The Final Countdown…

As is the norm with the course, things have been very busy since I last spoke to you after our trip to Luton in October. EZMP01 have now completed the Intermediate phase of training, another huge milestone which means that there is now just one more phase left to complete. More about that in a minute, but first, here is what we got up to during the Intermediate phase…

Some presents from CTC at the start of the Intermediate phase
Day one of A320 tech – Instrument data sources

The phase started off with an eighteen day period of ground school during which we completed the Airbus A320 technical module, which proved to be the most intensive period of theory training since our ATPL ground school. All of the CBT and the aircraft manuals were provided for us on iPads, which certainly cut down on the paperwork because, as I’m sure you can imagine, the A320 is full of complex systems and equipment which we had to know very well for the exams. To do this, in addition to the CBT we had two hours each day to put the theory into practice in CTCs Virtual Flight Decks (VFD), which are fully interactive simulators of the flight deck. The topics covered in the exam ranged from the basic, such as windows/doors, interior furnishing and lighting to the more complex topics of navigation, automation and flight controls. As well as the iPad program, the main source of information was the easyJet/Airbus FCOM (Flight Crew Operating Manual) which, at just over 4000 pages long, certainly contains all that we are required to know about the aircraft!

It took just over two weeks to get through the material, and after a couple of revision days it was time to sit the exam which consisted of two parts, A and B. Part A was made up of the vast amount of technical knowledge, QRH procedures and the various aircraft limitations which we had been learning, whilst part B focused on performance and EU OPS. After completing the second exam we had a classroom session looking at the Panasonic Toughpad, a tablet which EasyJet use to calculate the aircraft performance and display the LIDO airfield charts. It was great to put some of the theory into action on the device we will be using at the airline, and it also prepared us for the start of the intermediate and advanced phases where the ‘Toughbook’ (an older varient of the toughpad) is used to calculate the performance for each simulator detail. Prior to each detail, we are given a completed loadsheet (exactly the same as those used for real), which details the number of passengers and cargo on board and where it is located. We then enter this into the toughbook in order to get various aircraft information including zero fuel weight, % centre of gravity, takeoff weight and takeoff speeds. This information is then checked and entered into the aircrafts FMGC (flight management guidance computer) where it is used by the aircraft to make a huge number of calculations.

The 'Toughpad' which we will use on the line at EasyJet
The ‘Toughpad’ which we will use on the line at EasyJet

In addition to the ground school, we received some excellent news as we finally found out our bases. I’m very happy and excited to be heading to Gatwick in the new year to begin my career at EasyJet!

Ground school made for an intense few weeks, and after a couple of days off the first of our thirteen intermediate simulator sessions began. Despite the intermediate phase being much shorter than basic, the lessons are much more advanced and focus greatly on the handling of complex failures and more advanced procedures in a multi-crew environment. One of the biggest differences is that all of the simulator details from the start of the Intermediate phase are with full motion turned on, which is great fun! The first few lessons focused on getting our landing and takeoff techniques ‘perfected’, including crosswind techniques and different approach types such as circling, precision and non-precision (all of which we had seen previously in the basic phase). We also had another upset recovery session which again enabled us fly the aircraft to it’s absolute limits and get comfortable flying it when things may not be going to plan! As I mentioned in a previous article, the inclusion of upset recovery training followed the crash of Air France 447 in 2009, and it has formed a vital part of our training throughout New Zealand, Bournemouth and back here in the simulators at Nursling. Also introduced in this phase was the use of more complex features of the FMGS (flight management and guidance system), the use of LIDO airport charts, and more advanced operating conditions such as windshear, cold weather, storms and low visibility operations. A number of new situations, such as TCAS RA’s ( Traffic Avoidance System, Resolution Advisory – the act of avoiding another aircraft on a collision course with yours!!!) and even what to do if you suspect a bomb on board were introduced, which not only involved a good amount of hand flying but a huge step up in our management and decision making skills.

Working out the performance for a sim detail using the Toughbook

Each phase on the MPL culminates with a competency assurance flight, and the intermediate phase was no different. This time around, the competency flight involved a TCAS RA on departure, an electrical fault in the climb and, just as we thought things couldn’t get any worse, a ‘bomb on board’ threat, giving us a matter of minutes decide where we were going to divert to and how we were going to manage the situation. It was a challenging and, despite the seriousness of the topic, fun flight which really required us to prioritize and manage the situation for a successful outcome.

Due to our staggered start dates at EasyJet, from here on in EZMP01 are split into two groups for the advanced phase. I am in the first half and started earlier this week, and with three simulator sessions done it is becoming apparent just how close the end of the course is! My LST (license skills test) is just four weeks away and the lesson content has definitely stepped up once again compared with the intermediate phase. Again, the majority of the lessons involve a various number of failures and emergency situations which have already included a full electrical failure at V1 (a ‘GO’ situation, meaning you must take the problem into the air) and other varying electrical failures. We have twelve simulator details to complete before Christmas after which we return in groups of two for our final four simulator details. Two of these are the final preparation lessons for our LST (license skills test), which takes place over the following two simulator details and includes a lot of single engine flying, as well as precision and non precision approaches, raw data flying, ECAM procedures (Electronic Centralized Aircraft Monitoring, a feature which displays vital actions and system information in emergency situations) and much more. It is after this two day flight test that, thinking positively, we will finally be qualified pilots and the course at CTC will come to an end after an incredible eighteen months. Following this, we have a couple of weeks before starting our training at easyJet which involves a couple of weeks of ground training, two days of flights on the jumpseat and the all important base and line training. It’s all suddenly becoming very real, and we are all extremely excited.

The events hall filling up

Away from training itself there has also been a lot going on. Recently a number of us took a trip to Gatwick to check out the local area and look at places where we could live next year. It was a busy day, but in true cadet fashion we took a bit of time to head to the runway threshold to get a look at our new toys coming in to land. With the sun setting, it made for a breathtaking view. Yesterday was also CTCs last 2014 open day, so myself and a coursemate decided to help out for the day. It was great to speak to so many aspiring pilots and their families, and I hope that those who came managed to get a good feel for the facilities and have any questions answered. I really enjoy helping out at these events, and it’s something I hope to continue doing in the future. For those who missed it, CTC will be running open days once monthly starting in January, so there are plenty of chances to head down and check out the training centre. You can find out the latest dates over at the website (details will be added soon).

As usual, if anyone has any questions, feel free to contact me using the ‘contact me’ menu option. With this vital training phase approaching, there won’t be many updates on the website over the next few weeks so have a great Christmas, and I will speak to you all again in January!

Our aviation themed tree. Merry Christmas!

EasyJet Luton visit

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.

The waiting area at Hangar 89, featuring EasyJets new Recaro seats
Two of the aircraft on the ramp

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!

G-EZUN flight deck
G-EZUN rear galley
The standard engine pod picture!

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!

OCC – the hub of the entire airline!
One of the fleet getting serviced below in the hangar

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!

Out with the old, in with the new. Another step closer!