Decision Time

After much consideration I have decided to carry out my flight training with Oxford Aviation Academy.  I have enrolled on AP313 which commences on 26th April 2010.  Enrolment will take place on Friday 23rd April.  I’m certain a number of schools could successfully help me achieve a frozen ATPL(A).  OAA seems to best fit my personal preferences.

I have been interested in web hosting for some time.  For those who aren’t familiar with the term, a web host is someone who provides the necessary services for a customer to put a website or other internet related services online.  If you buy www.yoursite.com you need a web host to point that name to.  The competition if fierce because of the number of hosts out there.  The decision on which to go with is a tough one and if you take your website seriously it should be a decision that takes much time and consideration.  Otherwise it could end up costing you more money and time.

I once heard a quote: There is no best web host, only the web host that’s best for you.  That’s a pretty accurate statement.  I don’t want to turn this into a debate but I would suggest that it applies to flight schools.  It would be possible to define a ‘best’ with statistics and the likes but that’s not necessary for what I’m trying to illustrate.  There is no ‘best’ flight school, only the flight school that’s best for you.

OAA Skills Assessment – Day 2

Before I went to sleep on the first assessment day I checked the weather and it was forecast for snow.  I wasn’t too worried, I’ve seen snow forecast a hundred times without it actually snowing.  When the morning came I checked the weather on my phone again rather than get out of bed and look out of the window.  Current: Snow.  Hmmmm, it could actually be snowing.  I decided to see for myself rather than just trust technology and sure enough, there was more snow and it was still falling.  Not wanting to be late, I got ready in a record forty five minutes.  You’re probably thinking how that’s a record but it is for me!  While I was waiting for the car to warm up and defrost I at my ‘bowl’ of cereal that came in a breakfast bag.

The second day was supposed to kick off with the group/team building exercises but one of the guys in our group was late because of the snow.  Instead we kicked off with the interviews and I was hauled in for a grilling first.  It was more intense than I had expected but it still went well.  When they ask you to give examples of past experiences they give you plenty of time to think.  Know the course very well, they ask a lot of questions regarding the course structure and if you can’t remember something they ask about it just be honest and say that you don’t know or can’t remember rather than just making it up.  I was quite flustered afterwards, I thought I’d messed up but before long I chilled out because I knew I’d done my best.

The team building exercises and discussions we all fine.  You’re given something to talk about and then you do it.  It was quite funny, one of the topics we were given we had talked about moments earlier so we just continued where we left off.  Just make sure you both contribute and listen.  There is no input from the assessors, they just work away taking notes while you do your thing.

Finally, after what seemed like a really really long time came the individual debrief, the bit we had been waiting for since we began the assessment the day before.  I was hauled in first and before I could sit down he said: How do you feel now that you’re in?  I thought, in what?  The room?  It finally clicked, I was being told that I had passed the assessment!  I said:  You mean I passed the assessment?  Yes, congratulations!  It took a moment to skink in, especially since the previous night I had convinced myself that I had messed up.  Not a good thing to do, I don’t recommend it.  He then took me through a break down of each of the areas of the assessment.

To finish up I was taken downstairs and shown what to do next eg medical etc and then given a list of upcoming start dates.  I was absolutely over the moon.  I was dreading being told to come back in three months because it would mess up my schedule.  I think I would have done it but I really didn’t want to.  I’m amazed at how well things have worked out.  The assessment process was hard but it was also enjoyable.  I couldn’t have asked for a nicer bunch of people to work with.

OAA Skills Assessment – Day 1

Snow in West Yorkshire

Fortunately all the snow in December/January didn’t cancel the much anticipated skills assessment with OAA.  The roads had cleared up somewhat when I traveled down on 11th January.  The journey down was good, it took a steady four hours with a thirty minute break.  I was really happy to find out that the service area where I would be staying the night also had a Burger King.  I checked into my room, threw my things down and went back out again and walked over to the Burger King.  You can imagine my horror when I found out that it was closed.  I have to confess that I did a fourteen mile round trip to go to another one.  In my opinion it was well worth it, I most wanted the shake and this other place had a shake machine.  I’m surprised and disappointed to find out just how many Burger King’s don’t have shake machines.  It should be standard procedure in every single one.  Even the tiny one in Leeds station has one, the rest have no excuse.

