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.

Flyer Professional Flight Training Exhibition

Another thing I found not long after I returned was a professional flight training exhibition organised by Flyer.  At the end of October I headed down to Heathrow to see what I could find out.  I would recommend attending one yourself to meet the schools and look at your options.

I have always been interested in Oxford Aviation Academy since I first learned about them.  That interest increased when I got in touch with someone who had recently finished at OAA and was currently getting their type rating on the Boeing 757 with Jet2.  I made the Oxford stand my first stop.  I didn’t learn a great deal new because I’d been to an Oxford open day before.  I asked a few questions that I had about the course, entry requirements and starting dates.  Things were still looking good.  I was also advised to take another tour of the school because various things had changed over the 2+ years since I had been there.

I attended one of the seminars about training in general which was also very good.  The schools have very optimistic outlooks on job prospects for obvious reasons.  I wasn’t too interested in the other seminars so I didn’t bother with them.  My next stop was at the Pilot Training College – Ireland stand.  There were several reasons I wanted to speak to them – one being employment statistics and another being that I recently returned from Ireland.  I’ll describe my experience in my next post.

How to become an Airline Pilot

When I returned from my voluntary work back in September 2009 I still had the goal of becoming an airline pilot firmly in my mind.  While I was scouring the net for information I came across this video that I found very useful.  I’m sure anyone interested enough to visit this blog would find this video interesting and informative.  It should answer some of your questions too.

Introduction – Part 3

The last plane I flew was this one back in June 2007.

I know someone over in Rufforth who has access to this plane and they offered to take me up.  It was a fantastic day, the weather was perfect.  Warm, sunny and no wind.  It was a little bumpy in parts as we flew through thermals but overall it was smooth.

I absolutely love to see the earth from the air.  We headed over to an airfield (I can’t remember which) about thirty minutes away.  There was some kind of event there because of the amount of traffic.  I can’t remember exactly what the event was, just a get together I guess.  We grabbed a bite to eat, watched a few planes come and go and flew back to Rufforth.  It was a fun experience.

This flight, along with the rest, just made me want to fly more.  By the time I was done with this flight I had no more than five hours flying time.  I still had my mind set on a career as an airline pilot.  I know airline flying is very different to flying for fun but it still appeals to me.  I have enjoyed every commercial flight that I’ve been on, the whole atmosphere around air travel is just so exciting.  Now that I’m sure it’s for me, let’s get started!

Introduction – Part 2

I didn’t want to base my ‘love’ of flying on the enjoyment I got from Flight Simulator and a few commercial flights alone.  My love of flying was just developing at this point.  Thanks to networking, I was able to secure my work experience placements (while I was still in school) with two different local airfields.  My first week was spent at the York Gliding Centre.  During this time I was able to go up in a glider and a Cessna.  Apologies for the poor picture quality, they were taken on a basic digital camera six years ago.

While I was at the flying club I was just working away on something, I can’t remember what but someone came looking for me and said they were going to take the Cessna up.  They asked what to me was a rhetorical question: Do you want to go up?  Of course I do!  So up we went.  It wasn’t a long flight but it was fun all the same.  I flew a circuit of the airfield which was so much fun – we were quite low too so you got a real feel for the speed.

As some other time during the week I was invited to go up in a glider.  Of course, I accepted.  I will admit to being a little concerned when I was handed a parachute.  Fortunately there was absolutely no need to use it.  The day we went up was incredibly grey so there weren’t any thermals to stay up on.  There was enough time to enjoy the view, get a feel for flying the glider and have my trusty qualified co-pilot land back at the airfield.  I’m sure if it was left up to me we wouldn’t have made it back.  What do I know about thermals?

These two flying experiences just made me want to fly more – a good sign.  My second week of work experience was at Sherburn Aero Club – another fun week.  I got a glimpse into flight training as I was able to sit in on a lesson practicing crosswind landings.  Fortunately the student was very good so it wasn’t too rough!  At one point in the lesson I was just enjoying the view, the feeling of the flight and snapping away on my camera minding my own business and the instructor came over the headset saying: “You’re feeling okay aren’t you?”
“Yeah, I’m doing great thanks.”
“Okay, just thought I’d check, most people go quiet when they are just about to barf.”
I laughed at that!  I have a strong stomach and the flight really wasn’t that rough.

For a while, that was all the flying I did.  I didn’t have the means to obtain a PPL and not much later, I learned about the ab-initio training courses that were designed to allow someone without a PPL to commence flight training.

Introduction – Part 1

I’m not entirely sure how to start a new blog, it’s been a long time since I last did it and my last one had nothing to do with flying.  If you look carefully, you’ll find my name.  Currently I’m 21 years old.  I wear glasses – don’t let anyone try and tell you that you can’t fly because you wear them too.  The CAA has clear standards on eyesight here.  I’m not sure what the reqiurement for the RAF are, I heard that they don’t accept people with corrected vision (glasses and contacts).  Not sure about laser eye surgery either.  Don’t take my word for any of the RAF stuff, best look it up yourself.  For as long as I can remember I have watched planes come and go from the local airport.  On the odd occasion Concorde would visit which was a must see.  Every time I hear a plane pass over I can’t help but look and see what it is.  I imagine what it’s like to be in that front seat.

I first flew when I was around three but I couldn’t remember that so I had to wait until 2002 when I was fourteen.  We went on a family holiday to the USA and of course, had to fly.  Standing in the departure lounge I had my nose pressed against the window looking at the planes only a few feet away.  I remember thinking how cool it was to be so close.  The long wait finally ended and we boarded.  My brother and I were in on the right hand side and were right over the wing.  The time for takeoff came and I couldn’t believe it!  The force was incredible, I watched in amazement as the ground got further and further away.  I was fascinated as I watched the flaps on the wing retract and the ailerons move to bank the aircraft.  A total of five flights later, we’re back in Manchester after a fantastic holiday.  I was hooked.  Flight simulator became much more important to me, so did my choices in schooling.

I did my GCSEs, I took all the standard ones and chose Systems and Control for my technology option. Between History and Geography I chose the latter.  The choice wasn’t really influenced by my desire to fly, I just disliked History and so had to take Geography anyway!  I chose French over German just because I’d done it longer.  I can’t remember if it was a choice between two but I also took I.T. becuse of my interest in computers.  Not long into the course I realised that I had made a mistake, it was all about using computers for publishing – posters, documents and spreadsheets.  I thought it would be all about the workings of a computer, both hardware and software, interesting stuff like that.  It was too late though,  I was on the course.  I tried to make the most of it and I succeeded, I got another GCSE out of it.

I went on to start my A Levels – the first year being A/S.  I took Maths, Physics, Geography and Religious studies.  I found the Maths and Physics quite challenging and after the first year found out that they definately weren’t for me.  I wanted to keep studying so I found a course at a local technology college and studied computer technology for a year.  I already knew 90% of what was on the course but I didn’t have any paperwork to prove that.  The course allowed me to put my skills on paper so I was more employable.  By the time I had finished the couse I was tired of education and wanted to get a full time job.  I was fortunate to secure a job at a nearby hotel in their I.T. department.  It was a great place to work, it was enjoyable to work with each of the departments and my manager was fantastic to work with.

I worked there for a year and then I left to do two years as a volunteer missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I spent my two years around Ireland.  The bulk of my time was spent in the suburbs of Dublin.  I also spent time in Northern Ireland – Coleraine and Belfast, Dundalk and a summer on the west coast in Galway.  I throughly enjoyed those two years and now look upon Ireland as a second home.  Since my return in September 2009 I have been looking for work and looking at my options for flight training.