Once the Licence Skills Test was complete, there was one more hurdle to complete before starting on passenger services – taking the jet into the air for the first time! It was an absolutely fantastic experience.
I changed seats with the previous cadet at the edge of the runway so there was no time for messing about! Headset on, belt up and adjust seat. The captain looked over and asked: ‘Ready?’ and then I must have said something that communicated that I was because the safety pilot told the control tower we were ready for departure and before long we were on the runway all ready to go. I knew the simulators were good but I didn’t realise how good until I was in the aircraft. The layout and feel is exactly the same. Everything felt familiar, the only thing that was different was the view.
After confirming runway heading on the instruments and starting the timer, I pushed the thrust levers forward to 40%. When the engines had spooled up I heard the call from the captain ‘stabilised’ and then I pushed the TO/GA buttons and said ‘set take-off thrust.’ On take-off, pushing the TO/GA buttons activates some servos in the throttle quadrant which drive the thrust levers forward to a pre-set position which was calculated and set earlier. When the engines have spooled up to this thrust setting, the captain calls ‘take-off thrust set, indications normal’ and then places his hand on the thrust levers. He does this so that if the take-off needs to be rejected for any reason, he is ready immediately. The next call I hear is ’80kts’ and I respond ‘check’ as we continue to accelerate down the runway. Moments later the captain called ‘V1, rotate.’ As he noted V1, he removed his hand from the thrust levers. At V1, you’re going into the air! A rejected take-off at or above V1 would see you overrunning the end of the runway. I applied some pressure on the control column and raised the nose and we became airborne.
Man it was fantastic. Things happen quickly in a jet! I had to complete six take-offs and landings for my base training to be complete. Because East Midlands was fairly busy at the time (including another aircraft in the circuit) it took just over an hour for me to complete the training. I had no problem with that! Afterwards it seemed like just a few minutes. It was just thrilling to be piloting an aircraft with a tailplane larger than the last aircraft that I flew. There were five of us who needed to complete base training so it took some time, but it was an absolute blast. Quite possibly the only time I’ll ever experience 30 landings in one day.
So there we have it, base training. I wish I had written this much sooner afterwards, much of the detail has already been forgotten.