Ilkley Moor

Eight weeks to go now.  It’s quite a while but compared to eight years it’s not much at all.  I received all my info from BALPA the other day.  Now I just need to get some insurance sorted.  Membership with BALPA while training is free – you can join as an associate member.  They offer a small discount on insurance.  The insurance is to cover training costs if you lose your medical certificate during training.  More here.

I took a few more pictures over the weekend.  Here are some of my favourites.

Fewston Reservoir

I really enjoy being outside, a decent walk is always so refreshing.  Never a run though.  My favourite places to walk always involve water.  This weekend I went up to the nearby Fewston Reservoir.  I enjoy taking pictures too, I’m no pro though.  Most of my pictures involve the sky in some way (some may argue that it’s because the sky is  huge and is always there).  I have a fascination with the sky because of flying but also because of its magnificence.  The range of colours and the number of cloud formations are limitless.  The sky was fairly decent on this occasion.  Not the best I’ve seen but it was pretty good.

A little over nine weeks to go!  I get the feeling I’ll be taking a few more walks before then.

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.

Class One Medical

Currently I’m on my way back from Gatwick after having had my initial class one air crew medical.  According to the CAA I’m as fit as a fiddle.  Well, fit enough to fly anyway.  As long as I keep my glasses on.  This was the last hurdle to pass to start my flight training and now it’s out of the way I feel fantastic.  Now the thought of becoming an airline pilot is more of a reality than ever before.  I still need to talk about my assessment with OAA, I’ll get on with that next.