Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Airbus A319 flight deck

 Another chance to take a picture of an awesome aircraft, yesterday I flew back to the UK and had a chat with the flight crew at the end of the flight. Hence the pictures of the cockpit and the nice sunset over some building thunderstorms we had on our way to Bristol Lulsgate (EGGD).

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Jumpseat ERJ-190

Back in France for the holidays, 3 flights in a row, one of which was in the flight deck. I also had a chance to take a picture of the nice Dash-8 cockpit (see below), and hopefully I'll take one of the Airbus A319 next week.

That was my very first flight onboard an ERJ-190. I wasn't allowed in for the take-off. Nevertheless, the flight crew called me once in cruise and I enjoyed every single minute till we stopped down on the apron. If there was any need for some more proofs of addiction, here they are ...

Sunday, 13 December 2009

End of lectures, mock exams week

I must say, that went fast, really fast!
We are done with the lectures for the seven first subjects. Tomorrow is the first day of the mock exams week, which aims at getting an idea of how well we'll perform on the real exam, and whether we should go to Gatwick for that particular exam. We still have two weeks holidays starting this friday, and hopefully we'll be fully ready in three weeks time to pass the CAA exams in London Gatwick.

The sun dared to show up for the very first time in a month last thursday. Almost as good on friday, I took my camera with me and went on to the apron just before the first lecture, and how surprised was I to catch this superb Falcon 20 from FRAviation on his take-off run poping out of the fog a few yards before passing the sun! Kind of magic really!

We also got a chance to fly the FNPT2 simulator used for MCC training, and see how tricky can ILS approaches be. It certainly helps keeping an eye on the final goal, which has a boosting effect in these tough days ..

Well, I think it's time to get back to studies, a fair amount of work has already been done, but we are not on holidays, yet.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Familiarisation flight and Night Rating

This is getting quite hard with 35h of lectures per week, and the night rating at the same time, and the exams coming up in just over a month. But hey, I'm really loving it, it is just so great to fly again !

So yesterday, we went for a familiarisation flight on the Piper PA28-161, under the callsign Blackadder 26. Fourteen months seen my last flight as a pilot in command, what a feeling to be in control of a plane again ! I did pretty well, but my R/T in english was terrible. Not easy when you've been doing this in another language for several years. New aircraft, new airport (I didn't know until yesterday the airport layout, the taxiways, procedures and such), and new way of flying. And that might be in fact the most surprising bit, flying with a flying club, and flying with a flight school is just totally different. You've got to be accurate, precise, ahead of your aircraft at all times, and the checklists are 3 or 4 times larger.

"Blackadder 26, Bournemouth Approach, Standard Sandbanks departure VFR, 1800 feet". I really have to work on my R/T in order to fly solo in a couple of days (could be wenesday if things go well).
We did some engine failures yesterday, went over the 4 VRPs around the airfield, the landing was ok, and I was very very happy.

I just really have to remember that Pre-Landing Check :

B - Brakes off
U - U/C down and locked (fixed on the PA28-161)
M - Mixture, Master, Mags - Full rich, On, Both
P - Pitch Prop (fixed on the PA28-161)
F - Flaps (0-25° on the base leg here)
F - Fuel - On and sufficient
A - Alternate Air - A/R (as required)
I - Instruments, Engine Ts + Ps, Altimeters set
H - Harnesses
H - Hatches
L - Landing lights - On
A - Air Conditioning - Off

And the frequencies (tower : 125.6 , app/rad 119.475 , Atis 133.725, ILS/DME 110.50, NDB 339, ...).

Tonight was my very first flight at night, and it also was my very first time flying in clouds ! We took off on runway 26, standard special VFR (we are sVFR within the controlled airspace, IFR outside) departure via Sandbanks (track on the South-West). We did some general handling over the sea, and went into clouds (not really on purpose, but there were clouds everywhere). 180° turns in clouds, climbing and descending turns on instruments (all Rate 1 turns at night), etc ...
That was just awesome, this is such a feeling to fly at night, in clouds, on instruments !!!!

