paragraph I've collected my keys for my Bournemouth accommodation, shall be moving my stuff down soon and start with inductions on Monday morning - eek. In as little as 8 weeks (excluding Christmas and New Year) I'll be taking my Instrument Rating flight test so it's time for the fast paced course to continue!
Until next time,
All the best,