During our three week break between the basic and intermediate phases, EZMP01 had an exciting opportunity to spend two days at the EasyJet headquarters at London Luton airport to help increase our commercial awareness and teach us more about the airline. The visit had been scheduled to happen this month since we began the course last year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint! We drove down on Monday morning and after battling with the hideous traffic on the M1, we arrived at the ‘EasyJet Academy’ for a 9am start. The academy is based on site at Luton just around the corner from the airline headquarters (known as ‘Hangar 89’) and is used for various meetings, interviews, and the training of new recruits and current employees. It features a number of classrooms (named ‘Gate 1’ on-wards), as well as training equipment including a full mock-up fuselage used for smoke training and a door and emergency escape slide training rig. After meeting up with our liaison pilots who we have known since day one of the course, we had a quick presentation on EasyJet before collecting our air-side passes to gain access to the ramp area.
After catching the bus to the terminal, we began our tour of hangar 89 with a look at the Luton Crew Room. This is where crew (both pilots and cabin crew) meet and prepare for their flights, so we were taken through how to access the EasyJet system and retrieve a flight plan which we then ran through in detail (for a flight from Luton to Amsterdam). The flight plan was much more substantial than I expected and was made up of information on the route, fuel and timing, NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen), weather and accurate winds, as well as a map of the route. Pilots will print off the flight plans for all of their flights that day and return them at the end of the day when the flights are complete. We also spoke to some pilots who were discussing their flight to Amsterdam, and had a talk with the base captain about what we can expect during our first year at the airline. The crew room also contained the crew lounge, where we were told that the dreaded airport standby takes place! After a decent lunch at Hanger 89, arguably the most exciting part of the day began… the aircraft visit! Upon clearing security, we were swiftly transported to G-EZUN, an A319 that had just returned from Amsterdam and that was due to be out of use for the remainder of the day. However, it’s not always plain sailing in the airline world, and following a bird strike on another aircraft, UN was quickly enlisted to pick up the service to Lisbon. Despite this, we still had time to have a good look around the aircraft before the crew arrived to prepare for the flight. We each had a sit down and tour of the flight-deck, and due to us completing our basic phase in the A320 simulator it all seemed very familiar indeed! We had a good look around the rest of the aircraft, before being shown the pre-flight walkaround (a visual check of the aircraft) by the first officer who himself finished CTC last year. It is great to see so many CTC cadets now working at the airline!
After finishing off our tour of the A319, it was soon time for us to return to Hangar 89 for a tour of the OCC (Operations Control Centre), which is essentially the hub of the entire operation. It is here that schedules are formed, crew rosters are made, flight plans are created and, crucially, where the entire network is monitored and controlled from. There are support staff at a number of ‘pods’ covering each base on the network, and they are at the end of the phone to sort out any issues that may arise throughout the day. A number of tools are used to monitor aircraft en-route and on the ground and if, for example, an aircraft diverts, the team in the OCC will be planning what needs to happen next even before the aircraft has landed (i.e. organising coaches to transport passengers to their original destination). Although everyone was hard at work, the team made time to show us a number of key elements that make up the OCC. We were shown how flight plans are made, how aircraft are positioned and flights scheduled to account for delays, and how aircraft technicalities are dealt with. Interestingly, we were able to see how the birdstrike earlier in the day had affected the flying schedule and the actions that OCC had put in place to mitigate any delays. It was so interesting to see the OCC, as it was our first insight into what really makes the company tick. I for one had no idea just how much goes on behind the scenes to get the passengers to where they need to be! We finished the day by returning to the academy and checking into our hotel, before meeting for a meal at a local restaurant. We were joined by our liaison pilots, and it was great to talk about the company and the career over dinner. The second day started at 9am and included two main presentations; the first looking at the financial side of the airline, and the second focusing on the route structure and ticket pricing. We looked in depth at the financial make-up of the company and exactly where the airline makes (and spends) it’s money, as well as looking at how tickets are priced, how new routes are chosen and how the airline ensures routes are profit-making whilst still delivering fantastic value to customers. The presentations were hugely beneficial and I learnt a lot about how the airline operates and how decisions are made within the business. These talks are usually only given when you receive recurrent training, so to receive such interesting and relevant information on the business side of the operation before we have even started is a huge advantage which definitely helps our commercial awareness. During the day, we were also presented with our new epaulettes featuring our first ‘bar’, signifying the end of the basic phase of the MPL course. As you can see below, these epaulettes have been updated with the new brand identity of CTC!
As I’m sure you can see from my ramblings above, the visit was hugely enjoyable and if it is even possible, I am now more excited than ever to start working for the airline in January! Everyone we met seemed so passionate about the airline, and there is a real sense of community and teamwork. For example, it was great to hear that Carolyn McCall herself (who we saw both at the hangar and the academy) helps the crew clean the aircraft during the short turnarounds when she is onboard. The trip has not just taught me more about the airline itself but also the industry as a whole, in particular on the business and financial side of things. I’d like to say a big thanks to our liaison pilots Simon and Mark, as well as all the staff at EasyJet and CTC who made the trip happen! Funnily enough, the next time we will visit Luton will be for our airline induction in mid-January, so we really are onto the final straight now. From next week, we will be at the beginning of our Intermediate phase which starts with our A320 technical ground school (which means it’s time to hit the books again!). Following this, there are just 28 more simulator sessions before our license skills test.
The end is well and truly in sight. Thank you for reading, speak to you again in a few weeks!