1h flying, and then back to Bournemouth EGHH, missed approach on rwy 26 to get an idea of the low and high glide slopes, right hand circuit and a full stop landing.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Trip to the Air Traffic Control Tower

With the Progress Tests taking place this week, I haven't much time to update my blog.
We already had 3 mock exams last thursday, and I'm rather happy with my results. I got 75% in HP&L (Human Performance and Limitations, probably the most boring subject), 81% in PoF (Principles of Flight) and 95% in Performances. Still four to go, with Meteoroly and Ops being quite tough, I'm not gonna sleep much in the next few days.

Anyway, BCFT organised a trip to the control tower this morning, and although I don't really like getting up early on a sunday morning, I was quite excited about it. We had to walk from the Terminal building to the ATC through a very heavy pouring rain, arrived all wet and finally made it into the control tower.

We had a chat with the controlers, the "pilots' eyes". Usually we don't talk much about them but they really do an amazing job. It's great to see the other side of the radio equipment we talk through. They now have a touchscreen equipment that came with the lighting system, where they can easily select for example runway edge lights only. Runway 26 has been fitted with a CALVERT approach lighting system, it appears on the touchscreen map and in a click you can turn it on.

And what an awesome view despite the tower being quite short. A Monarch B757 took off just 200 yards away and we were sitting at one of the best places to watch those birds flying ...

We then went down to the approach room which was just beneath us.
They also have an impressive piece of equipment there.

They receive instant meteorological information, METARs and TAFs, they can display all the SID and STAR procedures for each runway, instant wind, max wind, average 10 minutes wind and all kinds of relevant stuff for controlers and pilots, along with of course several radar screens where you can follow the pattern of any aircraft over the UK.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

First IFR backseat on the Be76

While the ATPL ground school gives us a growing amount of work, I somehow got the time to backseat on a 2 hour flight to Exeter last thursday.
What could be better after 3 hours of Principles of Flight and 3 hours of Meteorology ?

The trainee pilot was doing his very first flight on the plane after about 30 hours on the simulator, and I must say I was really impressed by his knowledge of the the aircraft, although he wasn't that quick on the checklists, which can be easily understood for such a complex plane.
It took us 30 minutes from engine start to clearance request at the holding point to allow for the checks and flight planning, but I reckon it gets better when you're used to it.

'Blackadder 07, holding short of runway 26, ready for departure
', 'Blackadder 07, line-up 26, wind 030° at 4 knots, you're cleared for take-off'. (Blackadder is the callsign for the BCFT fleet).
Full throttle, and a second later an intense feeling of acceleration pushes you far into your seat with the nice sound of 360 hp roaring in the calm night. Such moments make you realise how much you love flying ...

Heading to the North-West and cleared to Flight Level 65 (6,500 ft), we could catch a glance at the beautiful Poole bay as we enjoyed a nice clear night. Quite mesmerising !

Still heading to the North-West, we eventually reached the bay between Wales and England with Cardiff in front of us and Bristol to the right. Time to turn left, as we were getting closer to Exeter we could distinguish a thin layout of low clouds building up as the night was becoming colder.
Holding pattern somewhere near EXT (Exeter airfield), I'm afraid I can't tell you much about that since I've never flown on IFR before and didn't have any charts with me, but it looked pretty tough ! 7 nm final for runway 08 at EXT, still doing a nice 140 kts ground speed, a few minutes later at about 200 ft AGL the instructor finally opened the blinds to allow the pilot to have a nice clear view of the approach lights and get that plane to the ground. Missed approach procedure just above the runway threshold, full throttle and that's when the instructor decided to put one engine on idle to simulate and engine failure.

After all sorts of events like those, we finally made our way back home at Bournemouth airport, ILS on runway 26 to finally make a very smooth landing ...


Sunday, 18 October 2009

Overwater Aerobatics and Formation Flight

7:00 am, Sunday morning, it's already time to get up.
On a normal day, I would stay in bed for like 10 min waiting for the next alarm to wake me up again. If you didn't know yet, french guys are quite lazy and I'm not an exception.
Today was different however, James was waiting for me at the Bournemouth Flying Club to go on a formation flight to Goodwood (Chichester Airfield).