The first day of the assessment was the most intense.  I was hoping to do the Compass tests first and get them out of the way but I had my simulator check in the morning so Compass would be in the afternoon.  What’s Compass you ask?  Let me tell you…

Computerized Pilot Aptitude Screening System
COMPASS consists of six tests which have been developed to test some of the key aptitude areas for the pilot profession. Flying experience is not required to perform well in the tests.

The tests include:

Control – A compensation task looking at basic hand / foot / eye co-ordination.
Slalom – A tracking task looking at hand / eye co-ordination.
Mathematics – A test of basic applied mathematical understanding and speed.
Memory – Accuracy of short-term memory recall and ability to ‘chunk’ information.
Task Manager – A test of the candidate’s ability to scan the screen and manage two concurrent tasks accurately and quickly.
Orientation – Instrument interpretation, comprehension and spatial orientation.
Tech-Test – Technical comprehension test (physics test).

As stated earlier I had the simulator check first.  This began with a debriefing teaching you all about the primary flight display and how to read what’s on it.  We were told the basic maneuvers we would be doing and how to do them.  Don’t sweat, you don’t have to know how to fly a jet to do this!  I really enjoyed it even though we didn’t have the visuals switched on.  Everything we did was on instruments and all the ones we used were on the primary flight display.  All we were asked to do was to climb or descend to specific altitudes and turn to specific headings and sometimes both at once.  It took a while to get used to the sensitivity of the simulator and to how soon you needed to level off so as to not to overshoot the assigned altitude or heading.  It was really good though, I liked it.  Shame I won’t see it again for another year.

The Compass tests were fairly intense but not so intense that you want to smash the computer in.  They really make you focus hard which is quite draining.  I came to realise that I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the simulator so much had I just come out of the Compass tests.  There isn’t much to add to what’s written above about them.  If you really want to know what it’s like head over to Oxford for one of the open days.  You get a sneak peek there but it is a tiny peek for obvious reasons.

There were four others in my group and during the day and our much varied conversations I found out that one of them was staying in the same hotel as me so we decided to grab some dinner before calling it a night.  There were three options:  Little Chef, Burger King or nothing.  I was hoping he would suggest Little Chef because I had Burger King the night before but he wanted Burger King.  Not wanting to be unsociable, I went with him to Burger King and waited patiently for him to finish his meal before going to the Little Chef by myself.  Yeah right!  I had another Angus burger.  Proceeds to hang head in shame.  After the meal we called it a night and went our separate ways.  I brushed up on the latest news and browsed highly sophisticated forums such as pprune.org and airliners.net.  I also managed to convince myself that I’d failed the assessment by reading about other peoples experiences online.

Oxford Aviation Academy Open Day

On 5th December I went down to Oxford for one of their open days.  From the OAA website, this is what the open days consist of:

A typical open day consists of a Seminar Presentation delivered by one of our Directors, and an opportunity to tour our ‘state of the art’ training centre including:

  • Ground School Department
  • Centre for Career Development
  • PA28 and PA34 training aircraft
  • Instrument Flight Training Centre
  • Langford Hall of Residence (on request)
  • Boeing 737 and CRJ-200 Jet Simulators
  • VIDA Health & Fitness

So there we have it.  This time round I didn’t do everything on the list but I have done it before about three years ago.  The training centre is indeed very well equipped.  It’s important not to judge by just the facilities.  Speak to the staff and the students to get a better feel for the place – both are available at the open days.  This time was also a little different from last time in the way that this time I was looking at training within the next few months rather than the next few years.  I also booked a place on the January 12&13th skills assessment.  I thought it may be a bit too soon and as the date for the assessment drew nearer and nearer I was convinced that it was way too soon.  Find out how it went in my next post.