Two flights in a row, what an awesome week-end that is !
We flew from Bournemouth Airport (EGHH), taking off on Runway 08 under some pretty bad weather conditions (Clouds SCT at 400 ft, 10k visi though) but it got better really quickly. We then went straight toward the East, overflying the beautiful Isle of Wight with G-ECON (Cessna 172) on our right wing, then Portsmouth, Hayling Island, Chichester and finally Goodwood (EGHR).

Goodwood is a four grass runway controlled airfield with some very nice aeroplanes. There was a beautiful Extra 200 waiting for its pilot to do some aerobatics.
It is actually an ex-RAF airfield and was also used by the USAAF in 1942 as a fighter airfield for the 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons.
I don't know if there are some of the old Spitfire V5s in those big hangars but it definitely is a great place to visit.

This is the Bulldog T1 after landing at Goodwood.
As you can see, it wears the RAF three concentric rings symbol on the fuselage, and in fact is was used as a trainer aircraft not that long ago.

Powerplant is a 200hp Lycoming with variable pitch propeller, enough to enjoy some aerobatics as we did on the return leg back to Bournemouth.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

First Backseat Flight - PA28

Fourteen months after my last flight on a light aircraft, here I am back in the air !
And what a great feeling that was !

I and a friend of mine flew at the back of a Piper PA-28 161, the student pilot was doing his circuits training prior to first solo.
In a busy environment with 737s operating on the same runway, the lovely view with Poole in the background, the sea not too far and Isle of Wight somewhere on the South-East, we had enough to be kept entertained as we were also trying to catch every bit of the ATC communications at the same time.

I should be back in the air again tomorrow, formation flight on a Bulldog along the South-Coast.
Keep tuned, more to come soon !

Friday, 16 October 2009

Meet & Greet and ATPL hard work

We had our Meet & Greet this tuesday with all the flight and ground instructors at the Bournemouth Flying Club.
Good opportunity to meet the other guys from the school, past students, and the people from the Flying Club.
As the local bar/pub is just next to the taxiway leading to runway 26, we could see from very close the various aircraft operating at Bournemouth airport, 737s, Beechcraft 76, Piper Seneca, Mystere 20, Falcon, ... and even smell the delicious kerosene odour. Awesome feeling, pilots know what I mean for sure!

The ATPL is going well so far, workload is gradually increasing but that's still manageable.
Anyway, I'm really enjoying it, learning new stuff about bigger aeroplanes is really exciting.
We seem to settle down at about 33 hours of lectures per week, and as I bought a car shared with two other people, we save about an hour every day as we used to take a bus and walk to go to BCFT centre.

I put some pictures from the Meet & Greet and the ATPL books ...
And that's only 5 out of 14 folders for each of the 14 subjects.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

ATPL - Fundation week

It's high time to give some update since the training has now started up.
We've just finished the so-called Fundation Week which aims at learning the basic of maths, general navigation and meteorology in order to be fully prepared for the next big step : the first 7 subjects of the ATPL.

The ATPL ? What does it stand for?
Basically, the ATPL, Airline Transport Pilot Licence is what we need to become commercial pilots.
We usually call the theoretical knowledge classes 'ATPL' although we should talk about ATPL Ground School instead.
At the end of the training, we will be issued with a Frozen ATPL (fATPL) that will be unfrozen after a certain amount of flying (1500hrs) and flying turbine-powered aircraft, thus fATPL refers to the 14 ATPL Ground School exams passed + CPL + IRME + MCC and possibly a Type Rating.

I'm not quite sure yet but the first 7 subjects should be :
  • Mass & Balance
  • Performance
  • Operational Procedures
  • Flight Planning & Monitoring
  • Principles of Flight
  • Meteorology
  • Human Performance & Limitations
The first week went fairly well, with a great opportunity to meet the other trainee pilots, instructors, have a better insight of what's waiting for us next, etc ...
BCFT have small but proper good facilities, and we can backseat on a sim (short for simulator) or an aircraft anytime after the lectures or at week-ends. Hence the pictures ...

I flew on the right hand seat of a FNPT II simulator that mirrors the Beechcraft Be76 used for IR flight training. The pilot had his IR test the following day and hopefully passed.
We did a Bournemouth-Cardiff flight on IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) with 150m visibily and 8/8 clouds - base at 400 ft.

Holding Pattern over Cardiff airfield, followed by a missed-approach procedure and a right engine failure right after. Landing just after sunset, we got the runway in sight when the GPWS indicated ... 50 ft !

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Class 1 medical done, ready for the big start

Two weeks ago, I was on a small trip to London Gatwick airport to take my Class 1 medical examination by the British CAA. Actually, small is not that much appropriate, being on a bus for 9 hours in a day is pretty long, isn't it?
This CAA medical examination is mandatory for anyone wishing to become an airline pilot. It is known for being severe and quite tough, although the UK administration has a less strict reputation than this of France.
The whole trip was a complete nightmare thanks to the terrible british bus network, the first coach didn't even make it to its final destination and I ended up taking the London underground, missed my second bus and took ... a train.
I finally got my medical certificate, meaning I now have everything needed in order to start training.

I went back to the school last week with a future classmate, Arnaud from France, we had a tour of the simulators, aircraft and facilities. It all looks great and I can't wait to get started.

The school owns a range of planes from the aerobatic two seater Marchetti SF260 to the Cessna 172, PA28 Archer, complex single engine PA28 Arrow V (for the CPL), and three twin engine Beechcraft Be-76 Duchess (for the IR and ME). They also have two Be-76 simulator along with a simulator that mirrors a Cessna Citation Jet for the MCC (multi crew coordination) and the JOC (Jet Operation Course).

Sunday, 16 August 2009

So, what's the plan?

At first, there were like several thousands possible plans, and picking one out of the pool without thinking twice wouldn't've been a good idea.
After many hours spent on PPRuNe, Aeronet and several brochures downloaded and ordered, I was left with a choice between two ground schools, both based on Bournemouth Airport. I moved from Bristol to Bournemouth a month and a half ago, and I start thinking that wasn't much of a silly idea !

I visited Cabair and BCFT last wednesday and finally chose the latter.
The ground school starts on 5th October, which leaves me with about 6 weeks working at the Cornish Bakehouse Ltd (the job is pretty boring, hopefully time'll go by quickly). I'll then have to attend 5 days a week the ATPL, the last exams being on 9th April.

To start the CPL (Commercial Pilot Licence), I've got to reach 150 hours of flying of which 100 must be flown as a PIC (pilot in command). As the fares are a lot lower in the US, I'll do my hoursbuilding there, most probably in San Diego, California.
That's a great opportunity to fly in a different environment, on long distance flights and landing on very busy airports. Not to mention the awesome californian weather ...

However, I haven't decided yet whether I'll do my CPL and IR with BCFT.
Wherever I train, I'll get a CPL and a multi-engine Instrument Rating, IR-ME, required to fly airliners.

To get fully employable, I'll have to add the MCC (Multi-crew course) that aims at learning how to split the tasks between the two pilots (i.e. : the First Officer, and the Captain). This is usually completed on a simulator that mirrors a jet or a real airliner. As the airline recruitment involves a sim assessment, I think I'll do my MCC on a full-motion simulator, most possibly a B737 or Airbus type.

Last but not least, the Type Rating. Basically. It's a course that trains to handle a particular aircraft (can be anything from the Beech 1900D up to the Airbus A320, B757, ...), know about its systems, and leads on to 6 take-offs and landings on the 'real' aircraft.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Welcome aboard

Hey all,

I've been thinking of creating my own blog for quite a long time, and here it is, at last.
So, why here and why now?
Well, since my very first flights as a passenger on an airliner, life has taken me through many adventures and I'm just on the point of started one of the hugest I've ever been part of.

I started piloting light aircraft back in 2002, got my PPL a bit later, started flying aerobatic championships the following year, then moved onto flying gliders and at the same time left my home country to complete my studies abroad.

I believe life is either a daring adventure or nothing, I wanted it to take a turn, a huge kind of turn ...
The challenge of a complex job working in a technically demanding environment has always thrilled me. Since my very first flights as a trainee pilot and over the years, it has become a lifestyle that I wish to pursue until my highest dream comes true.

I ended up visiting FTOs and I'm starting my ATPLs (with stands for Airline Transport Pilot Licence - theorical ground school which lasts 6 months) in October.