Visit to PTC – Waterford, Ireland

On 26th November I went down to Waterford to meet the team and tour the facilities of the Pilot Training College.  I also had a sim check as a final part of the assessment.  The purpose of the sim check is not to see how good you are at flying – it’s to see if you’re teachable.  The instructor gives you instructions: fly to this height and this heading and then you follow them.  They tell you everything you need to know in order to do that; after all, this is a course designed for those with very little or no flying experience.  We were in their FNPT II simulator – more info here.  The time in the simulator was fantastic.  The visuals were very good and the realism of the flight controls was impressive.  Even though it wasn’t a motion simulator it was a very realistic experience.

They were happy with the sim check so we had a look at the rest of the facilities.  The staff are all very pleasant and helpful.  Before committing to anything I decided I would go to the Oxford open day and take an assessment with them as well.  More details in the next few posts.

Assessment with the Pilot Training College – Ireland

While I was talking to one of their students, someone came across and said that they had a vacancy for an aptitude test later on in the day.  An aptitude test is where they test your abilities to see if you are technical minded enough to be a pilot (amongst other things such as personality, maths and physics skills).  I though it would be brilliant, I’ve always wondered what one would be like.  I thought it would be a mock but it was an official one with the possibility of being offered a place at the school.  Not wanting to pass up the opportunity I said I’d do it.

A couple of hours later there I was, sitting in front of a laptop with a joystick and some funky keypad used for entering answers.  I was told that the test would take two hours – and it did.  It started off with a very simple exercise where you had a cross-hair in the middle of the screen (wait, I can use visual aids!):

apt3

So there we go, that’s the basic gist of the first test.  All the red stuff stayed still but then the white bars slid around randomly and you had to keep them centred.  That was fairly simple, I’ve used a joystick before!  At the end of the test it popped up again and there were not one but two twists.  To see how good at multitasking you are they put shapes down the left hand side and then you would hear over the headset ‘blue circle’ and you would have to wait for one to appear.  When one did you would hit blue and then the number that was inside the circle.  I was quite good at that, it went well.  You had to watch out, they’d put up a blue square and a blue triangle and a green circle before you get your blue circle.  To add to the pressure (a simulated emergency) they would have you do the first two things (considering the fact that the shape, colour and number keep changing) while having you listen to a number sequence.  At the beginning of the test it would start at say, 800 and go down in 5’s.  As soon as the sequence changed, you had to click the trigger on the joystick and then follow the new sequence which would be counting down in 3’s or 4’s.  An interesting exercise! I managed to keep with it until that point and then started to slip.  In my interview afterwards I was assured that that was normal.  Below is an example of another test.

apt2

Fortunately this was just by itself.  You had to click on a shape when it was in the correct row and column.  Shapes would appear for five seconds and if it was correct, you had to click it.  If not correct, just ignore it.  The thing is, the rows and columns moved at random intervals so you were constantly looking all over the place!  Fortunately I was told to ignore the score to the right.  If you glanced at that for a second you’d loose focus and start to miss correct shapes – that’s what it’s designed to do.  Those two didn’t take up the whole two hours, the rest of the test was taken up with a basic sim test (incredibly basic), English, maths, physics and a couple of other things I can’t even remember.  The sim test was so simple, the funny cross thing is your plane and you had to fly through the boxes.  I got 10/10 on all three (show-off).

apt1

After all the tests were done I had a thirty minute break or so and was hauled in for a thirty minute interview.  I think the interview went well, first we looked at my results and then talked a lot.  I got 8/10 for the first part which according to them is very good.  The second part, the three-part multitasking task went well too. I was in the top 30% for the first two tasks but when the sequence thing came in I dropped into the top of the middle 40%.  Whatever that means.  The interview was actually quite enjoyable.

At the end of the interview I was told that I would receive a call during the week with more details.  The call wasn’t as detailed as I was expecting.  They have offered to put me on a course starting January 11th or the following course that starts in March.  I couldn’t believe it!  I’m not sure what to do, I didn’t expect to have an offer so soon.  Now I need to look at the school, I’ll be going over in a few weeks.  Oh yeah, I haven’t even said where it is yet: Waterford, Ireland.  They have offered to put me in a simulator too which is really good.  I’ll let you know how the tour of their facilities went in another post.